Central Asian Shepherd Dog

Also known as the Alabai, the Mid-Asian Shepherd, the Central Asian Sheepdog, the Central Asian Owcharka (also written as Ovcharka or Ovtcharka), the Middle Asian Owcharka, the Sredneaziatskaya Owcharka, or simply the Asian Shepherd, this ancient breed has been guarding livestock in remote areas of Russia for centuries.


With many breeds of big, heavily built dogs, it is popular to claim that they are "probably descended from the Tibetan Mastiff". This has also been said of the Central Asian, but one authority reverses this, listing it instead as "believed to be an ancestor of the Tibetan Mastiff". If this is true, it places this dog at the very root of the large-dog tree. One Russian author recently described it as "the oldest Livestock Guardian breed in the world".

The Central Asian Shepherd Dog has existed over a huge range, from central Russia to Siberia and Mongolia, and there has undoubtedly been a certain amount of random crossing with other dogs in some areas. In other regions, however, it is so isolated that it has remained untainted for countless years. Today the purest form of the Central Asian is said to be found in the remote regions of Tadzhikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. In Kirgyzstan, where it was once common, it is sadly now extinct, and as a working dog its numbers are in decline almost everywhere. In a few regions, however, it has recently been recognized as a "national treasure" and support groups have been formed. This is true, for example, in Turkmenistan.


This strange dog, which traditionally has had its tail and its ears lopped off at birth, and which appears in many colour varieties and coat patterns, acts as a protector of livestock and also of the (often nomadic) people who own it.


The Central Asian Shepherd Dog is strictly a guarding dog and, as such, is capable of working in extremes of temperature and landscape. In temperament it is unusually lethargic, conserving its energy until the moment when it perceives that there has been an intrusion into its territory. Then it is instantly transformed into a fast, fearless and powerful defender.

Background Notes

The Central Asian Shepherd Dog was rarely been seen outside its vast homeland until recently, but towards the end of the 20th century a few of them were co-opted for other duties, such as competing in the show-ring and acting as urban house pets. Their popularity increased rapidly. At a major dog show held in Moscow in April 2000, there were no fewer than 270 examples of this breed on display. In the same year at an international dog show in Milan there were 42 Central Asians competing, including examples from Russia, Poland, Hungary, Italy and the Czech Republic.

Gallery of Central Asian Shepherd Dog