Brief Historical Account
The history of the Caucasian Shepherd dog is lost beyond the horizons of time and no one can trace its origins precisely.
Situated between the Black See (to the West) and the Caspian See (to the East), Caucasus represents one of the most diverse places on earth from a cultural and linguistic point of view. This is due mostly to the numberless peoples who, across the ages, have succeeded one another in this region. The first human settlements in Caucasus go back to 2000-2500 years ago. From a geographical point of view, the Caucasus region belongs to Asia but from a cultural and historical point of view, it has often been considered European.
Caucasus is not only the living testimony of the conflict between tribes and of the Persians’, Scythians, Mongols’ attack, nor the wonderful vegetation "mix", represented by huge forests, attractive beeches or the peaks of the impressive Mount Ararat, always covered in snow. Caucasus is also the birthplace of a famous moloss, namely the Caucasian Shepherd.
The presence of large animals of prey in the Caucasus region has strengthened the necessity to use a guard dog that could face dangers in any circumstances, a strong dog that could adjust to various climactic conditions. It may be that the Caucasian’s ancestor is the Tibet Dog, brought by the Persian armies or traders from Asia Minor, who travelled across the Caucasus.
For centuries, this breed was not known outside the Caucasus. However, things changed in 1930 on the occasion of a dog exhibition organised in Germany, which featured a few Caucasian Shepherds.
We cannot talk about a guided selection of the breed before the celebrated "Red Star" Kennel was founded. In 1952, Russian cynologists divided the breed in two types, namely:
Ovtcharka Transcaucasian, a bulky dog of strong and heavy bones, originally from the mountain areas, and the Ovtcharka Caucasian, a lighter dog, originally from the steppe area. In 1976, these two types were united under the same name and the same standard. Even so, in the ex-USSR, the Caucasian Shepherd is met in several regional variants, as a result of cross-breeding between the original type and other breeds (Saint Bernard, Moscow guardian, Sarplaninac, Leonberger, etc.).
Current caucasian shepherd types
The F.C.I. standard mentions two types of bodily structures for the Caucasian Shepherd and three types of hair (editor’s note: these variations are not umpired separately). One of these two types described by the standard is the mountain type (the most appreciated). The second is the steppe type (closely related to the Anatolia Shepherd and the Central Asia Shepherd).
In 1954, the cynologist Mazover traced the main characteristic features of several local varieties of the Caucasian Shepherd, describing the main three types in which it falls:
- Georgian type: strong, spectacular, of strong skeleton, tall, rectangular body, long hair that is coloured in grey and forms a mane and rich fringes on the back side of the limbs and on the tail.
- Armenian type: slightly shorter than the previous, of slightly lighter skeleton, of quadratic body and long hair, that forms a mane and fringes. Its colour is mostly grey, with spackles of other colours, even tiger-like.
- Azer type: divided into at least two sub-types:
- the steppe type, of high limbs, full quadratic body, flat muscles, short and variously coloured hair;
- the "mountain" type, similar to the Georgian type, with black muzzle and coloured in russet or copper shades.
Irrespective of the type and of the great variety in their appearance, these dogs are very strong, of well developed, enviable muscles, which allows them to perform their basic tasks, namely guarding and defending herds, households and various other units, under the fiercest circumstances. All local types make up the single breed that we call the Caucasian Shepherd. Its most relevant characteristic features are: huge strength, resilience, vigilance, unconditioned fidelity towards the master and well-developed capacity to fight.
Throughout history, the Caucasian Shepherd has served to guard sheepfolds and households. Very brave, with an iron will, confident in its own strength, strong and imposing both via its outer look and its temperament, the Caucasian is not a dog for anyone. Unless he is socialised and correctly educated, the Caucasian can become aggressive towards the other dogs and towards people.
To train a Caucasian Shepherd does not mean to emphasise aggressiveness, nor to strengthen its guarding instinct, which represents the only means to keep such a dog under control. Firm and constant training will turn the Caucasian into a docile dog on which one can rely at any moment.
The Caucasian Shepherd must be educated so that outside the yard he should be a sociable dog, that would not attack people or animals he runs into.
Care and health problems
Special attention must be given to the robe of this breed. To maintain a beautiful fur, without tows and a healthy skin, unaffected by dermatological problems, the Caucasian Shepherd must be brushed at least twice a week. The Caucasian Shepherd sheds hair massively, at least once a year. During this period, the dog must be brushed at least once a day.
This breed adjusts perfectly to all temperature types. It tolerates well both the cold and the heat of summer days (if the dog has a shelter in the shade and fresh water).
The Caucasian is not recommended to dog-lovers who live in a flat. He must benefit from a large yard in which he can run freely. The lack of physical activity will turn him into a sullen dog. Even though this is a rustic, healthy breed, the Caucasian Shepherd can confront with problems specific to tall breeds (hip displacement, elbow malady, or stomach torsion).
(DOG MAGAZIN magazine, no 60, April 2007.)