|Breed standard for the Armenian Gampr, as adopted in Armenia
Armenian Gampr [gΛmpər] is an endemic dog of the Armenian Highland.
Armenian Highland is one of the cradles of civilization. Since the times immemorial, the
man domesticated and used various animals, dogs and cats, goats and sheep, horses and
donkeys, hunt lynx and other animals. The Gampr, however, was different from all these
animals, as it accompanied the man as he bred stock and hunted, cultivated the land, built
settlements, created objects of art and enjoyed rare moments of leisure.
The Armenian Highland is made up by mountain ranges, deep gorges, mountain rivers,
steppes and alpine meadows. This relatively small area has almost all climate zones of
the world. The landscape, the flora and the fauna change with the altitude above sea level.
Despite the demanding climate, almost the whole area of the Armenian Highland is
populated. The Gampr, with its typical fidelity and adaptability, follows its perseverant
The Armenian Gampr is a unique breed created through the centuries of patient and
targeted breeding and natural selection, and in relative isolation from the rest of the
The Gampr is a working breed, mostly used as a herding dog, guard dog, hunting dog,
war dog, rescue dog, a hardworking companion and an equal member of the family. The
confidence and affection of the man towards his Gampr has always been complete and
Armenian myths and folklore praise the unrivaled courage, strength, beauty, wisdom,
candor, loyalty and noble character of the Gampr. Such high esteem secured the Gampr a
place in the pantheon of Armenian deities: Aralez, the canine deity, tended to the wounds
of warriors in the battlefield by licking them and brought them back to life – a truly
canine behaviour… The Gampr enjoys a well-deserved and important role in the history
and culture of Armenians.
This standard offers general information about the history and features of the Armenian
Gampr and helps those who breed and show these dogs and work and live next to them.
The description of the character and appearance offers a general guideline for breeding
Petroglyphs found in abundance in the territory of today’s Republic of Armenia, mostly
in Geghama and Syuniq mountains, are a rich source of information on the emergence
and the development of the Armenian Gampr. Dating back to the 7th to the 3rd millennia
B.C., these petroglyphs contain an amazing number of different dog images; they are also
remarkable for the diversity of roles these dogs perform. In more recent petroglyphs of
the 1st millennia B.C., Gampr-like dogs increasingly prevail.
Archaeological excavation of tombs discovered in the basin of Lake Sevan (1st millennia
B.C.) revealed numerous dog skulls; their characteristics are essentially identical to the
modern Gampr’s head.
Numerous pottery pieces discovered in Lori Fortress are decorated with images of
Endemic wild sheep varieties found in the Armenian Highland indicate that sheep
breeding started here; hence the need for large herding dogs that would herd the flock and
at the same time protect it from predators.
Numerous research and evidence suggest that this breed as we know it emerged in the
first millennia B.C., i.e. approximately three thousand years ago.
Armenian chronicles of the Middle Ages contain numerous references to the multiple
uses of the Gampr, its breeding and value. Since the 19th century, there have been written
references by European travelers describing the dogs of Armenia.
First attempts at breeding the Gampr according to modern methods started in the
beginning of the 20th century, in the Soviet Union. Breeders joined all varieties of the
breed in one group, determined a breeding policy and called the resulting breed a
Caucasian Ovcharka (sheepdog). A great number of Gamprs were exported from
Armenia in that period. The dog’s robust health, stamina, power and guarding abilities
were in high demand in many parts of the then Soviet Union, a huge country with vast
territories. There were failed attempts to create new, Soviet breeds by crossing the Gampr
with Saint Bernard, German Shepherd, the Newfoundland, the Great Dane and other
breeds. Similar attempts are currently made it some other countries.
In today’s Armenia, the Gampr is widely used in agriculture, mostly for herding
livestock. The Gampr is used in other areas of human activity, including guarding
property both in rural and urban areas. The Gampr breeders include kennel clubs,
individual enthusiasts and shepherds.
The character is the most defining feature of the Gampr.
· Simple instincts
a wild animal. Such simplicity reflects the quintessential and polished features
typical of a superdog.
the most ferocious Gampr will try, before eliminating an intruder, to determine
whether the danger is imminent. There is no Gampr in rage; wisdom accumulated
in the course of the centuries tells that the rage makes one vulnerable and the
nature disposes of the excitable ones. The Gampr will readily accept any change.
requiring quick and right decisions. As the master was not always there, the
Gampr learnt the lesson of independent decision making well.
While endowed with sophisticated protective (guarding) instincts, the Gampr is not an
aggressive dog. Dogs from Armenia have always been different for their calm
temperament and independent decision making ability.
affection and may come across as an extremely independent dog compared to other
breeds. It is smart and finds it difficult to obey unreasonable commands.
In wild nature, and especially in the mountains, the Gampr becomes a completely
different dog. The movements and gait become fluid, stealthy and silent. The dog follows
the master from a distance, going in wide circles and guarding the perimeter, while
always keeping an eye on everyone it feels it should protect. In emergencies, the strong
instincts and powerful natural imprints take over learned behaviour patterns. The Gampr
is a cautious character, it always takes the safest route and tries to avoid unnecessary
The Gampr should be treated with respect. If abused, it will withdraw into itself and
assume an aloof demeanour, and it would be extremely difficult to earn the Gampr's
The Gampr usually protects and takes care of the weak. Friendly towards all animals it is
tasked to guard, the Gampr is quiet around children, yet accepting only the strong and the
determined as its master. It has a strong feeling of camaraderie towards other domestic
animals and is a natural herding dog. This accommodating and hard working dog is
happy only when there is a duty to perform and to keep it busy at all times.
Not a very loud dog to start with, the Gampr would never bark without an obvious
reason. It is impossible to mistake the Gampr’s growl for any other dog’s voice; it is
more like a roar, and quite a terrifying one.
Despite its impressive size and striking demeanor, the Gampr is mostly inconspicuous,
does not take up much space and reminds one of its presence only when there is a
business at hand.
The Gampr leaves an impression of a wise and intelligent dog. Spending time with the
Gampr is a very relaxing experience.
Unlike other modern breeds, Gampr’s appearance – the size, proportions, substance and
color, may not be uniform and varies from region to region. The purpose of this standard
is to provide a general description of the Gampr’s appearance, with an emphasis on the
dog’s working abilities, behaviour and character.
Gamprs are large and rugged dogs, with a well developed and muscular body covered
with a double coat, and a powerful head. The body shape is rectangular, slightly longer
than tall. Despite the large size, the Gampr does not come across as a bulky or a heavy
dog. The movements are easy, balanced and fluid. One grasps the true size of the dog
only when looking at it in a quiet standing or sitting position, from a close distance or
when comparing it to some other animal or object. In mountainous regions, the prevailing
type is a large dog with a long coat, while in the lowlands dogs of a lighter built and with
a shorter coat are more common.
At first sight, Gampr’s appearance may not be particularly appealing; simple coarse lines,
rough coat, lazy and ungraceful movements when the dog is resting: expediency is the
defining feature of all natural breeds. The rough coat protects the dog from the cold,
fangs of predators and other perils. Variations in color help blend into different
backgrounds. The total absence of unnecessary movements serves to optimize the food
intake and keep the huge body in shape at all times.
Head - Large, full and impressive, without signs of dryness, with extremely powerful
jaws; the cheekbones should not be very prominent. The apex is broad and dome-like,
with a moderate stop, taking about 60% of the head’s length. The flews are thick, tight
and dry. The top of the skull slopes gently to the nearly-parallel muzzle with no marked
Ears – Set on top of the head, slightly above the eye level.
Eyes – The color should be darker than the coat. Relatively small, almond shaped, deeply
set. The gaze is intelligent, confident and serious. Even small puppies demonstrate a
serious and stern gaze typical of the breed.
Teeth - White, strong, well developed, closely set, meeting in a scissor bite.
Neck - Strong, well-muscled, moderately arched, not too long.
Body – Long, the index is 108-110%. The longish shape is mostly made up by the chest,
and not the loin.
Chest – Broad and deep, slightly rounded, should descend below the elbow.
Flank – Continues the chest line, slightly tucked-up.
Withers – Moderately pronounced.
Back - Broad, straight, muscled and powerful.
Loin – Short and muscular.
Croup – Long, broad and level.
Tail - Set rather high, carried low in repose. When agitated, the tail is carried high, in a
curve or scythe-like.
Forequarters - Straight and parallel. The shoulder blades are long and oblique, angulated
at 108-110 degrees. The forearms are straight, powerful and parallel. The pasterns are
long and well angulated.
Hindquarters – The thighs are long, thick and muscled. The upper thigh is the same
length as the lower thigh, the stifle is well bent. The hock joint is well defined. The hock
is strong and perpendicular to the ground.
Paws – Round, strong, compact, with elastic and soft pads.
Gait – Agile, smooth and balanced. The forearms and hind legs move in parallel.
Color – Brown color or spots are not desirable.
Coat – Usually short on the muzzle, ears and forequarters. Double coat, the undercoat
should be well developed to protect the dog from the elements.
Size – 65 cm at the withers for males and 62cm for females. The weight should be
according to the size, at least 45-50 kg, or 60 kg on the average.
· Any significant deviation from minimum size parameters quoted in this standard.
· Light colored eyes and nose.
· Excessively long, short or narrow muzzle.
· Yellow teeth.
· Round, protruding or bulging eyes.
· Square short body. Lacking good angulations at hindquarters and straight stifle.
· Sway or roach back, long loin, short croup.
· Any other bite but scissors.
· Markedly timid or aggressive behaviour.
· Lack of double coat, lack of undercoat.
· Bilateral or unilateral cryptorchidism.
· Blindness and deafness.
The Gampr is a working dog and may come in various types, depending on natural
conditions and the field of work.
Balanced behaviour, health and build have a priority and preference over all other
The Gampr does not have hereditary or genetic diseases. It does not fall sick easily, but
when it does, treatment is never easy. The Gampr almost never suffers from the cold, and
feels fine in the wild nature, it loves soil and grass.
The impression projected by the Gampr should definitely be that of a powerful, athletic
and smart dog. It is impossible to confuse Gampr, even from a long distance, with any
other animal like bear, wolf or sheep.
The Armenian Gampr is the pride of the Armenians, an inseparable part of their history
At all times, Gamprs were exported from Armenia as very special and unique dogs. The
blood of the Gampr flows in the veins of many modern dog breeds in all parts of the
world. Sometimes, not all of the Gampr’s unique features were needed elsewhere. In
some countries, they were considered not big enough, while in others smaller dogs were
needed; some believed that their color was not right, while others wanted them to have a
different coat. Features developed and used centuries ago may not be relevant in a
modern urban setting, and the man started changing and modifying the Gampr. Today’s
typical Caucasian shepherd dog (mountain dog) is quite different from the naturally bred
dog, with its many working abilities and utilitarian features.
Last Edited: May 18, 2003
Translated: January 10, 2010 by Christine Karapetyan
Different people at different times contributed to developing this standard; Andrey
Kurbet-Davidiantz, Garnik Ohanyan, Armen Khechoyan, Avetik Asatrian, Karen
Manvelian, Edward Sargsyan, Viktoria Maloyan, Norayr Chilingaryan, N. Abajian, Naira
Avagyan, Tigran Nazaryan and many others.