The East-European Shepherd (Russian German Shepherd Dog)
The East European Shepherd (Russian German Shepherd Dog) bears a close resemblance to the German Shepherd Dog although it is actually a distinctly different breed in its own right, and is the result of a Soviet Military and KGB breeding programme following WW2 and achieving its success in the late 1940’s.
Many German Shepherd Dog’s were captured during WW1 after the Russian military noticed the impressive working abilities of the Germans military dogs in general and in particular the German Shepherd Dog. Unfortunately they soon discovered that German Shepherd Dog’s were not well adapted to the harsh climatic conditions of the icy cold Russian winters and the majority did not survive. Those that did were unable to function effectively in such an environment.
To counteract this problem the East European Shepherd was, bred to be larger and heavier, and more powerful and muscular. It also sported a typically black, somewhat denser double coat of medium length, and as required by the Russians, a stronger bite and a very strong protection drive.
The development of the East-European Shepherd or Russian German shepherd started in the Byelorussian region.
During WW1 local Belarusians took a liking to the Germans military dogs as thousands of them travelled through their then, and for most of the war, occupied country which we know today as Belarus. By various ways and means, they took possession of a number of the enduringly popular German Shepherd Dog. In order to avoid unsavoury connections to the, obviously, highly unpopular Germans these dogs were initially known as Byelorussian Owtcharka, or Belarusian Shepherd. For this same reason in the UK the German Shepherd Dog became known as the Alsatian although their official title is still German Shepherd Dog.
Moving forward in time to WW2 the Russians successfully captured as war trophies, thousands more German Shepherd Dogs from the German military.
A breeding programme led by the Soviet Military and the KGB involving the systematic crossing of GSDs with various Russian dogs, in particular the Laika led to the evolution of a new Russian dog breed, the East-European Shepherd, or the Vostochnoevropejskaya Ovcharka in the late 1940’s; This new Soviet military dog became their main military working breed and also that of the KGB.
The East European Shepherd is today classed as a rare breed owing to the fall of the Soviet Union which saw its popularity wane dramatically. However it is still used by the Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian Armed Forces and also by a reasonable number of the republics of Central Asia.
The Cynologic Council of the Soviet Union, a division of the Soviet Ministry of Agriculture were the first organisation to produce a formal breed standard for the East European Shepherd and to record pedigrees for it, in 1964. At the present time the Russian Kennel Club is the only organisation granting full recognition to the breed. The Dog Registry of America and the Continental Kennel Club are amongst a number of US rare breed organisations that recognise its breed status.