Posts Tagged ‘Red Star Kennels’

After World War II, the Soviets used Newfoundlands to create the Moscow retriever.

After World War II, the Soviets used Newfoundlands to create the Moscow retriever.

The name Russian retriever was applied to both what I argue is a Russian version of the poodle and to Colonel le Poer Trench’s St. Hubert’s golden retrievers. After World War II, there was another “retriever” developed in Russia.

After World War II, suitable working dogs in the Soviet Union were nearly impossible to find. The Soviet Union was an isolated country, and very few Western dog breeds could be found in the country. The horrors of the Second World War  had destroyed the countryside. Dogs died because of food shortages. Others died in the war itself.  All dogs were declared state property, so when anyone found a line of Western dogs, they were easily collected.

Dogs of several breeds were taken into The Central Military School of Working Dogs. Under the command of Colonel Medvedev, the dogs were placed into breeding programs to produce superior working dogs for military purposes. These were to be improved “socialist” breeds. The breeding program was referred to as the Red Star Kennels. The most famous dog to come out of the breeding program was the Black Russian Terrier, which is really a dog of the Schnauzer/Bouvier type with some Airedale in its background. This breed was bred for military and police work.

Another breed developed in the same program was the Moscow water dog or Moscow retriever. It was actually developed in Belarus (Byelorussia). The program bred the Newfoundland dogs that still existed in the Soviet Union with bitches of the native Soviet breeds, including the Caucasian Ovtcharka and the East European Shepherd (derived from crossing German shepherds with various local guard dogs).

The dogs were bred to rescue people from the water in the same way that we see in Newfoundlands, Portugese water dogs, and Swansea Jack.  The dogs did enter the water and swam well, as one would expect from dogs with Newfoundland in them, but they also were very aggressive, even attacking people in the water, as one would expect from dogs with Caucasian Ovtcharka in their background.  However, the dogs were more biddable than purebred Ovtcharkas, because of their shepherd and Newfoundland ancestry.

This breed was deemed a failure, but because it did a good temperament for a protection dog, it was crossed into the Black Russian terrier.

The Red Star Kennels were able to produce only one breed of any merit. Several reasons may exist for this inability to produce so many improved breeds. The first of these is that the dog stock from which the kennel managers had to choose were largely dogs that were remnants of purebreds imported to the country at odd times. They did not have the best dogs with the greatest genetic diversity in the program. Secondly, the program chose too many breeds to create. Historically, it is nearly impossible to created more than one strain with a single breeding program.  Finally, Lysenkoism had replaced the study of genetics in the Soviet Union, and if you’re going to breed dogs, you had better know some genetics.

I also attribute always relying on Caucasian Ovtcharkas as the outcross is a major handicap. Caucasian Ovtcharkas were crossed with St. Bernards to create a “Moscow Watchdog.” They were crossed the Ovtcharka with the Great Dane to make the “Moscow Great Dane.”

The problem is that Caucasian Ovtcharkas are tough dogs. They are excellent guardians of property or livestock. However, unlike Western protection breeds, they are much harder to control. The dogs introduced intractability into these experimental dogs, virtually dooming them from the start.

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