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Get to Know the Black Russian Terrier: The Red Star’s Creation

The Russian Terrier is one of the finest military dogs in history, just as he was bred to be.

Caroline Coile  |  Jan 25th 2016


To dog folk, a Black Russian is not an after-dinner cocktail. And a Black Russian Terrier is not a terrier. It’s one of Russia’s greatest successes in animal husbandry, the result of a concerted effort to create the supreme military dog.

The Black Russian Terrier.

Black Russian Terrier. Photography by Shutterstock.

More interesting things about the Black Russian Terrier

  • After World War I, the Russian Military Council directed that dogs should be bred and trained by all branches of their military. The dogs were to be used for a variety of military purposes, such as guard dogs, mine detectors, and messengers.
  • Many of their military dogs were killed in World War II. The Central Military School of Working Dogs, better known now as the Red Star Kennel, was assigned the mission of creating a better military dog.
  • The Red Star Kennel initially tried Giant Schnauzers, Airedale Terriers, German Shepherd Dogs, Eastern European Shepherds, Newfoundlands, Moscow Water Dogs and Caucasian Ovcharkas. Eventually they crossed Giant Schnauzers with Airedale Terriers, and Giant Schnauzers with Rottweilers. Then they crossed the results of these two crosses, and bred from within those results.
  • The most influential dog was a Giant Schnauzer named Roy, who is considered by some the foundation of the breed.
  • Experts disagree of the breed’s exact genesis, however. This led to an extensive investigation by one breeder, the results of which were published in a three-volume set, The Creation of the Black Russian Terrier.
A Black Russian Terrier.

Black Russian Terrier. Photography by Shutterstock.

  • The new breed was initially called the Black Terrier.
  • They were first shown to the public in 1955.
  • The breed was bred solely by the state-owned Red Star Kennel until 1957.
  • In the 1970s, the breed began to be shipped to various parts of Europe.
  • It became an official breed in Russia in 1981. It was recognized by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) in 1983, with an FCI standard adopted in 1996.
  • The name was changed to Black Russian Terrier (BRT) in 1992.
  • The first BRTs came to America in the 1990s.
  • In 2004, the BRT became a member of the American Kennel Club Working group.
A closeup of a Black Russian Terrier.

Black Russian Terrier by Shutterstock.

  • The Black Russian is also known as Stalin’s Dog. Other names include Russian Pearl, Tchiorny Terrier, Chornyi, Svart Terrier, Terrier Noir Russe, Russian Bear Schnauzer, Sort Russisk Terrier, Blackie, Terrier Ruso Negro, and Czarny Terier Rosyjski.
  • The dogs served on border patrol, mine and explosive detection, and search and rescue.
  • They served in Soviet missions in Afghanistan and Bosnia.
  • The tail is traditionally docked for military dogs, as the tail is considered a detriment should an enemy grab it. In America, tails can be docked or undocked. In many other countries, docking is illegal.
  • The ears are not cropped.
  • The Black Russian Terrier is the 121st most popular AKC breed.
  • No Black Russian Terrier has ever placed in the Working group at the Westminster dog show.
  • The Black Russian Terrier may be confused with the Giant Schnauzer or Bouvier des Flandres. Compared to the Schnauzer, the Black Russian is much larger, has a longer coat, and never has cropped or erect ears. Compared to the Bouvier, the Black Russian is larger, has a less frizzy coat, and never has cropped or erect ears.
  • This is a large, strong, courageous black rough-coated dog. He stands 26 to 29 inches at the withers, and weighs from 80 to 145 pounds.

Interested in other breed profiles? Find dozens of them here.

Thumbnail: Photography by Shutterstock.

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About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier