The Central Asian Shepherd (CAS) or the Central Asian Ovtcharka is a very large ancient breed of dog bred through natural selection more than four millennia ago in the vast region of Central Asia. This giant canine is almost three-quarters the size of an adult lion and is known for its power and stamina in bringing down predators. It has a massive bone structure and powerful muscles, with a body that is slightly longer than tall. It features a massive head with a slight stop, flat forehead, deep and blunt muzzle that tapers very little to the large black nose. It has dark oval eyes with fully pigmented eyelids. Its upper lips hang over the wide lower jaw giving the breed its serious and intimidating look. The ears are traditionally cropped close to the head but naturally small, triangular, pendant and set low to the head reaching below the eye level. The highly set tail hangs down to the hock in a sickle shape but is traditionally docked. The head is supported by a short but muscular neck. All four legs are well-boned and muscular and are cushioned by large feet with very thick pads. A male Central Asian Shepherd is more massive and powerful looking than a female, which is smaller and lighter in build. A typical male weighs 50 kilos and more while a female weighs 40 kilos. The typical height of a male Central Asian Shepherd is 70 cm while a female stands at 65 cm. Coat colours come in white, black, grey, russet, straw, gray/brown, brindle and flecked.
The Central Asian Shepherd is an ancient breed that is very diverse in size, conformation, coat type, colour, temperament and a number of other characteristics, mainly because the region it originated from is a vast landscape of geographic diversity. For many thousands of years, large, heavily-built dogs called Alabai in Turkish, with cropped ears and docked tails, have been used by nomadic Central Asian tribes to protect livestock from wild predators such as wolves and mountain lions and even thieves. This breed naturally evolved through the passing of time, and develop traits according to the region it was found. Those found in the hot and dry countries of Central Asia developed shorter hair than those found in the bitterly cold and windy countries of the region, although the longer rougher coat variety is becoming rare nowadays. Only the toughest pups survived and only those with the strongest guarding instincts were selected to guard the livestock. Today, working Central Asian Shepherd dogs are still a common sight in many Central Asian countries and it is common to see puppies from the same litter with different abilities and inherited temperament. Many are used as livestock guardians, some serve as household guard dogs and some are used for dog fighting. It is one of the most popular dog breeds in Russia, making it to the number one spot in 2000.
This massive breed is naturally calm and gentle, but it is a fearless guardian of flock and properties. As a natural guard dog, it is an independent thinker and will stop at nothing to do what it was born to do – guard and protect. It does bark a lot, which may present a problem if the dog lives in a suburban household. It is an affectionate breed that thrives on human interaction and companionship. The Central Asian Shepherd is not a pet for a first-time dog owner not only because of its huge built but it also needs an owner who understands a shepherd- or guardian-type dog and the temperament that goes along with it. This breed is inquisitive when outside the house and can actually stand six feet on its hind legs just to check out what is on the other side of the fence.
As the owner, establishing a strong pack leader status is the first and foremost training that the Central Asian Shepherd dog should know and learn. This large thinking dog should learn that its owner is the master and not the dog. It has a tendency to act independently and will only do what it was commanded if it deemed necessary or justifiable, so obedience training from an early start is highly needed. Outside the house, it may try to dominate other dogs so early socialisation to as many experiences as possible is also a must.
Although this dog is a massive breed, short-haired CASDs actually requires very little grooming for its well-developed coat. The long-haired CASDs need weekly brushing which will help remove dead undercoat that does not always fall by itself. However, daily brushing (including a vacuum) is a must during heavy seasonal shedding twice a year.
The Central Asian Shepherd dog is one of the healthiest breeds of dogs and can live up to 17 years. It has the least inherited genetic diseases than most of the modern purebreds we have today but like other large dogs, it is prone to hip and elbow dysplasia so it is always recommended to have the dog screened for hip and/or elbow problems.
This breed was born to move around in its native land following its nomadic masters. This type of slow but steady phase of exercise is what best suits the Central Asian Shepherd. It is a highly adaptable breed that will do quite well from just patrolling the household yard to going out for a walk or jog with its owner around the block or even going on a hiking trip for miles and miles.
This enormous guardian of the flock is a good family dog and an excellent guardian of children. It is a calm and gentle breed that is excellent with all the members of the family and has a high tolerance for kids. However, both the dog and the children must be adult-supervised when they are around each other as the sheer size of the dog can easily knock a small child down. It will get along well with household pets including cats. Outside of the house, it may try to dominate other dogs, especially those of the same sex, but early socialisation and consistent training during puppyhood will help curtail this demeanour