Like other Molosser mountain type dogs, the Hovawart counts ancient breeds such as the Tibetan mastiff amongst its ancestors. Both an historic and modern breed, the Hovawart originated in Germany, and has long been prized for its qualities as a guardian and protector. As its name suggests - Hova meaning "estate" and Wart "guardian" - the primary job of a Hovawart has traditionally been to protect its property, livestock and human family.
The first record of the breed dates back to the early Middle Ages, and refers to the "Hofwart" as a valuable dog and praises its qualities as a protector and a courageous hunting companion. According to early descriptions, by the Middle Ages the Hovawart had already acquired the appearance and temperament that characterizes the breed today. The breed was so well regarded that in 1473, Heinrich Mynsinger assigned the Hovawart as one of the five noble breeds, requiring legal restitution if stolen or killed.
After the Middle Ages, the popularity of the Hovawart began to dwindled in favor of new breeds such as the German Shepherd. By the early the 20th century, the Hovawart had almost disappeared entirely.
Fortunately, in 1915 a group of enthusiasts headed by zoologist Kurt Fredrich König, set out to revive the breed. They sought out dogs from farms in the traditional Harz and the Black Forest regions and instituted a rigorous breeding program. These traditional farm dogs, who carried Hovawart genetics, were crossed with breeds like that of the Kuvasz, Newfoundland, German Shepherd, Leonberger and Bernese Mountain Dog. Their efforts were rewarded in 1922 when the first litter of Hovawarts was included in the German breeding registry and then again in 1937 with the breed receiving official recognition by the German Kennel Club.
While the breed was almost wiped out again by the end of the Second World War, the breed made another remarkable comeback in the years that followed.
On November 21, 1955, the World Canine Organisation – otherwise known as Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) - recognized the Hovawart as a definitive member of the group of mountain-type Molosser, giving the breed international purebred status. Additionally, in 1965, the Breed Association RZVHH chose to prohibit the reproduction of any dog with hip dysplasia. While this measure slowed the growth of many breeds, it did a great service to the Hovawart which is one of the few large breeds that is not prone to the dysplasia.
The hardiness of the Hovawart led to its breeding in several other countries in Europe and around the world and in 1984 the International Hovawart Federation (IHF) was founded to promote the breeding, conservation and improvement of the Hovawart.
The current official standard was published by the FCI on December 12, 1998.
The Hovawart History in Canada
Since year 2000 Raymonde and Michel Roy (LaVillaroy Kennel) have advocated for the recognition of the breed by the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC). It was imperative to the Roy’s as well as other Canadian breeders, that Hovawarts as working dogs, be allowed to participate in Canadian competition and be bred according to Canadian law.
In 2005, the CKC officially recognized the Hovawart as a purebred dog and began to issue pedigrees. With this, the Hovawart became eligible for various CKC competitions, such as conformation, obedience and agility.
The Hovawart Club of Canada (HCC) was established in 2016 to raise awareness of this uncommon breed in Canada, and to encourage breeding in compliance with the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) standard and the regulations of the Canadian Kennel Club as well as Canadian law.
2018 has been a turning point in the Club’s history as it marked a double recognition, namely that by the International Hovawart Federation (IHF) and by the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC).
In September 2018, at its annual meeting held in Montélimar, France, the representatives of the various IHF member clubs have accepted the Hovawart Club of Canada as a provisional member of the IHF. This represents the first and most crucial step of the IHF admission process for any club that submits its application.
The International Hovawart Federation (IHF) is an organisation based on the welfare and development of the Hovawart. It has been created to ensure that all members would have the same vision for the breed. At the moment, the membership is composed of 16 breed clubs from 16 countries within Europe and North America.
The major goals of the IHF are:
To maintain only one Hovawart type that is universal, with no country-specific differences;
To maintain the Hovawart in accordance with the breed standard as a healthy and spirited working dog;
To promote contact and exchange expert knowledge between the Hovawart Clubs;
To exchange breeding data;
To arrange joint events;
To promote cooperation in all areas concerning the Hovawart breed.
As a member of the IHF, our Club can now effectively represent Canadian breeders in this body, guide transactions with member countries (stud dogs, lineage information, etc.), promote breeding practices in line with the IHF standard and thus contribute to the protection and good development of the breed in Canada.
In two years, we will need to apply as a full member but until then, we benefit from all the knowledge and information of this organisation; we have access to their database; we are invited at their annual meeting, and participants to our annual breed specialties can also get points to earn IHF champion titles in addition to the Canadian Kennel Club points and champion titles.
In December 2018, our Club has officially become a member of the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC), having successfully satisfied all the necessary administrative requirements. We are now the only club authorized to represent the Hovawart breed in Canada. Our shows are part of the CKC’s activities and are run according to their rules and regulations.
With both these recognitions, the HCC becomes the breed’s official voice in Canada, at a national and international level, and our members gain access to these two organisations’ services, events and shows along with the associated points and titles. For Hovawart breeders and owners, this represents a significant added value.