Friday, March 13, 2015

Russia's Terriers of Oppression

The Black Russian Terrier may be the only breed of dog ever created by a state purely to subjugate its people. The Black Russian Terrier was created by the Russian Military, beginning in the 1930s with the intent of creating a heavy, aggressive, but tractable dog capable of patrolling prisons, military bases, and border areas during brutal Russian winters. In addition to patrol work, dogs were occasionally expected to pull carts, locate land mines, and aid wounded men.

The Black Russian Terrier is essentially a cross between three breeds: Giant Schnauzers, Airedales, and Rottweilers, with a little Newfoundland, Caucasian Ovcharka, Great Dane and Eastern European Shepherd thrown in for confusion.

Breed uniformity was achieved over a 20-year period by the state-owned Red Star Kennel whose sole function was to provide dogs to the Soviet armed services for border control and prison patrol.

The first breed standard was approved in 1958, with dogs standing 27-30 inches tall and weighing from 80-145 pounds.

The personalities of Black Russian Terriers are quite variable, and the dog is prone to hip dysplasia as the Russians did no x-raying of hips during their breeding program.

The coat of the Black Russian Terrier takes some keeping up, as it is a long-haired breed requiring regular combing and brushing, as well as scissoring every two months or so.

The Black Russian terrier entered the AKC in July of 2004 as part of the "working group."

Whether the Black Russian Terrier is a terrier at all is a good question.

What, exactly is a terrier?

An Airedale, for example, is generally classified as a terrier even though it is far too large to get to ground and is mostly derived from Otter hound and fox hound crosses. It's saving grace, of course, is that it looks very much like a Welsh Terrier which is nothing more than a cleaned up (and almost always nonworking) version of the nonpedigree working Fell Terrier.

The "American Staffordshire Terrier," of course is not a terrier at all -- it is simply the American pit bull that was once rejected by the AKC and then drawn back in under a different name when the AKC decided that cash money trumped sniffing social prejudices. So long as the AKC could call it something else (and the breeder checks cleared, of course) they would look the other way.

What are we to make of the Kerry Blue Terrier, which is another dog too large to go to ground?

Then we have all the terriers that were created wholecloth for the show ring, such as the Bull Terrier, and the terriers that are not terriers at all but miniature herding dogs (i.e., the Schnauzer).

Then we have the dogs that have been froo-froo'd to the point that they are walking hair dresser models, like the Sky Terrier, the West Highland White Terrier, and the Kennel Club Sealyham Terrier.

Finally, to keep things confusing, is a dachshund a terrier?

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