Large Breed Russian Dogs

Many of the world’s most powerful and hardy dog breeds originated in Russia and the former Soviet Union. This was not so much by desire as by necessity. This area contains some of the harshest weather conditions in the world, which required breeds able to withstand and even thrive in these cold environments.

While some of these breeds have spread throughout the world and have temperaments that have mellowed over the years, they still retain their proud heritage.


Borzois were originally bred in Russia as hunting dogs, during the hundreds of years of Romanov rule.

The Borzoi is a dog that’s shaped like a Greyhound, but with a beautiful silky coat. Males can reach up to 105 pounds and females can reach up to 85 pounds. For a big dog, the Borzoi has a fairly long life expectancy and can live up to 14 years.

This breed has a calm and agreeable temperament, but can be stubborn. If you own a Borzoi you must be calm and consistent with the training schedule.

Borzoi make wonderful family dogs, but don’t like to roughhouse and have a strong prey instinct and need to run. A fenced-in yard is extremely important for this dog.

Karelian Bear Dog

Karelian Bear Dogs are actually of Finnish origin and were found throughout northwestern Europe. They were primarily used by Russian and Finnish peasants for hunting and as watchdogs. Today, they are one of the 10 most common breeds found in Finland.

The Karelian bear dog can get to be 23.5 inches at the shoulder and weigh up to 49 pounds.

These dogs aren’t named for their looks, they are named for their ability to hunt big game such as bears. This breed is known for being aggressive toward other dogs and can turn aggressive easily.

However, they are extremely good at what they are bred for. The Karelian Bear Dog has an extremely good sense of smell and will stop or tree large game and then alert their human companion by barking.

This is an extremely independent animal that is courageous, has a great sense of direction, and is persistent.

Central Asia Shepherd Dog

Central Asia Shepherd Dogs are one of the oldest breeds of dogs in existence. They can be traced back over 5,000 years. While they may not have originated in what we know as Russia today, experts credit the former USSR with standardizing the breed back in the 1920s.

The Central Asia Shepherd Dog can get to be 27.5 inches at the shoulder and can weigh up to 110 pounds.

This is a true working breed and is not suitable for first-time dog owners or dog owners who have limited space and time to spend with their animals.

The Central Asia Shepherd Dog is independent, quiet, and proud. They have a strong need to work and they are fearless toward large predators. Like most working dogs this breed can become destructive if they don’t have a job to do.

They have similar looks to a St. Bernard but do not have the same laid-back personality.

East European Shepherd

This breed is a dog that was originally bred from German Shepherds and has since become a distinct breed adapted to the harsher climates of Russia.

This dog has been used extensively by the KGB, police, and military, and is a much larger dog than the German Shepherd. They can be as tall as 29 inches at the shoulder and are smart, courageous, and tough.

Like German Shepherds, the East European Shepherd is a dog that needs to be kept both mentally and physically busy to be at its best.

Moscow Watchdog

Bred in the former USSR, these very large dogs can weigh up to 150 pounds and originate as a cross between a St. Bernard and Caucasian Shepherd Dog. They are beautiful animals and have the looks of the St. Bernard with the assertiveness and awareness of the Caucasian Shepherd Dog.

The Moscow Watchdog is powerful and it has a gentle temperament that makes it the perfect family pet. They do need a lot of exercise though – much more than their St. Bernard cousins.

Like other types of dogs in the “molosser” breeds, they do drool quite a bit.

These dogs need thorough and early training and socialization.

Caucasian Shepherd Dog

The Caucasian Shepherd Dog is known by many different names including Russian Bear Dog, Kavkazskaya Ovtcharcka, Caucasian Sheepdog, Caucasian Mountain Dog, and Caucasian Ovcharka.

These are large and impressive dogs that are used to guard Russian prisons.

You can read more about the Caucasian Shepherd Dog here.

South Russian Ovcharka

South Russian Ovcharkas (also known as the South Russian Shepherd Dog) were originally bred in the Russian Empire to be flock guardian dogs. They are likely the result of cross-breeding local Russian dogs with shepherd dogs brought in from Spain.

This fuzzy white dog can weigh up to 110 pounds and gets to be 26 inches at the shoulder. 

The South Russian Ovcharka was originally used as a herding dog and needs large areas to run around in and explore. This breed can get bored easily if they don’t have enough work to do. It’s a good idea to get them involved in dog sports such as agility to keep them busy.

While this breed is active and loyal to its people and is also known to be great with children, it can be aggressive toward both strangers and other dogs. They must be socialized and trained properly when they are puppies.

Black Russian Terrier

Black Russian Terriers were originally bred near Moscow, Russia, in a secret location during the 1930s. They were bred to be a “superdog” for the Russian military and are a mixture of 17 different breeds, including Airedale Terriers, Giant Schnauzers, Newfoundlands, and Rottweilers.

This dog is a powerful animal that has a thick all black coat. Also known as BRTs, Black Russian Terriers are smart, strong, and possess no shortage of courage.

These dogs are massive and get to be up to 140 pounds and 30 inches at the shoulder. They have large heads and can survive in some of the coldest places that humans exist on earth.

BRTs are bred to be guard dogs and they will guard and protect their families. This breed requires frequent grooming and is fairly easy to train.

Siberian Husky

Siberian Huskies were originally bred more in northeastern China that in Russia but were used as high-endurance sled dogs throughout that region of the world. Most people today would say Russia if asked where they thought Siberian Huskies were from.

The Siberian Husky is a beautiful animal. They are affectionate with family members and get along great even with toddlers. The males can get up to 60 pounds, while the females can weigh up to 50 pounds.

Siberian Huskies need regular exercise, like to play catch, and love to pull. If you have a mushing group nearby they love to pull bikes and sleds and will benefit from the social interaction with other dogs.

This breed has a thick double coat and they shed a lot – especially in the spring and fall. Siberian Huskies make wonderful pets as long as you have the time to exercise with them.

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