A trailer made for traveling to fights; one side filled with stale bread for the dog's meals
Origins of Non Native Dogs
& economic pressure
Over the years it became more possible to import big fighting dogs from nearby countries which has also lead to dwindling gampr numbers. 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 dog fighting has resulted in a trend away from the inherent use of the breeds as they were developed. In search of bigger tougher fighting dogs, many people import or cross to Central Asians, Alabai, Malak, Dagestan or North Caucasian fighting dogs. As the value of winning, fighting dog increased, the more some owners looked elsewhere to breed to something bigger and more aggressive but still referring to their dog as gampr.
The increased flow of dogs in and out of Armenia has led to many dogs being mixed even with Alabai sold as "real gampr". Often people do not know the difference between types, as there are many types of just Armenian dogs, plus the imported dogs are often similar, and produce very large puppies that sell quickly – in a struggling economy, this is a winning characteristic.
Central Asian fighting mix in a remote village in Armenia
When the USSR withdrew from Armenia, many different non-native dogs were left behind. Often, these were more impressive than the remnants of the native gene pool, which had barely survived the recession, were not pedigreed, and had previously been genetically plundered during the previous 100 years.
These non-natives from the Soviet era were large and impressive, and often touted as ‘pure’ compared to the local landrace. Often these were bred back into the local dog population, either intentionally or because the dogs managed it through sheer dominance.
Many of the dogs imported to Armenia are merely from the adjacent gene pools to the north or south. In a natural landrace situation, the boundaries are usually flexible and blended with neighboring populations. These neighboring populations of Armenian dogs include the local landrace dogs of the north caucasus, Kazakhstan and Iran. However, much of the original landrace Armenian dog population was lost by changing borders with Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Iran, making clear distinctions even more difficult.
An interesting testament to both the reduced population of dogs in Armenia and the increase in interest in northern dogs for fighting is the collection of dogs found by Vartanian R. S., spanning from 1979-1998 during his search for dogs like he’d seen as a child. The dogs documented in the North Caucasus are local dogs that are the neighboring gene pool to the gampr but are not Armenian gampr. The site shows a nice assortment of phenotypes that are very similar to the gampr and also became some of the foundations of the new era of fighting dogs.
guardian, not a fighter
Many excellent flock guardians are poor fighters within the ring. Gampr instincts tell them to defend their own, not what isn’t theirs and not outside their own territory; they should be polite and non-confrontational. A fighting ring is not one’s own territory, therefore, a logical, intelligent and self-controlled flock guardian will not fight in the ring.
The instincts of the livestock guardian dog can however, be adapted through many generations, for fighting in the ring. Flock guardians are nomadic for much of the year and must adapt quickly to protecting new territories, some more quickly than others, and these dogs are more likely to adapt to ring fighting. Also, landrace flock guardians are more owner oriented than many standardized types of flock guardians, which will help inspire them to also guard the humans who bring them to the ring. Additionally, a strange dog near a flock guardian’s charges, be it flock or human, is synonymous with an unwelcome predator and may be reacted to as such, even within a new location, if the owner is present.
Understanding the hardy, dedicated, Gampr makeup (as seen below); it is easier to understand that with a specific selection of proven fighting lines, a population of fighting dogs can be cultivated, bred, and further developed into a breed that will actively fight in the ring.
This flock of sheep and the Gamprs in the background, traveled for 3 days, in mostly rainy conditions, with no food and constant movement.
Following his flock in the rain, for 3 days. Some of the terrain is rough, but flocks often follow roads when available
After 3 days of travel, this dog is curling up to rest with his flock, in the rain
Taking a well-deserved rest, after 3 days of trekking in the rain, but still on guard
Mixing The Breeds
deleting natural instinct
Over the decades, as dog fighting has become more organized and profitable, it has become commonplace for owners from individual countries to fly to international competitions, exchange pups and buy adults, as well as sending females to be bred in foreign countries and generally blending bloodlines. This has resulted in a trend toward an internationally sourced, ubiquitous type of fighting dog. Most gladiator breeders focus on their own lines, but bring in carefully selected, individual lines, to include among their future generations. This is especially true, if a dog can improve the aggression and size, to produce a winning dog in the fight ring.
During her visit to Armenia, Club founder Rohana Mayer, visited the kennels of four of the main fighting dog breeders in Armenia. Each kennel dog had their own general appearance (enough that a dog from one kennel could be easily differentiated from a dog from another kennel), but most had common ancestors and almost no Armenian ancestry. For example, in one kennel with over 80 adults; there was one dog with Armenian ancestry.
Young dogs raised in Yerevan; fighting mixes of multiple nationalities
Mixed-ancestry fighting dog, from a large kennel in Yerevan
Young fighting dogs growing to maturity, in a warehouse overwhelmed with ammonia fumes from old urine, making it painful to breathe
In Armenia, the owners of the fighting dog kennels, promote their dogs as the best and the only 100% pure Armenian Gamprs. This is good for their own puppy sales and good for ego gratification, if someone thinks their country is best represented by a champion fighter. However, for the small remaining native population of true Armenian dogs, it is causing damage. The general attitude now is that an Armenian Gampr must be huge, dominant and willing to fight at any time. In actuality, the true ancestral Armenian Gampr is often smaller, more lean, very agile, often cautious, and will usually avoid confrontation when not in their own territory or guarding their flock or humans.
The unfortunate situation that has developed in Armenia, is that the shepherds have realized that people will buy larger sized puppies; people who come from urban areas, or those who do not understand the correct breed type for the Gampr. Shepherds usually have two or three large males tied up in a camp for breeding with the true Armenian females, or the mixed females, as they will produce larger puppies. This gives the appearance of that shepherd owning a huge, winning beast, whose descendants are then bred back to the native dogs and can produce some good, working type dogs, after a few generations.
Over the years, it has become much more difficult to find true Armenian flock guardians. The remaining few are just remnants of what has been picked over for decades, with the larger individuals taken to breed better structure back into the inbred lines of gladiators, or left out of breeding and replaced by larger, more notorious fighting lines that could make better puppy sales.
Native Gampr female with her mixed pup. Same family as the next photo.
"Bulldozer" line male, with his mixed descendants, in a sheep camp in Armenia
Caucasian Ovcharka mix; bred for selling puppies. All are very inbred; many, back to their sire, three times.
Remote sheep camp with a large Central Asian
mix, who the shepherd swears is both from "Bulldozer" the CAO, and also pure Gampr.
how it's done
When creating a foundational dog for a fighting line, the largest 10% of dogs may be selected from a small village of, for example, 1000 dogs. These 1000 dogs would then be set against each other, in a fighting ring, to narrow them down to...let's say 10 dogs. So, ultimately, from that regions 1000 dogs, we have a small gene pool of 10 males.
These 10 winners then each establish a line of descendants. They are bred frequently, to other large, mixed breeds, and without competition from pack members. They also create more viable descendants than if they would have remained among the sheep camps, as most pups typically do not survive the conditions. Since the pups can potentially bring a lot of money as fighters, versus guardians, they are viewed as a valuable commodity and are carefully watched so they can thrive.
A vast majority of these descendants will show a stronger tendency to be fight ready and have less self-control in random places than the original gene pool. Additionally, due to the intense, selective breeding system used by gladiator dog breeders, they are often much larger and wider and as efficiency is not critical in a gladiator breed, this can easily be financially supported in a year-round kennel environment.
This is duplicated throughout the Caucasus, Central Asia and surrounding areas.
So, from all regions, the characteristics that will work in a fighting ring become refined, concentrated, and slightly removed from the general population. This sector of the dog population has a new singular job, is housed most of the year and their performance around a flock or a family becomes basically unimportant. These dogs are bred prolifically, by people who can afford to house, feed and promote their dogs for fighting purposes.
A dog just returned from fighting, who travels in his own special trailer, above
a for-profit sport
The AGCA interests lie with the original, natural Armenian Gampr dog. We do not support or condone dog fighting for any reason whatsoever. Dog fighting is cruel and mixing dog breeds to increase their size or aggression is simply uncalled for and risks the very existence of our landrace.
All across eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Turkey and Central Asia, dogfighting is a popular sport. In recent decades, dogfighting has become more of an organized sport, having been born out of a casual practice in the villages, which in turn has made that casual practice even more common; enabling increased activity in dogfight as a sport. Within that set of parameters there are a variety of circumstances, such as the forced settling of the once-nomadic Koochee tribes near Kabul, which devolved into a situation where the original work of the dogs was no longer as relevant and money could be made around camp by pitching organized fights.
Over the years, breeding for fighting has replaced most of the breeding for the original livestock guardian work and mixed breeding is more common than not.
Dogs fighting outside of Kabul, Afghanistan. These have a high percentage of native genes.
Non-landrace and mixed breeds fighting outside of Kabul, Afghanistan.
Nearly all successful fighting dogs originate from native landrace livestock guarding dogs in the regions where this sport is popular. Of primary importance are the stout dogs of the north Caucasus, which have been the foundation of most lines. Each region, in turn, has provided significant influence. The original Turkmen Alabai, (Alabai is a Turkmen word meaning spotted, as is Chal in Armenian), the Sage Koochee of the Central Asian tribes, a few lines from Uzbekistan, and many of the Tobet influence in Kazakhstan.
Hro Hovsepyan, (center) with his dog Tiger. Hovsepyan is one of the main gladiator breeders and dog fighters in Armenia
Conserving the Breed
gampr, not gladiator
As the population of our landrace Gamprs has declined due to wars, oppression, loss of historical lands and mixing to create the profitable gladiator dogs, it is so important, now more than ever that we understand the similarities and differences, so that only natural Gamprs are added to our farms and the gene pool.
Many gladiator dog breeders advertise and sell their puppies as "pure Armenian Gamprs," to buyers in Armenia and in the U.S., who unknowingly trust them at their word. Even widely known breeders, who were once trustworthy, have not been excluded from the economic pressure of making a sale (to support their family) and have knowingly sent mixed, improperly bred dogs to the U.S. Some honest, not bred to dogfight, owners and/or breeders do have nice Armenian Gamprs, but also own just as many, if not more, gladiator dogs and may not know the difference themselves. As the buyer, knowing the difference is key.
On average, the gladiators are larger, heavier and wider. Their large size requires more food and prevents the required endurance needed, during long treks in the summer heat, following flocks between pastures. Heavier bodies put more strain on their joints. Thicker bodies retain more heat while moving and wider bodies prevent the efficient, single-tracking pace of the endurance dogs on long marches. They tend to have genetic structural faults that would not be normal among the native landraces such as splayed feet, straight knees, bad hips, uneven bite, bad elbows, cow hocks, and ectropion eyelids.
A fighting dog kennel in Yerevan, housing over 80 dogs. One was Armenian Gampr, but all others are mixes, (as in this photo) from different countries
Mentally, gladiator dogs also have less self-control and wisdom during confrontations. A flock guardian pack is mostly males, with one or two females, who are regularly in estrus. This requires a balanced pack of males, who have self control, and do not initiate fights unnecessarily. The gladiators, having been housed individually and selectively bred for a quick desire to fight, are not able to reliably control themselves in a pack of males, and don't focus on guarding the flock. This is not the natural behavior of a livestock guardian dog.
Considering the intentional breeding to create the Eurasian gladiator dog; it is clear that they are not beneficial to our farms, ranches or homes and are possibly unpredictable around their owners, children, and other animals. They are less likely to care for livestock, since many generations have been bred from dogs that have no regard for boundaries, lack polite behavior, have difficulty analyzing a situation before reacting or caring to act appropriately among a flock. This is not desirable guardian behavior.
If you are looking to purchase a Gampr and need help correctly identifying a dog; feel free to contact us and we will be happy to forward you on to landrace Gampr dogs in the US, Canada and Armenia.