I talk about this always, to anyone who asks about our Maremmas - no, they are not guard dogs; they are guardians and, in my eyes, there is a world of difference. The Maremma is a livestock guardian dog originating in the Maremma-Abruzzo region of Italy; a dog with a job, working with shepherds to protect sheep from wild predators in the mountainous ranges where the flocks graze. Centuries of careful breeding give the Maremma a dual nature: a great desire to bond and be gentle with its chosen flock and also the ability to act fiercely when faced with predatory threats. They are caretakers with exquisite, often tender, nurturing instincts, but with a host of scare tactics reserved for intruders, assault being the lesser of them.
The breed is garnering a bit of attention lately due to the novel efforts of some folks intent on saving a unique colony of little penguins in Australia, specifically Warmambool Harbor, and even more specifically Middle Island, a favorite breeding ground for the little peeps. The island used to be in deep water, but man-made infrastructures put in at the turn of the last century, have caused siltation, giving foxes (and people, who can be a nuisance to natural habitat) a means of crossing to the island at low tide. The end result is that the population of little penguins went from somewhere around 800 in 1999 to under 10 in 2005. Bad deal.