Tales

Jesse (1866, Vol. 1:327, 328) describes the livestock guardian dogs of south Russia living in harsh conditions. This story reveals the firm regularities in the social behavior between the shepherds and their dogs, which were big, burly animals with fearsome reputations. This kind of an organization has been certainly expedient and very determined for their reality in those wild steppes.

 "Live stock guardian dogs of south Russia

The shepherds make their evening meal round a blazing fire, with their twenty watchful dogs encircling them... They lie down for their night´s rest in the following order: the old head-shepherd and his guest choose the wagon for their lodging, the other shepherds drive the sheep close together into a circle round the wagon, and form with the dogs a cordon round the flock. Each shepherd lays the fur and "swita" which, both in summer and winter, form his mattress and coverlet, on the ground of the steppes, and all place themselves equal distances from each other. Between every two shepherds three or four dogs stay on their respective posts, a piece of old cloak or sheep skin is laid on the spot. A mat of this description, belonging especially to each dog, is kept for him in the wagon, and as each knows its own, he is sure to lie down wherever he finds it. The wolves would scarcely dare to attack a fortress so well garrisoned."


The South Russian Ovcharka is said to be "fierce and distrustful of strangers" and to have an "active way of defense". Originally, these features were essential for survival and to be able to guard and protect the livestock against the beasts. But, in no way does this mean that a dog is "insane with rage" or "uncontrollable aggressive". Even the modern shepherds of today understand it very well, that the true mission for these dogs is guarding and protecting, not fighting and being injured.

This difference becomes obvious, when you consider the following story by Markov E.A. (1866), where the dogs ward of attacks from intruders with horses, but yet obey very sensitively and carefully the will of their masters:

"At the end they responded the distant voice of the shepherds which could be attributed to the wind. At that point we were surrounded by a pack of dogs. Dogs with a long and white coat, tall and skinny, barking furiously, turning in circles, jumping and biting the ground. They came to us through the embankment behind which we were staying with the horses close to each other in a surrounded group. The shepherds ran very fast and from afar they scattered the dogs with whistles, but their enthusiasm had already been low for some time. When we went to the shelter, we found those fearful dogs which remained around us, snarling, uttering stifled cries, drawing their bloodied nose up, and sniffing us and our horses with hostility. They were obedient to the will of their masters, and, until the last moment, it seemed that they were waiting for the signal to be able to pounce on us and devour us like rabbits... The dog - the greatest saviour of herds and people. This shepherd dog is physically similar to wolves: they were not particularly big, but they were incredibly fierce, with long and thin legs, with a shaggy coat and very long mandibles. They were almost entirely white, but with bloodshot eyes. They are fierce and strong shepherd dogs, but they are also intelligent. They can disperse and form a chain around the flock to keep the wolves away and then gather together as if they were a single entity, listening to the master´s voice. They learn all the nuances of the will of their master and obey him, despite their wild instincts, as pupils are well behaved in front of their teacher at school".

This story also proves, very clearly, the important fact that a dog can never be a leader of the pack - it is a man´s job.