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rec.pets.dogs: Caucasian Mountain Dogs Breed-FAQ

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Archive-name: dogs-faq/breeds/caucasians
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Last-modified: 10 Nov 1997

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This article is Copyright 1997 by the Author(s) listed below. 
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                            Caucasian Mountain Dogs

   This information is copyrighted (c) 1995 by the author,
   Stacey Gether Kubyn.
Table of Contents

     * Introduction to The Caucasian Mountain Dog
     * Character/Temperament, Training, and Successful Ownership
     * Health
     * Frequently Asked Questions 
     * History
     * The Caucasian Ovcharka (Mountain Dog) Club of America
     * Breed Standard
     * Epilogue
Introduction to The Caucasian Mountain Dog

   Tucked between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea lies the Caucasus, a
   land of towering mountains and winding valleys. From the earliest
   times, the Caucasus has been a region of high romance. To the
   ancients, it was the end of the known world, beyond which all was
   fable and mystery. Here, more than a millennium of geographical
   isolation and natural selection has produced a most spectacular
   guarding breed, the Caucasian Mountain Dog.
   The Caucasian Mountain Dog is called the _Kavkazskaya Ovcharka_ in its
   native land. The word _ovcharka_ does not have an exact English
   language translation and means something between shepherd's dog and
   sheepdog. However, the Caucasian Mountain Dog is not of the
   shepherding dog classification. It is a flock guardian which has
   served the peoples of the Caucasus as a livestock guard, a home
   guardian, and historically a fighting dog as well.
   Standing a minimum of 26 inches at the withers (dogs), preferably
   larger, the Caucasian Mountain Dog is handsome and powerfully built,
   with a medium to long double coat, often with abundant ruff and
   fringing. The coat color can be a range of shades of agouti gray, from
   dark gray to light, to reddish to fawn, with white markings and
   usually a distinctive dark facial mask. The head is massive and
   wedge-shaped. Shortly after birth, shepherds crop the pups' ears
   horizontally and bluntly close to the head, thereby eliminating the
   demise of the ears by the teeth of a predatory wolf. The appearance of
   the Caucasian Mountain Dog is best characterized as a _bear-like
   view_. While some type differences exist across the mountain range,
   the breed is bred to a single standard of soundness.
Character/Temperament, Training, and Successful Ownership

   The Caucasian Mountain is strong-minded, well-balanced, and
   even-tempered. They are territorial and suspicious of strangers, and
   will protect their flock, family, and property from danger--real or
   perceived--with lightning-quick speed. The breed is said to have an
   uncanny ability to discriminate between true threat and benign
   interference. In other words, the Caucasian Mountain Dog is able to
   exercise good judgment provided he has been given the proper
   socialization, training, and experience on which to base this
  Socialization, training, discipline, control
   These are the factors to successful ownership of the Caucasian in
   today's fast-paced society. Formal obedience training beginning with
   puppy classes is necessary. The Caucasian should be included to
   participate in family activities and should accompany the owner off
   home turf 2 to 3 times per week even for just a quick jaunt to the
   bank or grocery. Just as a child should not be raised in a closet, so
   too the Caucasian should receive consistent, diverse exposure to the
   outside world, so that he may grow up to be a good canine citizen.
   The Caucasian should be contained in a fenced yard or run when not
   directly supervised by the owner. This breed should never run loose
   and should not be tied out. Due to the Caucasian Mountain Dog's
   territorial and protective nature, they may be aggressive towards an
   unannounced visitor or the UPS delivery person carrying that
   strange-looking package which could be a threat to the family.
   Training must be firm, patient, and inducive. Due to its close
   association with man, the Caucasian Mountain Dog breed is one of the
   most willing of the flock guardians and is very trainable. However,
   the Caucasian is still a more independent thinker than a shepherding
   type dog such as the German Shepherd Dog. Because the Caucasian is
   slow to mature, the hundred-pound yearling with the mental maturity of
   a 3-month old can be quite a challenge. And the Caucasian can be very
   head strong, especially during the first 2 1/2 years of life. Very
   highly intelligent, the young Caucasian Mountain Dog will find many
   creative ways to get into trouble!
   The Caucasian Mountain Dog has a keen sense of hearing and is quick to
   alert to strange sounds. This means that the breed is often noisy and
   barks a lot, especially at night. These traits must be carefully
   considered by the potential owner. Because the Caucasian Mountain Dog
   has functioned as a livestock guardian and a predator animal, he will
   protect the yard from a wolf, a coyote, a mountain lion, and the
   neighbor's dog.
   The properly socialized and trained Caucasian Mountain Dog is gentle
   and loving with his family. He is good with children and the family
   cat and is so loyal that he will sacrifice himself to protect his
   family. The Caucasian is sweet and charming--downright beguiling most
   of the time!

   In general, the well-bred Caucasian Mountain Dog is vigorously
   healthy. As with other large breeds, the Caucasian should be at a
   minimum screened for hip and elbow dysplasia. Life expectancy is
   believed to be 12 years or more.
Frequently Asked Questions

   _Does the Caucasian Mountain Dog make a good family member?_
     Yes, the Caucasian Mountain Dog, if properly socialized and
     trained, is a devoted family member. He is good with children and
     enjoys participating in family activities especially outdoor ones
     such as hiking.
   _Do they get along with family pets?_
     The Caucasian Mountain Dog will get along with family pets in a
     pack situation as long as he is "second in command". But keep in
     mind, this breed has a history of fighting off with wolves and is
     very, very large and strong. If a fight breaks out amongst family
     pets, the Caucasian can easily hurt another family pet. An owner
     must be the alpha figure in the family, in other words, the "top
     dog" and must lay down the law to the pack.
   _Do they shed and do they need a lot of grooming?_
     The Caucasian Mountain Dog sheds "fur storm" twice a year and loses
     some coat in between. The luxurious coat is maintained by frequent
     brushing. Aside from routine bathing and nail clipping no other
     specialized grooming is needed.
   _Do they drool?_
     The breed standard requires a tight flew and no drooling. However,
     some dogs are faulted in this area and do slobber somewhat. If this
     is of special concern, let your breeder know about it.
   _How should I choose a breeder and what questions should I ask a
   breeder before choosing a puppy?_
     Be very sure that the breeder is a member of the Caucasian Ovcharka
     (Mountain Dog) Club of America, Inc. (C.O.C.A.) and is listed under
     current approved breeder list. This is your only guarantee that the
     dog you are getting is an authentic, purebred (see History) and
     that strict breed practices have been followed. Be sure to get
     details about the temperament/character of the parents, whether
     they are working farm dogs or family pets, and also the results of
     the hip x-rays.
   _How do I get a puppy?_
     Because the Caucasian Ovcharka (Mountain Dog) Club of America, Inc.
     advocates a careful breeding, they are difficult to acquire. The
     best approach is to subscribe to C.O.C.A.'s newsletter, _C.O.
     respondence_, and to contact an approved breeder. Quality pups are
     available by reservation so it's wise to shop early.

   Lack of written records result in speculation as to exactly how and
   when the Caucasian Mountain Dog originated. Western writers suggest
   that Mastiff-type dogs were purposely crossed with sheep herding Spitz
   to produce a hardy breed resistant to the cold with sufficient size
   and fierceness to protect the flock. However, Russian experts contend
   that the breed naturally evolved from a group of dogs originating from
   Tibet approximately 2,000 years ago. As these dogs accompanied nomadic
   people during their trek across the continent, some of this group
   settled into the Caucasus mountain area. The dogs bred for centuries
   in a half-wild state, geographically isolated from other breeds. Hard
   natural selection has resulted in the Caucasian we know today. Thus
   the Caucasian is considered a natural or indigenous breed which
   retains strongly-developed primitive instincts. Conscientious modern
   breeders have successfully preserved the naturalness of the aboriginal
   Because the Caucasian is trainable and territorial, and makes and
   excellent reliable guard dog, the Soviet government utilized the
   Caucasian in straight-run kennels for guarding service throughout the
   former Soviet Union. As a result of this role, the Caucasian gained a
   reputation steeped in mystery as to its aggressive character. Here in
   North America, the Caucasian Mountain Dog is earning a reputation as
   being a trustworthy service dog and is capturing the hearts of dog
   fanciers across the continent.
   Russian experts estimate that 70% to 80% of the Caucasian Mountain
   Dogs are cross-bred with St. Bernards and other breeds. Aware of this
   situation, in 1990 the FCI (the European registering body) suspended
   automatic registration of the breed and individual dogs must now be
   examined by a panel of FCI judges to be registered.
The Caucasian Ovcharka (Mountain Dog) Club of America

  U.S. Breed Founders for Preservation
   Here in the United States, the Caucasian Ovcharka (Mountain Dog) Club
   of America, Inc. was founded in 1991 for the preservation and
   responsible promotion of the authentic Caucasian Mountain Dog. Working
   with licensed judges and breed experts in the former Soviet Union, the
   C.O.C.A. maintains the National Registry USA and abides by a strict
   Code of Ethics. As of January 1, 1995, the United Kennel Club accepted
   the Caucasian Mountain Dog with full privileges, and C.O.C.A. dogs are
   eligible for dual registration.
   Buy only from a breeder who upholds the high standards set forth by
   the C.O.C.A. and join us in the preservation and protection of this
   very precious breed!
Breed Standard

   (Abbreviated Standard)
   The authentic Caucasian Ovcharka (accurately referred to as the
   Caucasian Mountain Dog) is a livestock guarding dog of greater than
   average size and power possessing a robust constitution and exhibiting
   an inherent distrust of strangers.
   The Caucasian Ovcharka (Mountain Dog) is indigenous to the mountain
   regions of the Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijani Union Republics; the
   Kabardino-Balkar, Daghestan and Kalmyk Autonomous Republics, and the
   steppe regions of the northern Caucasus and the Astrakhan district.
   For hundreds of years the Caucasian Ovcharka (Mountain Dog) has
   functioned as a guarding dog, herding dog, and historically as a
   fighting dog. Their faithfulness, protectiveness, and ferocity when
   called upon to defend is legendary.
   The breed's intrepidity, hardiness, and tolerance for different
   temperatures and climates have made it possible to utilize the
   Caucasian Ovcharka (Mountain Dog) in almost all the regions of the
   Soviet Union.
   Type varies geographically throughout the mountain range, and also
   varies according to the purpose for which the dogs were utilized.
   Generally, dogs of the transcaucasus regions are more massively built,
   while those found in the steppe regions have a somewhat rangier build,
   are leggier, and are often short-coated. Modern breeding conforms to a
   single standard.
   Particulars of deportment
          Highly developed nervous system - strong, well-balanced and
          even-tempered. Well developed defensive reactions, professed in
          the active form (ADR). Suspicion and aggressiveness toward
          strangers is characteristic.
          NOTE: Characteristic aggressiveness should be tempered by
          careful socialization and training without suppressing natural
          instincts to guard and protect. Behavior in the show ring
          should be controlled, willing and adaptable. The dog should be
          trained to submit to "Hands On" examination. Only the handler
          shall show mouth. Mild hostility exhibited towards other dogs
          should not be penalized; however, the judge should dismiss from
          the ring any handler who does not have control over the dog.
   Type of constitution
          Despite regional differences, the ideal Caucasian Ovcharka
          (Mountain Dog) is powerful and athletic, sturdy and well-boned
          in proportion to height (see index of bone), with very strong
   Height at withers
          Dogs: 65 cm. (25.6 in.) minimum; 69 cm. (27.2 in.) - 85 cm.
          (33.5 in.) preferred.
          Bitches: 62 cm. (24.4 in.) minimum, usually much larger; 65 cm.
          (25.6 in.) - 75 cm. (29.5 in.) preferred.
          Proportional to height giving the Caucasian Ovcharka (Mountain
          Dog) an imposing, symmetrical appearance.
   Index of bone
          Dogs: 21-22; bitches: 20-22.
          NOTE: While the ideal Caucasian Ovcharka (Mountain Dog) is
          "well-boned", this breed is not as large-boned as some of the
          giant mastiff breeds.
   Index of format
          102 - 108
   Gender type
          Well expressed. Dogs are more powerful and more massive than
          bitches. Bitches are slightly smaller, lighter in build, more
          Thick and elastic.
          A double coat, slightly off-standing, formed by straight and
          coarse guard hairs and a well-developed undercoat. Coat on the
          muzzle, forehead, and the front of the legs is short and
          smooth. Coat on the top and back of head is longer and slightly
          off-standing. Three types of coat lengths are accepted without
         1. Long coats with very long outer coat hairs. The hairs on the
            neck form a "mane," and extensive feathering on the hind legs
            gives the appearance of long, silky "pants". The long hairs
            feathering the tail on all sides make it look thick and
         2. Intermediate coats covered with longer hair on the body, but
            with a lesser degree of "mane", leg "pants" and tail
            feathering than the long coat variety.
         3. Short coats covered with thick hair, somewhat shorter than
            the long coat variety. The neck "mane", leg "pants" and tail
            feathering are absent. This coat type is seldom seen.
          Agouti gray - dark, light, silver, reddish, or yellowish - with
          or without white markings; white, creme, fawn, reddish fawn,
          tan, reddish tan, fulvous, or any of these colors with white
          markings; brindle, piebald or white with gray patches. The
          undercoat is light colored. The head often has a distinctive
          dark mask.
          Massive, with a broad skull and strongly developed cheekbones.
          Skull and gradually tapering muzzle form a one piece blunt
          wedge-shape. The forehead is flat, broad and level, divided by
          a slight centerline furrow. The stope is gently defined but not
          abrupt. The muzzle is shorter in length than the forehead and
          tapers to a large, broad, black nose. A brown nose is
          acceptable in white and light fawn colored dogs. Lips are
          thick, dry and tight.
          NOTE: The head of the dog is more massive and masculine
          compared to the more refined and feminine head of the bitch.
          Hanging, highset, cropped short.
          Dark brown or brown, medium-sized, oval-shaped, deepset,
          slightly slanted. Eyelids rimmed with black pigment.
          White, strong, well-developed, fitting closely one to the
          other. The points lie in one line. Scissor bite.
          Powerful, short, moderately set at an angle of approximately
          30-40 degrees.
          Broad and deep with a well-sprung, slightly rounded ribcage.
          The brisket curvature should be at the elbow line or slightly
          Moderately tucked.
          Broad, muscular, clearly distinguishable above the backline.
          Broad, straight, muscular.
          Short, broad, gently arched.
          Broad, long muscular, almost horizontally set.
          Highset, hanging downward, reaching at least to the hocks in
          repose. Carried as a sickle-shaped hook or ring when raised in
          excitement and when gaiting.
          Viewed from the front, the forelegs are straight and parallel.
          Measured from the shoulder joint, the angle between the blade
          and humerus is approximately 100 degrees. The forearms are
          well-boned, straight and moderately long. The length of the
          lower arm to the elbow is slightly greater than half the height
          at the withers. Index of leg height is 50-54.
          Short, strong, perpendicular. From a side view they may appear
          slightly sloping. Circumference of metacarpals for dogs: 14-17
          cm (5.5-6.7 in.); bitches: 13-15 cm (5.1-5.9 in.).
          Viewed from the rear the hind legs are straight and parallel;
          from the side they are slightly straightened from the stifle
          joint. The shins are short, the hocks strong, broad, and
          slightly straightened. The metatarsals are well-boned and
          perpendicular. The hind legs are not extended backwards. A
          perpendicular line, drawn from the hip, passes through the
          center of the hock and the metatarsus.
          Large, oval, well arched, compact, firm. Dewclaws, if any,
          should be removed from the hind legs. Foreleg dewclaws should
          Free, usually unhurried. The characteristic gait is a short
          prancing trot, shifting to a rather heavy gallop as the dog
          gains speed. The legs should move in a straight line with the
          limbs converging slightly toward the center line of travel. The
          joints of both the fore and rear quarters should flex freely.
          The back and loins should be elastic and springy. At a trot,
          the withers and croup should lie in the same plane.
         1. Substantial deviation from correct scissor bite - overbite,
            underbite. Missing teeth (other than isolated premolar).
         2. Monorchid or cryptorchid dogs.
         3. Soft, wavy coat, absence of double coat.
         4. St. Bernard red and white, solid black, black and tan, or
            solid brown coat color.
         5. Blue, green, or yellow eyes.
   Standard Interpretation
          Overall structure and soundness have priority over color and
          flashiness. Regional variations shall be judged under this
          single standard without preference.
          The authentic Caucasian Ovcharka (Mountain Dog) has been
          extensively crossbred with other breeds in the former U.S.S.R.
          and throughout Europe (such as the St. Bernard, Great Dane,
          German Shepherd Dog, Leonberger, Tibetan Mastiff, Sar Planina,
          and others). These cross-breeds often possess a pedigree
          stating that they are "Caucasian Ovcharka" or "Caucasian
          Shepherds", and it may be extremely difficult to differentiate
          these cross-breeds from the authentic Caucasian Ovcharka
          (Mountain Dog) type. Incorrect coat type, disqualified coat
          colors and lack of distinctive blunt wedge-shaped head are
          strong evidence of mixed breeding; therefore, dogs exhibiting
          these traits should be strictly disqualified.
          *Other names include: Kavkazskaya Ovcharka; Caucasian Shepherd
          or Sheepdog; Kaukasischen Owtscharka; Kaukasischer Schaferhund;
          Kawkasky Owtscharka.
   Copyright (c) 1992 Abbreviated Breed Standard by Caucasian Ovcharka
   (Mountain Dog) Club of America, Inc., United States Breed Founders for

   In the words of Marina Kuznetsova, licensed judge-expert in Russia,
   the Caucasian Mountain Dog is distinguished for its beautiful
   character and well-balanced nervous system. And, if you treat a dog of
   this breed with love and patience, you will get the best friend and
   protector, fearless and faithful, who will stand by you through
   anything and everything.
   For more information and a FREE CLUB NEWSLETTER contact:
   _Caucasian Ovcharka (Mountain Dog) Club of America, Inc._
   U.S. Breed Founders for Preservation
   P.O. Box 745
   Painesville, Ohio 44077
   (216) 350-1900 days 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST
   (216) 975-9333 eves and weekends
    Caucasian Mountain Dog FAQ
    Stacey Gether Kubyn,

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