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. 2022 marks therefore the 100thanniversary of this important milestone in Hovawart history, celebrated by the largest gathering of Hovawarts ever during the Championship show held in Fulda, Germany, on June 12, 2022.
In 1937, the Hovawart received officially recognition by the German Kennel Club. In spite of the fact that the breed was almost wiped out by the end of the Second World War, it made another remarkable comeback in the years that follow, and 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.
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.
Hovawarts in Canada…
To say that the Hovawart is a rare breed in Canada would be a significant understatement.
The breed was virtually unknown until 1995 when Raymonde and Michel Roy, a Quebec couple, imported a French Hovawart puppy bred by Martine Dedier. Their first Hovawart, a blond male born in May 1995, arrived in Canada in September of that year. His name was Lancelot des Trois Petits Diables.
Quite taken by Lancelot, the Roys decided to become Hovawart breeders. To that end, they acquired a young black and tan female from Germany, Fenja von der Koboldshütte. These two Hovawarts were the foundation of the LaVillaRoy Kennel. On February 16, 2001 the new kennel produced its first litter of nine Hovawart puppies. From 2001 to 2017, LaVillaRoy Kennel produced thirteen litters, bringing 100 Hovawart puppies into the world. Many stayed in Canada, while others went to homes in United-States.
The Roys not only pioneered Hovawart breeding in Canada but also built awareness and appreciation of the breed in this country. They felt, just as other Canadian breeders, that it was imperative that Hovawarts as working dogs be allowed to participate in Canadian competition and be bred according to Canadian law. Their untiring efforts were first rewarded in March 2001, when the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) recognized the Hovawart in the “Miscellaneous Group.” This initial recognition provided Hovawarts with opportunities to demonstrate their talents in competitions organized under the aegis of the CKC. Encouraged both by the initial CKC recognition and the Hovawarts’ competition successes, the Roys applied for formal recognition of the breed. In November, 2005 the Roys’ vision, energy and dedication culminated in CKC recognition of the Hovawart as a Working Dog.
Henceforth, Hovawart litters could be registered with and receive official pedigrees from the Canadian Kennel Club. LaVillaRoy Kennel was the first Hovawart kennel to be registered with the Canadian Kennel Club.
As more breeders emerged in the following decade, the need for a Canadian Hovawart club became apparent. On June 3, 2016, a small group of Hovawart enthusiasts formed the Hovawart Club of Canada (HCC) with the goal of promoting responsible breeding and preserving the quality of Hovawarts in Canada in compliance with the FCI standard, CKC regulations, and Canadian laws. Membership has steadily increased since 2016 and the club currently boasts members from coast to coast. Since LaVillaRoy’s first litter, Canada has produced over 160 Hovawart puppies.
Two key events marked 2018 as a turning point in the history of the Hovawart Club of Canada. In September of that year, the International Hovawart Federation (IHF) accepted the HCC as a provisional member. Three months later, in December, the Canadian Kennel Club awarded the HCC full membership, recognizing it the sole national Hovawart club in Canada. In September 2021, IHF delegates gathered in Skaerbaek, Denmark, unanimously voted to grantpermanent membership to the Hovawart Club of Canada.
Hovawarts remain a rarity in Canada, but their increasing presence at CKC events has captured the attention of the canine community and generated significant interest in the breed, as evidenced by the increasing length of breeders’ waiting lists.
The HCC looks forward to the future of Hovawarts in Canada with hope and confidence – hope that we in Canada will avoid the pitfalls often associated with the growth of an increasingly popular breed and confidence that our members and breeders are committed to preserving the outstanding qualities of the Hovawart.
Illustration and pictures coming from different german books published between 1953 and 1955.