Central Asian Shepherd Dog
Central Asian Shepherd Dog
Other Names: Central Asian Ovtcharka, Alabai, Tohmet, Sage Koochee, Sredniaziatskaya Ovcharka, Central Asiatic Ovcharka, Middle Asian Ovcharka, Mid-Asiatic Sheepdog
The word “ovcharka” (pronounced “uhf-‘chAr-ka”) is a Russian word meaning something between “livestock guardian dog”, “shepherd’s dog” and “sheepdog”. Believed to be the most ancient guardian dog breed in the world and as the name suggests it originates from Central Asia from the huge region stretching from Caspian Sea in the west to the Pamirs in the east, and from the border between Russia and Iran and Afghanistan in the south to South Siberia in the north. Central Asian Ovcharka is the ancestor of all breeds, certainly the Tibetan Mastiff often thought to be the oldest breed is a descendent of the Central Asian Ovcharka not its ancestor. They were bred by the shepherds for the protection of their livestock against large predators, such as wolves and leopards. They have several different physical aspects all recognized as correct, thus making them more of a breed group rather than a simple standard breed. Still quite rare outside of its native land, the Central Asian Ovcharka is slowly gaining recognition in other countries.
General Appearance: This massive and powerful dog of above average height has a bear shaped head, a harmoniously built body with a large chest and wide back. The eyes of this breed are deeply set, dark and alert, the nose is big, traditionally its ears and tail are usually cropped very short this is now illegal in many countries including the UK.
Coat: Coarse hair, straight with well developed undercoat. The hair is short and flat against the skin on the head and on the front of the legs. The dogs are described according to the length of their coat: Long-haired (7 – 8 cm) on the back and body, particularly on the ears, the neck, the back of the fore and hind legs, and on the tail. Short-haired (3 – 5 cm) and smooth. Colours include: White, black, grey, straw coloured, russet (reddish brown), grey/brown, brindle, parti-coloured and flecked.
Height: Male 27-36 inches Female 24-30 inches
Weight: Male 55-90 kg Female 40-65 kg
Average Life Span: Central Asian Ovtcharka can live from 12-14 years.
Temperament: The Central Asian Ovtcharka is a calm, balanced, alert, fearless flock guardian. Independent, they stand their ground and do not back down. The Central Asian Ovtcharka is a devoted family member in today’s society. They can be wonderful companions, and work well with the elderly and children if socialised to them from a young age. Outside the home they may try to dominate other dogs and are wary of strangers, they are guardians and will act as such. They like to bark at night and this may present a problem if you have close neighbours. They get along with cats and other non-canine animals and other dogs, as long as the dog is not a threat to their charge. This breed is not for everyone, they need an owner who understands the flock guard type and the temperament that comes along with it.
The Central Asian Ovtcharka require large yards, the larger the better, with a fence. They have a job to do (guarding). Small living conditions can lead to boredom and thus digging and chewing will be a problem. Even with lots of exercise these dogs like to be outdoors watching over their territory. They must have a securely fenced yard or they will expand their territory as far as they can.
This is not a breed for the timid, or week owner. Training should begin as soon as possible so that the dog understands you are their leader from the start. They have very balanced mentalities, and are super intelligent, they learn quickly, and just as quickly become bored. Routines make them disinterested, so they are not good candidates for obedience trials. As with all breeds early socialisation is very important to avoid any unwanted behaviours in the long term future.
Surprisingly the Central Asian Ovtcharka do not require a lot of grooming. For most of the year they are light shedders, with easy coat care of weekly brushing. However these dogs shed their coats heavily in the spring so the coat should be brushed daily at this time to remove the dead hairs.
The Central Asian Ovtcharka would be great for the person who hike or jog. On days they are not taken for a hike or a jog, they need a daily, long walk. They may appear to be lazy when they are laying down watching their property, but they have bundles of energy.
Hip Dysplasia: a malformation of the hip joint resulting in a poor fit between the head of the femur bone and the hip socket. This condition can be alleviated by surgery, at some cost to dog and owner. Because dysplastic dogs often produce dysplastic puppies, buyers should ask if both the sire and the dam of the puppy in which they are interested have been rated clear of hip dysplasia. Do not take yes for an answer without seeing a certificate, and ask for a copy to take to your veterinarian.
It is believed that the ancient Central Asian dogs are the ancestors of all breeds. This is debatable, but the 4,000 year old Mastiff known as the Central Asian Shepherd Dog has survived though Centuries with skills of a Hunter, unsurpassed protector and friend to the people of Central Asia. Evidence has dated this breed to before Christ when dogs were created to fend off predators from the shepherd’s sheep. Modern writings of this dog dates back to over 100 years ago in a Book History of the Mastiff by Wynn. They are thought to have descended from the Ural Mountains of Russia, then into Siberia and spread out into Central Asia into several different countries. The breed served as a guardian for nomadic tribes and their herds. They guarded against wolves and bears, and have even been taken on hunts against snow leopard. The reduced number of nomads and shepherds in this century have decreased the population of this breed. Although useful in many ways, the Central Asian Ovcharka never quite made it popularly into other countries.