History of the Russian Black Terrier

In Russia, the Black Russian Terrier has always been known as the Tchiorny Terrier. In the United States and other Western regions, the breed is called Black Russian Terrier or just BRT. In the UK and other regions, it is known as the Russian Black Terrier or RBT. They are one of the world’s youngest breeds, created to fulfil a specific need for Russia and her people at a time of rebirth and reinvention. Because the history of the breed is relatively new, how it was created is well documented.

World Wars I and II had a direct impact on European countries that sustained major damage to the people, environment, wildlife and domesticated animals. Many purebred dog breeds were reduced to very low numbers and were only able to recover when breeders searched out quality dogs to use in rebuilding programs after WW II.

Periods of distemper outbreaks took its toll on dog breeds. Russia also had to deal with the Revolution in 1917-1918 and economic issues. All of these events caused many purebred dogs in Russia to suffer immense losses, and many breeds in this country were on the verge of becoming extinct. But there was a need for working dogs, so a breeding program was developed to create a breed from the few purebred dogs left in the country, and from imports of other breeds.

The programme was established at Moscow’s Red Star Kennel in the 1930s. Colonel G. Medvedev of the Central Military School of Working Dogs was given the task of developing a working dog that would meet the needs of the military. His team included breeders and geneticists. Their goal was to create a working dog that was powerful, intelligent and adaptable to the harsh Russian winters.

Breeding began in earnest after WW II. Using the few working breeds left in Russia, breeders cross-bred the Giant Schnauzer, Moscow Retriever, Rottweiler and Airedale Terrier to create an entirely new dog breed, the Russian Black Terrier. The RBT had a stable temperament, was large and intimidating, wary of strangers, protective and had the endurance to run up and down fence lines in their guarding duties and chase down intruders when necessary. The Blackie went to work alongside soldiers patrolling the borders and rail crossings. They guarded prisons, gulags and military installations. These dogs were intended to be part of Russia’s national security force. The Russian Black Terrier was the perfect working dog for the job he was bred to do.

During the 1950s after the closing of the gulags, the Russian military didn’t need as many dogs, so they began to sell puppies to the public. At that time, working ability was considered much more important than appearance so the dogs varied in type, although a large, strong build and long black weather-proof coat was preferred. When the state-owned Red Star Kennels finally sold some puppies in the late 50’s to civilians, these new breeders focused much more on appearance, whilst retaining the breeds working ability. Private breeders made some changes to the RBT’s breeding and added Newfoundlands, Great Danes, Caucasian Sheepdog, Eastern European Shepherds, Borzoi and other European breeds to create better stability and improve the breed. By the time they were done, 17 different breeds were used to get desired characteristics consistently. So, although the breed name suggests that the RBT is a terrier, it is not a true terrier and is part of the Kennel Club’s Working Group.

In 1955 the first working examples of the breed were put on show at an exhibition in Moscow and the first Breed Standard was published in 1958. This was then adopted by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale in 1984 and the the Russian Black Terrier was registered by the UK Kennel Club on the Import Register in 1998. An interim breed standard was published by the Kennel Club in 2000. The breed was officially launched in the UK by the Russian Black Terrier Club in 2001 (report from Our Dogs newspaper).  The Kennel Club General Committee agreed to transfer the Russian Black Terrier from the Imported Breeds Register to the Breed Register with effect from 1st July 2004. The current Russian Black Terrier Breed Standard, proposed by the Russian Black Terrier Club, was adopted in 2009.

The contemporary Russian Black Terrier is a working dog, guarding dog, sporting and companion dog. Today, they are more likely to be pets and loving family members, but also regularly participate in dog shows, obedience trials, agility events, work as therapy and/or assistance dogs, and even serve as search and rescue dogs. Their natural protective nature and high intelligence also make them excellent guard dogs.


© Russian Black Terrier Club 1998-2024