Sheepdog warning

Every Eden has its serpents, and in Greece hikers will sooner or later contend with the ferocious mandhroskilia (sheepfold watchdogs). They’ve been bred to intimidate bears, wolves and livestock rustlers so they’re unlikely to be impressed by you. In addition, they’re often underfed and cuffed by their masters and so have become extra mean. Now that I’ve frightened you into taking a precautionary three-day rabies series, take heart; there are some things you can do to lessen the chances of chunks being removed from your person.

Avoid turning your back on dogs, if they aren’t numerous enough to completely encircle you. Facing your assailants, back away slowly but steadily until enough distance has opened up between you and them to resume normal locomotion. Dogs seem to like nothing better than to sink teeth into fleeing ankles, calves, or buttocks.

Light artillery can be useful. Try shying plum-size rocks toward, but not at, the beasts. Best throws are those that bounce once just in front of their snouts; this keeps them distracted and eyes-down, during which time you can sneak a bit further away.

A stout walking stick can double as a club in an emergency—even the most resolutely charging dog will be given pause by a sound whack across the snout. If there are many attacking, though, you’d better be a kendo master. Shepherds aren’t too thrilled if you abuse their charges—they like to reserve that right for themselves— so it’s preferable, if at all possible, to deal with the situation nonviolently.

Avoid traveling in the mountains after dark—canine viciousness increases with the lowering of the sun. Also, never parade through sheepfolds but give flocks a wide berth. If you don’t, you may be bitten without so much as a preliminary bark. An Englishman was badly mauled above Tsepelovo (Ipiros) in 1982 because he insisted on photographing a flock closeup.

Having said all this 99% of dogs you meet will back off if you simply pretend to be picking up a rock as they have taken more than enough of these from the shepherd in their lifetime.   Unless there are more than 3 dogs and they don’t react to your threats of stone vaulting you really don’t need to worry much.


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