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West Siberian laika stood in snow

Russia is far and away the largest country in the world by area. While it may not have the highest number of registered dog breeds by country, the vast region is home to several diverse indigenous peoples that have, over time, bred a wealth of popular dog breeds.

Despite what you may think, though, not every Russian dog breed resembles the large, fluffy types that usually come to mind. Explore our list of these 15 dog breeds from Russia to find out if one might be the best fit for you and your family.

1. Samoyed

The luxurious, white-coated Samoyed is one of the world’s oldest domestic dogs and one of the most popular Russian dog breeds. Originally bred to herd reindeer in Northern Siberia, these working dogs first arrived in the United States as Princess de Montyglyon’s companions in 1904.

This powerful, highly playful breed is beloved for its gentle disposition and curiosity. With early socialization, consistent training, and positive reinforcement, the Samoyed can get along very well with other animals, including cats, but due their boisterous playfulness, they may not be ideal around more fragile senior pets.

Samoyed walking in snow

Facts about the Samoyed

2. Siberian husky

The gentle, energetic, and vocal Siberian husky is the perfect blue-eyed dog breed for adventurers and adrenaline lovers who enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and camping. When properly socialized, these loyal dogs do well around strangers and young children alike.

Siberian huskies were originally bred by the northern Siberian Chukchi tribe — near the present-day Chukotka district of Russia — to aid in hunting and gathering across the frozen Arctic tundra. They eventually made it to Alaska in 1908, where they thrived in cold weather as sled dogs assisting gold miners. Today, Siberian huskies remain among the most popular domestic dog breeds in the world — and for good reason.

Siberian husky on a snowy landscape

Facts about the Siberian husky

  • Breed group — Working Group (AKC)
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — Often
  • Lifespan — 11-13 years

3. Borzoi

The wavy-coated borzoi, also known as the Russian wolfhound, is a relatively quiet and rare dog breed beloved for being patient, independent, and loyal. However, as former hunting dogs, they do possess a high prey drive and quite the energetic streak.

Borzoi were once considered esteemed canine royalty among Russian aristocrats in the 16th century and were popular with the tsars before the Russian Revolution. Originally bred to hunt wolves for sport, these elegant dogs need sufficient space to romp around, and they’re best for owners with time to give them the exercise and attention they need.


Facts about the borzoi

  • Breed group — Hound Group (AKC)
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — Rarely
  • Lifespan — 7-11 years

4. Caucasian shepherd

The giant, even-keeled Caucasian shepherd, also called the Caucasian ovcharka or Caucasian mountain dog, can grow as large as 170 pounds in weight. Though its exact origins remain up for debate, the breed gained a reputation as a distinctly Russian dog when Russian cynologists worked to preserve the breed following World War II.

Due to their loyal, protective nature, without early socialization and proper training, Caucasian shepherd dogs’ guardian instincts and powerful presence may become concerning around strangers, young children, or other pets, so prospective owners should keep this in mind.


Facts about the Caucasian shepherd

  • Breed group — Foundation Stock Service (AKC)
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — When necessary
  • Lifespan — 10-12 years

5. Black Russian terrier

The highly intelligent, powerful and courageous Black Russian terrier, also known as the Chornyi terrier, was originally bred to guard and protect within the Soviet military. Known as nimble-footed giants, these majestic dogs can weigh up to 140 pounds and grow up to nearly 30 inches in height.

Despite its name, the Black Russian terrier actually isn’t a terrier at all. In fact, the large dog is estimated to descend from about 17 different breeds, including the Caucasian shepherd, giant schnauzer, Airedale terrier, Rottweiler, and Newfoundland.

Black Russian terrier in a forest

Facts about the Black Russian terrier

  • Breed group — Working Group (AKC)
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — When necessary
  • Lifespan — 10-11 years

6. Central Asian shepherd

The brave and independent Central Asian shepherd dog hails from the nomadic tribes of Central Asia and is believed to be native to the former Soviet republics of the region. Originally bred as a multi-purpose breed, Central Asian shepherd dogs worked in the military, protected livestock, and were often employed as property guard dogs.

Due to their heightened territorial instinct, first-time or inexperienced dog owners may have a hard time with this breed.

White Central Asian shepherd close up

Facts about the Central Asian shepherd

  • Breed group — Foundation Stock Service (AKC)
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — When necessary
  • Lifespan — 12-15 years

7. Yakutian laika

The Yakutian laika is a working dog breed native to the Yakutia region of Russian Siberia. In ancient times, these dogs were used by the Yakute people to herd reindeer and hunt day and night. The Yakute became the first known people to use dogs to pull sleds, making the Yakutian laika some of the first dog breeds to be put to the test.

Though these historical hunters can be incredibly friendly and gentle with children, Yakutian laikas have a lot of energy, may bark often, and need early socialization and training just like any other dog breed in order to thrive.

Yakutian laika running through the grass with a toy

Facts about the Yakutian laika

  • Breed group — Foundation Stock Service (AKC)
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — Often
  • Lifespan — 10-12 years

8. East European shepherd

East European shepherd dogs, also known as Vostochno Evropeiskaya Ovcharka (VEO), Russian shepherds, or Belarusian shepherds, were part of a state-sponsored breeding effort led by the Soviet government and military in the early 20th century.

As a cross between German shepherds, East Siberian laikas, and other breeds, the East European shepherd dog can tolerate cold temperatures, is highly protective ,and packs a lot of power in its size, so be wary when introducing them to smaller animals like cats or other dogs.

East European shepherd

Facts about the East-European shepherd

  • Breed group — Sheepdogs (Russian Kynological Federation)
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — Only to alert
  • Lifespan — 10-12 years

9. Russian tsvetnaya bolonka

The Russian tsvetnaya bolonka, or bolonka for short, literally translates to “Russian colored lapdog.” These charming, highly-trainable companion animals are part of the bichon family and make for great small-home companions. Bolonki are also known to be great with children and other animals, but the puppies still love their alone time every now and then.

Russian tsvetnaya bolonka

Facts about the Russian tsvetnaya bolonka

  • Breed group — Miscellaneous Class (AKC)
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — Only to alert
  • Lifespan — 14-20 years

10. Moscow watchdog

The majestic Moscow watchdog, developed to be a guard dog in the former Soviet Union, descends from hybrids of the St. Bernard, Russian hound, and Caucasian shepherd dog breeds. Though they can grow to weigh upwards of 120 pounds, require extensive daily exercise, and are often wary of strangers, Moscow watch dogs are often considered gentle giants.

As with all dogs, proper training and early socialization is a good idea for this protective pup.

Moscow watchdog puppy walking in snow

Facts about the Moscow watchdog

  • Breed group — Molossian Mountain Type (RKF)
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — When necessary
  • Lifespan — 9-11 years

11. Russian toy

The charming Russian toy (or Russkiy toy) is known to be incredibly affectionate and playful. This teacup breed, often compared to the Chihuahua, has roots dating back to the Russian aristocracy, though it was nearly disseminated twice with the rise of communism. Previously, the smooth-coated variety of the breed was known as the Russian toy terrier, and its long-coated counterpart was called the Moscow long-haired toy terrier.

Once it was added to the official Fédération Cynologique Internationale list of registered breeds in 1988, both varieties were combined and the “terrier” was dropped. According to the Russian Toy Club of America, the Russian toy dog has a cheerful personality and wants nothing more than to be with its loving humans.

Black Russian toy dog being held by a person

Facts about the Russian toy

  • Breed group —  Toy Group (AKC)
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — Moderately vocal
  • Lifespan — 12-15 years

12. Chortai

The chortai, also known as the Hortaya Borzaya or Chortaj, is a rare sighthound believed to originate from rural Eurasia, which includes central and western Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and the Caucasus Mountains. These intelligent dogs with long legs resemble the borzoi and other slender, high-waisted sighthound dog breeds like the greyhound, and were a favorite of Russian nobility.

Though chortai once neared extinction, there have been increased attempts by breeders to rescue and revive them after the fall of the Soviet Union. Still, the breed remains currently unrecognized by the major international dog breed registries.

Black Hortaya Borzaya dog in a field (aka Chortai)

Facts about the chortai

  • Breed group — Unrecognized
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — When necessary
  • Lifespan — 14-15 years

13. West Siberian laika

The West Siberian laika, which have been loosely referred to as spitz-type hunting dogs originating from the Mansi and Khanty peoples, were bred to bark-point during the hunt for birds and small size game, so it’s no surprise they’re considered a relatively vocal breed. The wolf-like West Siberian laika is intelligent and highly trainable, and with early and proper socialization, these dogs make for loyal family companions.

West Siberian laika

Facts about the West Siberian laika

  • Breed group — Nordic Hunting Dogs (RKF)
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — Often
  • Lifespan — 12-15 years

14. East Siberian Laika

The East Siberian Laika (ESL), similar to its Western counterpart, is another spitz-like Russian hunting dog, hailing specifically from parts of Siberia east of the Yenisei River. Though they make great sled dogs, ESLs were primarily bred to hunt small and large game and were beloved for working hard in harsh winter conditions. Unlike other Laikas, the ESL actually barks much less and is relatively quiet for a hunting breed.

East Siberian Laika

Facts about the East Siberian laika

  • Breed group — Nordic Hunting Dogs (RKF)
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — When necessary
  • Lifespan — 12-15 years

15. South Russian ovcharka

The long-haired South Russian ovcharka (or South Russian shepherd dog) is a flock guardian dog hailing from present-day Ukraine and southern Russia. Though there is no well-documented history of the breed, these large, protective dogs are believed to be hybrids of Russian sighthounds and Spanish long-haired shepherd dogs. The South Russian ovcharka is also known to be especially prone to life-threatening heart conditions .

South Russian ovcharka (sheepdog)

Facts about the South Russian ovcharka

  • Breed group — Sheepdogs (RKF)
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — When necessary
  • Lifespan — 9-14 years

Frequently asked questions

What is the most famous Russian dog breed?

The Siberian husky is arguably one of the most famous Russian dog breeds, but other popular ones include the Samoyed, Russian toy, and more.

What is the most rare dog from Russia?

The borzoi, which was beloved by Russian aristocrats and Tsars before the Russian Revolution, is considered one of the more rare dogs from Russia.

What kind of climate are Russian dog breeds best suited for?

Because many Russian dog breeds were bred to hunt and survive in Russia’s harsh winter climates, they tend to be better suited for colder temperatures.