Meet the Kangal Dogs

Meet the Dogs Working to Save Cheetahs

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Dogs, everyone knows they’re man’s best friend. But did you know they can also be cheetahs’ best friend?

Meet Solo and Ayla, our brother and sister kangal shepherds. Solo and Ayla serve as animal ambassadors here at the Indianapolis Zoo and help raise awareness for cheetah conservation.

Their large size, keen senses, intimidating bark and incredible strength make kangals ideal guard dogs. Though the breed originated in Turkey, conservationists have found they’re also effective at keeping cheetahs away from farmers’ livestock in Africa. These dogs are known to work in hot climates and stand between prey and predator as an intimidating presence, keeping the cheetahs at bay.  The Zoo works with the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia, placing kangals with farmers to help protect livestock. When the farmers have kangals, they feel less inclined to hunt or trap cheetahs.

Kangals are not a common breedin the United States, which makes Ayla and Solo very special! The brother-sister duo joined the Zoo’s family 2009 at just eight weeks old, they are now 8 ​years old. Their size — Solo is much larger than Ayla — make them easy to distinguish. And you can also tell them apart by Solo’s broader head and Ayla’s social personality.

Visitors at the Zoo can meet our kangal brother and sister during seasonal keeper chats in the Plains and learn more about cheetahs and our conservation efforts.

Kangal Fast Facts:

  • Weigh between 100-150 pounds
  • Grow between 28-32 inches
  • Lifespan of 12-15 years
  • Native to farmlands in Turkey​
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