Bulgarian Scenthound – the hunter’s dream

Narrated from: Dog Breeds

The Bulgarian Scenthound is a largely unknown, but highly proficient hunting dog breed which is very popular in the Balkans. This scenthound is known as a “Gonche” in the native tongue. This means something like “pursuer”, “tracker” – and the form also implies a certain level of cuteness!

What dogs are they? 

Gonche dogs are resilient hunting dogs. They are the most popular hunting breed in Bulgaria, and are used primarily for tracking wild hogs. The Bulgarian scenthound is also known as the “Mad Forest Scenthound”, because the Mad Forest (Ludogorie) is the main region in which the breed was preserved.


All dogs are beautiful – you just need to find the right one for you!

Even though Gonches are known as scenthounds, they have the elegant frame of a true sighthound, with an elegant, lean body, and an aerodynamic head shaped for high speeds. Their coats are short and easy to manage, and come in different patterns of black and brown, giving them a Rottweiler-ish look. Don’t worry though, Gonches are only medium-sized, and don’t have the ferocious reputation of the Rottweiler!


If one thinks dogs are dumb animals, then one has never tried to negotiate with a dog.

The Bulgarian Gonche is rather good-natured for a hunting dog, and gets very attached to its master. These dogs are also tolerant towards other people – but if, and only if, they are not trained to be mistrustful while young. Many professional hunters train their Gonches to follow only their own commands.


One needs to know where one is coming from in order to know where one is going… or where one should find the bouncy ball!

The origin of the Bulgarian Gonche is relatively unknown. The breed has been popular in the region for centuries, but after the Liberation of Bulgaria many Turks left the newly restored country, taking their hunting and breeding dogs with them. Much effort was needed to preserve and restore the breed.

Nowadays, there are many theories for the origin of Gonche dogs, some putting their predecessor back in the times of the ancient Thracians more than 1 500 years ago. Whatever the case, the modern look of the breed has been highly influenced by the dogs that the Old Bulgarians and the Turks brought with them from Asia and bred in the Balkan region.

Nation of the dog

For are dogs not a nation of their own? Are they fewer than humans? Is there a place where humans live without dogs?

The Gonche breed is very popular in Bulgaria, but still isn’t officially recognized outside the country. However, steps have been taken and there is a hope that the Gonche will follow in the footsteps of the Buglarian Shepherd dog, which is a breed constantly gaining in popularity.

And they are the perfect match for…

A dog! A dog! My apartment for a dog!

If you are a hunter, then this dog is the ideal choice for you – Gonches are No 1 in Bulgaria for a reason! These dogs can be trained to hunt in rugged terrain, and somewhat combine the features of scent- and sight-hounds.

Furthermore, a well-trained Gonche also makes a good pet, and can offer pleasant company and companionship. It is important to know what you are looking for, because hunting dogs require specific training, and after a dog has passed this training it is no longer suitable a pet, since it will have developed a very strong prey drive.

Professional CV

Soldiers, firefighters, guards, hunters… and you think all they are good for is lazing on the couch?

If the Bulgarian Scenthound could really write a CV, they would include a very long list of credentials. Turks, Bulgarians, and maybe even Thracians have used these dogs for hunting, and natural selection has proven that this is the best Balkan breed for the task. Once, Bulgarian hunters used to believe that larger and stronger dogs would prove better suited for hunting, but it turned out that such dogs gave up after the first animal was caught, and had no desire to keep hunting – and thus professional hunters turned to the sleeker Gonche breed that is now the most popular in the country.

Hunting is encoded deeply in these dogs’ genes – hundreds of years ago, a Gonche dog would be “officially” recognized as a hunting dog only if it passed a test. A hare would be released and the dog would have to gallop after the hare and bring it before the hunter – three times! If the dog managed to guide the hare to the hunter at least three times, it would be recognized as a Gonche. Of course, the most proficient Gonche dogs were fast enough to bring the hare within striking distance up to 10 times before it escaped!

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