Hungarian Conservative

The Puli, the Mangalica and Other World-Famous Hungarian Domesticated Animal Breeds

Storm on the Hortobágy by Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka (1903)
Storm on the Hortobágy by Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka (1903)
Wikimedia Commons
Throughout its history, Hungarian animal husbandry has selectively bred and nurtured animals that now stand as iconic representations of Hungarian peasant and pastoral culture.

There are quite a few breeds of domesticated animals in Hungary that have become cherished national symbols over the centuries. Dogs and various livestock were purposefully bred by the ancestors of present-day Magyars, the main goal being to create sturdy breeds, resilient under harsh conditions. All these animals are not just typically Hungarian, but are also the surviving relics of traditional Hungarian peasant and pastoral culture.

Man’s Best Friend — Hungarian Style

The puli, probably one of the most famous animal-icons associated with Hungary, is a herding dog. As one of the few mop dog breeds, the puli is famous for its corded coat, and it distinctive looks are certain to turn heads wherever it goes. The puli has a sweet personality, and retains its playful nature for its entire life, which makes it an excellent companion for families with children. However, its kindness should not be mistaken for weakness, as it is highly agile, fearless, intelligent and very sturdy. It is capable of surviving harsh environmental conditions while protecting and herding sheep and cattle alike. Serving Hungarians ever since their arrival in the Carpathian Basin, the easily recognisable characteristics of the puli have made the breed famous worldwide.

A similar breed, related to the puli, is the komondor, one of the two most ancient Hungarian dog breeds (the other being the kuvasz), is also a loving dog, but physically more robust than the puli. Because of its rather independent thought process, it is not suitable for all dog owners. The komondor’s task, similarly to the kuvasz, used to be to protect the herd from predators and thieves at night—being white, it could be easily distinguished by the human eye from attackers.

All of these dog breeds ideally require plenty of open space in which they can move freely, although if given the appropriate amount of exercise and attention, pulis can be quite happy as indoor dogs, too (if the neighbours are willing to put up the the plenty of barking…)

Puli – Top 10 Facts

The Puli is a small-medium breed of Hungarian herding and livestock guarding dog known for its long, corded coat. The tight curls of the coat appear similar to dreadlocks. A similar-looking, but much larger breed – also Hungarian – is the Komondor.

Another dog breed deserving attention is the vizsla, known for its companionship and hunting skills, setting it apart from the aforementioned breeds that excel in herding or guarding livestock. Vizslas are known for a combination of energy, gentleness, loyalty, and affection, which makes them an ideal choice for anyone who can offer them enough mental stimulation and open space. They have an innate inclination to form strong bonds with their owners and children and are highly emotionally intelligent animals. Another trait of vizslas is their vigilant nature; their protective instincts is showcased by the fact that they usually bark at strangers. If properly trained, they can serve as excellent watchdogs, providing a sense of security to their human companions.

Hungarian-bred Livestock: The Mangalica, the Water Buffalo and the Hungarian Grey

The Hungarian Buffalo is considered to be one of the most ‘indigenous’ cattle breeds of Hungary, as it was first domesticated on the territory of present-day Hungary as long as 6000 years ago. The popularity reached the peak of its popularity during the Hungarian Kingdom’s Turkish occupation—this was the time when the demand for the meat coming from the Hungarian Plain was the highest in Europe. However, water buffalos were not only kept for their meat, but for their milk and for their draught power. Unfortunately, they were pushed to the brink of extinction by industrialisation after WWII, but after the collapse of socialism Hungarian conservation efforts managed to significantly improve the size of their population.

The mangalica is a domestic pig breed, and, similarly to the puli and the komondor, is known for its distinct, curly coat of hair, which can be black, grey, yellowish-red and reddish-brown. The thick bristle helps the mangalica thrive in harsh climates. Its numbers rapidly rose after the end of Turkish occupation, that is after the departure of a considerable Muslim population from Hungary who were not eating pork for religious reasons. The mangalica remained the most popular domestic pig breed in Hungary for centuries, but after 1945, with a portion of war reparations being made in mangalicas, and with the introduction of the white pig, it almost became extinct.

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The Hungarian Grey is the iconic cattle of Hungary. This majestic animal, renowned for its long, lyre-shaped horns, in many ways epitomises the Great Hungarian plain, as well as Hungarian animal husbandry in general. From the Middle Ages until the eighteenth century, vast herds of the Hungarian Grey were driven by the skilled mounted Hajduks to the markets in Western Europe. Man and animal embarked on long, arduous journeys of hundreds of kilometres to reach the cities of Western Europe where the animals were sold and slaughtered, meeting the increasing demand for high-quality beef.

Inseparable from herding, horses played a significant role in the worldview and culture of early Hungarians. Today Hungary is known for its wide range of horse breeds and successes in horse racing. To find out more about these breeds and Hungarian equestrian traditions, read our article on the role of horses in the Hungarian cultural heritage.

The unique animals that originate from Hungarian soil enjoy a significant level of protection today, as they hold immense cultural value. These native breeds represent a cherished part of Hungary’s heritage, and therefore considerable efforts have been made to safeguard them existence and thus ensure their survival. Among the most remarkable efforts has been the establishment of the Puszta Animal Park under the broader framework of the Hortobágy National Park. Here water buffalos, mangalica pigs, Hungarian Grey, Hungarian horses and many other animals are housed in traditional ways, showcasing the culturally significant blend of nature and human activity typical of the region. Besides the National Parks, the Kecskemét Wildlife Park has also dedicated itself to preserving certain Hungarian breeds, a topic that Hungarian Conservative has also covered.

Throughout its history, Hungarian animal husbandry has selectively bred and nurtured animals that now stand as iconic representations of Hungarian peasant and pastoral culture.