The Russian German Shepherd or East European Shepherd is a beautiful and majestic dog. It has an imposing demeanor and will definitely make you look twice. This large specimen has a dense thick double coat of fur that is built for the cold European winters. Mostly similar to the traditional GSD, the Russian version does have a few differences. Here are some cool and interesting facts about the breed.
1. It Goes By Several Different Names
The Russian German Shepherd goes by several different names. In the United States it is known as the East European Shepherd. This is because of its origin in Russia or Ukraine.
The Russian Kynological Federation, or RKF, calls it the Vostochno Evropeiskaya Ovcharka, or VEO for short. In Russian it is Восточно-европейская овчарка or ВЕО for short.
Other names include the Byelorussian Shepherd, Belarusian Shepherd, Byelorussian Ovtcharka, Belarusian Ovtcharka and East European
Fun Fact: Originally it was called the Belarusian Shepherd because of its popularity in Belarus and also because they wanted to distance themselves from anything German due to the war.
Eventually after the spread of the breed all over the Soviet Union, the name was changed to Vostochno Evropeiskaya Ovcharka or East European Shepherd.
2. It Is Bigger And Heavier Built Than A Traditional German Shepherd
The East European Shepherd is much bigger than the traditional GSD. It has a heavier build with a big powerful head, muscular frame, oval shaped eyes and those long fluffy ears that stand straight up. They have bigger paws and long toes adding to their overall physical appearance.
Compared to the traditional GSD, males can stand up to 3 inches taller, averaging 26-28 inches at the withers but getting up to 29 inches in some cases. Males can weigh up to 15 pounds heavier averaging between 85 and 105 pounds.
Females can stand up to 2 inches taller, averaging anywhere between 24-26 inches at the withers. Female East European Shepherds can weigh significantly more sometimes dwarfing the traditional GSD by 25 pounds. They average somewhere between 75 and 95 pounds.
3. The Russian German Shepherd Was Built For Cold Weather
Russian soldiers during World War II were impressed by the German Shepherd and wanted to incorporate the breed into their own military. Unfortunately, GSDs weren’t capable of withstanding the extreme cold temperatures of regions such as Kamchatka, Mongolia and Siberia.
Some German Shepherds even froze to death during the war. But the Soviet military was determined to use the breed and began to develop a new breed using war trophies they confiscated from the Germans during the war.
They bred the GSDs with Central Asian Ovtcharkas to add muscle, power and a thicker coat for colder temps. To increase their resistance to extreme temperatures they also bred them with Yakutian Laika. They are an ancient breed known for withstanding the cold region of Yakutia in Russia.
Laika are also silent hunters, a trait admired by the soviets who had a disposition for stealthy guard dogs.
Fun Fact: The first animal ever launched into space was Laika, a mixed breed stray, who was sent into orbit aboard the Sputnik 2 by the Soviet Union on November 3rd, 1957.
Some random sources say that Doberman Pinschers may have also played a small role in the breed’s development but this is considered unlikely due to their short coats.
In the end, the Soviet military had created an excellent specimen of a dog. It was very fast, had excellent stamina and was good at jumping. It was also resistant to the cold temperatures and could make a great companion dog if properly socialized.
4. Its Popularity Fell With The Soviet Union
During the Soviet Union, the breed was one of the most utilized working dogs in the socialist state. And while it was used in other Communist countries, it didn’t have the same notoriety that it had in its home country.
The breed’s popularity continued to increase into the late 80’s but that all changed with the fall of Communism in 1989. Along with the fall of the Berlin Wall came liberated borders. This allowed many other dog breeds to enter the Soviet Union.
Many of those breeds, including the GSD, were considered better working dogs than the East European Shepherd. The breed began to be crossed with other dogs and in the early 2000’s, many aficionados believed that the breed was losing its purity.
5. The Breed Is The Most At-Risk Out Of All The Russian Sheepdogs
While the breed isn’t currently in danger of extinction, their numbers continue to decrease each year. Although it is still utilized by the Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian military along with many Central Asian republics, it is not as widely used as it once was.
This is mainly due to the fact that it has yet to be well-established in other parts of the world. And while other breeds like the East Siberian Laika and Central Asian Ovtcharka have gained some notoriety outside of their native land, the Russian German Shepherd has not been so lucky.
One of the greatest reasons the breed is threatened is the neutrality of enthusiasts. Very little is being done to preserve the beautiful breed in its pure form.
6. The Russian German Shepherd Is Mainly Black In Color
Their range of colors is a little more limited than the GSD and black is their primary color. They are bred this way. Pure black is rare and most of them are primarily black sporting light tan markings on their back, belly, face, legs, neck, sides and tail. All of the other colors are accepted but also frowned upon.
Color Combinations Include:
- Agouti (Gray and Red)
- Black and Tan
- Blue (Solid)
- Blue and Tan
- White (Solid)
As we mentioned earlier in the article, their coats are a lot denser and thicker making them capable of withstanding temperatures the traditional GSD cannot.
7. They Are A One-Person Dog And Don’t Make Good Family Pets
If you’re looking for a family pet steer away from the Russian German Shepherd. Although fiercely devoted and loyal to their owners, they aren’t good family pets and don’t usually connect with children and may not tolerate them well.
Socialization can help but it is very hard to teach them how to play with kids, or adults for that matter, in a gentle loving way. Most enthusiasts don’t recommend them for families for this reason. The worst-case scenario being the dog will feel threatened during rough play and respond with an aggressive nature.
However, they are amazing for a single owner and form an extremely close bond with that specific person. In fact, they are so loyal that it can be very hard to find them a new home because of their connection to their original owner.
Another issue with owning one as a family pet is the fact that they won’t take commands from anyone except the one-person in charge. They will ignore commands from other family members which could be detrimental in dangerous situations when the dog is needed to protect.
The Russian German Shepherd is a big, loving, loyal, one-person working dog that is built for the cold weather. It forms a super strong bond with its owner that can be unbreakable. This astonishing animal is breathtaking to look at if you ever get the chance to see one but they are rare because of their regional attributes.
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