Russia is a land of snow-capped mountains and cities bursting with colour. But it’s not just the beauteous country which deserves a special mention, they’ve also had a hand in creating some of the best-loved dog breeds in the world today.
Russian dog breeds are typically large, working type dogs created to guard and hunt. However, the Russians also lay claim to a few adorable lapdogs, mainly bred to serve as companions to the aristocracy.
Keep reading to find out our top 8 Russian dog breeds, some of which may surprise you!
1. Siberian Husky
Kicking off our list with the most famous Russian dog breed, perhaps ever, is the Siberian Husky. The breed dates back at least 4,000 years to the Chukchi people and their sled dogs, but they reached acclaim much later in 1908, when they were imported to Alaska during the gold rush.
From here, the breed’s fame only grew and many will have heard tales of Balto and Togo, the Huskies who saved the Alaskan town of Nome from a deadly diphtheria outbreak in 1925 when over 20 teams of sled dogs transported the antitoxin across 674 miles of ice and snow in just 6 days. The reason why this mission was so successful was due to the Husky breed’s fearless bravery and sled-pulling roots. It may surprise you to learn that they’re still actually used to pull sleds in rural parts of Alaska and Greenland!
When they’re not working hard, they also make wonderful pets, provided you can offer them plenty of exercise and stimulation.
These happy dogs which always look like they’re smiling weren’t bred to be big cuddly bears. In fact, they were actually developed to herd reindeer, pull sleds and hunt, all in the harshest temperatures in rural Russia. With temperatures such as -50 degrees Celsius commonplace, the Samoyed’s big fluffy coat served to keep them warm and protect them against the brutal conditions.
Despite their hardy origins, they’re now very popular pets who love nothing more than cuddling with their owners. It’s worth remembering that this Russian dog is a working type though, so you’ll have to be prepared to offer them lots of exercise.
3. Black Russian Terrier
The name of this Russian dog breed is a little bit misleading as they’re not a terrier at all, they’re actually part of the working group and they’re rather large, standing up to as much as 30 inches tall. These powerful dogs were developed in an attempt to make a ‘super dog’ for the Army, one that was fast and powerful and with a thick enough coat to withstand the coldest Russian temperatures. In order to make this super dog, it’s reported that breeds such as Newfoundlands, Airedales, Rottweilers and Giant Schnauzers were used.
In today’s world, they’re more likely seen sprawled out on a sofa, but their guarding tendencies run deep, so it’s important to socialise them early on. Black Russian Terriers are incredibly intelligent and love having a job to do, which makes training them relatively easy! Just be sure to offer them plenty of entertainment.
Elegant and majestic are just two words most commonly used to define this Russian dog breed and it’s easy to see why. The Borzoi boasts long legs, a silky coat and a streamlined snout, almost appearing like a Greyhound in stature, so it should come as no surprise that they’re one of the fastest dog breeds in the entire world, with a top speed of 40mph. Their majesty saw them historically winning the hearts of the Russian aristocracy where they were used to hunt creatures such as wolves, foxes and were fast enough to take on a hare. Up until 1936, the breed was known as the Russian Wolfhound, then it was changed to Borzoi, which is an archaic Russian adjective which means ‘fast’!
Borzois are very good-natured and gentle and can bond closely with a single family member, making them not particularly well suited to big families. One thing that should be said about this Russian dog is that they love to run, but as they’re a sighthound, recall can’t always be relied upon so it’s best if you have a large, secure garden to allow them to run free.
5. Caucasian Shepherd
The Caucasian Shepherd is a Mastiff-type, hailing from the Caucasus Mountains. Huge in size, these Russian dogs date back at least 2,500 years and were created to work on farms, where they carried out numerous jobs, but their main role saw them protecting livestock from fearsome predators such as wolves.
This Russian dog breed does tend to pick a person who they’ll form a strong bond with and they won’t tolerate being separated from them for too long, so it’s important you consider this if you want a Caucasian Shepherd in your life. If you have the time and space for one, you’ll be met with a soft and kind companion that will be completely devoted to you throughout their life.
6. Karelian Bear Dog
Originally the companions and aids of Russian and Finnish peasants, the Karelian Bear Dog is a Russian dog breed which has roots in both hunting and guarding. This Spitz type was used to hunt large game and historically were seen with red, red and grey and black and white colourings, but today only black and white is favoured for breeding. It’s been said that all Karelian Bear Dogs alive today descended from only the toughest dogs which could survive fighting and incredibly harsh conditions.
The breed is still very common in Finland and Russia today, but not as popular elsewhere in the world. They have very sharp senses which sees them doing extremely well in obedience trials due to their high intelligence and their strength makes them great at sled dog trials too.
7. East European Shepherd
The East European Shepherd is often considered the Russian version of the German Shepherd and it’s plain to see the similarities between the two. Developed in 1930 for the Army, this Russian dog breed was created due to the need for a versatile dog that could cope with the often-freezing Russian climate.
Due to their roots, the East European Shepherd is extremely brave, making them great guard dogs even today. They will need a lot of exercise both physical and mental though, as they have high intelligence and bags of energy which will see them turn to destructive behaviours if not given a suitable outlet.
8. Russian Toy Terrier
This adorable little Russian dog dates back to the 18th century, where they were favoured as an ‘accessory’ among the upper classes. In fact, it’s been said that during this time it was considered very stylish to attend events such as the opera with a Russian Toy Terrier tucked under your arm.
The breed is now quite rare due to the Russian Revolution of 1917, which saw the breeding of companion dogs stopped. However, they do make perfect lap dogs and are always happiest when cuddled up to their people. They form very strong bonds with their family and they’ll usually be quite aloof with strangers, unless they come onto their property that is, as despite their small size, they make very good watch dogs!
That’s our top 8 Russian dog breeds! Why not continue your trip around the world of dogs and learn about our favourite 11 Chinese dog breeds?