The Polish lowland sheepdog, also called the Polski Owczarek Nizinny, or PON, is a lively, athletic dog equipped with intelligence and a strong desire to please his human companions. The sturdy, good-natured dog exhibits loyalty to a human family and a strong protective instinct toward his perceived domain. The breed's influence and usefulness as a shepherd dog have made him a favorite in his homeland.
The ancestors of the PON were thought to have come from central Asia, according to the American Polish Lowland Sheepdog Club's website. The Puli, a shepherd dog used by the Huns, was introduced to Poland in the 4th century, and the use of shaggy herding dogs was recorded in cave drawings and rock carvings. Tibetan traders brought their terriers with them to eastern Europe, where they bred with the local long-haired dogs. The Asian Lhasa apso may have helped produce the PON's shaggy coat.
Sailing to Scotland
In the year 1514, a ship bound for Scotland left the town of Gdansk, carrying grain to exchange for sturdy Scottish sheep. Polish lowland sheepdogs were brought along to assist in the moving of the acquired sheep. A Scottish shepherd requested a trade: Three of his sheepdogs in exchange for a quality ram and ewe. The American Kennel Club website indicates that these dogs were the ancestors of the bearded collie, whom they closely resemble.
Polish lowland sheepdogs remained popular in Poland as working dogs due to their shepherding ability. Due to their medium-size stature, they did not frighten the sheep; and they were fiercely protective of their territory. PONs had remarkable endurance and were able to work throughout the day. Farm animal shows became popular at the end of the 19th century, and the dogs were shown alongside the sheep they tended. When sheep farming declined, the need for shepherd dogs waned. But European interest in purebred dogs escalated in the late 19th and early 20th century, bringing about a renewed interest in the PON.
World Wars and Present Day
A burst of Polish national pride following World War I helped create interest in the selective breeding of the Polish lowland sheepdog. Sheepdog enthusiasts continued to breed the dogs until the outbreak of World War II, when Germany invaded Poland. Carefully maintained records were destroyed or lost. Following the war, only 150 PONs remained in Poland, but breeding practices were re-established. The breed standard, attributed to a dog named Smok, was established in 1959. A 1965 World Dog Show showcased the PON, giving him international attention. The American Kennel Club admitted the PON in 2001 under the breed's English name.
By Joanna Ehlers
About the Author
Joanna Ehlers is a parent, equestrian and animal lover. Based in Independence, Mo., Ehlers has been writing parenting, lifestyle and pet articles since 2013. Her work has been published on eBay, ApartmentList and Record. She holds a Bachelor and a Masters degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.