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AP PHOTOS: Livestock-guarding dogs breed Turkish pride

For 30 years, Huseyin Yildiz has bred powerful shepherd dogs in Turkey’s central Anatolian province of Sivas, home of the livestock-guarding Kangal canines that are a source of pride for the country.

Yet the breed of animal that Turkey considers as the national dog struggles for international recognition. The Kennel Club of the United Kingdom lists Turkish Kangal dogs as a distinct breed identified by its dark muzzle and ears. Elsewhere in the Western world, Kangals still are listed with similar breeds from the region as Anatolian shepherd dogs.

Their origin in Sivas’ Kangal district reportedly dates back thousands of years, though concrete evidence is scarce. Yildiz, 50, describes the flock-tenders as “Anatolian lions.”

A shepherd dog of the "Sivas Kangal" breed, is seen at a breeding farm in Sivas, in the central Anatolian province of Turkey, some 450km east of the capital, Ankara, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Turkey considers the sand-coloured, muscular and livestock-guarding animals as its national dog. The Mastiff-like creatures are predominantly used to protect herds of livestock and they're also used for personal protection and to fend off wolves - the Kangals are known to have one of the strongest bite force of any dog. (AP PhotoEmrah Gurel)

“The Kangal dog is Anatolia’s ancient legacy,” he told The Associated Press. “It is quick, swift, agile, nimble, strong and smart. At the same time, it has a wolf-like appearance that sets it apart from other dog breeds."

While the large-skulled, short-haired creatures are predominantly used to protect herds of livestock, Yildiz says they’re also used for personal protection — Kangals are known to have one of the strongest bites of any dog.

At his farm 450 kilometers (280 miles) east of Turkey’s capital, Ankara, Yildiz says he keeps the male dogs separated at all times because they will fight each other to the death.

Huseyin Yildiz, 50, walks with a shepherd dog of the "Sivas Kangal" breed, at his breeding farm in Sivas, in the central Anatolian province of Turkey, some 450km east of the capital, Ankara, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Turkey considers the sand-coloured, muscular and livestock-guarding animals as its national dog. The Mastiff-like creatures are predominantly used to protect herds of livestock and they're also used for personal protection and to fend off wolves - the Kangals are known to have one of the strongest bite force of any dog. (AP PhotoEmrah Gurel)

He currently has 67 purebred Kangal shepherds dogs at the farm, but Yildiz says he has bred over 500 dogs in three decades and sold most of them. He has also donated dogs to Turkey's police and military forces.

A female shepherd dog of the "Sivas Kangal" breed, feeds her puppies at a breeding farm in Sivas, in the central Anatolian province of Turkey, some 450km east of the capital, Ankara, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Turkey considers the sand-coloured, muscular and livestock-guarding animals as its national dog. The Mastiff-like creatures are predominantly used to protect herds of livestock and they're also used for personal protection and to fend off wolves - the Kangals are known to have one of the strongest bite force of any dog. (AP PhotoEmrah Gurel)

A man tends to a shepherd dog of the "Sivas Kangal" breed, at a breeding farm in Sivas, in the central Anatolian province of Turkey, some 450km east of the capital, Ankara, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Turkey considers the sand-coloured, muscular and livestock-guarding animals as its national dog. The Mastiff-like creatures are predominantly used to protect herds of livestock and they're also used for personal protection and to fend off wolves - the Kangals are known to have one of the strongest bite force of any dog. (AP PhotoEmrah Gurel)

Huseyin Yildiz, left, holds a puppy close to its mother, a shepherd dog of the "Sivas Kangal" breed, at a breeding farm in Sivas, in the central Anatolian province of Turkey, some 450km east of the capital, Ankara, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Turkey considers the sand-coloured, muscular and livestock-guarding animals as its national dog. The Mastiff-like creatures are predominantly used to protect herds of livestock and they're also used for personal protection and to fend off wolves - the Kangals are known to have one of the strongest bite force of any dog. (AP PhotoEmrah Gurel)

Huseyin Yildiz, 50, right, tends to a shepherd dog of the "Sivas Kangal" breed, feeding her puppies at his breeding farm in Sivas, in the central Anatolian province of Turkey, some 450km east of the capital, Ankara, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Turkey considers the sand-coloured, muscular and livestock-guarding animals as its national dog. The Mastiff-like creatures are predominantly used to protect herds of livestock and they're also used for personal protection and to fend off wolves - the Kangals are known to have one of the strongest bite force of any dog. (AP PhotoEmrah Gurel)

Huseyin Yildiz, 50, tends to shepherd dogs of the "Sivas Kangal" breed, at his breeding farm in Sivas, in the central Anatolian province of Turkey, some 450km east of the capital, Ankara, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Turkey considers the sand-coloured, muscular and livestock-guarding animals as its national dog. The Mastiff-like creatures are predominantly used to protect herds of livestock and they're also used for personal protection and to fend off wolves - the Kangals are known to have one of the strongest bite force of any dog. (AP PhotoEmrah Gurel)

Huseyin Yildiz, 50, walks with a shepherd dog of the "Sivas Kangal" breed, at his breeding farm in Sivas, in the central Anatolian province of Turkey, some 450km east of the capital, Ankara, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Turkey considers the sand-coloured, muscular and livestock-guarding animals as its national dog. The Mastiff-like creatures are predominantly used to protect herds of livestock and they're also used for personal protection and to fend off wolves - the Kangals are known to have one of the strongest bite force of any dog. (AP PhotoEmrah Gurel)

A shepherd dog of the "Sivas Kangal" breed, is seen at a breeding farm in Sivas, in the central Anatolian province of Turkey, some 450km east of the capital, Ankara, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Turkey considers the sand-coloured, muscular and livestock-guarding animals as its national dog. The Mastiff-like creatures are predominantly used to protect herds of livestock and they're also used for personal protection and to fend off wolves - the Kangals are known to have one of the strongest bite force of any dog. (AP PhotoEmrah Gurel)

A shepherd dog of the "Sivas Kangal" breed, rests at a breeding farm in Sivas, in the central Anatolian province of Turkey, some 450km east of the capital, Ankara, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Turkey considers the sand-coloured, muscular and livestock-guarding animals as its national dog. The Mastiff-like creatures are predominantly used to protect herds of livestock and they're also used for personal protection and to fend off wolves - the Kangals are known to have one of the strongest bite force of any dog. (AP PhotoEmrah Gurel)

Huseyin Yildiz, 50, kneels with a shepherd dog of the "Sivas Kangal" breed, at his breeding farm in Sivas, in the central Anatolian province of Turkey, some 450km east of the capital, Ankara, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Turkey considers the sand-coloured, muscular and livestock-guarding animals as its national dog. The Mastiff-like creatures are predominantly used to protect herds of livestock and they're also used for personal protection and to fend off wolves - the Kangals are known to have one of the strongest bite force of any dog. (AP PhotoEmrah Gurel)

A shepherd dog of the "Sivas Kangal" breed, is seen at a breeding farm in Sivas, in the central Anatolian province of Turkey, some 450km east of the capital, Ankara, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Turkey considers the sand-coloured, muscular and livestock-guarding animals as its national dog. The Mastiff-like creatures are predominantly used to protect herds of livestock and they're also used for personal protection and to fend off wolves - the Kangals are known to have one of the strongest bite force of any dog. (AP PhotoEmrah Gurel)

Shepherd dogs of the "Sivas Kangal" breed, are seen at a breeding farm in Sivas, in the central Anatolian province of Turkey, some 450km east of the capital, Ankara, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Turkey considers the sand-coloured, muscular and livestock-guarding animals as its national dog. The Mastiff-like creatures are predominantly used to protect herds of livestock and they're also used for personal protection and to fend off wolves - the Kangals are known to have one of the strongest bite force of any dog. (AP PhotoEmrah Gurel)

A shepherd dog of the "Sivas Kangal" breed, is seen at a breeding farm in Sivas, in the central Anatolian province of Turkey, some 450km east of the capital, Ankara, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Turkey considers the sand-coloured, muscular and livestock-guarding animals as its national dog. The Mastiff-like creatures are predominantly used to protect herds of livestock and they're also used for personal protection and to fend off wolves - the Kangals are known to have one of the strongest bite force of any dog. (AP PhotoEmrah Gurel)

A shepherd dog of the "Sivas Kangal" breed, rests at a breeding farm in Sivas, in the central Anatolian province of Turkey, some 450km east of the capital, Ankara, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Turkey considers the sand-coloured, muscular and livestock-guarding animals as its national dog. The Mastiff-like creatures are predominantly used to protect herds of livestock and they're also used for personal protection and to fend off wolves - the Kangals are known to have one of the strongest bite force of any dog. (AP PhotoEmrah Gurel)