The Mighty and Fearless Caucasian Ovcharka

The Caucasian Ovcharka is also known as the Caucasian Sheepdog and the Caucasian Shepherd Dog.

his huge dog was bred to guard flocks of sheep. They aren’t really a herding dog, but they were bred to protect herds from predators. 

A Caucasian Shepherd dog close-up image
Caucasian Shepherd dog in an autumn field

To be a guardian dog, this canine was bred to be massive and fearless. This is what they are best known for today – their huge physic and bold nature. 

Where did the Caucasian Ovcharka originate?

A gray adult Caucasian Shepherd dog smiling while laying on grass
Adult Caucasian Shepherd dog lying on the grass

The Caucasian Ovcharka was developed in the Caucasus mountain range in Eastern Europe.

There are many different nations in this area, so this dog doesn’t have an exact “home” country. Instead, it was likely developed in several countries all at the same time, including Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia.

This breed has existed in some form since ancient times. However, this ancient breed didn’t show up in the western world until the 1930s, when it participated in a show in Germany.

Researchers believe that this dog is a relative of the Balkans’ sheepdogs and the mastiffs of Asia. However, it split from these cousins a long time ago. 

Due to its large size, this canine was bred to guard herds and flocks against predators. These mountains include large predators like bears and tigers, so the dog had to be quite large as well. 

The first mention of this canine was in the first century BC. This dog was used in the army of the Armenian Tsar Tigran the II.

The USSR selectively bred the breed in the 1920s, which likely led to the dog as we know it today. This is largely done in their Georgian territory. 

Because of its past, this canine was bred for raw physical power. They are very confident and fearless. The process of selection also gave them a thick, waterproof coat. They can guard dogs for days in the field. 

The American Kennel Club does recognize the Caucasian Ovcharkas under the name Caucasian Shepherd Dog. “Ovcharkas” literally means “shepherd.”

It is also recognized by the FCI as well, who categorized them as molosser dogs. 

What does a Caucasian Ovcharka look like?

A Caucasian Ovcharka shepherd dog walking

This canine is absolutely massive. They had to be to defend their flocks against all manners of predators. They are built very muscularly and strong. They have huge bones and a powerful muscular system. 

Overall, their body is a bit rectangular. 

Males are typically much more “masculine” looking than females. They have more developed muscular systems and a bigger head.

They are absolutely bigger than females, though they may stand a bit shorter. They are absolutely stoutly built. 

Size: Is the Caucasian Ovcharka the largest dog?

No, many dogs are larger than the Caucasian Ovcharka. However, they are absolutely one of the largest dogs. They are extremely muscular and sturdy, which makes them weigh a lot for their height. 

These working dogs typically weigh at least 45-50 kgs, though they can weigh anywhere from 99-170 pounds.

According to the AKC guidelines, there is no upper range. Like we previously stated, females are much smaller than males in most cases. They stand anywhere from 23-30 inches, which is about 67-75 cm. 

As you can see, these dogs are huge, even if they aren’t the largest dogs out there. They do best in a larger home where they have plenty of room to stretch their legs.

Their large size just doesn’t make them appropriate for apartments. They need the room. 

Coat: What type of coat hair do Caucasian Ovcharkas have?

A portrait of a long-haired red Caucasian Shepherd
A long-haired Red Caucasian Shepherd dog

The exact length of a Caucasian Ovcharkas’s coat can vary. Sometimes, they have very short coats. Other times, they can have shorter coats.

These are also intermediate coat lengths, which are somewhere between short and long. 

The length of their coat doesn’t affect the dog very much. All dogs will have a thick double coat, which protects the canine from the weather and climate.

Their undercoat is soft and fine, while their outer coat tends to be much coarser. Their coat is very straight and well-developed. 

The total length of their hair is no less than 5 cm, even for dogs with short coats. Their head and forelegs typically have shorter fur, but it is significantly thicker. Dogs with long coats tend to have a “mane.” 

These dogs can come in a huge array of colors. They can be agouti and white, which is typically considered the most common. However, these colors are possible, as well:

  • Black
  • Black and Gray
  • Cream
  • Fawn
  • Gray
  • Grizzle
  • Red
  • Rust
  • White
  • Tan
  • Yellow

On top of their range of coloration, these canines have many different markings possible as well. Sable, brindle markings, piebald, and white markings are all common.

Dark “masks” and spotted colors are possible as well. 

Temperament: Are Caucasian Ovcharkas good family dogs?

Yes and no. To their core, these dogs are protective. They were bred to be guard dogs, after all, and these guarding instincts are still very evident today.

They are very loyal to their families and bond strongly with their owners. 

A gray Caucasian Ovcharkas on field with a man behind
Image source

In some cases, they can be one-person dogs, which basically means that they bond strongly to one person and pretty much ignore everyone else.

This can make them so-so family dogs. They may not bond easily with all family members. 

They have an innate distrust of strangers, but they are gentle towards their own family members.

They are generally not aggressive towards those they know, but they can be violent against strangers if not socialized properly. 

When not guarding, these dogs are quite laidback. They can be sweet and affectionate with their family members. 

With that said, these canines are also fairly independent. They are not people-pleasers and therefore are a bit difficult to train. They require a lot of patience and regular training. 

These dogs do not have separation anxiety, particularly. They were bred to spend long hours by themselves guarding and tend to do fine with solitude today. 

Is the Caucasian Ovcharka dangerous?

Yes. This canine can be dangerous when not trained properly. They are a huge dog, after all. Because of this, they can do some damage if they really wanted to.

Luckily, these dogs bond closely with their owners and are therefore very unlikely to be aggressive towards their people. 

It isn’t completely unlike them to be aggressive against outsiders, though. They were bred for guarding purposes, after all.

Early socialization and training are necessary to keep these dogs accepting of strangers, though they will never be as friendly as other dog breeds. 

How to take care of your Caucasian Ovcharka

These dogs are quite high-maintenance. However, they are not necessarily difficult to take care of. They just require more maintenance in general because of their larger size.

As you might imagine, a simple brushing session can take a very long time with these massive canines. 

These dogs are wonderful in any weather. They were built to handle the harsh climate of the mountains, so they are built to do well in even extreme weather. 

Exercising your Caucasian Ovcharka

While these dogs are large, they don’t exactly need much exercise. They do best with a large backyard that they can roam in as they please.

Don’t expect much running around, though. Instead, these canines are more of a roaming breed. 

They should always be kept contained or on-leash when they exercise. This is mostly because they are independent and will wander off.

They don’t do great with recalls for this reason. They are just as likely to come back to you as they are to keep wandering. 

With that said, you should take them on walks regularly. Daily walks are preferable. They don’t have to be extremely long, as these dogs are usually pretty fine with even very short walks.

However, walks are necessary to get them out of the house and walking around. 

While this dog is low-energy, they have very high endurance. They are suitable for hiking and similar activities. If you’re looking for a dog to go hiking with you, this may be a solid option. 

Caucasian Shepherd dogs on snow
Image source

Grooming: Do Caucasian Ovcharka Dogs shed?

These dogs have a variety of coat types. Some are very long, while others are concise. How much grooming they need will depend on the length of their coat. 

Dogs with very long coats will need to be groomed daily. Their fur will be prone to matting, so you need to brush it out daily to prevent this.

Luckily, these dogs are pretty chill – even when it comes to grooming sessions. They will happily sit there and be brushed. This is especially true if you brush them from the time they are puppies. 

They have very fast-growing nails that will need to be trimmed regularly. You can do this with nail clippers or with a grinder. If you don’t do this, they can overgrow, which will cause splitting and cracking. 

Otherwise, these dogs don’t need much grooming. They should never be clipped as this can mess with their coat.

They are very good at regulating their own body temperature. Do not let their excessively long coat fool you. 

You will need to check their ears regularly for a build-up of wax and debris. This can cause ear infections. They will also need their teeth to be brushed regularly, like all dogs. 

Caucasian Sheepdog waiting in the grooming area
Meet Rosie Marie, a Caucasian Sheepdog being a panda with her haircut – Image source

Feeding: How much should a Caucasian Ovcharka eat in a day?

As you might imagine, these dogs need a lot of food. The exact amount of food will vary depending on the brand. Some foods are more calorie-dense than others.

In general, these dogs can eat around 4 cups. You should split this into multiple meals. 

The Caucasian Ovcharka is a giant dog breed. As puppies, you will need to feed them food that is specifically made for their giant size. These canines require special nutrition because they grow so quickly.

Regular puppy food isn’t going to cut it. Instead, you need a puppy food that is designed for giant-size dogs.

Usually, these foods are very high in protein and fat, as that is exactly what these dogs need to grow appropriately.

They also usually contain vitamins and minerals for joint support, something you need to worry about when these dogs are so big. 

When your dog outgrows the need for puppy food, you should switch to an adult food high in protein and fat.

Vitamins and minerals to help your dog’s joints are also helpful, as their massive size does put a lot of pressure on their joints as a whole. 

You can select food for giant-sized dogs, but this is not completely necessary. Once these dogs are done growing, any high-quality adult food is suitable. 

What health problems does Caucasian Ovcharkas have?

Huge Caucasian Ovcharka looking adorable and cuddly
Image source

These dogs are generally healthy. They were bred for function, not necessarily form. Therefore, many breeders prioritized health over aesthetic traits, which led to these dogs being very healthy. 

They are prone to some problems, though. For instance, some of them are prone to joint issues and hip dysplasia, as their excess weight can mess with their joints.

These dogs need to avoid obesity for this reason. It can just make these problems worse. 

They are also susceptible to cataracts, though these usually don’t occur until later. This is a genetic disease. It can be affected by environmental factors, however. 

These are the two main diseases that these dogs are prone to. However, there are others. For example, heart problems are somewhat common. They are not as common as other diseases, though. 

Health screenings are important for breeding pairs.

All breeding dogs should have their hips evaluated by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, and the Canine Eye Registration Foundation should clear their eyes.

Ask any breeder for these bits of information before purchasing a puppy. 

These dogs usually have a lifespan of 10 to 12 years. 

Can you own a Caucasian Ovcharka in the US?

A happy Caucasian Shepherd puppy running
Happy Caucasian Shepherd puppy running on a green lawn

Yes, you can own these dogs in the US. There are breeders in the US, though these dogs are a bit rarer than other breeds. They are not extremely common in the US. 

These dogs usually have 5-10 puppies. Most puppies cost between $1500 to $2000 a dog.

This is expensive, even when compared to other dogs. However, it is largely because of their size. They are huge, so they cost more to breed. Lactating females need more food, and they need larger birthing areas. 

It is not incredibly difficult to find a breeder, luckily. 

Caucasian Ovcharka Breeders

There are many breeders in North America. ThunderHawk Caucasian Shepherd is likely one of the most popular breeders. They are located in Canada, but they do serve some of the northern USA states. 

VBO Caucasian Shepherd is another breeder that you can check out, as is the King Caucasian Ovcharka

You can also head to the AKC marketplace, where there are several breeders listed. 

Adopting from a Caucasian Ovcharka rescue or shelter

You can also sometimes find these dogs in rescues and shelters. This is because they are rarer, so there are fewer out there to end up in shelters. ThunderHawk Caucasian Shepherd also has rescue dogs from time to time. Again, though, this is rare. 

Caucasian Ovcharka Rescue Rehome is another rescue organization that focuses specifically on these dogs. They do not always have dogs available, either.

You may also want to check Esquire Caucasians National Caucasian Mountain Dog/Ovcharka Rescue. They have been rehoming since 1990. 

Curious about Caucasian Ovcharka mixes

There aren’t too many common mixes with this canine. Likely because they are rarer, so there are fewer opportunities for them to breed with others.

However, there are a few mixed breeds that are decently common. 

Caucasian Ovcharka Husky Mix

These dogs are extremely fluffy. They tend to be very stubborn with toned-down guarding instincts. They are still protective, though. You will need to brush them constantly, as they can get matted very easily. 

They can be very friendly among others they know. They also tend to bond very closely with their family members. 

Caucasian Ovcharka Staffordshire Bull Terrier Mix

This mixed breed is decently common. They have different lengths of coat, though many of them do tend to have very short coats in general.

These dogs adore their children and bond deeply with their children. They are very loyal and strong. 

However, they can be quite energetic. They tend to be very excitable so that they can knock children down accidentally. Otherwise, they are great family pets. 

Is the Caucasian Ovcharka the breed for you?

A Caucasian Sheepdog portrait on field
Image source

For dog owners who want a guarding dog, you can’t go wrong with these canines. They are extremely protective and huge, which makes them suitable as watchdogs.

They bond very deeply with their people as well, though they can be one-person dogs on some occasions. 

They do best in active families with big homes. They don’t have an incredibly high energy level, but they do need to exercise every day. They also require regular grooming. 

Further Reading: Similar Breeds to the Caucasian Ovcharka

  • Tibetan Mastiff
  • Pyrenean Mastiff
  • Tornjak

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