The Sapsali dog is a charming, medium-sized dog that isn’t particularly well-known in North America but has gained attention in Korea for its remarkable ability to ward off evil spirits for thousands of years. These dogs are incredibly loyal and protective, forming strong bonds with their owners and families.   

The breed fell into danger by the mid-1980s, with only eight breeding dogs left, but a concerted yet cautious breeding program brought it back from the brink. No kennel club in the Western Hemisphere has identified this breed yet, but the Korean Kennel Club has, appointing it as National Treasure number 368 in 1992. Today, the Korean Sapsali Association boasts nearly three thousand registered members.  

History of the Sapsali   

According to historical documents, the Sapsali dog, also commonly known as Sapsaree, has been a part of Korean history for at least 400 years as companions to symbolic soldiers and royal families. Later, these attractive and loyal dogs became available for civilians, and they continued to thrive even into the First Great War among ordinary people.  

During the reign of Imperial Japan, these sweet-natured dogs were captured and slaughtered to build forts for invading soldiers, with reports stating over 100,000 casualties (about the seating capacity of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum) each year. After the wars that ravaged Korea, the population of these dogs decreased even further. In 1969, several Korean professors, fearing the breed’s extinction, found a surprisingly large number of surviving these dogs, nearly 30 or more, dwindling to just eight active breeding dogs by 1985.  

Han-ge Hang, the son of one of the original project professors, poured everything he had into reviving the breed. All his money, his land, and his education went into the project. To achieve success, Han-gee Hang cautiously used selective breeding programs, and within almost five years, the population grew to around 500 dogs. Subsequently, DNA samples were used to help eliminate diseases and defects, and the breed was nominated as Korean National Treasure number 368 in 1992. Today, Korean Sapsalis are registered with the Korean Sapsali Association, with nearly three thousand members.  

Breed Statistics  

  • Group: Not recognized by major kennel clubs  
  • Height: Male: 18 to 20 inches; Female: 16 to 18 inches  
  • Weight: 33 to 49 pounds  
  • Energy Level: Moderate  
  • Physical Characteristics: Medium-sized; long, flowing coat; mostly black or sable  
  • Lifespan: 12 to 15 years  
  • Colors: Black, sable, or various shades of these colors  
  • Shedding: Low to moderate  
  • Temperament: Moderate; may bark when necessary  


1. Do Sapsali dogs shed a lot of fur? 

Although they only require bathing at times it’s important to brush Sapsalis daily as they tend to shed their long fur and are prone to tangling and matting. 

2. How long do Sapsali dogs live? 

They generally enjoy a lifespan due to their robust health. With care they can live anywhere from 10 to 12 years. 

3. How rare are Sapsali dogs worldwide? 

These dogs are quite scarce in numbers. There have been instances where they’ve come close to extinction, making them very rare. 

4. What is the legend of Sapsali? 

According to a belief ‘Where there is a Sapsali evil cannot prevail.’ Ancient Koreans referred to as Sapsalgae or ‘Sapsali’ were linked with mountain deities or goblins due to their appearance. Traditionally these dogs were thought to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. 

5. How intelligent are Sapsali dogs? 

These dogs belong to the category of breeds. They can be trained in tricks and commands depending on your creativity. They understand and remember new commands within 5-15 repetitions. This breed implements commands 85 percent or better earlier than others. 


The Sapsali dog, though not widely recognized in North America, holds a rich history in Korea, where it has been admired for its protective nature and storied past of taking off immoral spirits. Despite facing near extinction in the mid-1980s, dedicated breeding efforts led by individuals like Han-gee Hang brought the breed back from the brink. Today, while still not acknowledged by major kennel clubs outside of Korea, these dogs thrives within the Korean Sapsali Association, boasting a sizeable membership and preserving this unique and charming breed for generations to come.