The Transylvanian Hound (Erdélyi Kopó in Hungarian) – one of the 9 Hungarian dog breeds – is one of these endangered dog breeds. Endangered species do not only exist among wide animals, but among dogs as well. The reason of this is that the importance of the original purpose of use for particular dog breeds has decreased, and meanwhile some of them haven’t become popular enough among hobby dog owners either.
The ancestor of the Transylvanian Hound, the Pannonian Hound, arrived to the Carpathian Basin together with the Magyar tribes over 1000 years ago and the Erdélyi Kopó was born as a crossbreed between the Pannonian Hounds and dogs native to the Carpathian Basin. The Transylvanian Hound was the favorite hunting dog of the Hungarian royalty and aristocracy through the centuries and as a result of the influence of the various conditions of the terrain, two varieties evolved: the long-legged and the short-legged Erdélyi Kopó. Originally, the long-legged Transylvanian Hound was used for hunting big game like buffaloes, and later bears and wild boars while the short-legged Hound was used for hunting small game like foxes or hares. Until the XIX. century the Transylvanian Hound was quite widespread all over the Carpathian Basin, but after the structural changes of the area – the draining of marshes and decrease in the forest area – hound hunting was relegated to the mountains of Transylvania.
After WWII the Transylvanian Hounds nearly disappeared. Between 1943 and 1969 no new litter was registered at all, and according to the FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale) the breed was completely extinct. But fortunately this was not so and the savior of the breed came from Hungary at the end of the 60’s. The World Hunting Expo in 1971 took place in Budapest, and the organizers decided to exhibit the Hungarian hunting dog breeds as well. Veterinarian dr. Lajos Györffy and his partners wanted to show to the world the Hungarian and the Wirehaired Vizsla, the Hungarian Agár, and the Transylvanian Hound, but they had to realize that there is no Transylvanian Hound at all in Hungary since there was no litter registered since more than twenty years. But they got a Transylvanian contact in Máramarossziget/Sighetu Marmației who had some purebred Transylvanian Hounds, so they went there to buy two puppies and to bring them back to Hungary. They did not have any official papers though, so when a strict border guard asked for the permission at the border, Györffy had to improvise.: “There is no permission. We do not need one because this is a special carriage. You know, your big boss is a great hunter just like ours. They often go hunting together and now comrade Ceaușescu is sending two puppies to comrade Kádár. If I cannot carry them with, please give me a certificate about it!” – recalled Györffy his brave reply decades later in 2001, in an interview on his 75th birthday. The guard was thunderstruck and went to consult his boss. When returned he only asked the following: “When did the puppies get water last time?”
So with this trick the two puppies were allowed entry to Hungary where they were placed at the Budapest Zoo, and the determined breeding could resumed with them. Almost four decades later, in 2006 the Transylvanian Hound (the long legged variety) was recognized by the United Kennel Club, but is still considered a rare dog breed (the short-legged variety is still not recognized yet). According to Tibor Pelczéder, the President of the Erdélyi Kopó Club of Hungary, there are about 600-800 pedigreed Erdélyi Kopós in Hungary and about the same number in Romania, Germany and the US together – however, they have no statistics about unregistered dogs.
If you ever thought about getting a medium-sized dog with calm and adaptable nature you should take into consideration the Transylvanian Hound as an option. For more info you can contact the international Transylvanian Hound Club, or the Erdélyi Kopó Club of Hungary. Their playful nature makes them ideal family favorites and because of their balance and friendliness, they can be even kept in an apartment or a house. The courage and loyalty make them also good guards and because they used to work far from the farms, they developed extraordinary problem-solving abilities as well and have become highly intelligent through the centuries.
Title Image: Five Transylvanian Hounds in the outdoors (source: www.vertesfia.hu)