The Central Asian Shepherd, also known as Alabai, is one of the oldest dog breeds in the world. Its size and the expression in its eyes make it a dog capable of commanding respect.
As such, the International Canine Federation (FCI) officially recognizes it as a molossus breed. Thanks to its strength and intelligence, it is one of the preferred dog breeds for guiding livestock.
- Size: Large/giant.
- Height: Between 25 and 32 inches.
- Weight: Between 88 and 174 pounds.
- Coat type: Medium length and very dense.
- Character: Strong, Curious, Imperturbable, Audacious, Independent, Adaptable
- Health: Healthy
- Alabai lifespan: Between 12 and 15 years.
The Origin of the Central Asian Shepherd
This dog is also known by names such as Alabai, Tohmet, Sage Koochee, Srednjeazijski, and Ovcharka. In fact, the word Ovcharka in Russian perfectly describes this breed, as it means "guardian dog" or "shepherd dog".
There is currently no exact definition of its place of origin. However, as its name suggests, it is known to come from the rocky areas of central and southern Asia. In particular, there is evidence that this dog originates from the region extending from the Caspian Sea to the Pamirs and from the border between Afghanistan, Russia, and Iran to the south of Siberia. Currently, it remains a relatively unknown breed outside of its native area.
On the other hand, it is known to be one of - or perhaps the oldest - dog breeds in the world. It is estimated to have existed for approximately 4,000 years and is considered a purebred.
Physical characteristics of Central Asian Shepherd
The Alabai is characterized by a considerable height and an imposing physique. Males can grow up to 25-35 inches, while females have an average of 24-29 inches. In addition, males weigh between 120-200 pounds and females between 88-143 pounds. They have a harmonious body and a broad back. Despite their large size, they are agile, fast, and resilient dogs. Their life expectancy ranges from 12 to 14 years under normal conditions.
They are generally very muscular and robust dogs, but they have a fairly thick coat that gives them a bear-like appearance. This makes them tolerant to cold weather, and throughout history, they have been subjected to extreme weather conditions during their duties as shepherd dogs. The color of their coat varies between white, brown, black, and cream, including their combinations.
Regarding the length of their coat, there are dogs of this breed with short hair (between 1-2 inches) and long hair (between 2-3 inches).
Another important characteristic of this breed is the shape of their head: rectangular and considerably larger in males than in females. Their nose is wide and black, although in white shepherds, it may be slightly lighter. The muzzle is wide and imposing but not too long and tapers slightly towards the nose.
A striking feature of these dogs is their eyes. They are known for having an incredibly penetrating gaze. Their eyes are dark, sunken, and widely spaced, with slightly drooping upper eyelids. Under normal conditions, the lower eyelids do not droop and are black. The lack of pigmentation in their eyelids could indicate that something is wrong with their health.
Due to the role they play, the tail and ears are traditionally amputated. However, this practice has fortunately been prohibited in many countries.
Care and Maintenance of the Central Asian Shepherd or Alabai
As a mountain dog that has historically worked under adverse weather conditions, the Central Asian Shepherd or Alabai does not require particularly delicate care. However, it is advisable to start training them from their early months if the intention is to domesticate them.
In general, this breed should be bathed at least once a month, always protecting the ears and eyes.
Most of the year they shed little hair and a weekly brushing is enough to keep their coat in order. However, especially when they have long hair, it is recommended to brush them regularly in the direction of hair growth. This need increases especially during summer or shedding periods, when they should be brushed at least every two days.
Like all dogs, they need constant veterinary care. This includes all anti-parasitic and anthelmintic vaccines, as well as any other preventive measures against the spread of bacteria and infections.
Diet of Central Asian Shepherd
Regarding their diet, our companion should have a meat-based diet. They can consume it raw or cooked, preferably lean beef or veal. They can also consume some offal such as kidneys, heart, and liver. Pork is not the best option to feed this breed, as the fat contained in this type of meat is not absorbed by their body. They can also be fed with grains such as rice and oats, as well as fresh or steamed fruits and vegetables.
Vegetables represent the main source of plant fiber, so it is good to include zucchini, carrots, and spinach in their diet.
In adulthood, the Alabai can be fed twice a day, in the morning and at night, using portions that correspond to their weight and height. Of course, feeding a dog with homemade food can be a problem for people who have a hectic lifestyle. In these cases, packaged or canned food will always be a good option. However, it is important to ensure the origin of these products in order to meet all of the dog's nutritional needs. You can find this type of food in our store, of course.
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In addition, some solid foods should be included in the Alabai or Central Asian Shepherd's diet to help develop their powerful jaws.
Since ancient times, this dog has played the role of a guard dog. It is capable of guiding livestock, protecting its owner and property. These duties, over time, have strengthened its character both physically and morally. It may seem a bit lazy when focused on its role as a guardian, but it is a dog with a lot of energy that needs to be released in order to grow in good conditions.
For this reason, physical activity is another key requirement in the life of this breed, as it needs to develop its strength and endurance. Generally, it is capable of enduring demanding physical efforts, but it also needs long periods of rest.
Ideally, you should take the Central Asian Shepherd for a jog or long walks daily. It should be in a spacious area where it can run and practice jumps. Otherwise, it may begin to suffer from heart disease, weight gain, diabetes, or joint problems. If at least two hours a day are not dedicated to physical activities such as walking, playing, jumping, or active hiking, its life expectancy could decrease.
What diseases do Central Asian Shepherd dogs have?
This is a very healthy dog if it follows a proper diet plan and exercise routine. But in general, it does not develop many diseases throughout its life. This is because it was born and predisposed to develop in truly extreme conditions, such as living with minimal resources, in the open air, and subjecting itself to the effects of natural selection over time.
Among the most common diseases that this breed may develop are hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia.
Hip dysplasia is a very common condition in giant breeds due to their weight. Additionally, it is an hereditary disease, which means that certain breeds may be prone to it. It can cause a lot of pain to the dog, to the point of incapacitation, and it is a degenerative pathology. However, it is a condition that develops during the growth phase of the puppy's limbs and is detected after 2 or 3 years of age.
It can become osteoarthritis in the dog's hips. For this reason, it is recommended that the puppy is not subjected to rough play or significant falls during its development.
Although no specific studies have been conducted to determine other incident conditions, other illnesses recorded for this breed are: heart problems, back problems, arthritis, swelling, deafness, glaucoma, cataracts, and heat intolerance.
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Central Asian Shepherd dog temperament
This furry friend was born to be a leader, and its physical appearance definitely confirms it. It is a dominant but calm and balanced breed. Moreover, as long as it does not perceive them as a threat, it can even get along with other animals, such as cats or smaller dogs.
However, when they find themselves in unfamiliar territories, they may become much more reactive. After all, they have evolved with a well-defined mission since their appearance on earth: to protect. That is why this breed needs an owner who is able to understand and manage their behavior in any situation. It has even been catalogued as a potentially dangerous breed, so it requires the typical licenses for this kind of animals. They must be raised and tamed from puppyhood with a calm but defined character, so that they can abide by the rules from a young age. They have a great sense of responsibility and perform their duties with impressive ethics.
In environments where there is more than one specimen of this breed, the puppies tend to accompany the adults to grazing from a very early age (around 4 months). Thus, even the youngest dogs learn the trade by imitating the older dogs.
They are brave, intelligent dogs with a very defined personality. In fact, they tend to evaluate by themselves when to intervene and when not to. Generally, they enjoy outdoor walks and living in spacious places, which does not make them suitable for life in the city or in small apartments. They do not usually bark, so they tend to go unnoticed when they are working.
Relationship with people
As mentioned above, this is a calm dog that does not intimidate. They are very independent, reliable and are not aggressive unless they determine a reason to attack. When raised from a young age in a family environment they become a faithful and devoted companion. In spite of being a sweet and jovial dog, it is not suitable for any type of family. It needs from an early age a person to help it manage its instinct. It is not the best choice for inexperienced or weak-willed owners. It must be a person capable of making him understand who is the one who sets the rules.
He tends to get offended very easily if he is scolded without any reason and he is also capable of remembering that offense for a long time. It is a dog very sensitive to the emotional environment around him. Normally, he does not know how to handle stress, conflicts and fights. These types of situations have a negative impact on their health.
When they are puppies they are characterized by being very playful, but this trait disappears as they grow up. As an adult, they are a dog that is dedicated to their work and usually position themselves in strategic points to see all the territory they have to protect. This attitude might make them seem a bit indifferent or unfriendly, but the truth is that they are paying full attention to every detail.
Actually, this dog is extremely good and affectionate with children and family. It is also very obedient and is always very attentive to the needs of those around it. However, it is important to pay attention to the interaction with the smallest members of the household due to its large size.