This rugged working dog is found in north-western Iran, where it is kept by the Shahsavan tribes as a guardian of their settlements and livestock. Although the Shahsavan Mastiff is very rare and unknown outside its native region, the breed is said to have a healthy population of almost 3000 specimens in Iran. Closely related to the of Turkey and the Iranian Sage Mazandarani, as well as to the Caucasian Ovcharka, from which it descends, the Shahsavan Sage Ghafghazi has remained pure and unchanged since the 17th century, when it was employed by the Shahsavan warriors to protect the northern border of Persia. Ever since that time, the Iranian Sage Ghafghazi has been a celebrated watchdog and companion of the Shahsavan nomads, closely following their caravans and protecting the people, camels and sheep from beasts and thieves. The Shahsavan Mastiffs move slow and seem relaxed, almost not interested in the scenery that surrounds them, but these powerful dogs are extremely quick to react with immense force when they need to defend the caravan on its way to the markets where the Shahsavan merchants go to sell their famous rugs, carpets and artwork. Considered by many to simply be a regional sub-type of the Caucasian Shepherd Dog, this ancient breed is neither standardized nor recognized, but is bred to a consistent type, based on physical appearance, temperament and working abilities.
While tolerant and protective of familiar dogs in the pack, the Sage Ghafghazi can be very aggressive towards strange dogs and will not hesitate to engage in a conflict even unprovoked. However, although the breed is very aloof and suspicious of strangers, it is not overly vicious towards people it doesn't know, showing great restraint and ability to discern between those visitors with possible bad intent and those who present no real threat to the tribe. Gentle with children, loyal and protective, these even-tempered and intuitive Molossers are reliable and obedient working dogs, prized for their great intelligence, strength and stamina. The Shahsavan Sage Ghafghazi is a well-boned and deep-chested breed, with a large head and strong neck. The body is very muscular and powerful, but fairly lean and compact, with a straight back and long sturdy legs. Some specimens have cropped ears and docked tails, but the majority of Shahsavan dogs are unaltered.
The fully watherproof rich coat is thick, harsh and densely undercoated, often used as a wool substitute by the Shahsavan artisans. All shades are common, mostly bicolours, such as white with large black patches and brindle with white markings, but the most valued colourings are solid white, cream, fawn and wolf-grey. The average height is around 28 inches.