While Russia may have a reputation for being harsh, cold, cruel, and unforgiving, the majority of the large Russian dog breeds you’re about to meet in this guide are anything but.
Sure, some -though by no means all- are very wary of strangers and will always put up a fight in the face of a threat, but that only makes them wonderfully loyal family protectors if welcomed into the home of a patient and experienced dog trainer.
Otherwise, the likes of the Russian Bear Dog, the Borzoi, and the smiling Samoyed can prove to be a loving, affectionate member of the family.
Here, we look at just some of the most popular large Russian dogs and their personality traits, as well as discussing whether or not they might be a good fit if you’re looking to adopt a new pet.
8 Popular and Large Russian Dog Breeds
|Ranking||Name||Height||Weight||Life span||Breed size||Temperament||Origin|
|1||Black Russian Terrier||26-27 inches||99-150 lbs||10-11 years||large||Stable, Lively, Energetic, Confident||Russia, Soviet Union|
|2||Borzoi||30-33 inches||60-105 lbs||7-10 years||giant||Respectful, Intelligent, Independent||Belarus, Belarus|
|3||Caucasian Mountain Shepherd||28-29 inches||110-220 lbs||10-12 years||large||Strong, Powerful, Alert, Dominant||Russia|
|4||Central Asian Shepherd Dog||25-26 inches||110-174 lbs||12-15 years||large||Strong, Bold, Curious||Russia|
|5||East Siberian Laika||21-26 inches||39-50 lbs||12-15 years||large||Even Tempered, Fearless, Loyal||Russia|
|6||Samoyed||20-23 inches||44-66 lbs||12-14 years||large||Lively, Friendly, Stubborn, Sociable||Russia|
|7||Siberian Husky||20-23 inches||44-60 lbs||12-15 years||large||Outgoing, Friendly, Intelligent||Siberia|
|8||South Russian Ovcharka||25-26 inches||108–110 lb||9-11 years||large||Balanced, Lively, Active, Nervous||Ukraine|
1. Black Russian Terrier
Bred by the Russian military in the years leading up to the second World War, the Black Russian Terrier was developed from over 15 different breeds, with the likes of Giant Schnauzers and Rottweilers among their DNA.
This gave them everything they needed to best serve as active military dogs, including a thick coat to help them withstand that famously frigid Russian air, endless energy and an abundance of stamina to help them stay active, and a temperament that makes them easy to train.
Long after WW2 was over, Black Russian Terriers began to make their way out of Moscow’s Red Star Kennel and become popular domestic pets all over the world.
Today, these high energy dogs demand a lot of time, energy, and attention, making them a good choice for those with an active lifestyle yet who still have plenty of time to devote to the Black Russian Terrier’s training.
For the most part, these dogs can be fairly laid back around the house, but are likely to get aggressive if provoked and don’t always play nice with other animals.
There’s no denying that the Borzoi is one unique pooch in every sense of the word. Often growing to between 26″ and 30″ and weighing as much as 85 lbs, these dogs have a distinct tall, slender appearance with a narrow face and narrow muzzle, all of which means their look is often compared to that of a Greyhound.
One big difference between the Borzoi and the Greyhound is, of course, the former’s gorgeously soft, silky, double-layered coat, perfect for keeping them warm among the freezing cold climates of Russia.
It was there that they were first bred as hunting dogs, with their superior sight (the word “borzoi” literally means “sighthound” in Russian), strong-yet-swift physicality and keen intelligence making them perfect for tracking and capturing prey.
That same sense of calm and quiet that made them perfect for luring out their next catch today remains as one of their most dominant character traits, meaning they have quite a peaceful presence around the home.
Borzois also cherish companionship and always do better when there are other people around, making them a better option for people who can spend most of their time at home with their new companion rather than those who are going to be out at work all day.
3. Caucasian Mountain Shepherd
The Caucasian Mountain Shepherd Dog goes by many names. Sometimes, you’ll hear him simply called a Caucasion Shepherd and at others a Caucasian Ovcharka. More often than not though, this big bundle of fur is known as the Russian Bear Dog, and is the first breed most people think of when they think of large Russian dogs.
These dogs originally come to us from the Caucasus Mountain region, an area known for its fierce, bitterly cold and seemingly never-ending winters. There, they were bred as guard dogs by farmers who wanted to protect their livestock from the persistent threat of bears, wolves, and other predators.
This explains their gargantuan size. Right up there as some of the biggest dogs in the world, the Russian Bear Dog can reach heights of 36″ and weigh anyway from around 80 lbs to a staggering 220 lbs. This size, combined with their intimidating presence and fearless personality made them perfect for tackling predators head-on.
While bold and brave, the Caucasian Mountain Shepherd can be a big softie around his family and those he trusts, but will often see anyone he doesn’t know as a potential threat.
This means that they can be dangerous if not kept by an experienced trainer with the time, energy, and expertise to take care of them properly.
That, plus their size and the amount of quality dog food needed to sustain such a powerful pooch can be off-putting for many potential owners, but with appropriate training and handling, the Russian Bear Dog can become a kind and loving member of the family.
4. Central Asian Shepherd Dog
The Central Asian Shepherd Dog is said to be one of the oldest dog breeds in the world and one of the few not to have been “manufactured” by human interference in the breeding process. Rather, their thick, powerful frame, medium-length coat, and formidable strength all came about via natural evolution to help them survive against both cruel climates and even crueler predators.
Though they did originate in the Central Asian regions, it was once they made their way to the former USSR that the Central Asian Shepherd Dog began to transition from a working dog into a domestic pet.
After becoming a recognized breed in the Soviet Union in the 1920s, this beautiful dog was eventually introduced to the United States, where it’s now known as a friendly and playful pooch that gets on well with children but can be stand-offish with strangers and notoriously difficult to train.
5. East Siberian Laika
The East Siberian Laika may not be one of the most popular large Russian dog breeds, but they are undoubtedly one of the most handsome.
Their smooth, shiny coat, wolf-like features and deep, soulful eyes all give them a certain dignified appearance that does little to take away from how utterly adorable they are.
Meanwhile, their relatively moderate average height (22″ – 25″) and weight (around 40 lbs – 50 lbs) help to make them one of the more manageable large breeds, all of which can make them very appealing as a household pet.
Keep in mind, however, that while the East Siberian Laika tends to be a quiet, calm, and friendly breed, they tend to be naturally distrusting of anyone they don’t know and tend to be hostile towards other animals.
On the plus side, this approach does mean that they make ideal guard dogs, as their naturally protective instinct will kick in when they sense a threat.
The Samoyed -or Sammie- if you prefer, is a beloved big dog breed and easily one of the cutest large Russian dogs you’re going to come across.
They’re famous for their well-known “Sammie Smile,” where the corners of their mouths remain turned slightly upwards and their floppy tongue hangs loose, creating the impression that they’re the happiest puppers on the planet.
To be fair, that impression isn’t far off the truth.
The Samoyed is a friendly, affectionate pup who craves social interaction and loves being around others, including kids and even other animals.
Kind, loving and gentle, the Sammie’s adorable temperament is perhaps because they’re just so happy to no longer be braving the vicious Siberian winters.
Their super-thick white coat and large stature (measuring up to 23.5″ and weighing as much as 65 lbs) was designed to help them survive some of the most extreme climates on earth while working as hunting and sledding dogs. Today, that appearance just helps to make them a beautiful household pet, though one who will be happiest when they get lots of company.
7. Siberian Husky
Of course, no list of large Russian dog bleeds could ever be complete without the Siberian Husky.
Indeed, while the Russian Bear Dog may be the first one that springs to mind when we think of this particular type of dog, the Siberian Husky is generally the most popular in terms of its appearance in the modern home.
Growing up to 22″ tall and 60 lbs in weight, these lupine-like beauties were first bred to pull sleds over long distances through the vast Siberian landscape, bringing essential supplies to remote outposts and villages and thus helping the natives to survive in cruel climates.
In 1925, the remote town of Nome in Alaska was saved from a fatal diptheria outbreak by a team of siberian huskies who pulled a vital, life-saving serum over 600 miles to rescue them.
These days, huskies are still used as sledding dogs and their abundance of energy makes them a popular companion for active people. Their friendly disposition, keen sense of intelligence and, again, that stunning wolf-like appearance, all help to make them a popular choice for a household pet, though it’s worth noting that they need proper training and plenty of exercise as they can become destructive when bored and restless.
8. South Russian Ovcharka
Sometimes known as the Ukrainian Shepherd or the South Russian Shepherd, the South Russian Ovcharka is a beautiful herding dog with a thick, shaggy coat, and a cuddly appearance which belies their unbelievable strength and dominant personality.
Make no mistake about it, while the South Russian Ovcharka certainly looks cute, they certainly are not the perfect dog for everyone.
Not only do they have an inherent distrust of outsiders, they also won’t stand for any nervous energy, so if anyone in your family (or anyone likely to visit) tends to be a bit wary around dogs, the Ovcharka might not be a good fit as they may get aggressive around such people.
Likewise, while these dogs can be trained, their dominant personality means they need a trainer who is firm with them.
While all this may be off-putting, if you’re strong, experienced and have an authoritative presence, the Ukrainian Shepherd will obey, and will put his fiercely loyal nature and distrust of strangers to work in serving as a very effective guard dog.
The Final Word on Large Russian Dog Breeds
We started this guide by saying that large Russian dog breeds aren’t always as cruel and unfriendly as their origins may suggest.
Having met the likes of the Russian Bear Dog, the Siberian Husky, and the ever-adorable Sammie, we hope you’ll agree that this is certainly the case.
However, while it’s true that these eight breeds can be kind, loving, and even playful around those they know well, we also hope that you’ll also see that Russian dog isn’t for everyone.
As affectionate as they can be, these dogs can be a handful, often requiring plenty of training, exercise, and socialization. Most were originally bred to be either hunters or guard dogs, and that protective and/or predatory instinct remains with them even long after they became domesticated.
So, if you have the energy, the experience, and the expertise to train a Russian dog breed (not to mention a firm, authoritative training style), then yes, they’ll make a wonderful addition to your family home. Otherwise, you might want to consider adopting a different big dog breed.
Forrest is a lover of dogs, the wild outdoors, deep mysterious conversations… and coffee. He is the owner of several websites, including Canine Weekly. He resides in Austin, Texas.