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CAUCASIAN OVCHARKA Also known as: Kavkazskaïa Ovtcharka, Caucasian Shepherd Dog, Perro de pastor del Cáucaso, Kaukasischer Ovtcharka, Chien de berger du Caucase, Nagazi, Volkodav,Gampr , Caucasian Sheepdogs, Caucesian Shepherd, Kavkaskaia Ovtcharka, Caucasian Owcharka, Caucasian Mountain Dog, Metskhvare, Kautkashkia Owtcharka, Nagazi, Volkodav, Sage Ghafghazi, Kavkazskaia Ovtcharka, Gempr, Caucasian Ovtcharka ... as well as many other names and spellings.
Despite its first official Western Show-Ring appearance in the 1930’s in Germany, the Caucasian Shepherd Dog has existed since ancient times and was introduced to the bloodlines of many of today’s World breeds throughout history. The Caucasian dogs were used for centuries to protect properties, guard livestock, kill wolves, and hunt bears and perform many other duties. Today and especially in the West, they are most commonly employed as companion animals and watchdogs. The breed is most prized as an aggressive property guardian; the mighty Caucasian Ovcharka is an intimidating and committed protector with no equal. The Caucasian Shepherd Dog is generally a low activity dog, seemingly lethargic when not working, but extremely agile and convincing when it feels its family is threatened. Although certain strains are more vicious than others are, all Caucasians are territorial and fairly dog-aggressive, needing early and careful broad socialization, as well as firm, but never forceful handling.
There is a great variety of types among the Caucasian dogs depending on their home region. For almost a century, there have been two breed types and standards: (1) the mountain dogs received the name “Caucasian Ovcharka” after the Trans-Caucasus region, consisting of Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, and (2) the shorter-haired and lighter-built type steppe dogs were labeled as the “Kavkaski Volkodav”. The official standard changed in the 1970’s, when the Russian Kynological Federation (RKF) made the decision to promote a single type, under the name of “Caucasian Ovcharka”; thus abandoning their earlier definitions. From that point forward, the definitions and standards got more specific in describing the real beauty and power of the ancient breed. Definition of those standards became known as the Georgian – Bear type. Moreover, under no circumstances did it change the breed into a hybrid or change its name to the exotic-sounding misnomer.
Unfortunately, you can find that rather misconstrued and misdirection written into respectful websites and other media sources. It appears to be a superiorly bred dog in the eyes of the West. Yet, the same misleading information is written about the CO temperament and its ability to be a family/companion dog. Often times this has led to terrible consequences for the breed, making it very unpopular or considered a “vicious” dog.
In recent years, some breeders that have non-show mountain bloodlines use the term “Aboriginal” as a trendy marketing ploy to describe the older (or genuine) bloodline and breed type. However, from our opinion, this is very misleading. Between most working dogs in the Caucasus Mountains, there are various types and some distinguishing characteristics among regional variants.
The Georgian dogs are large, long haired and often multicolored or they can be slightly smaller wolf-gray of medium-length coat with longer muzzles.
Dagestan dogs are tall, wide-headed and athletic, mostly short haired and multicolored.
The Turkish Caucasus, Armenian (Gampr) and Akhalteke type are usually slightly smaller than the Georgian dogs and are shorter-necked and more squarely built, also allowing for a great variety of colors, even brown or black. The Armenian Gamprs Volkodav variant also comes solid-colored white, and always have black masks.
The Azerbaijan is a large, short-muzzled, short haired fawn, brown, red, with or without white markings or solid-colored white.
A well-bred Caucasian Ovcharka should be healthy, strongly boned, muscular and even-tempered, but some of today’s bloodlines are prone to hip dysplasia, obesity, soft back as well as overly vicious temperaments.
The body is powerful and strong, with a broad, straight back, a wide, deep chest and a short, muscular neck. The height ranges anywhere from 23 to 34 inches among working specimens, but most modern dogs are around 28 inches tall.
Depending on whether the dog belongs to the Mountain or Steppe type, the length of the strong sturdy legs can vary, with the Steppe variety of the breed having longer legs, as well as being overall leaner and oftentimes taller than its Mountain type counterpart, whose legs tend to be slightly shorter and thicker. The heavy Mountain type, while less athletic and rarely found performing the breed’s traditional livestock guarding duties in the Caucasus, is today seen as more impressive and thus much more popular than the Steppe variety, especially in Russia and the West, where it is often presented as the “correct” Caucasian Ovcharka, while the true rustic leaner representatives of the breed are usually overlooked in literature and rarely encountered in Dog Shows.
Although the popular “bear” type is known for having massive, at times enormous heads, the CO of any variety must have a large head, with a broad skull, flat forehead, fairly soft stop, a slightly tapered strong muzzle, which is somewhat shorter than the length of the skull. However, females should not resemble male dogs, having lighter heads with strong feminine features.
The nose must be strongly pigmented, preferably black, although a dark brown nose is permitted for white-coated dogs. The lips are quite heavy, but should not ever be overly loose. The deep-set eyes are moderately small, dark and oval.
The ears of the Caucasian Ovcharka are set high on the head and have traditionally been cropped, although a large number of modern dogs can be seen unaltered. The tail is high set, usually curled over the dog’s back. It should be noted that in some regions, working Caucasians could have their tails cut off, which leads neophytes to the breed to mistake them for Central Asian Ovcharkas, even though the breed Standard allows a docked tail and are accepted for Shows.
Even though many coat-types and beautiful colors exist, such as golden-yellow, fawn, brindle, reddish-brown, creamy white, pearl white and various piebald shades, the preferred Show-types are the long-coated grey dogs with or without some white markings present. No black or black-n-tan dogs are acceptable for Show, but they do exist and are just as ancient as the other traditional colorings.
However, tan dogs with a black “saddle” are undesired, while such markings on gray-coated dogs are naturally common and completely acceptable. Occasionally, blue-colored Caucasians can be encountered, but are not accepted for Shows, although this unusual coloring can also occur naturally at times in purebred breed representatives.