Maremma Sheepdog

Although this breed is known as the Maremma Sheepdog in Great Britain, in its native Italy it has a double name, Maremmano Abruzzese, after the two regions that have long claimed the imposing white dog as their own.


The Maremma is rolling countryside with wooded hills that reach down to the sea along the coast from Cecina to Rome. This used to be excellent pastureland for cattle, sheep and horses, and provided almost impenetrable cover where wild boar, roe deer, bears and wolves could escape destruction. The Maremma could usually be found in all the fine houses of Tuscany.

History relates that in 1872 a “Roman Maremma” won a class at a dog show in Nottingham, England. In the early part of the twentieth century, various Maremmas were imported to Britain and in 1936 the Kennel Club recognized the breed as the Maremma Sheepdog. A breed club was formed in 1950 but the breed never really achieved a strong foothold until the mid-1970s when an Italian, Franca Simondetti, loaned two in-whelp bitches to breeders in Britain. The breed was first awarded Challenge Certificates in 1980 and, largely due to the efforts of a small band of enthusiasts like Gordon and Anne Latimer of the famous Sonymer Kennel, type and quality have improved steadily. In 1995 Signora Simondetti was honored with an invitation to judge Maremmas at Crufts Dog Show. There were thirty-five dogs entered under her and she must have been fascinated to see how the breed had developed in the United Kingdom since she supplied what was basically the breed’s foundation. Interestingly, as Best of Breed she selected a male who was bred from two more recent Italian dogs, its dam being imported in whelp.


The Maremma Sheepdog is a proud and dignified breed, the product of the harsh solitary lifestyle that it has endured for generations. It is supremely loyal to its family, while also an excellent protector and guard. However, it is also a thinking dog and is consequently not naturally subservient. It will rationalize what is asked of it before acquiescing.


The Maremma Sheepdog has remained an unexaggerated breed for decades and, as a result, has few health problems. As with many large dogs, some breeders feel that X-raying for hip abnormalities is advisable but generally this is not a problem with the breed.

Special Care and Training

The Maremma needs to be trained to fulfill its role within the family. It responds well to logical training but may not prove to be the ideal Obedience competitor because it is a thinker. Once a Maremma Sheepdog knows who its “pack leader” is, it will become devoted to him or her. Its white coat needs thorough weekly grooming to maintain a clean, majestic appearance.


The breed is often confused with the Great Pyrenees and Kuvasz, but the Maremma has a very distinctive head. This is conical in shape and quite large in proportion to the body. It is vaguely reminiscent of a polar bear’s head – broad between the ears but not short in muzzle. The whole head is smooth and the eyes almond shaped and dark; the ears are small, high set, with pointed tips and lying flat against the skull. It is important that the pigment in the lips, eye rims and pads should be black. Males should look overtly masculine, with a very pronounced ruff, while bitches are noticeably feminine in looks and disposition.

The Maremma Sheepdog is powerfully built and slightly off-square with high withers. At the shoulder, males stand 25 1/2-28 1/2 inches/65-72 cm while bitches are 23 1/2-26 1/2 inches/ 60-67 cm. The tail hangs low but curves at the tip when carried out level with the back in an action that is nimble and free, giving the impression of a dog that can turn easily. The coat should be all white but a little ivory or biscuit shading is usually tolerated. In texture, it is harsh and plentiful with a thick undercoat. A little waviness – but not curl – is permitted. The tail should be well covered with thick hair.

Gallery of Maremma Sheepdog