Livestock Guardian Dogs
The farm was founded in California, where the most formidable threat to our herd was the mountain lion (Puma concolor). Numerous trail cameras across the property would capture at least four individual lions that would regularly traverse through the parcel, both day and night, where territories overlapped. Additional potential on-farm predators, especially of our younger stock, included hawks, foxes, and bobcats. Since relocating to Virginia, the mountain lion threat is no longer a primary concern. However, stray dogs, foxes, bobcats, coyotes, and bears are all potential threats at the new farm.
However, with responsible farm management, there is no reason we cannot strive to co-exist with the diverse array of wildlife that we share this land with. The dogs are as vital to protecting our herd, as they are to protecting wildlife. By discouraging wildlife from lurking near our livestock, it removes the need for depredation.
The farm is home to two close-guarding livestock guardian breeds. The Italian Maremma, and Spanish Mastiff.
Our dogs are critical to our ability to farm where we are, and essential members of our farm family. While farms with minimal predator pressures may be able to leave their guardians outside with their herds and flocks both day and night, it is most important to first know one’s predators, and their capabilities. It is also important to understand the limitations of the dogs. A solo dog versus a bear for example, is not a fair fight. While the dogs are vital to keeping predators pushed back, we cannot ensure the safety of everyone with dogs alone. As raising, and training a trustworthy, and effective guardian, is an investment in both resources, and in time, the injury or loss of a dog would create a void that would be impossible to fill quickly. LGD’s are not invincible, so we protect our dogs as much as we protect the goats. During the day we work closely with our dogs, and they are additional sets of vigilant eyes and ears in the pastures with the goats. At night, they are secured in the barns, along with their goats, for their own protection.
New for 2021
As Ivan will be approaching a well-earned retirement soon, we are excited to announce the arrival of the first of our imported Spanish Mastiffs (Mastín Español), Romulus Tornado Erben, and hope to also bring in a female pup in the not too distant future.
Romulus Tornádo Erben – “Roman”
This very special new member of our farm family, Romulus Tornádo Erben – “Roman”, was born November 23rd, 2020. One of a litter of seven puppies from JCh Galaxia Tornádo Erben’s first litter, sired by a very handsome Spanish import, Maximo. More about Roman’s parents noted below.
This giant, but gentle breed, has proven to be an excellent fit for our busy farm. Intelligent, self-assured, and affectionate, while wary of strangers, and wildlife intruders, but protective of family and stock.
Seeking strength in conformation, with sound disposition, we chose to bring Roman in from Kennel Tornádo Erben, in Czechia. A world-renowned and experienced Spanish Mastiff breeder, and producer of numerous international champions in the breed. We are so grateful to Lenka Erbenová for entrusting Roman to us, and working with us to bring him to California.
All photos of Romulus aged 0-10 weeks, Maximo & Galaxia credit to: Lenka Erbenová, at Kennel Tornádo Erben, Czechia
Dam: J Ch Galaxia Tornádo Erben HD B ED 0/0
– Club winner
– 2x CAC
– BIS Puppy
Sire: Jorgito de Serylu
– Young Champion, Leon 2018
Dam: Glenda de Amdece de Nava
– Czech junior champion
– BOB, CACIB, 4x CAC, National winner
– excellent 1 and BEST JUNIOR in special show in SPAIN
– excellent 2 on European dog show at the age of 9 months with 9 females in the ring
– very promising 2 – 2nd best puppy female on Club show AEPME in SPAIN
– very promising 2 – 2nd best puppy female on Special show in Barrios de Luna in SPAIN
Sire: I Ch. ISCO de Tierra de Orbigo HD A, ED 0/0
– Czech Grand Champion
– Czech Champion
– Club Champion
– Champion CMKU
– Czech Junior Champion
– 6x Best of Breed, 5x CACIB, 3x National winner, Club winner of Moloss club CZ, Club winner of Slovakia Moloss club, Winner of special show, Regional winner, 4x CAC CMKU, 11x CAC, Jugendbester, 3x CAJC, BOJ, 5x BOS, 19x excellent
– BIS PUPPY (Best puppy Club show of Moloss club CZ 2016)
Dam: Ch Yerba Tigre Tornádo Erben
– Czech Champion
– Champion CMKU
– 5x Best of Breed, 5x CACIB, res. CACIB, 8x CAC, CWC, 3x BOS, Club winner, Regional winner
– Excellent 1 – Best young female in show in SPAIN
– Very Promising 2 in special show in SPAIN
Ivan came to us as an established goat guardian. Our friends at Alethia Homestead had downsized their herd considerably, and were looking for a working home for this handsome Spanish / Pyrenean Mastiff cross.
At 175 lbs, Ivan is considerably larger than the goats he guards. Despite his size, a large male mountain lion would be of similar weight, so Ivan never works alone.
Ivan is incredibly intelligent. Despite never having guarded poultry before, he quickly learned that our Dark Brahma’s were part of his new farm family, and on more than one occasion saved our rooster, Jean-Pierre, from being attacked by a bobcat.
As is typical of Spanish Mastiffs, Ivan’s demeanor around the goats is slow, methodical, mellow, and easy-going. However, those that know him, also know he is not a pushover. During our evacuation from the CZU fire, the dogs were housed with the goats in close-quarters at the Fairgrounds. Despite his easy-going temperament, he will not tolerate people interfering with this charges, and if you have messed with his goats before, and dare to return, he WILL remember you, and react accordingly. When a 175 lb Mastiff stands on his hind legs, and lunges over a livestock panel, it tends to get the attention of those interfering with his stock. He is an excellent judge of character, and has no difficulty discerning friend from foe.
That said, while he takes his job very seriously, Ivan has the most incredible sweet disposition with members of his family, both caprine, and human. He is convinced, despite his stature, that he will fit in your lap, if you let him!
After working with Ivan for two years, it was very obvious that the Mastiff temperament and intelligence has proven to be an excellent fit, both for us, and our goats. He is content to watch over them, and guard them, and give them as much or as little space as they desire. We would love to have bred Ivan, but as he is a castrated male, that was not an option, but after speaking with others about their experiences with the breed, in addition to our own, that led us to seek out Romulus from Tornádo Erben.
Black Alder Serenity – “River”
River (Black Alder Serenity) is a registered Italian Maremma (Stonybrook Alexa x Thistle Havens Hunter). Like the Mastin, Maremma’s are also a close-guarding breed. Despite the acreage on the farm, the animals are generally relatively close-in to the barns during the day within their fenced pastures, and River is happy to be wherever her goats are.
As is typical of the Maremma breed, River is always hyper-alert. What she lacks in power and strength, she makes up for in agility and awareness. It seems most Maremma sheep dogs will go through a phase of barking at every puff of wind, or falling leaf, and in an environment such as ours, with variable terrain, her constant awareness of her surroundings invariably means she is the first to notice, and guard-bark, when trouble is brewing. While she is never far from the herd, she is a little more inclined to routinely patrol the pasture perimeters, while Ivan stays closer to the herd.
While it may seem odd to some to run two different breeds of livestock guardians, they each have their strengths, and they compliment each other well as part of our guardian team.
“A dog has one aim in life…to bestow his heart” – J.R. Ackerley