Choosing a Puli

The puli, with his long corded hair, has been an important part of the Hungarian shepherd's life for centuries. Used to herd and guard the flock, the puli was actually trained to run across the backs of the sheep as they were standing in a group.

History and Origin

The puli (plural pulik) is not only an interesting looking breed but also has an interesting history. It is believed that in the late 9th century, when the Magyars came to Hungary, they brought their sheepdogs. These dogs, which came in both a large and small size, were used to herd and guard sheep but the puli also became an intelligent and desired companion. They are thought to be the forefathers of the puli, komondor, kuvasz and even the poodle.

The development of the different sheepdogs was based on what role they played in herding sheep. The lighter colored sheepdogs, which eventually became the kuvasz and komondor, were used to guard the flocks at night and they were easier to see in the dark hours than the puli. The black puli was more often used to herd the sheep during the day. The sheep seemed to follow instructions better from a darker dog and the shepherd could find his dog a lot easier than a dog the same color as the sheep.

During the 16th century, Hungary was invaded and nearly destroyed, and few of their special sheepdogs remained. In the 17th century, people from Europe slowly began to relocate to the now less populated Hungary and they brought their own sheepdogs. These European sheepdogs bred with the few local pulis and the Pumi breed was the result. This led to significant confusion between the two breeds. For a while, the name puli and pumi were used interchangeably and the pure characteristics of the puli were almost lost.

Thanks to the efforts of Emil Raitsits in the early 1900s, the puli was brought back to life and is a completely separate breed than the pumi. The American Kennel Club recognized the Puli in 1936 as part of the herding class.

Appearance and Size

The Puli is the smallest of the Hungarian sheepdogs standing from sixteen to seventeen inches from the shoulder and weighing from 29 to 33 pounds. The breed has a compact and muscular body covered with a dark corded hair coat. The head is round and covered with the same corded coat. The Puli has coffee colored eyes, pendulous ears, and a curved tail that does not show. The coat of the Puli is unique. The undercoat is soft, dense and woolly. The outercoat is long and profuse. Pulis are born with a tufted coat. As they mature, the undercoat grows and becomes tangled in the outercoat. This results in the characteristic long cords. These long cords are virtually waterproof and offer great protection for the dog. The puli comes in solid colors such as rusty black, black, all shades of gray and white but black is the most often seen color.


The puli is an intelligent and loving dog. As the need for canine herders diminished, the puli easily became a prized companion. Always wanting to be busy, the puli is a spry little dog that loves to work. The breed is both intelligent and outgoing and loves to be with his family but is a little wary of strangers.

Home and Family Relations

The Puli is energetic, cheerful and protective of his owner and his property. They seem to prefer living outdoors and can become aggressive to children and strangers if not properly socialized. The puli is very protective of his territory and makes a wonderful sheepdog and watchdog for the farm.


The puli is a lively breed that loves obedience training and water retrieval training. They are easily trained due to their intelligence and devotion to their owner.


As you would suspect, the puli needs significant grooming to keep him looking and smelling great. Some people choose to brush out the cords and have a shaggy looking dog. Others leave the hair coat au naturale. If left in the natural corded state, the puli will need routine baths to keep away the strong odor that can develop.

Special Care

The haircoat of the puli takes significant time and grooming to keep it in good condition. If not obedience trained, the puli can develop a dominant personality.

Common Diseases and Disorders

Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint that results in pain, lameness and arthritis.

Progressive retinal atrophy is a disease that causes nerve cells at the back of the eye to degenerate. The condition usually begins in older pets and can lead to blindness.

The life span of the puli is 12 to 16 years.

We realize that each dog is unique and may display other characteristics. This profile provides generally accepted breed information only.