When we think of Russia we may think of vast tundra, vodka, or ballet. But did you know there are also some popular Russian dog breeds? These pooches are as tough as they are beautiful.
Read on for the top 12 popular Russian dog breeds.
Russia's Top Dog Breeds
1. Siberian Samoyed
The Siberian Samoyed (aka the Smiling Sammy) was bred thousands of years ago in the Taimyr Peninsula of Russia to be a working dog for the Nenetsky people (known then as the Samoyede). These dogs were an “all-purpose pooch” used for herding reindeer, hunting, pulling sleds, and protecting their humans against predators. The Siberian Samoyed also enjoyed playing with the children, which they still do today.
- Weight: 35 to 65 pounds
- Height at Shoulder: 19 to 23.5 inches
- Temperament: Happy, good-natured, gentle, intelligent, friendly, and loyal.
- Lifespan: 12 to 14 years
Fun Fact: This breed was born to run, so a strong fence and long leash are highly recommended.
2. Siberian Husky
Another working breed from Russia dates back 4,000 years to the Chukchi people (a tribe of Siberian nomads). Although the Siberian’s history is not well known, DNA testing confirms it is one of the oldest canine breeds. The Chukchi people used this dog for pulling and hauling sleds, for transportation across the frozen tundra, and as a heat source for sleeping children.
Today, this breed is known for being escape artists, so a well-built fenced-in yard is a must-have for the Siberian pet parent.
- Weight: 35 to 60 pounds
- Height at Shoulder: 20 to 23.5 inches
- Temperament: Intelligent, independent, affectionate, and loyal
- Lifespan: 12 to 14 years
Fun Fact: It wasn’t uncommon for a well-trained Siberian Husky to be left in charge of the Chukchi children as the adults went off to hunt and gather.
3. Russian Borzoi
The Borzoi can trace its roots back to 1650 when the first breed standard was written in Russia. This tall lean hunting-machine was used by Russian nobles as a part of a pack of hounds to trail and flush game, like wolves. These “sighthounds” were prized, not only for their ability in the fields, but for their sweet dispositions, gentle nature, and sensible intelligence.
If you want to pet parent a Borzoi today, be prepared for a dog that doesn’t like to be left alone for long periods, and can be a bit on the stubborn side.
- Weight: 60 to 105 pounds
- Height at Shoulder: 26 to 28 inches
- Temperament: Athletic, graceful, sweet, calm, and family-orientated.
- Lifespan: 9 to 14 years
Fun Fact: “Borzoi” means “fast” in English.
4. Russian Black Terrier
This breed came to be during the Cold War by a kennel (Red Star) that was fully funded by the Russian government to produce a canine that could withstand the Russian winters. The Russian Black Terrier was not invented or was it intended to be a new breed, but rather a dog that could be useful in patrolling the borders alongside the military personal.
- Weight: 80 to 150 pounds
- Height at Shoulder: 25 to 28 inches
- Temperament: Confident, courageous, calm, loyal, and aloof with strangers.
- Lifespan: 10 to 11 years
Fun Fact: Today, the Russian Black Terrier makes a great guard dog and could be formidable without their “famous” emotional stability.
5. Caucasian Shepherd
Although the history of this breed is still a bit of a mystery, we do know that it is one of the oldest dog breeds that has been around for more than 2,000 years. The Caucasian Shepherd hails from the mountain region of the same name. This breed was used to guard flocks of sheep and did so with a strong and fearless personality and resilience to the cold harsh climate and terrain.
Today, the Caucasian Shepherd is still a fierce protector and will not back down from a fight. Therefore, it is not recommended for novice owners.
- Weight: At least 110 pounds
- Height at Shoulder: Up to 30 inches
- Temperament: Protective, loyal, devoted, intelligent, stubborn, loving.
- Lifespan: Up to 12 years
Fun Fact: This breed tends to bond with only one family member and will not tolerate being separated from that individual.
6. Central Asian Shepherd
This breed can trace its roots back to over 5,000 years ago to its native lands. It is a fiercely protective dog that seeks out humans to bond with and to protect. The Central Asian Shepherd is very territorial and will therefore guard and defend whatever (animal, human, or object) that is in its area.
The former USSR is credited with making the Central Asian Shepherd what it is today and standardizing its traits starting in the 1920s.
- Weight: 88 to 110 pounds
- Height at Shoulder: 25.5 to 27.5 inches
- Temperament: Independent, confident, courageous, quiet, and calm.
- Lifespan: 12 to 15 years
Fun Fact: This breed is known for being fearless against large predators.
7. Karelian Bear Dog
This Spitz-type dog breed can trace its lineage as far back as 2,000 years. They were used to hunt mostly small game; however, two Karelian Bear Dogs could easily tree a bear, barking until its owner arrived to take the large prey down. Today, this breed is still used to hunt large animals like elk and can trace its lineage back to 40 dogs that were saved after World War II.
The Karelian Bear Dog is not recommended for first-time owners as it will need a dedicated and confident trainer that uses positive reinforcement methods.
- Weight: 44 to 49 pounds
- Height at Shoulder: 19 to 23.5 inches
- Temperament: Intelligent, courageous, intense, energetic, and natural hunters.
- Lifespan: 11 to 13 years
Fun Fact: This dog is not suitable for families with small children or other pets due to its naturally aggressive nature.
8. Eastern European Shepherd
This dog was created in Russia in 1930 to be used as a working dog for the army. The Eastern European Shepherd was mixed with the German Shepherd and local breeds to create this resilient, hardworking canine. Although it is not recognized by the AKC as an official breed, in 1964, it was approved by the Cynologic Council of the Ministry of Agriculture of the USSR.
This breed's natural wariness of strangers makes it an excellent guard dog. However, what makes this canine good at its guarding duty, also makes it a dog that needs early socialization and training to become a good family pet.
- Weight: 75 to 105 pounds
- Height at Shoulder: 24 to 28 inches
- Temperament: Loyal, devoted, confident, and intense.
- Lifespan: 10 to 14 years
Fun Fact: The Eastern European Shepherd tends to bond closely with only one family member,
9. Russian Toy Terrier
Not all the breeds from Russia were created for hard outdoor work, the Russian Toy Terrier is one of them. This little cutie was bred to be a companion to Russian nobility, as well as a ratter, and a watchdog. The Russian Toy Terrier is not an official AKC breed, but it has gained notoriety in the UK Kennel Club in 2017.
This breed comes in two coat varieties; long and smooth. It is one of the smallest breeds in the world and enjoys life as a sweet, loving companion to all.
- Weight: Up to 6.5 pounds
- Height at Shoulder: 8 to 11 inches
- Temperament: Intelligent, loyal, loving, cuddly, and eager to please.
- Lifespan: 12 to 14 years
Fun Fact: This breed is also called the Russkiy Toy, the Russian Terrier, the Moscow Toy Terrier, and the Moscovian Miniature Terrier
10. Russian Tsvetnaya Bolonka
Another small Russian breed to win the hearts of all those who see it is the Russian Tsvetnaya Bolonka (or Bolonka for short). This breed is a member of the Bichon family and almost went extinct after the Cold War. Before that, it can trace its lineage as far back as the 18th century when King Henry IV gifted a small Maltese-type canine to Russian nobility.
This spirited little companion dog made a comeback in the 1960s and has been gaining popularity ever since. It is considered hypoallergenic, with curly thick fur and has a personality that is playful, charming, and devoted.
- Weight: 4.5 to 11 pounds
- Height at Shoulder: 9 to 10 inches
- Temperament: Good-natured, loving, cuddly, and good with children.
- Lifespan: 12 to 16years
Fun Fact: If you have more than one Bolonka they would be called "Bolonki."
11. Russian Spaniel
This dog was bred for hunting (more specifically, a "gun dog"). Its lineage started when a Cocker Spaniel named Dash was brought to Russia in the early 19th century. As time went on, more Spaniels were introduced to the region, and selective breeding began for the traits useful for a hunting dog.
Today, the Russian Spaniel is the embodiment of a true hunter capable of flushing and retrieving prey from marshlands, forests, and grasslands alike.
- Weight: 20 to 35 pounds
- Height at Shoulder: 15.5 to 17.5 inches
- Temperament: Devoted, loyal, intelligent, active, and good-natured.
- Lifespan: Up to 14 years
Fun Fact: This breed is easy to train and loves children.
12. Yakutian Laika
This dog was developed in ancient times as a working breed for the Yakutian Laikas people. They were used for hunting, herding, and pulling sleds - the Laika may have been the first sledding dog ever!
Not only is this breed hard-working, but it is devoted, and a loving companion for the whole family. Plus, it won’t shy away from agility training or pulling your kids around on a sled.
- Weight: 40 to 55 pounds
- Height at Shoulder: 21 to 23 inches
- Temperament: Happy, eager to please, energetic, and devoted.
- Lifespan: 10 to 12 years
Fun Fact: This dog needs to be a part of the family unit and does not do well left alone.
If you are looking for a dog that hails from the region of Russia, then one of these canines may be the right pet for you. As with any animal, before you bring it home, do your research to ensure you are ready for all the breed entails.