South Russian Shepherd Dog (Ioujnorousskaïa Ovtcharka)

Country of origin:
Russia, Soviet Union
Height (cm):
Weight (kg):
Life span (years):
white, grey, ashen grey, white & yellow, deadgrass
Hair length:
Recognized by:
FCI code:
Good with kids:
The South Russian Shepherd Dog is a large dog with an equally big heart. It was created in southern Russia and was assigned to do its job of herding in most harsh climate. It will make an excellent companion dog that is going to shower with love every member of the family.


There are several hypotheses concerning the South Russian Ovtcharka’s origin. According to one theory the breed was derived from Aryan dog (Pra-slavics). Aryan settlements were situated in the southern Russia around 4 BC and they used their ancient bearded dogs as guardians and herders. Gradually the tribes of Aryans spread west and north and were given the name Slavic. Their dogs correspondingly became known as Russian Shepherd.

The other version suggests that European herding dog and the South Russian Shepherd Dog have common ancestry. The most probable forefather of the breed is believed to be the Austrian Shepherd, who has the resembling hair. There is a reference in Russian Imperial Law Books (XXVI volume, 1830) about unique breed that was brought from Spain with merino sheep. It served as a herder and guardian of the livestock and was highly treasured for its talents.

Later it became evident that the small Austrian Shepherd was not useful for Russian Steppes. The merino sheep have a tendency to keep together thus it eliminates the need to drive it which is the main responsibility of the small herding dog. Nevertheless, the strong necessity in protection against predators did exist. That’s why the Austrian Shepherd was interbred with «tatar» Shepherd (looks like Caucasian) and a Sighthound, the most frequently met breed in the Crimea region then. The resulting dog was bulky, aggressive and tough. Apart from its original purpose the breed had many fanciers among Russian aristocracy.

The debate about the origin of the South Russian Shepherd Dog seems to have no end but the one thing can be stated for sure: the breed has wolf as immediate ancestor. The skull of the dog is very similar in form and design to wolf’s and the minor varieties could be attributed to the domestication.

The South Russian Shepherd Dog survived the test of the time though it was on the brink of extinction in the wake of the cataclysms of the first half of the XX century. It was granted recognition of Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) but the dog remains rare outside of Ukraine and Russia. It is used as a livestock guardian, property protector as well as a companion animal.

The South Russian Shepherd Dog is a huge dog bred to guard the livestock in the severe Russian climate. The dog is an amazing problem solver that was obliged to manage the cattle on its own for days. Therefore it tends to be independent and wilful and requires strong and experienced master. This sturdy dog has balanced and vivid temperament and is highly committed to the job of protecting the members of the family and subordinated territory. This breed will be most appropriate in the rural surroundings in the house with spacious yard where it is going to have plentiful objects to guard.

The South Russian Ovtcharka does need a right socialisation with children and in this case it gets on with them very well. Although an extra caution is a must with the toddlers, since the dog is essentially too big for them.

The strangers may be perceived by the South Russian Shepherd Dog as intruders in its territory so the measure in a form of high fence should be done to avoid possible problems. As a rule this breed will be standoffish and reserved with unknown people but without unnecessary aggressiveness.

The strange dogs arouse in the South Russian Shepherd Dog a desire to dominate so some initial fights may erupt. If the canine animals have grown up together they are going to make up a pack and co-exist problem-free the entire life. The same goes also with other home pets. The dog’s protective instinct will apply to them as well so rabbits and cats can be pretty safe around it.

Health Problems
The most common problems for the breed include:

• canine hip dysplasia;
• elbow dysplasia;
• patellar luxation;
• cancer;
• eye problems;
• obesity;
• gastric torsion.

Being a herding dog, the South Russian Ovtcharka has massive and dense hair which require on-going attention. The coat should be thoroughly brushed on a daily bases to prevent matts and tangles. Professional grooming is mandatory in order to keep the dog’s coat in good condition. The dog sheds very heavily twice a year. During these periods it would be wise to get the coat trimmed shorter than usual.


The South Russian Shepherd Dog presents a substantial challenge to train. The dog has mulish and authoritative nature and prefers to be subordinated only to itself. It tends to get distracted and bored with repetitive tasks and demands high rate of dedication and patience from handler. To form a trusting relationship with the dog is of major importance in its training. The trainer should assert a position of confident and firm leader to get what he wants from this stubborn animal.

One of disadvantage of the breed is that it’s really hard to housebreak. The housebreaking and socialization should start for the dog as early as possible to be 100 per cent successful.

The South Russian Shepherd Dog is an athletic animal with high energy level. It needs a lot of opportunities for physical activity each and every day. For the dog of its size the spacious but safely enclosed area is required to run and play freely.

The future owner should think twice whether he would have enough time and commitment to exercise the dog properly. The South Russian Ovcharka which is bored due to lack of physical outlet can manifest different unwelcomed behaviour such as destructiveness, barking, chewing, and peeing at home.