Caucasian Ovcharka

Loyal, strong, and courageous, the Caucasian Ovcharka is a fierce family protector. They were bred to care for flocks and defend the home against wild predators in the rough Caucasus Mountain region. They’re also known as Caucasian Mountain Dogs, Russian Bear Dogs, Baskhan (Karachay) Pariy, Caucasian Shepard Dogs, or just CO, and there are many variants and types.

This massive breed is highly territorial and won’t back down from a fight, even against bears or wolves. Caucasian Shepherd Dogs are intelligent, but their stubborn, independent nature can make them difficult to train. Their natural distrust of strangers and other animals can also lead to aggressive tendencies if an experienced trainer doesn’t keep them in check.

This breed is not a good choice for novice owners, and though they are fairly low-energy dogs, the sheer size of Ovcharkas makes them poorly suited for apartment living and homes with small children. Still, with proper training and socialization, Ovcharkas can make strong watchdogs, family companions, and even therapy dogs.

While they may not appeal to first-time dog owners, Ovcharkas will reward experienced, patient, consistent trainers with gentle love and affection that will make them excellent lifelong family members.

The Caucasian Ovcharka is a loyal guardian to the core. These dogs were bred to help shepherds in the Caucasus Mountain region keep their flocks safe from predators like wolves and bears. They often use these instincts in modern times to act as watchdogs and protectors, though they are sometimes overly apprehensive around strangers and don’t take well to other animals entering their territory, including other dogs. Smart but headstrong, the massive Caucasian Ovcharka needs an experienced trainer that can handle an independent attitude with firm boundaries and patience. They are not high energy dogs, but their size demands space, making them ill-suited for apartment life. A yard with a solid, high fence is ideal. Although they aren’t known for barking more than most dogs, they will alert owners to any dangers, even in the middle of the night, and their bark is quite loud. Caucasian Shepherd Dogs can make excellent family companions and should be indoors with their humans as much as possible. They should not be chained up outside, as this is a recipe for creating an aggressive, dangerous dog. With proper training, they can make loving family pets and guardians, and some have even been trained as therapy dogs.

  • Highlights
    • The Caucasus Mountain region is vast, and shepherds in the area had different needs, resulting in several variants of the breed that were created to provide whatever shepherds required. However, the Caucasian Ovcharkas from Georgia are generally considered to be the breed standard by most kennel clubs.
    • Female Caucasian Ovcharkas only give birth once a year.
    • Caucasian Ovcharkas are fierce guardians of their territory, but they are also fairly low-energy dogs. Weight gain is a strong possibility and should be addressed with proper diet and exercise.
    • The communist USSR used this breed to guard prisoners and kept dogs in army kennels to create new breeds for military use.
    • East Germany used Caucasian Ovcharkas to patrol the border created by the Berlin Wall. When the wall came down, dogs were given to German families to live out the rest of their days.
    • The Caucasian Ovcharka is one of the most ancient Molosser breeds. Some archaeological findings trace them back to Mesopotamia.
    • Ovcharkas’ coats come in three lengths and a huge variety of colors. They shed quite a bit, but their thick coats keep them warm even in extremely cold weather.
    • While they are naturally standoffish to strangers and don’t take well to other animals, Caucasian Ovcharkas can be very gentle and loving, and some have even become therapy dogs with proper training.


The Caucasian Ovcharka is one of the oldest, most ancient Molasser breeds, and the origin of these gigantic, protective dogs is a bit of a mystery. They hail from the Caucasus Mountain region and have been around for more than 2,000 years. Some believe they came from wolves that were domesticated, while others believe their ancestry includes Mastiffs and other breeds. Many experts claim that the Caucasian Ovcharka is descended from sheepdogs that migrated from Tibet, but some modern archaeological evidence suggests the breed dates back to Mesopotamia. Wherever they originally came from, Caucasian Ovcharkas made invaluable companions to the shepherds of the Caucasus region for centuries. They fiercely guarded flocks of sheep and their owners from dangerous wildlife such as wolves, jackals, and bears. They needed to be fearless, strong, and intimidating while being resilient to cold weather and harsh conditions. Shepherds bred the qualities they needed into their dogs, and because the Caucasus Mountain region is so vast, many different variants of the breed emerged, though the Caucasian Ovcharkas that developed in Georgia came to be the breed standard that is recognized by most kennel clubs today. Sometime in the 1900s, the communist USSR started using Caucasian Ovcharkas as prisoner guard dogs and used them to develop other breeds in army kennels. In the 1960s, East Germany put the breed to work as border patrol dogs along the Berlin Wall. When the wall came down in 1989, some 7,000 patrol dogs were dispersed, and many were given to families in Germany to live out the rest of their days. Today, Caucasian Ovcharkas are mostly family companions, watchdogs, and property guardians, though they are still used by shepherds to tend to flocks. They have retained many of their cautious, standoffish, and sometimes aggressive traits, so they need early socialization and firm training to avoid incidents. It is likely that breeders will try to weed out some of the less desirable tendencies from the breed as it becomes more popular.


Caucasian Ovcharkas are massive. Males tend to be a bit larger than females and weigh in at 110 to 220 pounds, while females average around 100 to 180 pounds. Some dogs may weigh more or less, and this can depend on where they come from or what type they are. Mountain dogs are more muscular, while plain dogs are a bit leaner. Males are about 27 to 30 inches in height at the shoulder, and females are between 25 and 28 inches. Caucasian Ovcharkas are considered to be a giant breed.


The Caucasian Ovcharka is not for novice dog owners. While they are capable of being loving, loyal family dogs and fierce protectors, they are also naturally distrustful of strangers and do not take well to dogs or other animals that they aren’t familiar with. In general, they are low energy and laid back, but they are also highly territorial and never back down from a fight, even if that means taking on a bear or a wolf. Although Caucasian Ovcharkas are intelligent, they can also be quite stubborn, which may make training difficult. They need firm boundaries, patience, and consistency. This training should begin as early in life as possible, and socialization is practically a must. Proper socialization training has to be done to overcome the breed’s apprehension around new people and animals, which can result in aggression. However, with humans they are familiar with, the Caucasian Ovcharka is quite loving and loyal and will make for a lifelong guardian and protector.


The Caucasian Ovcharka is mostly considered to be a healthy breed, but like many giant breeds, they can be prone to hip dysplasia. They may also develop cataracts. One of the most common problems they face is obesity. Caucasian Shepherd Dogs should be fed an appropriate diet for a giant breed, but they do not have overly high energy levels, and that should be taken into consideration. They will need to be exercised, and their weight should be monitored by veterinarians. To prevent obesity in your Caucasian Ovcharka, talk to your veterinarian or nutritionist about formulating an appropriate diet and creating an exercise regimen. Your vet may recommend feeding them smaller, more frequent meals during the day rather than large ones to avoid bloat.


The main form of care that Caucasian Ovcharkas need is weight control through appropriate diet and exercise. You should discuss these with your veterinarian or nutritionist. Beyond that, Caucasian Ovcharkas should have their teeth brushed two to three times a week and cleaned professionally as recommended by your vet. Ears should be checked for signs of debris or wax build up at least once a week and cleaned as needed. Failure to do so may result in ear infections. Nails should be clipped as needed to prevent breaking and injury. You may also need to keep an eye out for drool and wipe it away when necessary to avoid getting your home covered in slobber.


Caucasian Ovcharkas should be fed a diet formulated for a giant breed with fairly low energy levels. You should ask your veterinarian or a professional nutritionist to help you find the right kind of food and portion size for your individual dog. The appropriate diet will change from puppyhood to adulthood and may be altered depending on medical needs. There is some risk that Caucasian Ovcharkas will overeat and gain weight, so make sure you are sticking to the appropriate recommended meal plan. Smaller, more frequent meals may be recommended to prevent dogs from developing bloat, a life-threatening condition.

Coat Color And Grooming

There are three coat lengths seen in Caucasian Ovcharkas–long, medium, and short. The longer the hair, the more pronounced the mane is around their necks and the feathering is around their hind legs and tails. All three lengths of coat are quite thick. They are double-coated, with the undercoat being fine and soft, while the outer coat is coarse and longer. The Caucasian Ovcharka can be gray, fawn, red, cream, tan, and even solid white. Coats may also be brindle or have large patches of two or more colors. They often have white markings on the body and a dark “mask” around the face. The thick coat should be brushed at least twice a week to remove loose or dead hairs and prevent matting. Caucasian Ovcharkas go through a heavy shed once a year. Bathing and extra brushing can help move this shedding along more quickly. Bathing can be a chore with a dog this size, so it may be wise to just bath them as needed or rely on a professional groomer.

Children And Other Pets

Caucasian Ovcharkas can be loving family pets that are very loyal, even toward children, but it is very important to begin their socialization training early. It is in their nature to be cautious around strangers, even to the point of aggression at times, and they do not take well to other dogs unless they have been properly socialized. Visiting children will need a calm, proper introduction with known humans present, and Caucasian Shepherds tend to be territorial and aggressive to other dogs unless they have been raised with them. Their natural herding instincts can take over, causing them to be pushy toward children, and they may see rough play from new kids as an attack on their human family member and respond accordingly. Remember, the Caucasian Ovcharka was bred to be intimidating and will not hesitate to spring into action to defend their home and family from perceived threats. As with any dog, children should be supervised during play and trained on how to handle animals to avoid incident. Even with a well-trained Caucasian Shepherd, their sheer size may be an issue, and it is important to watch them so play doesn’t get out of hand and result in injury. Caucasian Ovcharkas may be best suited to homes with older children and no other pets.