Located between the Black Sea on the West and the Caspian Sea on the East, the Kavkaz (Caucasus) mountain range of Eastern Europe represents a true melting pot of various cultures due to a number of nations calling it their home through the ages. Today these influences are still strong and a rich source of cultural wealth of the region, as well as numerous political conflicts. Encompassing the territories of Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kabardino-Balkaria, Daghestan, Ossetia, Turkey, Chechnia, Ingushetia and Iran, the Caucasus mountains are also home to one of the oldest living Molossers, the magnificent Caucasian Shepherd Dog. In reality the term "Caucasian Dog" should stand for a group of breeds and not for a single breed or a favored variant.
There is a great variety of types among the Caucasian dogs depending on their home region, but due to the ignorance of many Westerners and strong national appetite of Russian and pro-Russian dog fanciers worldwide, a single type bearing a misleading name is being favored in the show rings and literature, at the expense of truth and other breed variants. The exotic-sounding misnomer "Ovcharka" is very popular in the West, thanks to the efforts of the Russian Kennel Club, even though it simply translates to "Sheepdog, Shepherd or Shepherd Dog", making it very unpopular and often insulting among the non-Russian Kavkaz nationals and dog enthusiasts, not only because of the Russian name, but also for the fact that this really isn't a typical sheepdog, since it is neither a herding dog nor a shepherd's companion, but strictly a guardian/protection animal. Considered a Russian breed, the Caucasian Ovtcharka is part of the Troika, a threesome of recognized Russian sheepdogs, the other two being the bearded South-Russian Sheepdog and the somewhat controversial Central Asian Shepherd Dog.
In order to understand the issues concerning the Caucasian Shepherd Dog, a short historic overview is in order. Although its first official Western Show-Ring appearance was in the 1930's in Germany, the Caucasian Shepherd Dog has existed since ancient times and, like many Eastern Molossers, was introduced to the bloodlines of many of today's World breeds throughout history. Like the Balkans, the Armenian Plateau was one of the earliest cradles of civilization and the first appearance of dogs of this type is closely linked to that area. The Armenian Gamprs are seen as a variant of the Caucasian Shepherd Dog, and while that may be the case, it is also important to note that the Gampr comes in two distinct varieties, both of which are much older than the modern Caucasian and Central-Asian Sheepdogs. A number of researchers see the Caucasian dogs as being the living link between the sheepdogs of the Balkans and mastiffs of Asia, while some believe that the breed was a result of crossing the mountain Gampyrs with spitz-type dogs in ancient times, but these theories, although not without merit, are understandably not very popular. Continue Reading