Dogs have been an integral part of Soviet culture. Soviet Space program could not have reached the success it did without dogs. Three Russian dogs named Laika, Belka and Strelka were sent to space through the Russian space programs. Laika, the first animal ever to be sent on a space mission, died shortly after launch. However, her successors Belke and Strelka returned home alive and were soon immortalized through children’s books, features on cigarette packets, and even on stamps and postcards. There are several Russian dog breeds, small and large, that have gained popularity across the world. Let us take a look at some of the guard dog and hunting dog breeds having Russian origins.
1. Siberian Husky
The Siberian Husky is a sledding dog breed developed by the Chukchi tribe of Arctic North-East Asia. This is the fastest sled pulling dog breed and they are the happiest when doing this job. Tough, strong, and with amazing endurance, the Husky is not a pet for the novice owner. It will jump over fences, dig in your yard and can also be very aggressive towards other dogs. Because of its dense coat, the Husky is unsuitable for a warm climate and they are not happy being indoors all day.
2. Borzoi or Russian wolfhound
Also known as Barzoi, the origins of the Borzoi or the Russian wolfhound dates back to nearly 1269 AD. By 1889, these dogs were popular with the royalty in rest of Europe; Queen Alexandra supposedly owned dogs and bitches of this variety. The word Borz I is the masculine singular form of an archaic Russian word meaning ‘fast’. Borzois are heavily coated dogs famed for their speed, bravery, and strength. These sensitive yet glamorous dogs are also known for their flight instinct as well as for their love and loyalty towards their family members.
Samoyeds are beautiful dogs famous for their fluffy and dense white coats. They are named after the Siberian tribe that used them for everything from pulling sleds to herding their sheep. Samoyeds are intelligent and energetic dogs that do well with an active owner. The colder it gets and the more it snows, the more your Samoyed will like it! So bad weather won’t get you out of exercise! Untrained and un-socialized Samoyeds are known to be aggressive and could even kill cats. They are also known to be barkers and can destroy property when bored. Despite its rough and tough façade though, this is a pretty friendly and loving dog breed. The handsome Samoyed is also highly devoted to its family.
4. Central Asian Shepherd Dog aka Mid Asian Shepherd
This ancient dog breed is extremely rare in the USA but has been used to guard livestock in Russia. They are large and very powerful dogs that need an experienced owner. The Slavic- Russian word for shepherd dog is Ovcharka. So these dogs are also known as Central Asian Ovcharkas. The Caucasian Shepherd or Caucasian Ovcharka is a distant cousin of the Central Asian Shepherd dog.
5. Hortaya borzaya
Hortaya Borzaya dogs are sleek and skinny sighthounds with Russian origins. They are not very different from Saluki dogs in temperament, looks, and other characteristics. Hortayas are very rare in the United States where they do not even have an official club for this breed. In fact; many unethical breeders try to pass off greyhounds, sighthounds and other borzoi dog breeds as the Hortaya.
6. South Russian Ovcharka aka South Russian Sheepdog
Many dog breeds come under the blanket term Ovcharka which, as stated before, is the Russian Slavic word for shepherd dog. Among the Ovcharka cousins are South Russian Ovcharka which is leggier and less coated than the Caucasian. The Caucasian Ovcharka has a dense coat in solid white. South Russian’s long overflowing coat distinguishes itself from all other Ovcharka breeds.
7. Russkiy Toy aka Russian Toy Terrier aka Moscow Toy Terrier
Russian Toy comes in two varieties: long-haired and short-haired. This is a friendly, active and cheerful breed but they can be a bit dominant. They were bred to be ratters and tend to chase small animals. Therefore, they need consistent training and socialization. Cheerful and playful, Russian Toys are people-oriented dogs. They are good with kids of all ages but they tend to get injured easily owing to their small size. Due to their friendly natures, they do not make good guard dogs.
8. Russian spaniel
Russian Spaniel was developed in Russia by crossing English springer spaniel and English Cocker spaniel. In Russia, they are popular dogs, often used as gun dogs. They easily retrieve game, waterfowl and small animals. True to spaniel nature, they are active, cheerful and fun-loving dogs that want an energetic and active owner to spend time with them.
9. West Siberian Laika
West Siberian Laika is one of the most popular Russian hunting dog breeds. It is a Nordic independent hunting dog that is considered one of the most primal breeds today. They have a medium coat and an average life span of 13-15 years. Their temperament is highly energetic and they may not get along with other dogs. Also, their guard dog sustainability is mediocre. Their coat colors vary from red, white, grey, black, pepper and salt, and piebald. The breed poorly integrates into family or farm life and is definitely not recommended for private persons.
10. Black Russian Terrier aka Russkiy Tchiorny Terrier
Black Russian Terrier is a relatively new breed that is gaining a lot of popularity across the world. It has earned the moniker of ‘Black Pearl of Russia’. The Giant Schnauzer bears a striking resemblance to the Black Russian Terrier breed and is one of its ancestors. The Rottweiler has also contributed to the breed’s traits including strength, substance, and courage. Other names for this terrier breed include Swart Russies Terrier, Cheren Rouski Terrier, Terrier Noir Russe, Schwarzer Russischer terrier, and Svart Terrier, and so on.
11. Russo-European Laika
Russo European Laika is one of the large Russian hunting dog breeds that were developed in the icy, cold and heavily forested areas of the Ural Mountains. It is also one of the several Spitz-type dogs. Thanks to their endurance, they are used by hunters for small and large game hunting. Russo Europeans need plenty of exercises and they are lovely and excitable dogs that make good pets. Laikas are affectionate and good with children. For an experienced owner, they make a great family dog. Laikas definitely make a great watchdog but their barking tendency could enrage the neighbors. Russo European Laikas are aggressive towards other dogs and are wary of strangers.
12. East Siberian Laika
The East Siberian Laika comes in the category of hunting, sledding, gun dog, guard dog, and watchdog. It is a medium-sized dog with a height of about 21 inches and weight up to 50 lbs. Their life expectancy is 10-12 years. The AKC has not registered this breed yet. East Siberian Laika is an ancient dog breed that was used extensively by nomadic tribes traveling across Mongolia and China. They were mainly used for tasks like hunting, guarding and as sled dogs. They are extremely tough dogs that are suited for harsh weather. East Siberian Laika dogs are not suitable for novice owners and certainly not meant to be kept in small apartments or in urban settings. They do best with active owners, a working environment and plenty of exercise.
Russian Bolonka Franzuska literally translates to the lapdog from France. In USSR, Bolonka Franzuska is considered a separate breed and its link to the Bichon family is unknown. Another Bolognese called the Bolonka Zwetna was developed by crossing the Franzuska, Pekingese and Shih Tzu in the 1950s.The French Bolonka was also bred with poodles and silky terriers like the Yorkshire terriers to develop a multicolored, long-coated dog breed that came to be known as the Tsvetnaya Bolonka. Until recently, these breeds were unknown outside Russia and Germany.
14. East-European Shepherd
The East European Shepherd is a large dog weighing between 75-105 lbs with a height of 24-28 inches. They come in different coat colors including black, black-tan, sable, brindled, and white. The East European Shepherd is known by other names like Byelorussian Ovcharka.
15. Moscow Water Dog aka Moscow Diver aka Moscow Retriever
Moscow Water dogs are now extinct. They were a failed attempt by the Russian Government to create a breed that would save people drowning in water. But these dogs ended up biting the victims instead of rescuing them. This little known breed was developed using the Newfoundland, the Caucasian Sheepdog, and the Eastern European Sheepdog.
16. Moscow Watchdog
Three major dog breeds have been used to develop the Moscow Watchdog: the Russian Spotted Hound/Skewbold Hound, the St. Bernard and the Caucasian Sheepdog. Its weight is between 100-150lbs and height between 25-27 inches. Their moderate, thick coat protected them from sub-zero temperatures when they were used as guard dogs for the Soviet Army during WWII. Later on, breeders from Hungary took many of these dogs back to their country and it is here that the breed is being cared for and nurtured today. Moscow watchdogs have a deep protective instinct and hence they need plenty of obedience training. Their sweet, calm nature makes them great family companions but they require plenty of exercise and tons of grooming.
17. Sulimov Dog
The Sulimov dog is a dog-jackal hybrid that was developed by Klim Sulimov – a Senior Research Assistant at the Likhachev Scientific Research Institute for Cultural Heritage and Environmental Protection. They were developed to be sniffer dogs for the Aeroflot Airline Security. Owing to jackal blood in them, they could work under very hot conditions up to +40 degrees and due to the reindeer herding blood, they could even withstand negative temperatures as low as -70 C. However, the half-bred jackal-dogs were difficult to train. So they were again bred back to Huskies and the resultant hybrids were smaller, agile but more easily trainable. These came to be known as Sulimov dogs. Today, only about 40 of these dogs exist and they are all property of Aeroflot Airline Security.