observatory and a calendar with a 365-day year, and the Armenians even built aStonehenge thousands of years before the
well-known European site (Ney, n.d.).
  As these developments spread across Asia, so too did the early breed of guardian dog, protecting livestock and people as
they traveled. Historical records show early breeds of domesticated livestock to have existed in Armenia 25,000 years ago,
roughly 10,000 years before their existence elsewhere (Ney, n.d.). Although the oldest archeological evidence of settlements in
Armenia are 90,000 years old (Ney, n.d.), under the current city of Yerevan, many early peoples were nomadic,
A Brief History of the Armenian Gampr
Fat-tailed sheep, grazing in
Relevant Links:
Armenian Gampr Club of America
 A dangerous trend for dogs in Central Asia and the Caucasus is the development of dog fighting as a sport.
Historically, a nomadic tradition allowed for two dogs to be pitted against each other only long enough to assess which
dog would declare dominance over the other, and no longer. There was very little risk to the dog (a valuable and
necessary asset), and the contest rarely involved more than a wrestling match. Usually, showing teeth and attempting to
bite the other dog was a signal of inferiority, because the contest of wills was more important: a dog that could dominate
a situation, particularly with marauding wolves, without risking bodily injury was an invaluable resource. If a dog was
afraid enough to resort to biting, that was a sign of mental defeat before possible physical defeat.
 During the last twenty years, the difficulties posed by widespread poverty coupled with a reduced reliance on tradition,
have increased the number of people pitting their dogs against each other for money. In some areas this is the easiest and
the only opportunity to make money quickly and relatively easily. Even in more developed areas in Russia it is a
somewhat common and lucrative sport. These modern dog fights have deviated from tradition, and it is now common
for dogs to inflict some amount of damage on each other.
The current
selection criteria for fighting dog breeding stock is not for level-headed dogs with good judgment,
endurance, caution with strangers and able to work in a pack, but rather for ever larger, less cautious and more
muscular dogs who may not be able to function as a livestock guardian at all. Modern dogfighting has resulted in a
trend away from the inherent use of the breeds as they were developed to be. In search of bigger tougher fighting dogs,
many people import or cross to Central Asians, Alabai, Cane Corso, Dagestan or North Caucasian fighting dogs.
   In the United States dog fighting is prohibited, as it is in many other countries, but the excitement and allure of a dog
that is tougher than all the rest is still attractive to many people. The danger to the breed is that the calm, levelheaded
self-determined intelligence may be lost, and a new version of the breed created that is less predictable and a lot less useful.
   In 1998 a man named Tigran Nazaryan in Armenia wrote software for a database of the gamprs he had knowledge of
in Armenia, and it is posted at
www.gampr.net. Tigran and a veterinarian friend by the name of Avetik  arranged for
the transportation of several dogs to the United States, in order to establish the breed here as well. Some of the dogs
were lost, and a few were bred. There are now at least one hundred gamprs in the United States, mainly in California.
   The Armenian Gampr Club of America, www.gampr.org, was organized in an attempt at preserving the breed here in
the U.S. This comes at a time when new regulations are coming into effect that require any dog that is not a registered
breeding dog of a recognized breed in a recognized club, actively being shown, become spayed or neutered (Los Angeles
Animal Services, 2008). Coincidently, the first county to adopt the new regulation was Los Angeles County, the very
same county where most of the Armenia-registered dogs happen to be living.
   The Armenian gampr is still the breed it has been for thousands of years.
In order for the breed to maintain its
integrity as a useful, reliable guardian, strict and thorough measures must be in place to assure correct breeding
practices. Outside of the native country, any gampr is at risk to a variety of misuses and misrepresentations. Armenia is
a small country where there remain local shepherds in the hills, eking out a living the way their ancestors had for
thousands of years. Many travelers to the cities never even know that the dogs exist, including Armenians who visit
their homeland regularly. The native dogs and shepherds live the way they always have, and in so doing will hopefully
be able to maintain the integrity of the breed that began 15,000 years ago.
   The goal of the AGCA is to maintain the gampr breed in its most pure, original manifestation as the ideal livestock
guardian and human companion, as physically and mentally sound as it was for the last several thousand years.
Pariah Dog Species
Armenian Dog history page
Domestication of Foxes
Excellent history of Armenia
and wealth was measured in possessions, including livestock.
  A dog such as the gampr is invaluable in protecting one’s
possessions, particularly livestock. Even now, it is common
knowledge among owners of sheep or goats and livestock
guardian dogs that a good dog will save the owner
thousands of dollars in prevented losses. During the
thousands of years of nomadic herding and trading, a good
dog could easily have meant the difference between life and
  According to early petroglyphs beginning ca. 15,000-12,000
in the Armenian highlands, specifically “at Ughtasar and on
the Geghama mountain range, up to 20% of the carvings
resemble the modern gampr, while others show
a remarkable diversity of dog that no longer exists.”(Ney, n.d.) The continued existence of domesticated animals at that time
was most likely restricted to those which were particularly useful and relatively self-sustaining.               
New insights into the ancient history of dogs and their domestication have used mtDNA to pinpoint a certain species,
now extinct, that was the common ancestor of all dogs. This proto-dog lived up to 10,000-35,000 years ago; it was neither
dog nor wolf. The native dog species from around the world are the closest living descendants of that proto-dog, genetically.
These include the
dingo, New Guinea singing dog, Telomian dog, Canaan dog, INDog and others. These species of wild dog
are also called pariah dogs, in this case meaning a pure wild species not a mongrelized feral group. These pariahs readily
adapt to domestication in most species, often hanging around villages. They frequently interbreed with stray modern dogs
and are currently in danger of heavy dilution.
   The original domestication of the dog is likely to have occurred in various locations throughout the Caucasus and Central
and Southeast Asia, in areas where the proto-dog lived. The first use of domesticated dogs would logically have been as a
livestock and family guardian, just as most ancient landraces from these areas are used today.
Recent mtDNA analysis of dogs selected within the modern boundaries of Georgia found that the native livestock guardians
have ~23% local wolf genes, and the local wolves sampled had ~12% dog genes, indicating a significant level of natural
crossbreeding between the Caspian wolf and local guardian dogs. Disturbingly, this article and others like it completely fail
to mention the existence of Armenia except when absolutely unavoidable, in maps. As if Armenia does not exist....
   The conclusions that can be drawn from this study and similar studies (even though they 'mysteriously' fail to admit the
existence of Armenia but include every country and region surrounding Armenia) indicate that domestication and the
thousands of years of development of livestock guardians of the Caucasus and Central Asia have been an ongoing refinement
of dogs originally descended from native pariah/proto-dogs which have intermittently crossbred with wolves. The resulting
offspring have been heavily selected for ability and inclination to protect livestock, family and home. They fit within the
classification of moloser.
   When analyzing characteristics of domesticated animals, it becomes apparent that the process of domestication is linked to
certain physiological traits (Trut, Lyudmila N., March-April, 1999) which progress in a surprisingly consistent manner for
all species. Fifty years ago, Dr. Dmitry Belyaev and his team at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics in Siberia pioneered a
strict study of domestication in foxes. Beginning with 130 foxes, the team permitted only specific, timed, consistent
interactions with the captive foxes, and allowed only a small percentage of them to be bred. Selection was based only on
friendliness, and disregarded any other means of distinguishing those which were allowed to reproduce. A remarkable
progression of developmental and physiological changes were recorded by the team, even after the death of Dr. Balyeav.
   With selection being based only on friendliness, the speed of the domestication process was dramatically increased,
accomplishing inadvertently various developments in fifty years which had never been done, even with intention of doing
so, in the history of the farm-fox business (Trut, 1999). Apparently the selection factor of friendliness is polygenic, bringing
with it certain traits which can be observed in many other breeds of livestock. Three main physiological traits expressed
themselves early and consistently. White pigmentation on first the head then the feet, flopping ears, and curling of the tail
were all evident in the early stages of domestication.
   Developmental changes were remarkable as well. Dramatically, the basal levels of corticosteroids in the blood plasma of the
domesticated foxes had dropped to slightly more than half the level in a control group by just 12 generations, and within
another six generations had halved again (Trut, 1999) Lower corticosteroid levels indicate a lower level of fear, and also less
energy usage in order to produce the fear reaction. With this comes a higher level of seratonin, which in turn affects neonatal
development. These changes affect the timing of certain growth markers, such as “earlier eye opening and response to noises
and the delayed onset of the fear response to unknown stimuli.” (Trut, 1999).These in turn affect an animal’s ability to be
aware of and to accept interaction with humans.
   Other significant early changes in morphology were differences in skull proportions, more variety in fur color, and
changes in size. Remarkably, these characteristics are all evident in the modern gampr, but the gampr appears to have
stopped its domestication at that evolutionary stage; the following changes in the foxes, which are more similar to other
modern dog breeds, are not particularly evident in the gampr.
   As domestication progresses, selection being based on a criteria arbitrarily selected by the desire of humans rather than
functional need, many non-productive traits crop up. The Belyaev team began to see malformations of the jaw structure,
short legs, bowed legs, extreme desire for closeness with humans, and less difference in size between the males and females
(Trut, 1999). If the foxes had been living in a situation where their survival, and therefore ability to reproduce, depended on
being physically functional, it may be safe to assume that some of these less desirable characteristics would not have become
prevalent. However, since the study illustrates the connection between friendliness and these morphological differences, one
could also surmise that the domestication of the foxes in a more normal environment would have also been halted or
dramatically slowed at the point of non-functionality.
   The vast majority of modern breeds of dog, particularly those recognized by AKC and primarily judged by a bench
standard, have many similarities to the foxes at the end of the Belyaev study. Genetic defects, which make survival without
the intervention of a veterinarian and constant care and companionship, have become more and more prevalent. Luxation of
the patella in many small breeds is fairly common, as is displacement of the cornea in bull terriers, epilepsy in Labrador
retrievers, weepy eyes in chows, incontinence in the bichon, heart murmers in bulldogs, and among the worst, absolute
incompetency to reproduce in English Bulldogs. All of the breeds above were at some point more functional and less prone to
genetic issues, but the efficacy of human manipulation for the sake of our own imaginary needs, rather than actual realistic
needs, has pushed many breeds to brink of disaster. In just the last one hundred years, the Russian Ovcharka has been
“developed” enough to cause it problems, particularly poor hips and unreliable temperaments.
   Breeders of modern show dogs have a fairly high level of predictability when expecting a litter from known parents
(Whitney, Leon. 1971), but the genetic variability inherent in the gampr is much less refined. It is more likely that a litter of
gampr puppies will resemble the grandparents and great-grandparents than the sire and dam, which is actually a factor that
has frequently aided the perseverance of the gampr in its native country.
   Thousands of years of natural selection have given the gampr as much refinement as is useful, and no more. This genetic
heritage includes the ability to produce any characteristic found in the other molossian breeds, and occasionally there will be
a puppy that seems to have come from another breed, not just another set of parents (Ney, n.d. and Qadirie, Rasaq, n.d.), but
this is a useful characteristic in a country that has been beset by wars since pre-history, famine, earthquakes, and even the
first genocide of the twentieth century, when three-quarters of the Armenian race were annihilated by the Ottoman Empire
(Morgenthau, Henry. US AMbassador to Armenia,  February, 1920)
    The Armenian Gampr dog today has more similarity to the historical
origin breed of all mollosser type dogs than most other more well-known
breeds. Historical evidence shows the development of livestock and
companion dogs to have been begun on the Armenian plateau.
   Anthropological findings indicate that the current gampr type became
what it is today at least 3000 years ago (Richard Ney, n.d.), and as the
breed was developed out of necessity and continues to be a necessary part
of human survival in its native area, the gampr has retained a surprising
amount of its original characteristics.
   Various central Asian countries have closely related strains of the
original shepherds’ dog. However, some of the other breeds also have had
genetic manipulation in the last 200 years, which in most cases has meant
the loss of the primitive soundness and depth of instinct that remains
today in the gampr.
   Located in a very fertile zone, at the crossroads of travel between ancient
Persia, Asia, and Europe, the Armenian plateau has given rise to some of
the earliest milestones of civilization. Armenian innovations and products
have been at the forefront of the development of humanity, and many
steps of human progress appeared first here. Armenia was the first country
to define the zodiac,  use astrology, create an astronomical
Genocide photos
Ancient Astronomy
   This massive genocide, occurring from 1915 though 1923,
devastated the Armenian culture and weakened the ancestral link to
the gampr dog. Already for the previous one thousand years,
Turkish n.d.), and even though the historical borders of Armenia
had incorporated what is now a large part of northeastern Turkey,
recognition of descendants of the recognition of descendants of the
Armenian dogs as their own Kangal-Sivas and Akbash.
independent-minded native livestock guardian more biddable, and more likely to attack on command. The “modern
incarnation of the Russian show type also has some St.Bernard, Sarplaninac, Leonberger and Moscow Watchdog blood
running through its veins, courtesy of ambitious Soviet breeders…”(Wolf, 2007).
   Unlike this new Caucasian Ovcharka, the gampr and other native guardians, such as the koochee of Afghanistan,
are unlikely to actually physically attack without a direct unmistakable threat to their family, human or four-legged.
Their method is to push, to frighten an intruder by charging and barking, then retreating only to rush in again until
the intruder goes away. They actually bite only when absolutely necessary.
   Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the trend has been to breed the modern Caicasian Ovcharka larger and
more defensive, which has created serious genetic complications for the breed. Even though there are some definite
differences between the native dogs and the modern Ovcharka, the Ovcharka has the recognition of the Federacion
Cynologue Internacional, an international dog breed club, and therefore the native breeds are not valued as a national
treasure, but are often bred with Ovcharka or fighting dogs from Dagestan, south Russia or Central Asia. This poses a
threat to the genetic purity and soundness of the gampr, with the potential to disrupt the fine-tuning of thousands of
years of natural development (Qadirie, Rasaq, n.d., and Trut, 1999).
    Bedrosian, R, (1979) The Turco-Mongol Invasions and the Lords of Armenia in the 13-14th Centuries. Columbia University dissertation.
    Retrieved April 29, 2008, from http://rbedrosian.com/atmi3.htm
  • Los Angeles Animal Services. (March 6, 2008) AB1634. http://www.cahealthypets.com/ca-healthy-pets-ab-1634-home.php
  • Morgenthau, Henry. (1920, February 28) Shall Armenia Perish? The Independent, New York. Retrieved April 24, 2008 from http://www.
  • Ney, Richard. (n.d.) Armenian Shepherds: The Gampr Deified as Aralez. Tour Armenia. Retrieved February 2008, from http://www.tacentral.
  • Qadirie, Rasaq. (n.d) Introduction Part 4. Retrieved April 24, 2008 from http://www.koocheedog.com/intro4.php
  • Savolainen, Peter, Ya-ping Zhang, Jing Luo, Joakim Lundeberg, Thomas Leitner. (November 2002) Genetic Evidence for an East  Asian Origin
    of Domestic Dogs. Science 22 : Vol. 298. no. 5598, pp. 1610 - 1613. DOI: 10.1126/science.1073906.  Retrieved April 24, 2008 from http://www.
  • Trut, Lyudmila N., (1999, March-April) Early Canid Domestication: The Farm-Fox Experiment, American Scientist, 87: 160-169.
  • Viegas, Jennifer. (2003, May) Earliest Domesticated Dogs Uncovered. Animal Planet News. Retreived April 20, 2008, from http://animal.
  • Verginelli, Fabio et al. (2005, August) Mitochondrial DNA from Prehistoric Canids Highlights Relationships Between Dogs and South-East
    European Wolves. Molecular Biology and Evolution 2005 22(12):2541-2551  
  • Whitney, Leon F. (1979) How to Breed Dogs. New York: Howell Book House, Inc.
Thereafter, most of the best remainingremaining
northern dogs were taken (Ney, n.d.), and
became a portion of the founding of the Red
Star breeding program, which has resulted in
the widely recognized Caucasian Ovcharka, or
Kavkastkaya. The Soviets originally intended to
breed a police dog, and began crossing them to
other breeds in an effort to make the