Spartan Dogs - South Russian Ovcharka or South Russian Sheepdog 

Category: Dogs, Mountain dogs, Ukraine, Russia, Europe, Family Dog, Protect Dog, Herding Dog

South Russian Ovcharka / South Russian Sheepdog
Names South Russian Ovcharka, South Russian Sheepdog, South Russian Shepherd Dog, Ukrainian Ovcharka, Youzhnorusskya Ovcharka, Youzhak, Ioujnorousskaïa Ovtcharka, Ioujnorousskaïa Ovtcharka, Yuzhak, South Ukrainian Ovcharka, Youzhnorusskaya Ovcharka
Origins Ukraine, Russia
Tasks Family Dog, Protect Dog, Herding Dog
Height 63-66 cm / 61-64 cm
Weight 55-70.5 kg / 50-65 kg
Lifespan 9-11 years
Group Mountain dogs

The South Russian Ovcharka or South Russian Sheepdog is a large sized, heavy and wooly dog that was developed in Ukraine and Russia. The South Russian Ovcharka is an ancient breed in the past was used for protecting large flocks of sheep from predators and robbers. The South Russian Ovcharka of today is more of a family dog, but is occasionally still used as a protector of herds.

South Russian Ovcharka History

The history of the South Russian Ovcharka started with a need for big herd protecting dogs that could stand the climates. Starting in the year 1797, flocks of sheep were sold from Spain to Russia, driving these sheep to the steppe over land, all the way on foot. These flocks could be up to 2500 or 8000 sheep and transports like these could take two years and were accompanied by shaggy haired sheepdogs. Once the sheep arrived in Russia most of them were brought to Askania Nova, a large area in the Crimea. Because of the dangers of steppe wolves and other predators as well as the severe Russian climate, the once smaller sheepdogs were crossed with local dogs such as the Tartar Caucasian Ovcharka, the Crimean Greyhound and the Hungarian Komondor. Because there was a strong need for larger dogs which were suitable to guard and protect the herds even from serious threats such as the Crimea Tartar thieves and poachers who were often mounted when raiding. The ability to drive sheep wasn't the top priority anymore.

This crossing resulted in a large, rapid and agile dog that excelled in two different jobs: it could both help the shepherds to herd the flocks, and on the other side guard the livestock, property and game against the predators, thieves and poachers, even from the horsemen.

Askania Nova was the largest and most well known "sheep colony" in Russia. For a long time the breeding of the South Russian Ovcharka was largely in the hands of the Falz-Fein family that owned Askania Nova. By 1850 the SRO was already settled and widespread. Records show about 2000 Ovcharkas, permanently working, because they had 4 or 5 dogs for every 1000 sheep.

In the 1870's the SRO reached its greatest numbers, after which a decline set in, due to steppe reclamation for agriculture, growing grains etc. Then with a rather fast decline in the number of wolves, the need for dogs also reduced. When the Russian Revolution took place, Askania Nova was almost completely plundered and destroyed. Most of the dogs were killed or stolen, and many were shot because they did not accept new masters. Thanks to the interest of biologist Prof. A. Brauner in these dogs, the SRO still exists. When he came to Askania Nova in 1923 he only found a few young Ovcharkas. With the help of military kennels, shepherds and other enthusiasts he collected them. In 1928, after the foundation of a state breeding center in Dzhankoi (Crimea), a successful resurrection of the breed took place. The number of dogs increased and they even found their way to other cities like Moscow. In 1930 there were some official Russian entries at a German dog show and in 1939 there was a special breed exhibition in Simferopol.

When WW II started, the main kennels including the one in Dzhankoi were fully destroyed. Only some SROs were left in state kennels, in the Crimea and in Moscow. In Leningrad only 5 SROs remained. To maintain some semblance of breed and bloodline, these pure-breds were crossed with dogs of SRO-type but unknown heritage. In 1947 the Komondor was used to acquire fresh blood. In the 70's another Komondor cross was made.

SRO numbers have once again decreased drastically in the last decades due to the bad economic situation in Russia and also by fashion. Lots of dogs died because of a lack of medication and food. Lots of people can't afford a Southrussian; people who can want to have a fashionable breed of non-Russian origin. Recently some new clubs in and around Moscow are trying to popularize the SRO in Russia. In 1994, 100 "Youzhaks" were entered in one Moscow dogshow.

South Russian Ovcharka Appearance

Body: the South Russian Ovcharka is a powerfully built, muscular dog with intermediately heavy bones. The chest is deep and moderately wide and the belly is slightly tucked up. The back is strong and straight, with short, broad and rounded loins. The legs are straight, intermediate bones and well angulated. The feet are oval in shape. The tail reaches to the hocks and is carried in an arc below the dog's topline. The relatively high set neck has no dewlaps.

Head: the South Russian Ovcharka has an elongated head with a wide forehead and a clear occiput and cheekbones. The stop is barely noticeable. The triangular ears are quite small and are carried hanging. The eyes are oval shaped and are slightly slanted. The nose is large. The South Russian has a scissors bite.

Height at Withers: the dogs have on average a shoulderheight of 63 up to 66 (24.8 to 26 inches) centimetres and bitches on average measure 61 up to 64 centimetres (24 to 25.2 inches). There is no maximum height.

Weight: for dogs it's between 55 to 70.5 kg (121 and 155 lbs) and bitches are between 50 to 65 kg (110 to 143 lbs). Much heavier dogs do exist, but as a rule this comes at a cost affecting the dogs health.

Coat: the South Russian Shepherd Dog has a weatherproof coat, that is long (10 to 20 centimeters), coarse and tousled with a dense undercoat

Colors: white or gray in various shades of cream or white with gray plates. The eyes should be dark in color and the nose is preferably black.

South Russian Ovcharka Temperament

Character: South Russian Ovcharka's are full of character, sober and dominant dogs. They are straightforward, hard on themself and very watchful and courageous. They are also very intelligent and independent. They do not need their owner to tell them what they should do, they assess a situation and act on what they think is right. Although they usually look very quiet and self-controlled and really are so, a rapid response may follow when needed. They have a balanced nature and do not easily make a fuss. They are no barkers. These dogs really like to be outside, weather and wind do little to them. They are very territorial natured and loyal to their boss. The average South Russian will have a hard time adjusting to a new boss and ditto environment.

Social Build: by nature, this dog does great with children. When he grew up surrounded by dogs and other pets or livestock, these animals are classified as one of theirs and the South-Russian will protect them. When a South Russian Ovcharka is well socialized, dealing with cats should present no problems. They take a cautious approach with visitors and give unwanted visitors no chance of entering your site. Acquaintances of the family that are regularly seen by the dog can come and go, are classified as their own.

South Russian Ovcharka Socially

Care: this breed does not need much coat care. Although dirt and sand can be left behind in the coat this can easily be removed with a brush. A thorough weekly brushing usually keeps the coat in good condition. The beard should be regularly brushed and washed if necessary. The hair around and between the pads should be regularly checked for contaminants.

Education: fpr a balanced, calm boss who is naturally predominant, this still very original dog is not so difficult to raise. The education must be based on mutual respect, where the dog should always be treated consistent and fairly. South Russians are no beginner dogs or even for inconsistent people, this is evidenced by the fact that dominant behavior will certainly emerge when they experience insufficient leadership. They never blindly follow a command, but seem to think first whether that command is useful. In order to prevent that the dog becomes all too timid and mistrustful, it is very important that they are well socialized with both humans and animals. You do not need to worry that the dog will lose his vigilance, this he posseses naturally in high degrees.

Activity: South Russian Ovcharka's do not have an exaggerated need for excersize, but they do need space. They can provide their own movement needs if they have access to a spacious and well-fenced garden. These dogs are not suited to be held in a crowded area or in a flat. They want to be outside way too much and have too much of a territorial mindset for such a location.

Usability: the South Russian Ovcharka is ideally suited as a guard dog and family dog for people who not live in a crowded area so that the dog is offered enough (enclosed) outdoor space. He takes his job to ensure security of your family, house and home by nature, without being explicitly present. Due to its independent nature it is not suitable for all kinds of dog breed sports.

South Russian Ovcharka Quotes / Trivia

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[ 2018-09-13 ] :: Carole
Hi--I\'m seeking permission to use your photo of the SRO in the fog with sheep in my new book, The History of the Working Collies. My Introduction and chapter on the Romans, include info on LGDs. Please let me know if you don\'t own this photo and if you know who does. Thank you!

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