SOUTH RUSSIAN OVCHARKA - Youzhnorusskaya Ovcharka, FCI 326


    The Southrussian Ovcharka is one of the three Ovcharka breeds from Russia. Originally the SRO comes from the Crimea, which is in the Ukraine. The Russian word "Ovcharka" means "sheepdog". The Southrussian Ovcharka is officially named Youzhnorusskaya Ovcharka, but is usually called SRO, Southrussian or Youzhak for short.
The SRO belongs to FCI group 1, the group of shepherd dogs. The SRO has been used as a (livestock) guarding dog back in the former USSR.


    Starting in 1797, there were flock of sheep sold from Spain to Russia. These sheep had to be brought to the steppe so they were driven over land, all the way on foot; sometimes up to 2500 or 8000 sheep. Transports like these could take two years and were accompanied by shaggy haired sheepdogs. Once the sheep arrived in Russia most of them were brought to Askania Nova, a large area in the Crimea. The small sheepdogs were crossed with local dogs such as the Tartar (Caucasian) Ovcharka, the Crimean Greyhound and the Hungarian Komondor, because there was a strong need for larger dogs which were suitable to guard and protect the herds against wolves and other predators. The ability to drive sheep wasn't as relevant anymore.
Askania Nova was the largest and most well known "sheep colony" in Russia. For a long time the breeding of SRO was in the hands of the Falz-Fein family that owned Askania Nova. By 1850 the SRO was already settled and widespread. Records show about 2000 Ovcharkas, permanently working, with 4 or 5 dogs for every 1000 sheep.

SROs in 1905

    In the 1870's the SRO reached its greatest numbers, after which a decline set in, due to steppe reclamation for agriculture, growing grains etc. And with a rather fast decline in the number of wolves, the need for dogs also reduced. When the Russian Revolution took place, Askania Nova was almost completely plundered and destroyed. Most of the dogs were killed or stolen, and many were shot because they did not accept new masters. Thanks to the famous biologist Prof. A. Brauner the SRO still exists. When he came to Askania Nova in 1923 he only found a few young Ovcharkas. With the help of military kennels, shepherds and other enthusiasts he collected them. In 1928, after the foundation of a state breeding center in Dzhankoi (Crimea), a successful resurrection of the breed took place. The number of dogs increased and they even found their way to other cities like Moscow. In 1930 there were some official Russian entries at a German dog show and in 1939 there was a special breed exhibition in Simferopol.

    When WW II started, the main kennels including the one in Dzhankoi were fully destroyed. Only some SROs were left in state kennels, in the Crimea and in Moscow. In Leningrad 5 SROs remained. To maintain some semblance of breed and bloodline, these pure-breds were crossed with dogs of SRO-type but unknown heritage. In 1947 the Komondor was used to acquire fresh blood; in the 70's another Komondor cross was made.
SRO numbers have once again decreased drastically in the last decades due to the bad economic situation in Russia and also by fashion. Lots of dogs died because of a lack of medication and food. Lots of people can't afford a Southrussian; people who can want to have a fashionable breed of non-Russian origin. Recently some new clubs in and around Moscow are trying to popularize the SRO in Russia. In 1994 100 "Youzhaks" were entered in one Moscow show.


Oona dirty    SROs can become quite old. The age of 10 till 12 years is not an exception. In general they are healthy dogs.
They are big, brisk and nimble with very strong muscles. The minimum height is 62 cm for females and 65 cm for males. There is no maximum height.

Their coat distinct them from the other two Ovcharka breeds. Grooming SROThe hair is long (10-30 cm) all over the body and head, with lots of furry undercoat. The topcoat feels like goat's hair, the color is mostly white but some Southrussians are grey or beige, or white with grey marks. The dog should be brushed once a week, accepting grooming from puppyhood. The coat plays an important role, protecting the dog against cold and warmth. It is "self cleaning". Even when the weather is dirty and rainy, the coats will be bright white when dried. But all the dirt and sand will be on your floor! It is possible to spin and knit the hair. It was done in Russia and the knitting was used for medical treatment of rheumatism.

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