Description & Information

General Description

About the Armenian Gampr

Raising a puppy

What to expect, What to feed, How to manage

Breeding

Information for Breeders

Introduction

The Armenian Gampr is the native aboriginal landrace livestock & family guardian dog of the region from the southern Caucasus mountains (Current Armenia, southern Georgia, and new Azerbaijan) and the Armenian Highland, which is now known as Anatolia. The genetics of the gampr are diverse, which is an indication of a healthy gene pool and excellent adaptability. The gampr has regional varieties, which over the millennia have been intermittently crossed with each other, maintaining a healthy genetic diversity. The semi nomadic nature of some shepherds, and changing boundaries of countries, have helped move the gampr genetics across regions from the north caucasus to the Taurus mountains.

During the Soviet domination, many gamprs were taken from their homeland to the breeding kennels that eventually produced the modern Caucasian Ovcharka (CO). While perhaps 60% of the genetics of the modern CO is of gampr origin, the CO is no longer a gampr, but a separate standardized breed. The Central Asian Ovcharka (CAO) was standardized by the Soviet breeding program, and particular regional types blended. It also is not aboriginal; it is more modern in origin. Goals of the Soviet breeders and most modern breeders were different than the original breeders of history, therefore selection for breeding different, and the results of those breedings have become different than the original landrace type.

A landrace, by definition, is a localized breed developed for a purpose and chosen for function, regardless of appearance. Over time and successive breedings, landraces tend to maintain a higher degree of genetic health, and generally consistent and predictable function.

The gampr is not: An Alabai, a modern Caucasian Ovcharka, a modern Kangal, a Karakatchan, a Central Asian Shepherd, a Koochee, a Tornjak, a Sharplaninatz, or a cross of these. The history of the Anatolian, Akbash and Kangal are all of Armenian origin, but in the last 100 years modern breeding practices, such as line-breeding, outcrossing and standardization has occurred, creating some level of separation. Aboriginal dogs of Anatolia (western Armenia) may, with proper investigation, be accepted as gampr.
A gampr is NOT a pure gampr if it has any alabai, CAO, CO etc in it's genetic history.

Why do we call it an Armenian Gampr, instead of Nagazi, Ovcharka, Gurdbasar, Kars etc ?

The Armenian Gampr has existed in these areas, and has been a part of Armenian culture for the last 12,000+ years. No other culture in the area has existed for the duration of the time that the gampr has existed, no other culture has utilized and shaped the gampr as long and as consistently as the Armenian people.
The modern maps show certain areas as now belonging to other countries, but the archeology and history of those areas were Armenian. This breed of dog did not happen overnight, nor in the last 1000 years. The gampr is an ancient landrace, and the only consistent human culture in the area that has existed with them for the duration of their development, are the Armenians.
The Anatolian, Kars and Kangal are descended from currently isolated populations of dogs who were originally part of the gampr landrace. The native Nagazi, Gurdbasar, Kars and generally all those native to the south caucasus are still gampr.
However, the 'modern aboriginal' which is now being registered with FCI as caucasian ovcharka, although short haired, are NOT gampr. These dogs are primarily descended from the Dagestani , Ossetian, and South Russian dogs, north of the transcaucasus. So there is confusion, but when origin is analyzed, and type compared, the 'modern aboriginal' is a different subgroup of the dogs originating in the Caucasus. They are nearly entirely of North Caucasus origin, they are primarily descended from Dagestani and Soviet-created specimens, rather than the native dogs of the Armenian regions, south of the trans-caucasus.

The 'modern aboriginal' that is heavily promoted as a native aboriginal dog of the caucasus has a different coat, and is selected more for bite work than livestock guarding ability. They are attractive, and look like a very stylish version of the native gampr. But they are heavier, they have not stood the test of thousands of years of selection, and their breeding is based on a different source of genetics.

Yes, a percentage of the landrace gampr genetics do come from Dagestan-type dogs; it is the nature of a landrace to have porous borders. But the percentage is low, in regard to the historical exchange of dogs in primitive travels. Now with modern breeding and traveling methods, the Dagestani-type 'modern aboriginal' is becoming more prevalent, especially in Georgia.

It is the gampr that is native to the lesser Causacus, south of the transcaucasus. Not the 'modern aboriginal' which is a short-coated version of the USSR-created
Caucasian Ovcharka. There are differences, some of them not visible.

In order to preserve the native dog of Armenia, we need to be watchful of inclusion of dogs of the 'modern aboriginal' Caucasian Ovcharka and also of the
Central Asian Ovcharka. The gampr is not a Russian breed, and 'Ovcharka' is Russian. The gampr is a gampr.

Description

Historically, only dogs who were intelligent and hardy could survive to be reliable breeders, therefore natural selection has done a superb job in designing one of the most durable, reliable, and enduring breeds in the world.

Although much of the native stock had been depleted in the early twentieth century and continues to be drained by lack of recognition resulting in dogs being registered as other breeds, careful persistent breeding can thoroughly revive the breed.

The gampr is:

  • A landrace breed, they are not similar in appearance but are similar in function and ability.
  • A large guardian dog of ancient origin, from the southern Caucasus mountains and historic Armenia.
  • Kind and loving to family and friends, but fierce and protective when needed; a livestock guardian, a family and farm guardian.
  • Athletic, powerful and graceful.
  • Practical and intelligent, exhibiting self-control in stressful situations.
  • Very very rare.
  • Often mistakenly called one of the more recognizable related breeds out of convenience.


The gampr is NOT:

  • Not an Alabai, a Caucasian Ovcharka, a Kangal, an Anatolian, an Akbash, a Karakatchan, a Central Asian Shepherd, a Koochee, or a cross of these. The clubs for these breeds formed before the Gampr clubs, and several of them claim the gampr as part of their breed. The history of many of these breeds do include the gampr, but have now become removed by focused breeding practices.
  • Not a standardized breed, conforming to a certain look, color, or type specified by a PRESCRIPTIVE physical standard. Rather, the gampr has a DESCRIPTIVE standard which describes the breed as it is, rather than what our current personal opinion dictates that it should live up to.

Physique

Gamprs have strong, muscular bodies with large bone structure. The body is slightly longer than the height, with an index of 103-112%.

The sexes are dimorphic, with the males significantly taller and with a larger cranium. It is often surprising how large their heads are when compared other modern 'pet' dogs.

Traditionally, the ears on the gampr are cropped at three days after birth. At this
time, it is mainly cartilage, and almost no bleeding occurs. This is preferable in
working dogs. The historical necessity was to prevent easy holds and resulting pain
when defending livestock from predators. Most dogs are still used this way, and it can be a sensible thing to do, possibly even saving a dogs life if under heavy threat by wolves.

Roughly 15% of gamprs are born with a natural bobtail. This can be as short as two vertebrae, or sometimes a 3/4 tail. Additionally, some gampr tails are cropped when the ears are cropped.

Coat

The thick coat of the gampr is excellent protection in all weather extremes. The outer hairs tend to be darker than the dense, downy undercoat. They shed their coat once or twice a year, in great amounts.

Puppies often are born slightly darker than they grow to be as an adult. The longer, shiny guard hairs are slower to grow in than the downy undercoat, which usually becomes paler with age.

Shedding happens dramatically twice a year. The undercoat is shed in large patches, similar to a wild animal. The outer guard hairs, longer and thicker than the rest of the coat, do not shed as much as the undercoat.

Any color is permissible, except merle, liver or blue; and blue eyes or eyes lack of dark eyeliner and pink noses are also not permitted. (This is due to a low coefficient of inbreeding. The gampr is a landrace with a healthy heterozygous genotype, so most of the double-recessive mutations have not yet appeared in the breed.)

Movement

The Armenian Gampr should move most frequently at an easy trot, during which the back stays level and the feet are placed in line with each other. This movement is economical, graceful and structurally sustainable.

An unbalanced front end width vs back end width can cause a rocking motion, or add strain to the joints. When a dog has a very wide chest, the movement is more tiring, the weight rocks side to side, and the entire front assembly is subjected to physical strain. A more moderate chest width is most desirable, nearly matching the width of the hips.

Photo: Dogs bred/owned by Vahan Mkhitarian

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Psychology

The Armenian gampr fits many roles, but its essential character is that of a Livestock Guardian dog. One of the most important differences in this breed is their independent mind - if they decide that you need protection, they will protect you. This, as with other Livestock Guardian breeds, is not a highly commandable breed. The Armenian Gampr is not looking to its owner for direction, it is a confident dog that makes its own decisions.

They have a very strong desire to love and be loved, and especially to belong to their family. Unlike more domesticated breeds that will unthinkingly devote themselves to you absolutely without question, these dogs will think about it. The owner will create the relationship with the dog, consistently. If the owner ignores the dog, the dog will begin to ignore the owner. Somewhat like a good friendship - it has to be kept up, nurtured, or the dog will end up finding new, better friends.

Gamprs have a tendency to create bonds with children and women first, and recognize the leadership within a family. This is also true for livestock: lambs and kids first, and will therefore bond with the flock/family.

Once the dog has decided that they are an important part of a family, thats where they stay and protect.

Basically, if this is to be a family dog / guardian, the dog has to be included in a working relationship, not just put out back on the assumption that it will function without emotional input or attachment.

If the dog is put to work as a flock guardian, it will need to get to know its human and animal family, and particularly be involved with the new babies.

Puppies should be introduced to livestock early, and the ones who have a particular affinity for this work will be preferred as breeding dogs. Gamprs can make great livestock guardian dogs at a later age, but starting young is ideal.

In Armenia, Gamprs excel as personal companions and guard dogs as well as livestock guardians. Whatever the task may be, they do need large, open space for exercise.

The instinct of a gampr cannot be trained out of existence - it will always have a desire to patrol, to guard, to understand its surroundings and have a social order.

The instinct to patrol will express itself naturally on a large acreage. If the gampr is in an urban setting, it will need to walk around the neighborhood early in the morning and again in the evening. The urge to patrol is strongest at dawn and dusk. A dog with a particularly strong urge to patrol may become slightly neurotic if there is no opportunity.

The Armenian Gampr learns what is normal or not, by observation and habit. It seeks to understand its surroundings. When something is abnormal, such as a visitor or a bag blowing in the wind, then the gampr will suddenly become alert, guard, notify the owner in some way or directly confront the problem. They patrol create a routine, in order to know what is out of place.

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Դիրքապահ հերոս Լեսսին ....

Posted by Հայկական Բանակ on Monday, April 4, 2016

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