This breed is a re-creation of the ancient Russian Water Dog, which is believed to had been instrumental in the establishment of many Western breeds, including the original Newfoundlands, Golden Retrievers, Landseers and St.Bernards, as well as many others. Remnants of the original Vodolaz could be encountered in parts of Russia up until the 2nd World War, when the breed became extinct.

Then in the 1960's, inspired by the stories of the original Vodolaznaya Sobaka, Soviet scientists started a breeding programme involving a variety of breeds, including the Newfoundland, the German Shepherd Dog and the Caucasian Ovcharka, among others. After a few years, the Vodolaz was standardized, but never became a popular breed in its homeland. It also served as one of the breeds used in the creation of the Black Russian Terrier, before eventually vanishing itself. Largely forgotten during the second half of the 20th century, the Ruskaya Vodolazna Sobaka was reportedly a strong-willed and undemonstrative breed, willing to work, but hard to train. These dogs were most commonly black or brown in colour, with or without small white markings.

Today's Vodolaz was developed in Moscow by crossing the Caucasian Sheepdogs with Newfoundlands, although Landseers, St.Bernards and Moscow Watchdogs were reportedly used, too. Not as stubborn as the original version of the breed, the modern Vodolaz Mastiff is trainable, obedient and well-mannered. Bred for companion life and rescue work, it also makes a capable property guardian, thanks to the territoial instincts inherited from some of its parent breeds. The head is broad, with fairly large drop ears and moderately pendulous lips.

The skin is quite loose, but without wrinkles, apart from reasonably noticeable dewlaps on the neck. Large, heavy and strongly boned, this swimming Molosser has webbed feet and a thick, oily and waterproof coat, usually white with patches of red, brown or gray shades, but some specimens can have the traditional dark colourings.

The average height is around 28 inches, although smaller dogs exist.

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