The Breed History
Following WW II, a kennel in the Soviet Union worked to develop a hardy working dog from resident breeds of the time. The 1950s saw serious breed development using 17 breeds in the initial breeding pool, including Rottweilers, Giant Schnauzers, Airedale, Moscow Diver, Newfoundland and Caucasian Ovcharka dogs. The first breeding crossed Roy, a Giant Schnauzer with a female Rottweiler. By 1981 they were granted official breed status. Of the two subtypes, the more massive constitution is preferred over the terrier type, so much so that the breed was moved from terrier to working breed.
Breeding for Function
These dogs were bred to work as guard dogs and protection dogs. The breeders wished to develop a dog that required minimal coat care, was a large size with exceptional strength and excellent trainability and high but controlled aggression. Early in breed development, appearance was sacrificed for good working ability, and heterogeneous appearance was typical. Two subtypes emerged. The first, a terrier type and the second a more massive "bear" dog with coarse build.
Height at Withers: female 26-29" (66-74 cm), male 27-30" (69-76 cm); disqualified if under 26" (66 cm).
Weight: 77-120 lb (32-54 kg).
Coat: Color must be black, or black intermixed with a few other gray hairs. A thick double coat, with a coarse overcoat and undercoat thick and soft in texture. Length of hairs 1.5-4" (4-10 cm) and has a tousled appearance-not wiry, not curly. Hair in and around the ears is trimmed for show. Fairly easy keeping coat.
Longevity: 10-14 years
Points of Conformation: Robust, this heavily boned dog is well muscled and capable of great endurance. Bitches are more refined, but still strongly built. Only very slightly longer than tall, they give an overall impression of great strength. The skull is broad and strong, with a blocky appearance with moderate stop. A prominent occipital protuberance is characteristic. Nose is large, black. The eyes are oval, medium in size and darkly pigmented. The palpebral margins are tight and black, as are the lips. No flews. Small triangular ears are high set, and just reach the lateral canthus. Gingival surface is pigmented, and spots of pigment may occur on the tongue. Neck thick, well muscled, the thorax is wide and deep with oval cross section, pronounced withers merge with level topline. The abdomen is well tucked up, loin is short. Limbs are straight, with very short straight metacarpals/metatarsals, and large rounded feet. Nails dark and rear dewclaws often removed. The thick tail is high set, and usually docked to the length of 3-5 vertebrae. Gait is springy, smooth and long.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Breed attributes ascribed include: Excellent protection instinct, reliable, courageous, calm, intelligent, with high trainability. They are stubborn when it comes to retraining though, as they seem to have very long memories. May be somewhat aloof with strangers. The terrier subtype is somewhat high strung, while the massive type is much more settled, even tranquil when not working.
Normal Breed Variations
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 43.0% affected.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 30.2% affected.
Hyperuricosuria/Urate Urolithiasis (Bladder Stones): Autosomal recessive disorder of urate metabolism due to a mutation in the SLC2A9 gene. Urate bladder stone formation is secondary to hyperuricosuria. Affected dogs require lifelong diet and medication to prevent reoccurrence. A genetic test is available.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Too few Black Russian Terriers have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. Identified in the breed, however too few Black Russian Terriers have been thyroid tested at Michigan State University to determine an accurate frequency. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%). OFA reports 2.6% of 38 dogs tested were affected. This number may change as more Black Russian Terriers are tested.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): Inherited degeneration of the retina, progressing to blindness. Onset 6 months to as late as 42 months of age. Black Russian Terriers with PRA go blind gradually, first losing their night vision and then their day vision. Many do not go completely blind until they are 8 years old or older. Undetermined mode of inheritance.
Subaortic Stenosis and Mitral Valve Dysplasia: Identified in three 2 month old Black Russian Terrier littermates. In other breeds, subaortic stenosis is inherited as a polygenic trait.
Other Ocular Disorders: Too few Black Russian Terriers have been CERF examined to determine accurate breed frequencies for ocular disorders.
Isolated Case Studies
Extra Molars (Compound Odontomas): A six month-old, male Black Russian terrier dog was presented for oral masses on both sides of the mandible lateral to the first molars, which radiographs revealed to be small teeth (denticles). Treatment consisted of extraction of all denticles.
Congenital Cataract and Microphthalmia: Case study of a litter of Black Russian Terriers born with congenital cataracts and microphthalmia.
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for hyperuricosuria is available from the UC-Davis VGL and Animal Health Trust.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes hip and elbow radiographs, CERF eye examination, and cardiac evaluation by a cardiologist. Recommend thyroid profile including autoantibodies, and patella evaluation.
- Breed name synonyms: Black Terrier, Chornyi, Terrier Noir Russe, Russian Bear Schnauzer, Tchiorny Terrier
- Registries: AKC, CKC, FCI, SKC, ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club)
- AKC rank (year 2008): 121 (245 dogs registered)
- Breed resources: Black Russian Terrier Club of America: www.brtca.org
Black Russian Terrier Club of Canada: www.brtcc.ca
Black Russian Terrier Club (UK): www.rbtclub.co.uk
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