Caucasian Shepherd Dog Breed

Grey Caucasian Shepherd Dog
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  • Other names:
  • Armenian Khobun Dog
  • Azerbaijani Shepherd Dog
  • Caucasian Mountain Dog
  • Caucasian Ovcharka
  • Caucasian Ovcharka Russian Bear Dog
  • Circassian Sheep Dog
  • Georgian Nagazi
  • Karachay-balkar Pariy
  • Kars Köpeği
  • Russian Caucasian
  • Russian Mountain Dog
  • View all 11...
Overview

The Caucasian Shepherd is a remarkably large dog that has a heritage spanning nearly 3,000 years. It has been largely kept to the Caucasian Mountain areas but in the 20th century, the breed became known for military and police work in the U.S.S.R., and then for guarding the Berlin Wall and eventually was exported worldwide. Left to its own devices, it is a naturally aggressive dog whose size is frightening; when properly trained, he can be a great family pet who will guard with his life.

Known by many names (even among dog registries), there remains confusion and conflict regarding the breed, its many strains (and names) and the dogs' origins. While there are some books available, it is best to thoroughly research Caucasian Shepherds to make sure this is the dog you desire and that you can handle the responsibility.

Caucasian Shepherd Dog Breed Details

Breed Specs
TypeLifespanHeightWeight
Purebred10-12 yrs.25-28 in.80-180 lbs
  • Friendliness
  • Overall
  • Family Friendly
  • Kid Friendly
  • Pet Friendly
  • Stranger Friendly
  • Maintenance
  • Easy to Groom
  • Energy Level
  • Exercise Needs
  • General Health
  • Shedding Amount
  • Behavior
  • Barks / Howls
  • Easy to Train
  • Guard Dog
  • Playfulness
  • Watch Dog
  • Ownership
  • Apartment Friendly
  • Can Be Alone
  • Good for Busy Owners
  • Good for Novice Owners
  • Intelligence
* The more green the stronger the trait.

Below are the details and specs for the Caucasian Shepherd dog breed.

Caucasian Shepherd Dog Breed Description

The Caucasian Shepherd is a huge dog that when mature may be anywhere from 80 to 180 pounds, stand 25 to 28 inches when on all fours and approximately six feet when on their hind legs.

Although your Caucasian Shepherd will be very friendly, playful and loyal to family members (provided they establish and maintain their dominance), that same loyalty will compel the dog to be very protective of said family members when other people, dogs and most anything else that moves in or near her territory appears to pose a threat. This is no ordinary dog, and they need extraordinary people and spaces in which to live.

As Caucasian Shepherds are massive dogs that require a great amount of control physically and mentally, they tend to be high-maintenance dogs. Walking them is no small task, as they need long daily walks, must be controlled every step of the way and need wide open and very well-fenced outdoor spaces (but not dog parks!) to run and play frequently. Grooming is much less work but still requires stamina due to the dog's great size.

Caucasian Shepherd Dog Breed History

The Caucasian Shepherd, also known as the Caucasian Mountain Dog, Caucasian Ovcharka and by many other names, is a pure breed that is one of the oldest Molosser dogs. Although the origins and history of this breed are unclear, and the name suggests that they herd rather than guard, they are still maintained in the Caucasus Mountains (which spans Armenia, Azerbaijan, Daghestan and Georgia) and adjacent regions as a guard dog that fends off jackals, wolves and bears.

The history of the dog continues to be hotly contested, and it is not unusual to find remarks in blogs and book reviews about the breed that are as vehement as the dog's behavior. As such, there remains a basic confusion about the dog's beginnings, and the murky history is only slowly being cleared. There are those who state the breed comes from ancient cross-breeding between wolves and regional dogs, and those who claim that Mastiff-Spitz cross-breeding produced the Caucasian Shepherd, and then there are those who claim the ancestor to the Caucasian Shepherd is almost certainly the product of the Tibetan Dog and the Molosser Dog.

The Caucasus Mountains were the natural wall over which trade between the Near East and the region now known as Turkey with Russia was carried out, and on a larger scale, Europe and Asia; it was this latter aspect that is thought to have allowed a gift from the East to be brought to the region more than 3,000 years ago, and that from that gift was eventually bred the Caucasian Mountain Shepherd some 2,500 years ago.

This naturally aggressive dog is well-known for its size, ferocity and dangerous devotion to those to whom it has been taught to obey. Despite their genetic tendency to violence, a strain of the breed was successfully trained in the U.S.S.R. to be a show dog as well as a guard dog to factories and military facilities even as the main breed type remained in traditional service in Georgia. Perhaps the breed's most infamous task may have been when some 7,000 Caucasian Shepherds were employed to prevent people from crossing the Berlin Wall during its three decades of sordid service. A century and a half earlier, in his 1845 book The Dog, William Youatt wrote that the Molosser dog was "trained to war as well as the honors of the amphitheater…[and] had one redeeming quality—an inviolable attempt to their owners."

There are several strains of the Caucasian Shepherd, and they are all identified by the region from which they come; even then, there may be types within a regional variant that are identified by size, length of coat hair and/or the size of the muzzle — and then there are rare strains. It can all be easily confusing for those who are not native to the area, and there have been accusations that the simplification of the dog's breed name (and the variations that require a significant knowledge) has further confused what is and is not a Caucasian Shepherd. Because of this, we'll avoid attempting to identify these many and sundry strains and the regions and traits by which they are identified.

In any case, the Caucasian Shepherd has been employed for thousands of years as a guardian of sheep, cattle and the people and property that owned the flocks, and they remain in use in the same places for the same purpose. They were and are dangerously loyal — a factor that was highly appreciated by those who took their herds into the mountains where predators, weather and other humans were a constant threat.

Although the Caucasian Shepherd is becoming well-known outside its native region and Russia, the breed was only allowed to be exported from the Soviet Union in 1987 (two years before the very wall that some of them were guarding was torn down), and by 1988, the first Ovcharka had arrived in Finland. The Caucasian Shepherd was recognized by the FCI in 1984, by the UKC (as the Caucasian Mountain Dog) in 1995, and as the Caucasian Ovcharka by the AKC in 1996.

Caucasian Shepherd Dog Appearance

The Caucasian Shepherd is a dog with a massive head, a remarkably strong body that is longer than it is tall (and it is rather tall!) and a double-coat. There are many, many strains, and while most of the world tends to identify them as one breed, their coat ranges from coarse and short to long and wooly. The tail is medium in length and curls upward, but it may also be docked.

Caucasian Shepherd Dog Coloring

Caucasian Shepherds come in many colors: white, tan, reddish, fawn, gray and cream. They may have a black mask. Pups tend to be born very dark and eventually lighten as they mature.

Caucasian Shepherd Dog Size

Your Caucasian Shepherd will be huge! Once mature, they may weigh anywhere from 80 to 180 pounds. They are usually about 25 to 28 inches in height. If they stand — which they are prone to do when active — they can easily reach six feet when on their hind legs.

Average Adult Height

25-28 in
*Height is measured in inches from the front paws to the top of the shoulder while the dog is standing on all four legs.

Average Adult Weight

80-180 lbs

Caucasian Shepherd Dog Variations

It's best to understand that most breeders of this dog will say that the name Caucasian Shepherd Dog (or Caucasian Ovcharka) is a blanket term that incorrectly lumps together a wide range of breeds and varieties of related mountain and herding dogs. As the Russians wanted to nationalize the dog with what was felt to be the best qualities to protect the U.S.S.R., the most basic step was the name. They first claimed there were two varities: the Kavkaskaya Sobaka (a variation from the mountain steppes regions which were smaller and had shorter coats) and the Trans-Caucasian Ovcharka (which was comprised of the breeds and / or varieties from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia). There was later a decision made to create a single name under which these two official variations (and all the many, many sub-varities) would be known, and that was the Caucasian Ovcharka.

There appears to have been no standard (other than political casting) for this giant Caucasian Shepherd. Purity was not the desired result, and so there was a lot of undocumented cross-breeding going on. Body size, coat length and capability (herding, guarding, etc.) was what mattered individually and respective to region. The largest Caucasian Shepherd Dogs seem to be those that were bred with German Shepherd Dogs to create a formidable police dog that was used on the Berlin Wall and elsewhere.

Nevertheless, there are many who argue that there are some distinct variations that have emerged. Georgia is home to two basic types: the Mkinvartsveri Kazbek and the Nagazi. The Kazbeks are big Caucasian Ovcharkas with long, multi-color coats whereas the Nagazi are smaller, grey and have coats of moderate length. Then there is the Tushetian Nagazi — which is sometimes called the Georgian Caucasian Sheepdog — that some consider a variation but that others proclaim is a separate breed altogether. These dogs sometimes have pure white coats. Elsewhere there is the Daghestan (which is a short-haired Caucasian Shepherd that comes in many colors) and the Astrakan.

Creating even more confusion are the Turkish types: the Akhaltsihnske, the Circassian, the Garban and the Kars.

Caucasian Shepherd Dog Temperament

Your Caucasian Shepherd will possess a wide spectrum of attitudes. When she is not active, she will appear lethargic, but don't be fooled — she is observing everything, and it takes the seemingly smallest threat to prompt her to be a bullet. (This is the barest metaphor; there are breeders who liken the charge and stunning attack of a Caucasian Shepherd to that of a bullet from a .45 pistol.) She must be made to know that all in her family are the dominant ones, or she may bully them a bit.

The viciously loyal attitude of the Caucasian Shepherd should be taken seriously, as she will deem all people, property and properly socialized pets as her domain to protect to the death against any and all threats. Proper training is an absolute must, and even then, daily walks must be done with her at your side; allowing her out front will let her be the leader of the pack. She will have a great amount of stamina — even with a sparse diet, as they are genetically accustomed to long hikes in thin air with little water and food — and while daily exercise is important, she won't absolutely need a walk every day as she will know how to conserve energy. Still, a daily walk is good and will make her happy as well as allow you to maintain control.

Caucasian Shepherd Dog and Children

Kids will love the big, fluffy Caucasian Shepherd, and the love will be returned! There is a caveat, however, and that is when other children are playing with your kids: if the play gets rough, your Caucasian Shepherd will quickly choose a side and defend your kids. Due to it's size and natural disposition, small children should be supervised to avoid knocking over type accidents; as this breed is extremely protective, kids could end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Socialize and train your dog at as a puppy in order to help them develop the best possible temperament.

Caucasian Shepherd Dog and Other Pets

Other pets will be dominated by the Caucasian Shepherd, and even with early socialization, there is sure to be a problem. The breed exhibits its aggressive tendencies as early as three weeks old. If you currently have other pets, this breed may not be for you.

Caucasian Shepherd Dog and Strangers

Strangers are best kept at a distance. Caucasian Shepherds are suspicious at the least and violently responsive at the most. This breed must be socialized extremely early and constantly.

Caucasian Shepherd Dog Photos

Below are pictures and images of the Caucasian Shepherd Dog breed.

Grey Caucasian Shepherd Dog
Black Caucasian Shepherd Dog
Gray Caucasian Shepherd Dog
Fawn Caucasian Shepherd Dog

Caucasian Shepherd Dog Maintenance

Due to their temperament, Caucasian Shepherds are high maintenance: for running freely, they need exclusive areas that have high, very secure fences, and those who walk them must be able to control them mentally and physically — and they need long, daily walks. Grooming is much less maintenance, although the amount of effort required to do so is clearly much more than is required for a small dog.

Grooming Requirements

The double-coat of the Caucasian Shepherd requires at least a couple of thorough brushings every week. He will also have an annual coat blowout and the shedding will be significant; it's best to bathe and brush him daily during this time to help the coat shed faster as well as to keep most of the hair from floating everywhere. Of course, be sure to keep his ears clean and dry and his nails trimmed.

Exercise Requirements

Long daily walks and an extraordinary space in which to run and play are the basics when it comes to exercise for your Caucasian Shepherd. They are very intelligent and need a job as well as toys to play with and chew.

Living Requirements

Caucasian Shepherds are not apartment dogs; their size alone should announce this. If you do have a house without a very securely fenced yard, however, you must be willing to take him to such an area — but not a dog park, as they may not get along well with other dogs.

Temperature Range

The Caucasian Shepherd can live most anywhere, from extremely cold climates to very warm ones.

Caucasian Shepherd Dog Health

There are not too many health concerns generally associated with Caucasian Shepherds, but there is joint dysplasia that may occur. Bloat is always a concern for large dogs so supervise them and do not allow them to "bolt" their food. This breed tends to live about 10 - 12 years.

  • Joint Dysplasia

Caucasian Shepherd Dog Breed Recognition

The following dog breed registries and organizations recognize the Caucasian Shepherd Dog as a dog breed:

  • American Canine Registry
  • America's Pet Registry
  • Continental Kennel Club
  • Dog Registry of America Inc.
  • Federation Cynologique Internationale
  • Foundation Stock Service
  • National Kennel Club
  • North American Purebred Registry, Inc.
  • American Canine Association, Inc.
  • View all 9...
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