Caucasian Shepherd Dog (ovcharka) Variants And Types

The Caucasian shepherd dog or Ovcharka is an incredibly large dog from the molosser grouping, and in fact the Caucasus mountain range is the historical home of the founders of some of the oldest molosser dog breeds in the world. They are popular as working dogs, guard dogs and companions within Russia and other countries from the former Soviet Union and the surrounding region, and are big, hardy dogs with a business-like appearance and the temperament to match!

While they are not bred or exported to the UK in great numbers and the breed is not widely known here, their impressive size, thick coats and rather bear-like appearance appeals to many people who like large and giant dog breeds, and the Caucasian shepherd dog is bred in small numbers within the UK.

They are not a dog of which ownership should be undertaken lightly, due to their sheer size, strong personalities and highly attuned guarding natures, but nevertheless, they make for excellent pets and companions in the right situation.

There are a great many variants of the Caucasian shepherd dog, and different lines and strains have been bred across the Eastern Bloc countries to the point that there are significant regional differences across the type, to the point that there is no breed standard that fits across the board.

In this article, we will look at some of the most popular variants, where they originate from, and how they differ from each other. Read on to learn more.

The most common Caucasian shepherd dog variants

  • Armenian Caucasian shepherd dogs come in two varieties, being either longhaired and very large, or slightly smaller with a medium length coat in a wolf grey colour.
  • Georgian variants are very tall and heavy with the breed’s signature huge head, and come in a short haired variety, known as the Kazbek type, and a long haired variety too.
  • The Daghestsan variant has short, multi-coloured fur, and is tall, athletic and active.
  • Turkish Caucasian shepherd dogs are in themselves divided into four types: Gorban, Circassian, Kars and Georgian Akhaltsikhe.
  • The Gorban variant consists of crossing of the Kars type with the Kangal, and other crossings of the Turkish variants with the Georgian and Armenian strains.
  • The Akhaltsihnske, native to Georgia, was developed by crossing Gorbans with a Georgian variant, to produce a more lightweight dog than most of the other Caucasian shepherds with a single coloured coat in either white, grey or fawn.
  • The Circassian variant was produced by crossing the Cherkes dog with the Kangal dog, after the Cherkes was first brought to Turkey in the years following the Russian-Circassian wars.
  • The Kars dog is today regarded as a separate breed in its own right, and no longer as a Caucasian shepherd dog variant.
  • The Kabardino-Balkarian region possesses a dog known as the Astrakhan type, which is widely thought to consist of a mixed crossing of the Caucasian shepherd, Georgian mountain dog and Circassian.
  • The Volkodav dog is smaller than either the Georgian or Armenian strains, and can be either long haired (the mountain dog) or short haired (the steppe dog) with a black mask.
  • Another dog that originated with the Caucasian shepherd dog is the Iranian Sage Ghafghazi, produced from crossing the Kars with other dogs of the region, and this dog is classed as an Iranian Caucasian dog.
  • One rather unusual Caucasian dog is the North Caucasian Volkodov, which is currently attempting to gain recognition as a separate breed in its own right.

Hybrid connections

As you can see, all of the dogs that fall under the Caucasian shepherd dog grouping are hybrids with various different levels of relationship and connection between them, and some Caucasian shepherd dogs are additionally crossed out to certain breeds and breed lines of Central Asian dogs.

The strain known as the Russian show type Caucasian shepherd dog is possibly the best well known outside of the breeds common to individual regions, and this is the type of Caucasian shepherd that you are most likely to see within the UK.

The Caucasian shepherd in Russia is largely divided into two types: show type dogs, and working strains, which are associated with the West and East of Russia respectively. The Russian show type dog, which is widely exported and shown in the West, also has some Newfoundland dog heritage too, in attempts to increase the lead size and the thickness of the lips in accordance with Western showing preferences.

The working role of the Caucasian shepherd dog

Throughout the main part of their history, Caucasian shepherd dogs were used for livestock guarding, property protection and to hunt and deter large prey such as bears and wolves. Today, they are mainly used as property guarding dogs and general companion animals, and do best when housed in rural locations without a lot of other dogs around, as they tend to be aggressive with other dogs.

They are generally quiet to the point of almost being lazy when not working, and can make for good family pets for people with children, providing that the potential for aggression towards other dogs is not an issue.


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