WHY BLACK? by BLACK RUSSIAN TERRIER CLUB OF AMERICA, INC.
HISTORY T he Black Russian Terrier is a very young breed, having been recognized as a sepa- rate breed in Russia in 1981 and three years later in 1984 accepted in FCI. In the United States, the Black Russian Terrier was accepted by AKC into the Miscellaneous Group in 2001, and fully accepted into the Working Group in 2004. But how did the Black Russian Terrier come to be? Prior to World War II, the Russian army had over 40,000 working dogs with 168 separate units that participat- ed in battles. After World War II, dogs suitable for service work had become essentially extinct, and the govern- ment ordered the creation of a new breed that would be able to serve as a multi-purpose military dog in different climatic regions. In the mid 1940’s, the Central School of Military Breeding (A Red Star Ken- nel@) undertook this task, mass cross- breeding from the few serviceable breeds available post-war. It is believed that at least 17 breeds and cross-breeds were used in the Red Star Kennel breed- ing program which eventually produced the Black Russian Terrier recognized by the Russian Ministry of Agriculture as a breed in 1981. Some of the breeds used were the Giant Schnauzer, Rottweiler, Airedale Terrier, South Russian and Central Asian Ovcharka, Newfound- land, Great Dane and Moscow Diver (now extinct) among others. The Red Star Kennel geneticists evaluated many aspects of what was being produced in determining which characteristics should be maintained and which should be discarded. As one can imagine, with such a varied genetic background of different breeds and cross-breeds, and without the use of genetic and other diagnostic tools we enjoy today, this was a huge undertaking evolving over many decades! A Giant Schnauzer named “Roy” is credited as being the foundation sire of the Black Russian Terrier. Roy produced large black dogs with rough coat on the head and legs when crossed with cer- tain females of different breeds. While there were certainly other colors that were produced during the formative years and which can also still appear from time to time in litters even now,
selection for both a strong nervous system and a stable temperament .” The geneticists found there was a correlation between temperament and color in the Black Russian Terrier; and from the very first standard for the breed promulgated in 1956 to date, the only acceptable color for the Black Rus- sian Terrier is BLACK . Dr. Yerusalimsky also noted that: “During the first few generations of BRTs, the dogs quite often could have hyper excitability and unmotivated aggression. Being large, such dogs were socially very dangerous, and because of that they were consistently eliminated from the breeding pro- gram of the breed. As a result of this selection, the temperament of contem- porary BRTs began to meet all the mod- ern requirements of social living.” This is a very important statement. What were these dogs that possessed such “hyper-excitability,” “unmoti- vated aggression” and were “socially very dangerous” to the extent that they had to be “eliminated from the breed- ing program of the breed”? Two breeds mentioned by Dr. Yerusalimsky are the black and tan Rottweiler and the black and tan Airedale Terrier. In discussing the specific black and tan markings reminiscent of the Rott- weiler, he states: “As one of the ancestors of the BRT, the Rottweiler also has to have maxi- mum pigmentation, a strong nervous system and a stable temperament. However, because the original inten- tion of the breed was to be essentially a butcher’s guard dog, the Rottwei- ler is more aggressive than the Giant Schnauzer, who is in [sic] usually more of a companion dog. Thus, the inter- breed type of BRTs, which is tilted towards the Giant Schnauzer, is more socially acceptable.” G. A. Yatcenko, the President of the National Russian Black Terrier Club, and M. V. Gerasimova, then President of the International Black Russian Ter- rier Club, provided additional informa- tion regarding non-black coated dogs in May and June 2016. Prior to 2006, puppies not black in color received reg- istration cards with the notation “not acceptable for breeding” and “the color is not accepted by the FCI.” In 2006 such breedings were discontinued “by S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , M ARCH 2019 • 301
there were other reasons why the Rus- sian geneticists chose to further devel- op the black coated dogs. The goal of the Red Star Army was to basically pro- duce a multi-purpose military dog. This dog had to work closely with its han- dler, over different terrain and varying climates, whether on patrol, guarding, or drafting. Not only was correct size and structure required, temperament and trainability were equally important. WHY BLACK? It is not unusual from time to time for puppies in a litter to have coats with “throw-back” colors and patterns which can include black and tan, black and silver, sable, gray, fawn and shades in between. Historically these pups were eliminated from any breeding program. Now, genetic color testing is available to determine what color gene a dog is car- rying so that breeders can make intelli- gent choices with regard to maintaining the black in the Black Russian Terrier. Color testing is now one of the required tests for Black Russian Terriers to obtain a CHIC number. Black dogs require dark pigmenta- tion of the nose, eyes, gums and lips. As the breed stabilized and consistently reproduced itself, the black dogs from the “Roy” (Giant Schnauzer) line con- sistently exhibited the qualities that were being sought. Remembering that there was no such thing as DNA test- ing post-WWII, the geneticists noticed a correlation between black dogs with maximum pigmentation and a sound temperament in comparison to light pigmented, non-black dogs. According to canine Russian expert Dr. Eugene Yerusalimsky (world known dog expert, international judge, author of Russian and FCI breed standards, author and international lecturer on canine biomechanics), in a letter writ- ten to the Black Russian Terrier Club of America in May 2016 in response to the emergent issue of the United Ken- nel Club registry considering a standard change to allow coat colors other than black, he states: “For the black color, the standard requires maximum pigmentation of the coat, nose, eyelids, eyes, gums and lips. This is because the direct selection for maximum pigmentation is an indirect
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