Central Asian Shepherd Dog

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The Central Asian Shepherd Dog is a name used to describe quite a few different breeds, actually. It should be noted that using the word "Alabai" to describe the C.A.O. is incorrect, since the breed known as Alabai is only found in Turkmenistan and is quite different than its other Asian cousins. Although it's popular to use the word "ovtcharka" these days, we need to keep in mind that it is a Russian word, whereas most of these breeds are indigenous to non-Russian regions of the former USSR. Thanks to the introduction of the Caucasian Ovcharka, Moscow Watchdog and German Shepherd Dog to the countries of Central Asia by the Soviet Army, the local populations of indigenous Asiatic Mastiffs were influenced by their blood to varying degrees in different areas, in some cases affecting the actual phenotype of local dogs, while simply giving birth to uncharacteristic coat colors in others. However, even before the Russian occupation, Central Asian Shepherd Dogs had existed in many different types of varying sizes, coats, colors and temperaments, depending on their primary use and region of origin.

To this day, it can be said that the Russian dogs differ from dogs found in Turkmenistan, both of these types being very different from those of Afghanistan and Pakistan, which in turn aren't the same as the dogs of Iran, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and so on. But, until these countries develop strict standards for their dogs and get recognized as separate breeds, the name Central Asian Shepherd Dog is being used for all of them. Some consider even the Sage Koochee and the Sarmatian Mastiff to be nothing more than types of the Central Asian Ovcharka, but this notion is understandably disputed by the fanciers of those breeds. Only the aforementioned Alabai of Turkmenistan and the very rare Tobet of Kazakhstan are somewhat standardized and on their way to possible separate recognition, while most of these other countries aren't showing any interest in doing that, due to their general disregard for the Western ways. Their dogs are bred for work, not for show and that's the way it has been done for thousands of years.

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Central Asian Shepherd Dog
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Scientific studies document the CAO breed to possess much genetic diversity, in fact more so than most breeds, which also likely contributes to its vitality and robust constitution.  Recent trends to breed for a particular "type" color, coat, or size by means of line inbreeding have had a negative impact on genetic diversity and have resulted in numerous genetically recessive traits being expressed in the phenotype.  Hypothyroidism, hip and elbow dysplasia have been encountered in a number of these line breed dogs, traits that under their traditional roles as livestock guardians, would have resulted in the dogs lacking capacity to survive in harsh environments, lacking the physical capabilities to perform the essential functions and critical demands of their vocation, and these dogs would have either been culled by the shepherds, of succumbed to he rigors of their environment or the predators confronted.   Genetic studies have demonstrated the Kangal, Sage Koochee, Armenian Gampr, and Central Asian Ovtcharka dogs share a very close genetic composition, likley all arising from Central Asian dogs.  This of course makes sense, as these dogs traveled along ancient caravan and silk routes and breeding along these lines with regional dogs would be anticipated.  Lines would get typed and achieve a region phenotype as generations passed.