The Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound is a breed of scent hound native to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The breed was developed into its modern form in the 1890’s by crossing local scent hound stock with Italian gun dogs. The Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound is currently the only internationally recognized breed from the nation of Bosnia, where is considered to be a skilled hunter of local game. Internationally, the breed is best known for its rough or broken coat. This is considered a rare breed that is virtually unknown outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound is also known as the Bosnian Rough-Haired Hound, Bosnian Broken-Haired Hound, Bosnian Coarse-Coated Hound, Bosnian-Rough-Coated Hound, Bosnian-Broken-Coated Hound, Bosnian Hound, Illyrian Hound, Bosanski Ostrodlaki Gonic, and Barak.
The history of the Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound is shrouded in mystery, and very little is known with certainly about this dog’s ancestry. All that is known for sure is that the breed was developed into its modern form in the 1890’s by crossing local scenthounds with Italian gun dogs. The breed is unique in the region for its relatively tall height, as most of the area’s other scenthound breeds are quite low-legged.
The first records of hunting dogs in the area of what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina come from 411 B.C. roughly 80 years after the conclusion of the Greco-Persian Wars. The Athenian playwright Aristophanes mentioned “Molossian Dogs” at that time, the first of numerous mentions of the breed. The Molossi were a tribe from Illyria, an ancient region which was located in modern day Albania, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia. Their dog, known as the Molossus, was most famous as for its use in battle but was also very highly regarded as a hunter of many types of game. Although it is unknown what connection, if any, the Molossus has to the Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound, it does provide evidence that dogs have been used for hunting in Bosnia and Herzegovina for almost 2500 years.
Since the time of the Molossus, Bosnia has seen repeated massive upheavals. The region had been conquered and settled by Illyrians, Greeks, Romans, Huns, Germans, and Avars before its current inhabitants, the Bosnians arrived prior to the Middle Ages. Any of these people are likely to have introduced their own hunting dogs into the region, which likely impacted the bloodlines of the Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound. In 1463, Bosnia came under the rule of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. The near constant conflict between the Islamic Ottomans and Europe’s Christian Kingdoms meant that Bosnia remained isolated from the rest of Europe for more than four centuries. This isolation meant that Bosnia’s dogs were isolated as well, and developed in a similar fashion to those of Serbia, Montenegro, and Albania, which were also under Ottoman rule. The ancestors of the Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound became highly specialized to the region because they were exclusively bred to hunt there.
For myriad reasons, the Ottoman Empire continuously weakened throughout the 19th Century. By 1878, the Ottoman Empire was forced to cede control of Bosnia to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Austro-Hungarian rule opened up Bosnia to the rest of Europe and allowed new dog breeds to enter the country for the first time. Bosnian hunters began to acquire these dogs and cross them with their own hounds to improve their stock. The most popular cross proved to be Italian gun dogs. These dogs introduced a greater height and size, along with a coarse coat. The increased height meant that the dog was able to run faster and hunt larger prey while the coarse coat made the dog more weather resistant and allowed it to work in the harshest and thorniest brush without injury. Although sources are unclear as to which Italian breeds were used, it was almost certainly the Spinone Italiano. The Spinone Italiano is one of the world’s oldest gun dogs, and has been well-known in Northern Italy for several centuries. Perhaps most importantly, it is famous for its rough coat which is very similar in texture and coloration to that of the Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound. The Spinone Italiano is a specialist in hunting in the dense and thorny vegetation of its homeland. The Austro-Hungarian Empire bordered the part of Italy that the Spinone Italiano called home, and in fact directly controlled substantial portions of what is now Italy, meaning that definite access to the breed was available.
Bosnia and Herzegovina was the sight of major conflict throughout the 20th Century. The first shot of World War I was fired in Bosnia, when the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo. Following the war, Bosnia and Herzegovina were annexed by Yugoslavia. During World War II, Bosnia was occupied by Nazi forces. World War II saw tremendous amounts of ethnic, religious, and political conflict, as Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, Nazis, Soviets, Yugoslav Royalists, and Communist Partisans battled each other and committed numerous atrocities against the civilian population. Although its homeland was battered, the Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound continued to survive in rural regions, hunting game just as its ancestors had. After World War II, communists led by Josip Broz Tito took full control of Yugoslavia. Just as it had after World War I, the Croatian Coarse-Haired Hound managed to survive World War II. Yugoslavia had strained relations with the Soviet Union and was more open to the West than most of Communist Europe. Partially as a result, the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) had much greater contact with Yugoslavia than elsewhere in Eastern Europe which led to earlier recognition of Yugoslavian breeds. In 1965, the Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound was granted full recognition by the FCI, under the name of Illyrian Hound. The name Illyrian Hound was chosen instead of Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound because Illyria was the ancient name for the region and Yugoslavia maintained a constant policy of suppressing the nationalist sentiments of its constituent republics in favor of pan Yugoslavian nationalism. By the 1970’s, these policies had somewhat softened and the FCI officially renamed the breed the Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound in 1973.
Nearly 50 years of FCI recognition has done very little to increase the popularity of the Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound outside of its homeland. To this day, the breed remains very rare outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina and neighboring countries. In the 1990’s, Bosnia was again home to massive internal conflict. In 1990, the republics of Slovenia and Croatia voted to secede from Yugoslavia, leading to a multi-sided war between Croats, Serbs, and Bosnians over control of Bosnia. The conflict became the deadliest fought in Europe since World War II and saw Bosnia eventually gain full independence. The Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound survived even this tragedy, although in substantially reduced numbers. NATO forces played a major role in the Bosnian combat, but did not bring the Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound back with them when they returned home. It is unclear whether or not any Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hounds have made their way to the United States, but if any have it is only a very small number of individual dogs. In 2006, the United Kennel Club (UKC) granted full recognition to the Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound as a member of the Scenthound Group, becoming the only major English-language dog registry to do so. The UKC uses the FCI breed standard, but officially calls the breed the Barak rather than the Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound. (The name Barak is thought to come from the Turkish word for rough-coated dog.) The Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound is still found in its native land, but as long as conflict simmers in the region, its future will be uncertain and its numbers low.
The Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound is generally similar in appearance to the Griffons, a collection of wire-coated hunting dogs primarily native to France. This is a truly medium-sized breed. The average breed member stands between 18 and 22 inches tall at the shoulder, with 20.5 inches considered the ideal height for males. Most breed members weigh between 35 and 52 pounds, with 44 pounds considered the ideal weight for males. The Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound is noticeably longer-legged than most other Balkan scenthounds, but is still usually 10% longer from chest to rump than it is tall from floor to shoulder. This dog is somewhat stockily built, with a deep chest and relatively thick legs. Although most of the Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound’s body is not clearly visible underneath its coat, this dog is very muscular and athletic in appearance. This breed is primarily a working dog and is completely devoid of exaggerated features which would impede its hunting ability. The tail of the Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound is medium-in-length, relatively thick, and usually held in an upright curve.
The head and face of the Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound are very similar to those of other dogs from the region. The breed’s skull is short for the size of the body and slightly convex on top. The muzzle and head blend in smoothly with each other, although they remain distinct. The muzzle is longer than the skull, giving the breed the maximum area for scent receptors. The muzzle itself is straight and rectangular in shape. The eyes of the Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound are large, oval-in-shape, and chestnut brown in color. The ears of the Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound are medium to long in length. They hang down pendulously from the sides of the head.
The coat of the Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound is the breed’s defining characteristic. This breed has a double coat, with a short, very dense undercoat and a long, hard, shaggy, and tousled outer coat. The hair on the face forms slight eyebrows and a short but noticeable mustache and beard. The Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound is either solidly colored, solid with white markings, or tri-color. The primary coat colors are wheaten yellow, reddish yellow, earthy grey, or blackish. If present, white markings are usually found on the head, throat, neck, chest, belly, lower parts of the legs, and tip of the tail. Black markings are sometimes found on the chest, neck, ears, and back. When on the back, these markings often form a saddle shape.
The Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound has been bred almost exclusively as a working hunting dog, and has a temperament which is very similar to that of most other scenthounds. In fact, the breed is so rarely kept as a companion dog that it is very difficult to make any statements about how it would react outside of a working environment. It is said that this breed is very devoted and affectionate to its owner. It is also said that this dog is gentle and friendly with children when properly socialized with them. Because the Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound often was used in packs of several dogs to hunt, the breed usually gets along with other dogs if properly trained and socialized. The Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound is a very dedicated hunter. This dog was bred to hunt and kill small animals, and often exhibits a high level of aggression towards non-canine animals. If raised with them from a young age, most breed members will accept a family cat, but some are never entirely trustworthy with them.
This breed has very substantial exercise requirements. This dog is capable of working long hours in very difficult terrain and will not be satisfied with a daily potty walk. Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hounds should receive at least 45 minutes to an hour of vigorous activity every day, and preferably would receive more. Without this exercise, Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hounds often develop behavioral problems such as destructiveness, excessive barking, hyper activity, and over excitability. Hounds were bred to bay as they hunted so that the hunter could follow. As a result they tend to be louder and more vocal than other breeds. These tendencies can be greatly reduced with proper training and exercise, but they cannot be eliminated. Because the Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound has very high exercise requirements and is quite vocal, this breed does not adapt well to apartment life and does much better in a rural environment.
The Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound is very rarely groomed as a working dog, and so almost certainly does not require professional grooming. It’s rough, shaggy coat does require a regular brushing, at least two to three times a week. There are apparently no reports on the breed’s shedding, but it is safe to assume that this breed is a shedder.
It does not appear that any health surveys have been conducted on the Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound, making it impossible to make any definitive statements on the breed’s health. The Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound is generally considered to be a healthy breed. This dog has been bred almost exclusively as a working dog, and any potential defects which would impair its working ability would have quickly been eliminated from the gene pool. Additionally, the breed has not been subjected to commercial breeding practices. This does not mean that the breed is immune from genetic defects, only that the breed suffers from fewer of them and at lower rates than most pure bred dogs.
Although it does not appear that the Bosnian Coarse-Haired is especially susceptible to any major genetic problems, similar problems have been identified in similar and closely related breeds. Some of these problems include: