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Azerbaijan Shepherd Dog

The Azerbaijani Shepherd Dog is very closely related to the ancient Armenian Gamprs and generally seen as a variant of the Caucasian Shepherd Dog, even though it comes in two distinct types, like the Gampr. The lighter-built and shorthaired steppe Kanjal dogs are very similar to certain Central Asian bloodlines, whereas the heavy mountain type is not unlike most typical Caucasus dogs, although crosses between these types are fairly common as well, effectively creating a third variant. The Azeri Volkodav also shares some ancestry with the old mastiffs of Persia, but is also related to the Turkish Kangal Kopegi and the Kars Dog, as well as to the Kurdish Marmar herders. The Kanjal variety is one of the progenitors of the modern Kangal breed, but some Turkish fanciers believe that the Azeri dogs are the descendants of the Kangal and not its ancestors. Some claim that the region has a strong connection to the Balkans due to the tribal migrations and Alexander the Great's rule in the past and apart from Azeri dogs which look nearly identical to Balkan breeds such as the Sarplaninec, there is also a rare black-n-tan variety which is thought to be a remnant of the ancient Sylvan stock, although such dogs aren't as valued by the herdsmen as they are generally too aggressive to work with sheep and are mostly used as property guardians and fighting dogs. One of the foundation Molossers used to establish the Caucasian Ovcharka stock in Russia, the influence of Azerbaijani dogs is still evident in some bloodlines of the modern Russian breed. In its native country, the Azeri Sheepdog is alive and well, with a number of fanciers doing their best to keep their dogs pure and preserve this ancient Moloss, but for now the breed is still unrecognized and has remained relatively unknown in the West.

This old breed is a valued worker in its homeland, handling a variety of jobs, from protecting livestock to guarding properties. The steppe type has a long history of dog-fighting, as well as animal-baiting, while the mountain variety is usually employed as a watchdog. Being remarkably resilient Molossers, the Azerbaijani dogs are comfortable living outside and due to their aggressivness, they don't make good companion pets. This is a well-boned mastiff, with a powerful body and strong legs. The ears are usually cropped, but the tail can be both docked and left natural. Three coat lengths exist within the breed, these being the shorthaired, longhaired and medium-length coated dogs of the "in-between type", but all varieties have dense undercoats of light shades. Solid wheaten, fawn, brown, brindle, red and grey colours are preferred, but dogs with white markings are common and acceptable.

Traditionalist believe that all Azerbaijan Shepherd Dogs should have black masks, either completely or partially covering the face, although examples with white markings on the face do exist. The average height is around 24 inches, but much larger specimens can be encountered.

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