The Hovawart was employed for centuries to protect the livestock and courtyards of German farms.

Drawings from as early as the seventeenth century depict a dog similar to the old “Hofwart.” It is said that such a breed had lived, as a watchdog, with humans for many years and the desired attributes of the breed included courage, intelligence and a natural discernment between friend and foe. Such dogs had weatherproof coats and had no desire to wander from their homes.


The earliest reference to this breed dates from 1220. In the Middle Ages it was recorded as an important courtyard guard. In more recent years the breed fell into decline. Then in the 1920s it was redeveloped by German breeders, especially Kurt Konig, using a mixture of farm dogs from the region of the Harz Mountains and the Black Forest. His aim was to produce a breed which had beauty, stamina, was large but not cumbersome, and with an aristocratic bearing yet very equable temperament. This reconstructed breed was recognized by the German Kennel Club in 1936. It did not reach the United States until the 1980s.

There are those who are sceptical about the ‘rebuilding’ of this breed. They believe that the modern Hovawart is merely a ‘copy’ of the old one, created by a careful mixing of Leonbergers, Newfoundlands, Kuvasz and other breeds, to produce a ‘fake’ Hovawart that matched the original one in appearance but was not genetically related. Those who deny this are convinced that Konig and other breeders scoured German farms in the early years of the 20th century, seeking out remnants of the original breed, bringing them together and starting a new breeding programme. Nobody can be certain whether today’s dogs are ‘reinvented’ copies, or resurrected originals, but either way, we do at least now have an animal that closely resembles the ancient, long-established livestock guardian, and we must be grateful for that.

The breed continues to increase slowly but steadily in numbers in Great Britain and at the 1995 Cruft’s Dog Show, eighteen Hovawarts competed in the scheduled breed classes.


A large, long-coated, drop-eared, bushy-tailed dog, this breed remains rare outside its homeland. The coat colour can be black, pale tan or black-and-tan.


It is said to be unusually intelligent, responsive, patient and reliable, with a playful streak even as an adult.

The Hovawart is an ideal house dog, thriving on human company, and its desire to please is always evident — it constantly finds “presents” for its owners. It is also highly sociable with other dogs. To the layman the Hovawart looks rather like a lighter, more elegant and plainer-headed Golden Retriever.

Gallery of Hovawart