Caucasian Shepherd

Also called the Caucasian Shepherd or the Caucasian Ovtcharka, this breed has many local names. Among its other titles are the Kawkasky Ovtcharka, the Kavkazskaya Ovcharka (in Russia), the Nagazi (in Georgia), the Gampr (in Armenia), the Kaukasische Herdershond (in Holland) and the Kaukasische Schaferhund (in Germany). The term "ovtcharka" (sometimes spelled "owtscharka" or "ovcharka") indicates a shepherd’s guard dog, rather than a herding sheepdog.


Their origin is disputed. Some authorities believe they are the result of crossings between mastiffs and sheepdogs; others see them as descending from Tibetan Mastiffs about 2,000 years ago; others prefer a Mesopotamian origin; still others prefer to record them simply as indigenous dogs, and leave it at that. Whichever view is correct, it is certain that this is an ancient breed, created as a distinct type by its isolation from others. At least, that was the case until recently. Now, however, with increased movement in the region, it is claimed that between 70 and 80 per cent of todays Caucasian dogs have been genetically diluted by crosses with other breeds such as the St Bernard. Careful work is now being done to rectify this and to obtain full-blood Caucasian Mountain Dogs for future breeding programmes. The Caucasian Ovcharka Club of America, founded in 1991, is especially active in this area.

For more than six centuries these large dogs have protected the huge flocks of sheep that enjoy the pastures of the Caucasian mountain range in south-western Russia and neighbouring countries. The primary function of this breed has always been to defend the vulnerable sheep against attacks from predators such as wolves and from human thieves.


The Caucasian Shepherd are powerful dogs, usually with rather wolf-like markings, they have heavy, muscular bodies, and thick coats that protect them from the harshness of their environment. Their life is a hard one and it has created an aggressive, tough, fearless breed.

Height: Males 25.5 in (65 cm)/females 24.5 in (62 cm)

Weight: 98-153 lb (44-69 kg) [est.]

Coat: Three types – longhaired has long outercoat; feathering neck ruff/shorthaired has thick, relatively short coat/intermediate longhaired but without ruff or feathering; intermediate has less feathering than long-coated type [UKC]


Because the mountain shepherds bred them for personality, strength and stamina, rather than for precise anatomy, there has been some variability in the appearance of these dogs, a variability that has kept them out of the show-ring. And their ruggedness has also kept them from becoming cosy house pets. Despite this, they are imposing, impressive dogs and deserve more attention than they have received in the past.

In temperament the Caucasian Shepherd dogs are described as steady and even-tempered, willing and trainable, loyal and faithful, gentle and patient, intelligent and demonstrative. However, when they feel threatened, they are also bold and ferocious, and prone to bark noisily at the slightest nocturnal disturbance. In other words, like so many livestock guards, they have been bred for many generations to be affectionate with their owners, but as aggressive as possible with intruders and strangers.


Average life span is 13 to 15 years. There are no reported breed-specific health concerns.


The large Caucasian Shepherd needs regular exercise, preferably long walks in areas where he can stretch his legs.


He needs a firm and fair leader to bring out the best in him, and socialization from puppyhood is critical. This is not a dog recommended for inexperienced trainers.


The short-coated Ovcharkas are easier to care for; the longer-coated ones need regular brushing and combing to keep them free of tangles and other obstructions.

Gallery of Caucasian Shepherd