Aboriginal Tajik dog, Photo Latif Latifi 2014
The Kaliki shepherds are - legitimately so - the descendants of nomads who, since the dawn of time, have been moving throughout these great Central Asian countries despite the recent boundaries imposed on them by the Russians (designed more to politically divide and therefore to weaken any attempt to claim territory, than to unite peoples) in that huge geographical basin.” This suggests that nomads were not settled in one location with strict boundaries (perimeters) within which the dogs were protecting the belongings of humans. Instead, the CAS travelled with their humans, shepherds, protecting the flock of sheep and the humans regardless of the current whereabouts. Furthermore, the excerpt specifically discusses lack of perimeter boundaries within which the moves took places. Before moving further, let us define the word “nomads”. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, Nomads are “members of a people who have no fixed residence but move from place to place usually seasonally and within a well-defined territory” (click here for direct link to definition). This definition is in line with above excerpt indicating that Kaliki shepherd or, as we will find out shortly, many people of Central Asia were people who moved from one place to another taking their sheep and other belongings with them, including their dogs. The dogs did not stay behind to protect the territory they used to protect. Instead they moved with the caravans to continue to protect their people and their sheep.
Let us move our analysis to Afghanistan, the land of the Koochee dog, another Central Asian Shepherd dog type. Rasaq Quadirie, author of the book: “Der Koochee-Hund, Der Tradizionelle Herdenschtzhund der Afghanishen Nomaden” (“The Koochee Dog, The traditional shepherd guardian dog of Afghani Nomads”, personal direct translation of the German title), describes Afghani Nomads and their Koochee dogs based on his personal experiences growing up outside of Kabul in the 1960s. He says that he “had the privilege of witnessing the arrival of the nomads (Koochees) every spring.” Rasaq Quadirie describes Nomads and their lifestyle. He says that nomads “came in small caravans of camels, donkeys, goats, sheep, sometimes cows, and of course, their wonderful Koochee dogs. The air thick with dust was also full of the sounds of sheep bleating, camel and goat bells ringing, and the colorful sight of goats and sheep painted or marked with vegetable dyes to identify them to their owners. Each family would stay for a period of about a month or as long as the grass/water supply was good before moving on. After another period of about six weeks - enough time for the grass/water to regenerate - another tribe would arrive.” As you can see the transition period between a stay in one location and the move to another location was much shorter than those of people in Tajikistan. Like, in the case of Tajik dogs, Koochee did not guard within specified perimeters. Their job was focused on protecting the livestock and the people, not the land or whatever is within some “boundaries” per se. I hope the analysis of the above examples, suggest to you, as it does to us CAS are not “just” perimeter guardians. In fact, their job is based on bonding process to the people and animals they protect rather than to territory on which they currently reside.
We have been extremely lucky to visit a sheep operation in USA (owned by Brian Cash, pictures below) where CAS dogs are utilized. We have experienced first-hand CAS laying with the sheep, sharing shade and other resources. Please see pictures. In this particular location, sheep are moved from location to location for brush control and land clearing purposes. Once again, CAS do not stay behind to protect the territory they got accustomed to. Instead they moved with their flock of sheep with which they were bonded. These CAS did not try to roam, they did not disappear from their sheep to expand the territory. They stay with the sheep, regardless of location.
Final example we would like to use is about CAS as a personal protector, a role more and more frequently utilized in USA and in Europe. Imagine you have a CAS for personal protection. Perhaps you only keep it on your property to protect the property and you while you are at home or maybe, you take your dog everywhere you go. Another scenario is that maybe you are a jogger/hiker and you like to feel safe while participating in your favorite activity. If a CAS was a perimeter guardian only, your CAS would not be eager to protect you when you are on your favorite trail running or hiking. I don’t know about you, but I certainly would like to be protected when faced with danger on my favorite running path. Based on my experience I can tell you that CAS dogs behave differently on and off property. A well trained and socialized CAS will not be on high guard at all times presuming everything is a threat to you but CAS will watch everything around. Your CAS dog will be ready to protect you on and off property when the need arises.
To summarize, please do not get us wrong, we do think that CAS make wonderful territory protectors. However, based on our research and experience with CAS, we would like to draw your attention to the fact that CAS are such wonderful protectors because they bond to their owners and/or their livestock on a much deeper level than they bond to the territory they protect. With that, CAS dogs are livestock guardians and personal protection guardians to much greater extent than they are perimeter protectors. Their original job description livestock guardians and property protection dogs is much more multifaceted than territory protection alone. Let us work hard to preserve it.
At Grand Central Asians we want to make sure that our puppies have the best start into their future. From the early puppyhood, puppies are socialized with our farm animals and all sorts of people. We want to make sure that puppies begin bonding with both livestock and people with an assumption that it will prepare them to become the best guardians they can be whether being livestock guardians, personal protectors or both.
Now that we have settled that, let us focus on the Western civilization.
Majority of farmers now own pieces of land that, in most cases, are fenced in one way or another. From the livestock guarding perspective, one may say that CAS are perimeter guardians because they do not bond with livestock, they bond with territory and that they only protect/work around the perimeter of fields and not within the flock itself Once again, this should be viewed as a limited approach to understanding multidimensional role of the CAS dog. Going back to Central Asia, shepherds only used one type of dog: central Asian shepherd dog. They did not have CAS to run around the perimeter and a Great Pyrenees dog to bond with sheep. Instead their CAS worked based on division of labor. Some worked on the perimeter of the flock while others worked on the inside of the flock. This suggests that CAS were not just perimeter dogs. Please view a video of CAS at work here.
The reason behind the post is not to argue what CAS guard but how they guard. Do they bond to the territory making them perimeter/territory guardians or do they bond to livestock and/or humans making them livestock guardians and personal protectors? To better understand the guarding abilities we need to look a little deeper into the culture of people who originally relied on Central Asian Shepherd Dogs (CASD, CAS Dogs) for protections of their belongings. An article authored by Francesco Spiaggia titled “Tajikistan: into the Land of Sheep Soup... A Journey Among the Central Asian Shepherds at Work” initially published in “CAO & COusins 2011 Magazine” spring issue, also available online on Tagiko.com, describe the historical work of CAS in Tajikistan: “The flocks (of sheep) are generally small - medium in number and shepherds move them annually from the steppe areas to the high mountain pastures in order to supply them with fodder. One of the ethnic groups that traditionally carries out this job and that descends from ancient generations of shepherds is, strange as it seems, of Uzbek origins.
Addressing Misconceptions Part I:
Central Asian Shepherd Dog is a perimeter/territory guardian… By Dr. Ania Rynarzewska
We at Grand Central Asians are under impression that a lot of misconceptions exist out there regarding CAS and their guarding abilities. First let us tackle the most obvious misconception, which is also one that makes sense at face value but could be viewed as flawed when analyzed in depth. Let us focus on the statement that “CAS are perimeter/ territory guardians.” Let us think through this statement together while analyzing some important details. I must apologize for the length of this blog post. It is unusually lengthy due to the need to cite original sources. The quotations are necessary in order to be able to show you our analytical process as we read through a number of available resources. Certainly, we are only able to cite few. Please take that journey with us.
Let me start with the international standard. Quick side note: we do not focus on breeding “to meet the standard” only. We look at structure, temperament, working ability, etc. as we believe it is important that we use standard as a reference to ensure that we and other breeders in fact breed the same breed of dog. Moving on… According to the International canine federation, FCI, standard (original link found here) the Central Asian Shepherd Dogs “were mainly used to protect cattle, caravans and the owner’s dwellings, and being exposed to rigid natural selection. Hard living conditions and constant struggle against predators have had influence on the shape as well as the dog’s character and it has made it strong, fearless, and taught it to save its energy. In the places of primordial habitation, the CASD were used mainly to protect herds from predators and also as guard dogs.” Also quoting UKC standard “For thousands of years, large, heavily-built dogs with cropped ears and tails have been used by the nomadic tribes of Central Asia to protect livestock from predators and other property from thieves. The breed developed as a result of rather harsh natural selection. The climate in the countries where the Central Asian Shepherd Dog developed ranges from hot and dry, to bitterly cold and windy. Only the hardiest of pups survived and only those with strong guarding instincts were allowed to stay with the flocks” (Original link can be found here). That being said CAS are dogs who protect human belongings including but not limited to humans themselves, their livestock and dwellings. We do not argue about who the CAS dogs guard. We, at Grand Central Asians, agree that CAS have historically been used to guard humans, their livestock and anything that the human may own.