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The Mudi (pronounced moody), one of two newly-recognized American Kennel Club breeds gaining full recognition January 1, brings a little bit of everything to the table.

But make no mistake about it, this herding breed with Hungarian origin comes with a few caveats.

“If not mentally and physically challenged, the Mudi can be barky and demanding,” says Susanne Bergesen, of Tracy, California. Bergesen, Mudi Club of America corresponding secretary, adds, “This is not the breed for a first-time dog owner. While some may call the breed stubborn, I see it as getting bored if constantly drilled. They are thinkers, love to learn, learn quickly, and do not need lots of repetitions to acquire most skills.”

Susanne Bergesen, of Tracy, California, works Bear, her 3-year-old Mudi, at a beginning herding lesson in Patterson, California.

What Type of Dog is That?

The Mudi’s pathway to full recognition didn’t come overnight.  In fact, it is still a rare breed with only an estimated 450 in the United States and 3,000-4,000 worldwide. It was first recorded in the Foundation Stock Service in 2004 and has been eligible to vie in AKC companion events since 2008.

Sometimes mistaken for a “doodle” mix by the public, one fancier compared the breed to a cross between a Miniature Poodle and a German Shepherd Dog both in look and temperament. Yet another noted it gives the impression of a curly-coated small Spitz. From a familiarity standpoint, the Mudi takes a back seat to its two other Hungarian farm brethren, the Puli and Pumi, all of which faced near extinction following World War II.

What you see in puppyhood isn’t what you get later. Mudi are born with floppy ears, which will gradually become pricked. Sometimes Mudis are born without a tail or with a natural stump tail that is not regarded as a fault.

Mudi puppies peeking out of a carrier.

Connecting with a Mudi is like working a crossword puzzle. It can come from many directions.

For Cynthia Protheroe, who saw her first Mudi in 2003 at an agility trial in Spokane, Washington, it was a Pumi breeder (yes, that’s right!) who helped her contact a Mudi group and she imported her first dog from Sweden in the fall 2004.

And since then, it’s been quite the ride.

From puzzled “What type of dog is that?” questions and her response, “A Mudi,” onlookers are still left shaking their heads. “Other than the unique curly/wavy coat and/or the merle-colored dogs, the Mudi is common looking and frequently identified as a mixed breed,” says Protheroe.

Life With a Mudi

This breed boasts lots of sizzle, from the farm to the front room. Colorfully fluid and versatile, it competes in AKC sports such as conformation, agility, rally, tracking, herding, flyball, Frisbee, lure coursing, and barn hunt. Protheroe smiles, “My Mudis’ favorite things are doing anything with me!”

Living on five fenced acres, her Mudis are on vermin control – and pursuit – constantly. “Their prey drive keeps the ground turned over as they dig following vermin tunnels,” she says.

Two-year-old Coda, vies in the Fastest Mudi Races at the 2012 Mudi Club of America Second National Specialty held in Manchester, Connecticut. Coda was owned by Cynthia Protheroe, of Pendleton, Oregon. Photo courtesy Penny J. Wills.

When it comes to giant transition, Mary Mytych has seen it all. In 2008 she was showing and breeding Smooth Coat Chihuahuas and discovered a Mudi while reading a book, Legacy of the Dog. “There was a single page with a photo and description of a herding breed, a handy size and easy-care coat.”

Later that day, she contacted the Mudi Club of America secretary and asked numerous questions about the breed. Her first Mudi puppy, a yellow male named Beacon, arrived at the Sacramento airport from Chicago 10 days later. Two years later she traveled to Hungary to purchase a second.

Her next 180-degree turnabout came recently when she and her husband, Joe, moved from warm-weather Lodi, California, where the dogs sometimes trialed in 100 degrees, to St. Ignatius, Montana, on a 60 acre-ranch with plenty of sub-freezing days. The dogs have adapted well, Mytych adds. “They love getting into the creek on our daily walks.

“Sports that involve using their noses seem to be the universal favorite among all of my dogs,” she says. “Whether it’s tracking, scent work or hunting for rats, my Mudis enjoy leading the way. In Montana, shed hunting is a big deal. My youngest Mudi, 4-months-old Triton, an import this year from Poland, surprised us by bringing an antler out of our hayfield. Since then we have acquired quite a collection of deer bones, thanks to Triton.”

On a beautiful spring day, Baccus, 3, owned by Protheroe, sits among the wild flowers in Spokane, Washington. Baccus, a 2004 import from Sweden, competed in Conformation, Rally, Agility and Barn Hunt for years.

Intrigued by the Breed?

Asked to list a few adjectives or descriptive phrases that capture this breed, the three cited whip-smart, fast learner, protective, funny, dependable, devoted, quirky, and driven. A bored Mudi is not a happy Mudi. And yes, it can be barky, having been bred for many generations to sound off while moving livestock and alerting shepherds to intruders or danger. “Being constantly on the alert, an unattended bored Mudi will bark nonstop,” adds Protheroe.

Still intrigued?

The Mudi Club of America website has an excellent assortment of information, including breed history and frequently asked questions.

The Q&A section notes “the average Mudi is neither shy and fearful nor exuberant and overjoyed when meeting new people. . . . Still, he is first and foremost a herding dog, and as with most herding breeds he can display a certain aloofness during initial meetings. Once he knows and trusts a person, however, he is generally easy-going, playful, and affectionate. The Mudi does well with children and other animals when exposed to them from puppyhood.”

Christian Taylor, 8, of Helena, Montana, gets in some special bonding time with Skor after researching the Mudi for two years. Intrigued by the breed, young Christian read everything he could find about it online. Hunting for rats, Skor recently earned his North American Sport Dog Association Urban Trailing and Locating title. Photo courtesy Marli Taylor.

While this outdoors-loving breed is a natural herder, it is well-suited to the house but should not be relegated to living the backyard or you will have a barker on your hands.

Boasting a wash-and-wear coat, it is easy maintenance and a light-to-average shedder. Black is the predominant color but numerous others are allowable. According to the AKC standard males range from 16-18½ inches tall and weigh 24-29 pounds; females, 15-17 ½ inches tall, 18-24 pounds.

Because of the breed’s rarity, there are fewer than a dozen reputable breeders in the United States. Prices range from $1,500 for pet quality to $2,500 for a show equivalent.

Brittan, owned by Jeanine Cowger, of Union City, Calif., charges out of the tunnel during an agility competition. Photo courtesy Sarah Spiegelman.

The Future of the Mudi

As with any new breed and increased media attention, parent club members are concerned about its quality moving forward. Protheroe explains, “Breeding for good temperament is necessary, otherwise it quickly reverts to a breed unsuitable for living off the farm. The reality is that most U.S. Mudis do not reside on working farms.

“There are concerns among our breed’s fanciers about the Mudi being used for ‘designer dogs’ by opportunistic breeders who are now whelping mixed-breed litters.”

Mytych adds, “Those who are newer to the breed don’t seem to care about the historic purpose and character of the Mudi. I have seen newcomers talk about changing the temperament of the Mudi to be ‘more appealing to and compatible with the modern U.S. family.’ I tell potential puppy buyers that adding a Mudi to the family is much more like adding another family member than adding a pet.”

Related article: Meet the Russian Toy: AKCs Newly-Recognized Dog Breed in 2022
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