Coat and colour

The breed comes in several colours but the commonest is yellow-gray or earthengray, basically black-and-tan ( atat) with the tan areas lightly coloured and arrangement of the dark and tan areas in fact identical to the distribution of colour in the Balkan hound (in which black is reduced to black saddle pattern) or sometimes dark spreads in the classic pattern as in the now extremely rare mountain hound (which is the descendant of the old austro-hungarian hound, just as are Austrian, Slovak and Hungarian breeds of today), with the important exclusion that the dark areas are not black, but greyish. This greying is not the result of grizzle, roan or merle factors, it is the combination of length, structure and banding of the hairs that makes for the additional multicolouring effect, the lighter banding on the base of longest hairs being visible through the tousled outer cover. Thus a special effect is being created which is called “green colour”, and although this somewhat dubious green does not stand up to the colour of birds and even some mammals, when such a dog is seen in the field it is impossible to distinguish, if it does not move, from the grass...It is difficult to describe this unique colour by words only. Perhaps the pictures might give a better description; but the structure of hairs on the other hand can be only evaluated by touch. It must be neither woolly or silk-soft, nor hard-but-curled, but thick and flexible, straight, moderately elastic, more flaxen than wiry. It should sort of “cracle” when stroked against the grain, even the puppy coat. The coat is in fact a triple layer: the usual two-layer with dense underwool, which is supplemented with longer and coarser outer hairs, dense enough to serve as an efficient raincoat, but not curly or as wooly-soft as to form mats. The coat should be touselled but never matted, and it also never looks too tidy. Lenght of hair is abot 7cm on the back, even longer on tail, but quite short on lower legs and even shorter, only about 1 cm long on the ears (leathers). Undercoat is about 3cm. This is all very utilitarian, not a quirk of anyone's fancy, the hair on the back should be as long as to protect from weather but ears and feet should stay burr free. In summer it is efficient protection against moskitoes. The upkeep requirements are minimal: sometimes the outer layer is to be stripped and then the undercoat brushed out, done easily at the season the hair is shed naturally (usually in springtime, practical if you do not want too much hair around the house – the birds will gladly collect these sheddings for their own houses, that is, for nest linings), and you will be left for a time with a dog of a somewhat ordynary-looking coat and a bit of a bushy muzzle – no worry, the hair will regrow in few weeks. Or you can run the dog through thick undergrowth, which they are eager to do, and afterwards pluck by hand those burrs that got caught in the coat, that is often enough to set the exterior aright; this was in fact usually the practice in Bosnia as the owners did not like, perhaps a little overemphasizing (or, should I say, underephasizing?), their dogs’ looks be altered by too much artificial hairstyling, even the comb being scorned... However a dog that has not been brushed a long time can be tidied up in a matter of minutes, but if brushed and combed thoroughly, it will look neat for about 30 seconds, then it will shake and all hairs will fall into their proper tousled place and the next time you glance at him there will be that rustic shaggy dog look again. I have indeed often been comprimanded (outside the show ring, of course, and by laymen) of my dogs appearing unkempt even when they were really straight out of the bath. It is for this hair structure that Baraks are also quite easy to wash, whether rain-sogged or out of the swamp (they like mud better than clear water) they will be auto-quick-dried in several minutes. Those outerhairs are thin at their base and thick at the top, and the water droplets are (can't break the laws of physics) drained toward the outer tips where all liquid is easily shaken or wiped off. This feature comes clearly as the result of natural selection, and one also repeatedly finds reference to Baraks as an autochthonous Bosnian breed, when in fact the authors generally wanted to say “indigenous”; this misnaming comes from our dogs (Croatia also helped develop the breed in recent, FCI times) being so well adopted to climate and outdoor life that the imported breeds seemed weaker and too refined in this respect. “Autochthonous” acquired an ostensive meaning of “being developed by us ourselves, thus best adapted to local condition”.

There are other admittable colours, but they are frowned upon and thus not common. Currently the standard rules that such “faulty coloured” dog’s exterior cannot be graded better than “good” at shows – no “very good”, “excellent”, CAC, BOB etc. there, but this does not affect working titles. Those unwanted colours are: a little bit of white – not more than 1/3 anyway, so that at a glance the dog really does look solid-coloured; this areas are often ticked, and in heavily ticked individuals white is apparent only on paws – the dogs with those little spots on fingertips are not discriminated against in the show ring. And then there are two variants of yellow - the breeders generally don't care which is which, although it is important - they have different modes of inheritance; the recessive yellow (e e) can be recognized by being free from any black hairs, and dominant yellow (ay-) often comes with dark carboneé areas on the back or even a dark mask (ay- em-). And also some of the black-and-tans are more lightly coloured than some dominant yellows, which can be to such a degree darkened that they can be termed “green”. These darker yellow dogs are also not discriminated against... Interestingly, among the related breeds, the recessive yellow appears in Istrian and Posavac hounds, and dominant yellow in Styrian hounds. Although it is generally believed that one of the constituents Peitinger used for the Styrian breed was solid-coloured variant (today not recognized by the standard as such, but recessive yellow baraks match this category) of Istrian wirehair hound, also called “barbino”, that are today usually unregistered - it is documented that it was a “wirehair breed from the south”, this could point to the fact that those were possibly Bosnian dogs; at that time, though, the difference between Istrian wirehair hound and Bosnian Barak was not all that clear. Today is for instance impossible to determine for certain, reading the catalogue descriptions, which breed were some of the early exhibited dogs from the beginning of the XX century, either Baraks or Istrian wirehair breed...

(This is as good place as any to mention that wire-haired Istrian is in no way only wirehair form of shorthair Istrian, but that those are two each well determined breeds that are quite by chance (or perhaps as a result of fashion, or taste) of the same colouring. Althought the occasional cross-breedings here can't be ruled out completely, the constitution (conformation) of the wirehair Istrian is nearly equal to Barak, but quite different from shorhaired namesake, which is smaller, finer built, and rather better suited for different, rockier terrain and warmer climate.) Wirehair Istrians in their own turn were crossed with Italian Spinone to improve that breed (Beckman 1889).

One of the reasons that dogs in these countries were always uniformly coloured is the tradition (from ancient Greece, even! says the legend)... But the more realistic is the turbulent history of Bosnia. Because many wars resulted in number of stray dogs, and game reserves are patched into small areas, it was necessary to cull these strays not only to protect game animals, but also, in fact more important, to prevent the spreading of rabies. Thus the hunters had to be able to recognize a hunting or pastoral dog at a quick glance, and multicoloured hounds, by their natural style working far away from their masters, were easily mistaken for strays. The policy was usually “shoot first, find owner later”... even if the dog was not harrasing livestock or doing any damage. As, in 1970 a black champion Giant Schnauzer was shot in the park adjacent (not part, just next close) to the hunting grounds in the outskirts of Zagreb, the very capital of Croatia, and the excuse to the hawkeye was that it seemed to be a wolf (!) although there was no question of wolves being closer than 100 km from the city at that time. Thus, most popular hunting breeds are the chocolate German pointer, or the easily recognizable plumed spaniels and setters; the hounds are mostly yellow/white, and terriers are mostly German jagdterrier (which many hunters, who should really know better, mix up with Baraks, even at close range view!). Pastoral dogs too, the most popular Croatian sheepdog and Sarplaninac, are uniformly coloured so that can be easily recognized – one is black, the other gray. Another pastoral breed, Tornjak, that is now (re)gaining popularity, is broken-coloured - and that might be one of the factors that made it nearly extinct, it was pulled off the brink at the very last moment.

If in the future Baraks become more popular with hunters in other countries or in non-hunting circles, it is likely that other colours, recessive, that spring from time to time but are generally very rare, might become established. I myself like dogs with some white, and I have seen very attractive yellow-white dogs, (ee factor), the colour of posavac, which colour-cum-wiry-hair would be accepted as a breed of it's own if there were only enough of them, as it was one of the first to be described in literature (by Laska in 1905). As it is now they are tucked in with this other closely similar breed, but therefore without due recognition. The very pale e e dogs that spring up in the F2 and subsequent generations from crosses of these wirehair posavac with genuine baraks are not all that handsome, they look more like the colour of washed-out rugs. I have also seen dogs with large white areas, some were nice silvery white phenotipically alike the Dalmatian but splattered with typical barak slate-gray, those are though usually considered to be miscoloured Istrian hounds; and I have seen very attractive brown (bb) with bright orange tan areas, that looked like a coat of flame (I admit I don't know if this is acceptable - it was off the show ring). This may be a throwback, because one Franz Laska who first described the breed also mentioned that the colour of “dry leaves” was common. I suspect, but cant't argue with absolute certainity that this is indeed a bb brown; brown colored mix-breeds that I've seen did not have the same brilliance of color. He warned, however, that the pure (glossy) chocolate is typical for bird dogs, not hounds.