Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.
A lot of us who work with dogs are familiar with Russian breeds like the Siberian Husky, Samoyed, and the Borzoi. Russia has developed several other breeds—some of them more recently. Ready to hear about some of the unusual dogs out there?
5 Lesser-Known Russian Dog Breeds
- Black Russian Terrier
- East-European Shepherd
- Sulimov Dog
- Russian Ovcharka
1. The Black Russian Terrier
This breed is informally known as the Stalin dog, as it was bred during the Stalinist period. Somehow I never pictured the man sitting by the fireplace with his dog.
This dog breed has now been recognized by the AKC in the U.S., but they are still rare.
Black Russian Terrier Traits
The Black Russian Terrier (BRT) is black, and is Russian, but is not a terrier—it is most likely a mixture of Giant Schnauzer, Rottweiler, the Airedale, Ovcharka, and the Moscow Water Dog. The dogs are strong, tall, and usually weigh 50 or 60 kilos (about 110 to 130 pounds).
BRTs have concerns with hip dysplasia and bloat, like any big dog. They are normally healthy though and live longer than some giant dogs, about 11 or 12 years.
Since they are a working dog, BRTs need a job or a lot of activity. They are potentially one of the best dog breeds for Schutzhund competitions and also do well in agility and obedience competitions. If they are well socialized and get plenty of exercise, the BRT can make a great pet.
2. East-European Shepherd
This breed of dog is a product of the Soviet Union so is fairly new. Back in the 1930s, the Soviets were looking for a dog as intelligent as the German Shepherd Dog and as hardy and cold-resistant as the Siberian Husky. They crossed the two and this breed was produced.
East-European Shepherd Traits
The dogs are tall like a German Shepherd Dog and usually have colors and structures similar to that breed.
Although their fanciers claim they are intelligent and loyal, they are not recommended as family pets since they are more like military German Shepherd Dogs and are suspicious of anyone but their handler.
This may be incorrect, however. Like a lot of products of the Soviet area, there is not much information out there.
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3. Sulimov Dog
This unusual dog was developed for Aeroflot, the Russian airline. The original breeder wanted to find a dog that would work when the temperature fell as low as -70C, but still be able to work on +40C days.
He fostered male Golden Jackals on Lapponian herder females and also crossed some female jackals with the male dogs from the Arctic Circle. Half-breed jackals were hard to train so they eventually developed the breed using only about 25% Golden Jackal.
Sulimov Dog Traits
All of the dogs developed so far belong to Aeroflot. The Sulimov dogs are all used to sniff for explosives and other contraband material at the airports.
4. Russian Ovcharka
The South Russian Sheepdog is large, more of a livestock guard dog than the small and lean dogs (like Border Collies) that actually herd sheep. They have long hair and may be related to the Komondor, although some sources think that the dog is a product of an Austrian Shepherd mixed with a local sighthound.
Russian Ovcharka Traits
This dog needs his coat brushed daily. Not much information is out there about health issues, but problems are probably similar to the Komondor and other livestock guard dogs. Fanciers claim this dog lives about 12 years, and many live up to about 15.
The South Russian Ovcharka needs socialization and good obedience training, but breeders seem to select dogs that are fierce, distrustful of strangers, and suited to guarding his territory or a flock of sheep.
The last unusual Russian dog is a sighthound, similar in shape to the Greyhound but with longer hair and a great lung capacity. Like the noble breeds from India, they are probably related to the Saluki and Afghan Hound.
They were mostly owned by the Kyrgyz, a nomadic tribe that used the dogs to hunt. The dogs were selected for their ability to bring down big game like Ibex and wolves, their willingness to work with Golden Eagles, and their ability to hunt with sight, sound, and scent.
Taigans are most likely healthy, as most sighthounds are, but no data is available. The dogs are really only available in their home region.
Rescue a Purebred
Since it was hard just coming up with good images of these unusual Russian dogs, I really do not expect anyone to go out and try to adopt one. If you are looking for a new dog of any breed, however, be sure to check with your local animal shelter before searching elsewhere. Sometimes good dogs are dropped at the shelter just because their owners have to move.
You can also check with a local breed rescue, or find the dog you are looking for at Petfinder.com. Just do not buy from a pet shop or dog wholesaler on the internet. You will probably end up with a dog with behavioral problems, the product of a puppy mill.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on May 18, 2013:
Good point, Michelle. Imagine a Westie weighing in at 60 kilos!
Michelle Liew from Singapore on May 18, 2013:
These are beautiful dogs.....the Black Russian Terrier does look like a bigger version of a small one, even though it isn't! Thanks for sharing, Mark.