Meet Tzar, the 10-month-old, 140-pound Caucasian Ovcharka (or Caucasian Shepherd) who journeyed from his native Russia to the home of an Englishman who paid more than $4,500 for him. For some unknown reason, the man abandoned Tzar at West Yorkshire Dog Rescue not long after.
Caucasian Shepherds were originally bred to guard sheep from predators and thieves, and they have the resolve and hard-headedness to do it well. Because of their high intelligence and size, skipping training in puppyhood is out of the question. Owners need extremely strong leadership skills toward dogs, and they need to establish their role quickly.
Unfortunately, the breed’s confidence and courageousness also makes them attractive to prospective dogfighters; Tzar arrived already with his ears and tail removed, which the rescue suspects was meant to prevent serious injury during fights.
While the cruel sport is forbidden in most of the western world, these particular dogs are still used for entertainment in Russia. As a testament to won’t-back-down attitude of these pups, Russian citizens know the breed more broadly as volkodavs, or wolf-killers. Back in 2007, a New York Times article discussed the nature of the fighting events firsthand:
The dogs tugged each other in tight circles by their snouts and then broke free, snarled and attacked again. Sometimes they rose up, pressing for leverage with forepaws while driving forward on hind legs and seeking a purchase for their bared teeth. Their handlers crouched beside them, shouting encouragement.
At the time, the practice was not regulated, and therefore not forbidden. In fact, the tournaments were open to all, supported by magazines, websites, and the promise of annual events. The full disclosure might explain why Caucasian Shepherds, like Tzar, are bred and sold specifically for fighting, whereas fighting and bait dogs in the U.S. are often stolen or bred without caution.
According to the president of the tournament organization at the time, “only people who have not seen it, and do not understand it, dislike this.” And perhaps this is true, to an extent. It is simply the norm in countries where animal welfare is not as controlled as it is elsewhere.
Kathy Trout, of West Yorkshire Dog Rescue, spoke highly of Tzar to the Mirror despite his size and breed history:
It’s going to take a special kind of person to look after him. You cannot have a dog like this running loose. He is currently eating his way through [$455] of food a month and we are expecting the cost to increase as he grows. Tzar is a great big silly puppy and is totally adorable. He is as soft as butter. I don’t think he could ever be aggressive, he is just a big teddy, but if he got into the wrong hands it could be a problem.
For now, Tzar is staying on a big stretch of land with sheep, pigs, chickens, horses, cats, and other dogs. Though Trout knows it will be a challenge to find him the perfect home, she has hope that Tzar will find a family that can support his lifestyle (and his food bill.)