Caucasian Shepherd - it is one of the most popular breeds in Russia, and of course it is worthy respect and admiration. There always have been a lot of legends about this breed both true and doubtful.
Caucasian Shepherd is a collective term for the group of primitive breeds widely spread in Caucasian countries. The common feature for all these breeds is their ability to protect flocks, especially in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Northern Caucasus. Wolfhounds, as Caucasian shepherds have always been called, were very famous and widely spread in the USSR. But serious research of the breed as a part of natural resources of the USSR began only in the 30s. For that several expeditions were organized under the direction of the most outstanding cynologists of that time. We can consider this time to be a starting point of the migration of the Caucasian shepherd to the North.
Different exhibitions in the VSHV (All-Union Agricultural Exhibition) helped to popularize the breed as there were shown the best representatives of it found in the expeditions. Since then prizewinners of the VSHV never saw their native mountains as they were taken to the military and industrial objects. There were created numerous breeding kennels for selective work on those objects. Later pedigree puppies fell into the hands of dog-breeders and fanciers, so since then started the establishment of private dog-breeders. Without them the popularization of the breed would have been hardly possible. A lot of devotees appeared at that time and the purpose of their life was breeding and researching of the breed. We should give the due to the country, which became the second motherland to those dogs, and also to the people, who had got the first sires. Those dogs were successfully used in breeding for getting pedigree posterity, so the population of Caucasian shepherds with a good origin increased. The Caucasian shepherd was admitted to be the best among different breeds typical for the definite habitat. We can say it about Caucasian shepherds of Transcaucasia and especially of Georgia.
The dogs of this area are mighty, longhaired, with rather elongated body (it's not surprising that the exterior of these very dogs was assumed as a basis for the first standards). Dog-keepers tried to get dogs of that type. It is clear that along with Georgian sires in breeding were used practically all the dogs brought from different regions of the Caucasus. Soon it became impossible to discern descendants from the starting breeds. The first thing that is striking when you see a Caucasian shepherd is its imposing appearance. This is a mighty, sometimes very mighty dog with a massive body and vigorous legs. Its large head with protruded cheekbones, high placed short cut ears, small deep-seated eyes, watching strangers attentively, emphasize the similarity between this dog and the most famous hero of Russian tales - the bear (but to tell the truth a Caucasian shepherd looks like an American bear - grizzly, rather than brown bear, but it's not so important, isn't it?). The colour of almost all Caucasian shepherds is monochromatic, fulvous, gray or pale-yellow with a black mask on the muzzle (according to the standard all colours are possible except black, blue and brown). The hair is very thick and elongated; it creates a beautiful "mane" and "tows" on the neck, tail and legs. They help to stand any wetter (the structure of the hair is such that any natural dirtying doesn't stay long - the hair clears itself). The manners of the Caucasian shepherds are well matched with their exterior. They perfectly well live in harmony with a man. These dogs are full of dignity and independence. The lack of fear and bent for being a protector of the family is one of the peculiarities of the representatives of this breed. Even small puppies are able to distinguish their hosts and strangers; they don't trust them and followed them attentively.
Such behavior is typical for mollosses, and the Caucasian shepherd belongs to this group for sure. In this article we won't follow the evolution of this breed and won't count how old this breed is. May I assume, that no one knows now how the "wheels" of the Cynology turned and how the process of the evolution and formation of the breed moved. We can consider it to be certainty that in the 18th century Caucasian shepherds we-re used in the Russian Army as guard dogs. The first pages of contemporary history of the breed were opened by Russian cynologists in the late 20s of the 20th century. With the governmental support there were organized several expeditions to the habitat of the Caucasian shepherds; at that very time appeared descriptions and ranging of those dogs. The Caucasian shepherd appeared to be undoubted leader among all native breeds of the USSR. It was widely used in the Caucasus and neighboring territories (Krasnodarskiy and Stavropolskiy krais, steppe areas in the South of the Volga region) as guard dogs for flocks from beasts and robbers.
At that time appeared the first standard for this breed. Malignancy, watchfulness, keen ear and sharp eye, lack of fastidiousness in food, thick and coarse hair were marked as obligatory features for the dogs of the breed. All this gave an opportunity "to use the hound as a patrol dog in any climatic conditions without any particular explicit costs" (extract from the standard). In the early 30s the Caucasian shepherds appeared in the bench-shows both in the USSR and abroad (in 1930, Nürnberg). There were representatives of the military breeding kennel "Krasnaya Zvezda" (Red Star). Two Caucasian shepherds got first prizes of the World Bench-show. As the participants of that bench-show say our "Red Giants" (as the views called Caucasian shepherds) aroused overall interest among the public. It is clear that one could talk about those dogs as representatives of the single breed "Caucasian shepherd" only in theory. In fact there were numerous different groups of dogs of the Caucasian region. They were united only on the basis of the main features: strong build, massive head with strong jaws, fearlessness, confidence, in-different attitude to the pain, ability to combat the wolf. The research of native dogs appeared to be de-pressing: in many regions dogs were wasted, a lot of them were affected of different, including chronic diseases. In some regions almost all the livestock was consist of half-breeds. If in Russia we could mark the heyday of the breed, in the Caucasus there was opposite process: because of hundreds of circumstances, of political origin as well, countries of the Caucasian region. Often the most valuable individuals disappeared. In the course of time the main livestock of Caucasian shepherds gathered in the central parts of the USSR.
The breeding work was held under the DOSAAF (Free-will Assistance Organization to the Army, Aviation and Fleet) within the Federation of official dog-breeding. In the 60s there was a definite progress in the selective and breeding work. At that time formed several centers of the breeding work: Moscow, Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Ivanovo, Rybinsk, then Nizhniy Novgorod, Tambov, Ufa, Orenburg, Perm, Ekaterinburg, Magnitogorsk, Novosibirsk, Omsk and Vladivostok. Unfortunately, due to the centrifugal forces in our society that cynological system stopped its existence. We could talk only about private dog-keepers, as all the other breeding kennels had been broken apart. And only fanciers clubs, scattered in the towns of the former USSR, were left. In every center of the breeding there were talented leaders, who were guided only by their experience and knowledge. Once single breed appeared to be splitted to the independent vectors. It didn't promote its further development. We lost the opportunity to exchange information, main bench-shows didn't take part and it became impossible to see the livestock of different clubs, the succession in preparation of the professionals also disappeared. But soon it became obvious, that this situation couldn't exist any more and the idea to establish the All-Russian Club of the breed was given a warm reception. In the spring of 1994 the constitutive meeting took place in the Central Club of official dog-breeding. More than a hundred official de-legates gathered to say nothing about numerous guests. Thirty people organized the Presidium. These people are well known to all fanciers of the Caucasian shepherd: they are famous experts, directors of leading breeding clubs, kennels, and experienced dog-breeders. Due to the national club it became possible to communicate with all the breeding clubs in all regions in the country, to use the official information of the RKF (Russian Cynologist Federation); it also became possible to conduct bench-shows (they are not only a show, but a serious zootechnik measure). We can mark the progress in the breeding work due to the support of private breeding kennels and calm and friendly environment in the Club.
International contacts of the Club take a very important part in its work. Some years ago our Club was the initiator of the establishment of the international club of "The Caucasian shepherd". The founders of this Club are clubs of this breed in Russia and Georgia. The members of the club "The Caucasian shepherd" are the members of the RKF, different clubs and breeding kennels. NKP (National Club of the Breed) takes part in the work of the RKF connected with the breed, issued the magazine "The Caucasian shepherd of Russia", organizes the bench-show of the same name, where it awards the most prestige title for the breed - the Champion of the National club; also it organizes regional bench-shows. Day-to-day activity of the Club is sometimes hardly noticeable. It consists of numerous important and minor cases, a lot of contacts, solving different, sometimes unexpected, problems. The main proof of the club's work is for a lot of fanciers the main bench-show of Caucasian shepherds, which has been held once a year (late April) for 8 years already.
It is clear that this brief review can't be the full description of the evolution of this breed. The work of Soviet and later Russian cynologists has met with success. From different, polytypic dogs brought from the Caucasus has formed the single breed - the Caucasian shepherd. The description of this breed is given in the standard. We should mark, that contemporary representatives of this breed are larger than their ancestors, their body is stronger, and their legs are more vigorous. But the main features, such as character, brains and working qualities remain unchangeable. To my mind the only thing has changed: a man has stopped to take a Caucasian shepherd as a killing machine. Gradually they have become our pets. It is interesting that in Russia women are engaged in breeding of these dogs. The Caucasian shepherd is an authoritative dog. The plays in the family should be sharply defined. It is interesting that the dog doesn't seek the power and it will be happy if the master is the leader. If this place is empty, the dog will occupy it. It is a starting point of your problems. In every difficult situation a dog-leader will take its own decisions and punish the inferior (a man as well) if the latter breaks the system of seniority. Is there any way out? You shouldn't just forget that it is not You, who live for the dog, but a Dog should live for You. If you are weak willed and are inclined to submission, you'd better not buy a Caucasian shepherd; there are plenty of other breeds. The Caucasian shepherd is forever. You can hear this phrase from hundreds of dog-keepers. The same opinion have my colleagues, who live both in Russia and abroad. These dogs present me not only with their love, friend-ship, but also with the possibility to communicate with old and new friends.
I have no time to be bored - I'm occupied myself with the Caucasian shepherd. President of the national club "The Caucasian shepherd", vice-president of the international club "The Caucasian shepherd", the expert of the FCI Galina Kirkitskaya, Moscow.