Balkan Politics Goes to the Dogs in Breed Dispute

April 21, 2008 02:59 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The latest row to arise from Kosovo’s declaration of independence concerns an unlikely subject: a dog breed registered by the World Canine Federation in 1939.

30-Second Summary

Earlier in April, Macedonia’s refusal to rename itself led to Greece blocking the applicant nation from joining NATO. Now the issue of nomenclature is again stirring up nationalist sentiment in the Balkans.

The Shar Mountain Dog, one of the world’s oldest breeds, was once also known as the Illyrian Shepherd dog, a name deriving from the ancient word for present-day Albania.

But after the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Macedonia changed the breed’s name to the Macedonian-Yugoslav Shepherd Dog.

Now Kosovo, independent as of Feb. 17 and home to an ethnic Albanian majority, believes that the World Canine Federation should again refer to the breed as the Illyrian Shepherd Dog.

Says Kosovar dog breeder Miftar Shabani, an ethnic Albanian, "We were never accepted as an equal partners, therefore we have never dared to raise our voice and say that these dogs belongs to Albanian people, the fact is these dogs are from Kosovo, I believe and I hope … the dogs can be presented as they are indeed the Illyrian dogs."

He goes on to add that his aim is not to make money from the breed, but to raise his country’s international stature.

This is not the first dog breed to be embroiled in the politics of national identity. The Weimaraner, which takes its name from the German city of Weimar, was jealously guarded by the local nobility until World War II.

See Reuters coverage

Headline Link: ‘Kosovo Dogs Identity Crisis’

Video: Images of the breed, reactions from dog breeders

Background: Recent developments in the former Yugoslav republics

Historical Context: The Weimaraner

Opinion: ‘Man’s Best Friend Becomes Embroiled in Debate over National Identity’

Reference: World Canine Organization


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