Known in its home country of Poland as the ‘Polski Owczarek Nizinny’, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog is commonly referred to as the “PON” or “Nizzy” for short. Like many breeds of dog with an ancient past, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog’s exact origins are uncertain. Although many believe that the Polish Lowland Sheepdog may have descended from prehistoric Central Asian stock, dating as far back as the 4th century.
Thought to have descended from one or more of the Tibetan dog breeds, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog may have been developed from either the intentional or unintentional breeding of dogs such as the Tibetan Terrier and Hungarian herding and livestock breeds such as the Puli and the Komondor. These Hungarian breeds displayed a unique appearance, as they were known to possess a long, corded coat that not only insulated them from the elements but also provided armor-like protection from large predators such as wolves and bears. The Polish Lowland Sheepdog, believed to have been bred originally from this Hungarian stock is considered to be the genetic link between the herding dogs of the area which display these corded coats, and those herding dogs that developed smooth long coats.
The larger Polish Lowland Sheepdogs were used to guard the flocks, while smaller dogs were taught to herd sheep. The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is believed to have been working the Polish Lowlands for centuries prior to the first mention of the breed which occurred in the 13th century. The breed is known for being exceptionally gentle in its herding activity, often using its eyes, and an occasional soft nudge to coerce the sheep to move in the desired direction. Because of this mild temperament and their effectiveness in the field, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog was used in the creation of other herding type breeds being developed at the time such as the Old English Sheepdog and Bearded Collie.
The introduction of the breed to the British Isles and to recorded history is believed to have begun in 1514, when a Polish merchant named Kazimierz Grabski brought, by boat, a shipment of grain to Scotland. The grain was to be traded for a flock of sheep; therefore Grabski brought along with him six Polish Lowland Sheepdogs to assist him in moving the flock from an inland field to the coastally docked boat. It was during the process of using the dogs to navigate the sheep toward their seaward destination that a local Scottish Shepherd came to observe these never before seen dogs at work. The Scotsman was so impressed with their abilities that he approached Grabski about acquiring a breeding pair. In exchange for the dogs, the shepherd offered a horned ram. After some negotiation, a deal was made, the shepherd would receive two female Polish Lowland Sheepdogs, and one male; in exchange for the dogs the shepherd would give the horned ram and a ewe. The dogs acquired by this shepherd would introduce the Polish Lowland Sheepdog to the British Isles for the first time.
Over the next several centuries, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog would be bred with local Scottish dogs to produce a Scottish line of herding dogs. Of these Scottish herding dogs, the best known is likely the Bearded Collie, and the Polish Lowland Sheepdog is thought to be the original progenitor to it. The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is also thought to have been a partial contributor to breeds such as the Welsh Collie, the Old Welsh Gret, the Old English Sheepdog, and the Bobtail, and may have played a large part in the development of several herding breed lines throughout Great Britain.
Although originally developed as a sheep herding dog, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog is a versatile breed that was over time trained to herd cattle as well. The breed remained popular in its homeland of Poland; however it never gained much notoriety outside of Poland despite all its abilities and value as a herding breed. World War I (WWI) would take its toll on Europe and the rest of the world. After the war, Poland would regain its independence, and the sentiment of national pride grew strong among the citizens of Europe. Poland, along with many other countries, began to take an interest in dogs native to their country. Fanciers of the Polish Lowland Sheepdog breed began to focus on developing the local breed. These breed enthusiasts worked to create a strong reputation for the breed as well as an increased interest in it. World War II (WW II) would however, have an overwhelming negative effect on the Polish Lowland Sheepdog. The devastation of Europe and the loss of life would be mirrored by the devastation of the dog breeds being developed there, and complimented with the loss of many rare breeds. By the end of WW II it is believed that there were only 150 Polish Lowland Sheepdogs left in the world.
In response to this, the Polish Kennel Club began to search for remaining members of the breed in 1950. Recognizing that the breed was in dire straits they began to compile information on any surviving Polish Lowland Sheepdogs that could be found. In so doing this group would initiate the revival effort to save the Polish Lowland Sheepdog breed from extinction. A key member of the group and the one most commonly credited with leading the charge to save the breed was a veterinarian from Northern Poland, Dr. Danuta Hryniewicz. She would dedicate herself to the breed and perform an extensive search of Poland to locate any remaining Lowland Sheepdog specimens of adequate breeding quality. The results of her efforts were that she was eventually able to locate eight suitable breeding dogs, six females and two males; dogs that Dr. Hryniewicz would use to reestablish the Polish Lowland Sheepdog breed.
One of the male dogs that Hyrniewicz acquired, named “Smok” (translated from Polish as “dragon”) would go on to father ten Polish Lowland Sheepdog litters throughout the 1950’s. Hyrniewicz considered Smok to be the ideal specimen of the Polish Lowland Sheepdog. He had a flawless build and a pleasant temperament; ideal physically, Smok would set the standard followed by all subsequent Polish Lowland Sheepdog breeders and would even be the basis for the first written breed standard. The same breed standard that would later be accepted by the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) in 1959. Smok is credited with being the “father” of the modern Polish Lowland Sheepdog breed, and is an ancestor to all living members of the breed today.
Hyrniewicz’s efforts to save and promote the Polish Lowland Sheepdog would create a moderate increase in the breed’s popularity in the 1970’s. According to the Kennel Club (KC) of England, in its book ‘The Kennel Club’s Illustrated Breed Standards’: “(the Polish Lowland Sheepdog) is a relative newcomer to the British dog-show scene, where new imports were first exhibited in the mid 1980s.”
In 1979, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog finally made its way to America. In 1982, a Polish Lowland Sheepdog kennel was established in America by Kaz and Betty Augustowski after the couple obtained and fell in love with their first PON. It was called the Elzbieta Kennel. The establishment of the American Polish Lowland Sheepdog Club (APONC) which would become the breed’s parent club, as well as a second club for the breed called Polish Lowland Sheepdog Club of America (PLSCA) would further promote and encourage breeding of the Polish Lowland Sheepdog in America. The American Kennel Club (AKC) first included the Polish Lowland Sheepdog in their studbook in 1999, and officially recognized the breed as a member of the Herding Group in 2001. The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is currently ranked 149th out of 167 on the AKC’s most popular dog breeds list of 2010.
The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is solidly built and of medium size. Males stand roughly 18 to 20 inches at the withers, and weigh in at around 40 to 50 lbs. Females are slightly smaller at 17 to 19 inches and 30 to 40 lbs. The silhouette is off-square and of a strong form. The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is a lively breed that displays intelligence and self-control in all manners of his behavior.
The Polish Lowland Sheepdog displays a slightly broad and domed skull, with a well-defined stop. The moderately sized head of the Polish Lowland Sheepdog possesses a copious amount of hair that is shaggy and hangs over the eyes and from the cheeks and chin. This gives the breed’s proportional head the appearance of being larger than it actually is. The oval eyes are penetrating, and can be hazel to brown in color. They are of medium size with dark rims. Wide-open nostrils are present on a dark nose. The jaw of the Polish Lowland Sheepdog is strong and possesses a complete scissors bite; lips should be tight and dark. The Polish Lowland Sheepdog’s ears are heart-shaped and medium in length. They hang close to the cheeks and are broad at the top and set somewhat high on the head.
Although appearing short due to the profuse coat of the breed, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog sports a muscular and moderately long neck. The strong neck leads into a level topline with a rectangular shape. The well laid back shoulders of the Polish Lowland Sheepdog are strongly muscled and descend into heavily boned and straight front legs. The chest is deep, but neither flat nor barrel shaped. The loin is strong and broad. The Hindquarters display stifles that are well bent with strong, straight hind legs. The feet of the Polish Lowland Sheepdog are oval shaped, possessing hard pads and dark nails. The toes should fit closely and display a slight arch. The tail is traditionally docked, although the Polish Lowland Sheepdog is often born with a short tail. It is set low on the body.
The Polish Lowland Sheepdog sports a double-coat. The dense undercoat should be soft, while the outer coat is crisp and weather resistant. The entire body of the breed is covered in long, thick hair. The coat is shaggy, but mostly straight; a slight wave being permissible. Long hair covers the eyes of this breed. All colors of coat are accepted for the Polish Lowland Sheepdog breed, the most commonly seen being a white base with colored splotches.
An energetic breed, full of enthusiasm, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog is active and alert. Bred originally as a livestock guardian and herding dog, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog is always ready for action and loves to work. Active, outdoorsy types are best suited to be owners of the Polish Lowland Sheepdog, as the breed is no couch potato. The breed prefers time spent outdoors, and if not properly entertained, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog may get into trouble looking for an adventure or work to perform. The Polish Lowland Sheepdog thrives in a working environment, and if the dog does not have a “job”, it may become bored and restless. If the Polish Lowland Sheepdog does not receive adequate exercise, they may become destructive; destroying things in the home or excessively digging the yard. The Polish Lowland Sheepdog has lots of excess energy to burn, and will settle down only slightly as it ages. The breed is active and energetic throughout its life.
Being bred as a flock guardian in its early history, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog is quick to alert its owners of any uncommon activity, and is known to “patrol” the home. Pack-mentality is strong in a breed of this type, and the Polish Lowland Sheepdog will protect the “herd” from any perceived dangers. A watchful dog, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog is often reserved with and weary of strangers. They are serious dogs, and as such they take their job as guardian seriously. If the dog is provoked, or perceives that the herd is in danger, it has been known to bite. Also, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog may nip the heels of family members, mostly children, as it intends to keep the herd in check. This type of behavior, however, should not be seen as aggression in the dog, as the herding instinct is so strong in the Polish Lowland Sheepdog, that the dog believes it is doing what is right to maintain the order and safety of its herd. The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is in fact, excellent with children, especially when raised together. The breed displays a gentle, loving, and stable temperament making him an ideal companion to a child.
As a herding dog, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog adapted to working separately from its master. Therefore, the breed may display an independent nature and self-governing thought. Because of this upbringing, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog trusts its own judgment, making for a strong sense of individuality in the dog, as well as a well developed temperament and a tendency to be stubborn. The Polish Lowland Sheepdog will try to dominate an owner which it believes possesses a weaker mind than itself. The Polish Lowland Sheepdog therefore requires an owner who is strong, fair, and consistent in order to establish correct pack order.
Early training is absolutely essential for the successful development of the Polish Lowland Sheepdog, and should be conducted by a confident and fair owner. If trust is established between the trainer and the dog, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog will prove to be easy to train and quick to learn, as it is an intelligent breed and has a strong desire to please. The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is known to have a great memory, and any undesirable behavior should be quickly corrected so as not to confuse the dog. Once confused, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog will decide for itself what it thinks is proper behavior, so clear and concise training will help the breed understand what is expected of it.
Although a generally well tempered breed with good manners, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog is also fearless. The breed will not back down from a fight regardless of who it is with, be it animal, person, or even a family member. When threatened or challenged in this way, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog will respond in kind. The dog is strong willed and unafraid as a breed and should therefore be properly socialized and treated with a gentle hand.
An intelligent breed, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog needs mental as well as physical stimulation. The breed is a quick learner, and will master basic obedience training somewhat effortlessly. Once it has accomplished these skills successfully, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog should be taught advanced obedience skills. Possessing a clever nature, the breed enjoys games such as fly ball and tracking. The Polish Lowland Sheepdog breed has outclassed many other breeds in obedience events, agility trials, and in herding trials.
Being an excessively energetic and active breed, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog will require two walks a day as well as some play time to stay focused and happy. The breed is generally well behaved with other animals and dogs and trips to the park or specifically a dog park are ok for the breed. However, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog should always be supervised with other dogs, as it is the breed’s nature to herd and other dogs may not be too accommodating to having their heels nipped at and to being herded. As with all dog breeds, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog should be walked on a leash to avoid it running off after things that it perceives as escaping from the herd.
A confident breed, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog should be socialized early so it will develop into a well adjusted adult dog. Exposure to new people, places, and things will help the dog establish an even temper and pleasant nature with others. The Polish Lowland Sheepdog will bond strongly with its family, especially the children and will display a protective nature toward them. The Polish Lowland Sheepdog makes an excellent companion as it is loyal, affectionate, loving, and thrives on a close relationship with its human companions.
The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is an adaptable breed. They will do well living in a large house, as well as smaller apartments and condos, if properly exercised. In its native Poland, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog has become a popular companion to apartment dwellers. The Polish Lowland Sheepdog matures quickly, making it easy to housetrain, and it is an adequate and considerate housemate. It is also a superb travel companion. The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is not, however, encouraged for first time dog owners or the elderly. It is a strong-willed breed and highly active breed, requiring an experienced, confident, and firm owner.
Easily matted if not cared for properly, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog’s coat requires brushing to be performed several times a week. This will prevent mats from forming and will assist in the shedding of dead, loose hair. Generally, the breed, although possessing a thick double-coat is not considered a heavy shedder, and therefore may be ideal for allergy suffers. The breed is left natural for the show arena, and therefore requires very little grooming or upkeep beyond the regular brushing.
As with all dog breed, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog should have its nails trimmed regularly, and special attention should be paid to the eyes, ears, and teeth of the dog when being cleaned to detect and prevent any health issues in these areas.
The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is known to be a very healthy breed of dog, living an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years. The breed does require a low protein diet and adequate amounts of activity to maintain proper health. Some health concerns that have been seen in the breed include, but are not limited to the following: