The Caucasian shepherd dog (Armenian: Կովկասյան հովվաշուն "Kovkasyan hovvashun", Azerbaijani: Qafqaz Iti, Georgian: კავკასიური ნაგაზი "Kavkasiuri nagazi", Ossetian: Аргъонахъ Arghonaq, Russian: Kavkazskaïa Ovcharka) is a breed of dog that is popular in Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Northern Caucasusian area.
Appearance Also known as Caucasian Ovcharka. Caucasian shepherd dogs are strongly-boned, muscular, and even-tempered molossers. Plain dogs have a shorter coat and appear taller as they are more lightly built. Mountain dog types have a heavier coat and are more muscularly built. Caucasian shepherds are large dogs; however, there is no recorded maximum height or weight. The minimum height for females is 64 centimetres (25 in), with a desirable height between 67 and 70 centimetres (26 and 28 in). They weigh at least 45 kilograms (99 lb). The minimum height for males is 68 centimetres (27 in), with a desirable height between 72 and 75 centimetres (28 and 30 in). Males weigh between 50 kilograms (110 lb) and 90 kilograms (200 lb). Softness and vicious temperaments are considered serious faults for the breed. Dogs of this breed are generally healthy and long lived, but hip dysplasia, obesity and occasional heart problems are known to occur. The ears of the Caucasian shepherd are traditionally cropped, although some modern dogs are unaltered as many people believe this practice to be cruel, and as it is no longer considered a necessary attribute for the dog's traditional working conditions. The preferred show-types are the long-coated grey dogs with some white markings. Black or black-and-tan dogs are often not acceptable in the show ring. The Caucasian is rather well lived averaging 10-12 years. It does have some health issues which will terminate their life early. Most bloodlines carry a gene for rear dysplasia. Cancer is also very prevalent. There is a serious issue of inbreeding in this breed creating health concerns. The Caucasian shepherd is rather intelligent; however, they can be insolent and refuse to listen at times.They also can be fairly aggressive towards people they do not know and with incorrect handling this can be problematic. This can be overcome by proper training. They are often used to hunt bears.
Breed structure Mountain type dogs: Greater Caucasus dogs: Georgian mountain dogs Dagestani mountain dog
Lesser Caucasus dogs: Karagash dogs Kars dogs
plain area dogs: Armenian "gampr" Azerbaijani dogs
The Caucasus mountains are home to one of the oldest living Molosser breeds, the Caucasian Mountain Dog. There is a great variety of types among the Caucasian dogs depending on their home region, but a single type has come to be favored in the show rings and literature, at the expense of other breed variants. Although its first official Show-Ring appearance outside the Caucasus was in the 1930s in Germany, the Caucasian Mountain Dog has existed since ancient times, like many Eastern Molossers.
Recent history The Armenian dogs are divided into the large, longhaired and often multicoloured type and the slightly smaller wolf-grey dogs of medium-length coat with longer muzzles. Daghestan dogs are tall, wide-headed and athletic, short-haired and multicoloured. Astrakhan type is found in the Kabardino-Balkarian region and is believed to be a cross between the Russian show type and the old Circassian and Georgian mountain dogs, but Balkarian Molossers are also rooted in the Sarmatian Mastiff. The Turkish Caucasus dogs are divided into four types, those being the Garban, the Georgian Akhaltsikhe type, the Circassian variant and the Kars Dog. The large, short-muzzled, shorthaired fawn, brown, red, with or without white markings and extremely vicious Garban (Gorban) was developed from the Kars and the Kangal, as well as other Turkish dogs being crossed with the Armenian and Georgian types. The Georgian Akhaltsihnske type was created from Garban crosses with the Georgian Nagazi variant and gomik turkey,resulting in longhaired, lightly built solid-coloured white, fawn and grey dogs. The Circassian variant is believed to be a result of crossing the Kangals with the Cherkes dogs introduced to Turkey after the Russian-Circassian wars. The Kars Dog is a variety closely associated with the Kars Province of modern Turkey and is today seen as a separate breed. The Armenian Gamprs are smaller than the Georgian dogs and are shorter-necked and squarely built, and come in a variety of colors.
The Volkodav variant also comes in two types, with the longhaired mountain and short-coated steppe dogs both being smaller than Georgian and Armenian types, always having black masks. A result of matings between the dogs of southern Kavkaz with the Sage Mazandarani and the Kars Dog of Turkey, the Iranian Sage Ghafghazi is a lean, powerful and richly coated mastiff, used as a caravan protector of the Shahsavan nomads, who have been breeding it since the 17th century. These Iranian Caucasians come in a variety of colours, both solid and bicoloured. There is also a rare short-haired Kavkaz mastiff, known as the North-Caucasian Volkodav, which is on its way to receive a separate breed recognition. A short haired breed of this dog with a very aggressive attitude towards any one who is not the care taker of the animal exists in Iran. Normally black or black and yellow color, it is called a "sage gorgy" (Wolf dog). This dog is used for home protection, farm animal protection, and other efforts. This dog is often kept as a solitary dog because of its aggressive temper. As mentioned above, most working Caucasian dogs are hybrids between established types, as well as some lines of the Central Asian dogs, in effect making the Russian show type appear to be a superior-breed dog in the eyes of fanciers. There are two types, the working strain in the east and the show dogs in the west. The fighting strains of the Caucasian Ovcharka can contain blood of some European breeds, from mastiffs to Bandogs, but these crosses are a minority in the breed. Current bloodlines have been crossed with Newfoundlands and other like breeds to create a looser lipped, heavier headed dog for Western show rings. Historically, the Caucasian Molossers were used for centuries to protect properties, guard livestock, kill wolves, and hunt bears. Today, especially outside the Caucasus, they are employed as companion animals and watchdogs. Most prized as a property guardian, the Caucasian shepherds are good protectors. The Caucasian Mountain Dog is a low activity dog, seemingly lethargic when not working, but agile and convincing when it feels its family is threatened. Although certain strains are more vicious than others, all Caucasians are very territorial and dog-aggressive, needing early and careful broad socialization, as well as firm, but never forceful, handling. This breed can be a family dog, if well trained and socialized.
Caucasian shepherd dog in popular culture In a series of Scot Harvath novels by Brad Thor, a featured character known as "the Troll" has two Caucasian Ovcharkas which serve as his guard dogs. Harvath was also given a Caucasian Ovcharka by "the Troll", named Bullet. In a series of Dresden Files novels by Jim Butcher, Harry Dresden has a "Foo Dog" named Mouse that appears very similar to the Caucasian shepherd dog, so much so that a character asks if Mouse is one.