Caucasian Shepherd Dog

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Caucasian shepherd dog
Large heavy set dog standing in front of trees. Medium length thick hair, white base with orange/brown spots on back and top of head. Reminiscent of a Saint Bernard.
Caucasian shepherd dog
Other names Azerbaijani Shepherd Dog
Caucasian Ovcharka
Karachay-Balkar pariy
Georgian Nagazi
Caucasian Mountain Dog
Circassian Sheep Dog
Armenian Khobun Dog
Kars (Kafkas) Köpeği
Country of origin Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, North Caucasus
Weight Male 60–100 kg (132–220 lb)
Female 50–80 kg (110–176 lb)
Height Male 68–75 cm (27–30 in)
Female 64–70 cm (25–28 in)
Coat Straight and coarse with an undercoat. Medium length.
Colour Any solid colour, piebald or spotted colour, except black and liver.
Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)

The Caucasian Shepherd Dog (Karachay-Balkar: Парий, Pariy, Armenian: Կովկասյան հովվաշուն "Kovkasyan hovvashun", Azerbaijani: Qafqaz çoban iti, Georgian: ნაგაზი "Kavkasiuri nagazi", Ossetian: Аргъонахъ Arghonaq, Russian: Кавказская овчарка Kavkazskaya Ovcharka) is a large breed of dog that is popular in Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and North Caucasus area. It is extremely popular in Georgia, which has always been the center of Caucasian shepherd breeding. From all the types of Caucasian shepherd dogs, Georgian shepherd dogs are the largest, muscularly built dogs with attractive long hair, and the official standard of the Caucasian shepherd dog is fundamentally based on the Georgian type of Caucasian shepherd.



Also known as Caucasian Ovcharka or Bashan (Karachay) pariy, 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 50 kilograms (110 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 60 kilograms (130 lb) and 100 kilograms (220 lb).[1] 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.

Breed structure[edit]


Caucasian shepherd guarding poultry
Caucasian shepherd puppy

The Caucasus mountains are home to some of the oldest living Molosser breeds, the Caucasian Mountain Dogs. 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. They served shepherds in the Caucasus mountains as guard dogs, defending sheep from predators, mainly wolves, jackals and bears. They are still successfully served in this job, especially in Georgia, and the shepherds life is impossible without these dogs. The show dogs, also known as Caucasian Ovcharka, were created by the USSR during the 1900s using the dogs taken mainly from Georgia. Now, Caucasian shepherd dog is a fully standardized breed recognized by the major kennel organizations, including FCI, AKC and UKC.

Recent history[edit]

  • Georgian dogs are tall, heavier and wide-headed as usual. Georgian dogs are divided in two types white short haired dogs(Kazbek types) and long haired dogs.
  • The Armenian dogs are divided into the large, short-haired and often solid-colored type and the slightly smaller wolf-grey or multi-coloreddogs 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 Balkarian 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 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 (historically Armenian area around city of Ani) and is today seen as a separate breed. The Armenian Gamprs are sometimes smaller than the Georgian dogs and are longer than they are tall, 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, the modern working Caucasian dogs are established on dogs taken mainly from Georgia. Historically, the Caucasian Molossers were used for centuries to protect properties, guard livestock, kill wolves. Today, especially outside the Caucasus, they are widely employed as companion animals and watchdogs, while in their native Caucasus they are still protecting sheep as well. 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[edit]

  • 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ FCI breed standards, group 2, section 2.2, Molossian / Mountain type