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Armenian Sheepdog

With origins dating back as far as 15000 years, there is little doubt that the Armenian Gelkheght is one of the oldest Molossers, and possibly older than all mountain dog breeds, with antiquity rivaled only by the great Sarplaninec. The Armenian Plateau is one of the early cradles of civilization and the Gampr is believed to had existed in the highlands of Armenia since the very beginning, thought by its fanciers to be 15000 years old. With limited human interference, two main types of the Gampyr evolved side by side and 3000 years ago the longhaired and the shorthaired variants were formed.


These dogs are considered by most Armenians to be the real Caucasian Shepherd Dog and Central Asian Shepherd Dog, as well as direct ancestors of most Asian and Turkish breeds. This theory is not very popular, but it does make a fair ammount of sense, especially when some historical facts are considered. When the Turks invaded Armenia in the 9th century A.D. and encountered the Gampr dogs, they were so impressed that they took many of them back to Turkey. There are reportedly even records in Armenia stating how some of their Gampr Storm Dogs were exported to "a monastery in the Swiss Alps" in the mid 1660's, obviously hinting at the development of the Saint Bernard. The Soviets claimed the Armenian Gampr as Russian, with these impressive mountain Molossers serving as one of the founding blocks for what eventually became the Caucasian Shepherd breed, with the Georgian type being favoured by Stalin, the result of which are the divisions still felt today in the Kavkazskaya Ovcharka circles. Some breed enthusiasts even consider the Russian word "volkodav" which is commonly employed for Caucasian and Central Asian Ovcharkas to be a translation of Gampr's local name Gelkheght, meaning "strangler of wolves", describing the dog's job. The Turkish Kars Dog is of special interest, seing how Kars was the capitol of Armenia up until the 10th century. Even the legendary Alaunt can be traced back to the Armenian Gampyr.

When it comes to the standard, it is pretty much non-existent as of yet, just like it has been for ages, due to these dogs being bred for work and not appearance. There are some efforts reported in Armenia to standardize the Gampr today, but for now the best reference are the standards of the Caucasian and Central Asian Ovcharkas. In Armenia, the short-haired lowland type and the long-haired mountain type are considered to be the same dog, separated only by coat, even though there are other physical differences, which isn't helping the standardization efforts as defined by western understanding.

The Armenian Gelkheght has been a natural and/or random-bred dog for centuries and all the types were commonly crossed, resulting in appearance inconsistencies often encountered within the same litter. Occasionally, the shepherds have been known to cross their working dogs with wolves, but this practice isn't as common today as it was in the past. There are some regional temperament differences, as well as the traditional customs of cropping the ears and docking the tails of the short-coated dogs, but this varies from place to place. And of course, politics still play a major role in Armenia and neighbouring regions, making any real progress extremely difficult.

The Gampyr dogs come in the above-mentioned two coat-types, common in any colour and varying in size anywhere from 25 inches all the way up to 35 inches at the withers.

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