The Official Launch of the Russian Black Terrier in the UK

From Our Dogs Newspaper May 2001

by Juliette Cunliffe

April 22 marked the ‘Official Launch of the Russian Black Terrier in the UK’, a symposium well-presented by The Russian Black Terrier Club.

My journey across the northern area of the Peak District would have been spectacular had it not been for the inclement weather, but nothing could detract from the imposing presence of the chosen venue of Wentworth Castle, near Barnsley in Yorkshire. As I walked up to the building from the car park below, I saw several well-known faces from the world of dogs, amongst them Dr Ruth Barbour, Sigurd Wilberg and Tom Mather. These indicated, I hoped, signs of an informative seminar ahead, and I was not to be disappointed.


After the gentle clinking of coffee cups and polite idle chatter, around 60 people were ushered into the room in which the seminar was to be held. People’s eyes lit up as they spied a bright blue ‘goody bag’ on each chair. These had been donated by the sponsor, Friskies BETA who, as the day progressed, were seen to be more than generous. There were T-shirts and more goodies before we left, and presentation to the club of a cheque for £400, this made by the charming Heidi Megicks on behalf of the sponsor.

Chairman Ralph Holmes thanking Friskies Beta representative Heidi Hegicks (Photo by Juliette Cunliffe)

President Tom Huxley had been busy putting his computer expertise to good use, and following a welcome by Gerald Mitchell who was Symposium Co-ordinator, the day got off to a stunning start with a slide show displaying images of Black Russian Terriers around the world. I suspect I was not alone in wondering from which countries these dogs came, for at a quick glance I thought they varied considerably in type, especially in overall length of back and in hind angulation. However, there was much to be packed into the day, and Gerald made it abundantly clear that questions might only be written down, so they might be dealt with at the close of proceedings. This, he said, was a day during which ‘they’ would tell ‘us’ about their breed. We obeyed!

Secretary, Janet Huxley’s presentation on the breed’s origins and history was well-planned and thoroughly informative. It was especially interesting to see slides portraying the breeds from which the RBT, or ‘Blackie’ as it is known by enthusiasts, had been made up. Apart from the Giant Schnauzer, Airedale, Rottweiler and a touch of Newfoundland, another major ancestor was the Moscow Diver. This was a new one on me, so in case I hadn’t absorbed everything on the day, I sought out a little more information when I got home and found that in Russia an attempt was made to develop this breed, using the Caucasian Owtcharka and Newfoundland. However, in the words of O Krasnovskaya, “That was not a good idea as [they] were not willing to save drowning people, but mostly were looking to bite them so this breed was never developed”.

Secretary Janet Huxley thanks Gerald Mitchell for his enthusiastic help as symposium co-ordinator. (Photo by Juliette Cunliffe)

Indeed the rapid development of the RBT is thoroughly absorbing, but to tell you about this is not my remit, and those who are genuinely interest ed will doubtless make time to delve into this to their heart’s content.


Chairman Ralph Holmes told us all how the breed had first appeared in Britain, and it was interesting to note that Mr Holmes had never seen an RBT with a bad temperament. The breed’s sound temperament was something that was conveyed loudly and clearly by many speakers during the day’s event.

Readers who are not yet familiar with this breed should bear in mind that it is remarkably new. The first standard was published in Russia in 1958, in ‘The Instruction for training and using military dogs’, but not until 1981 was the Russian Black Terrier declared a breed, the standard being confirmed by Russia’s Ministry of Agriculture. It was on July 11th, 2000, that the Kennel Club approved an Interim Standard for this breed, with FCI recognition having preceded this during the 1980s.

Gerald Mitchell gave an appreciation of the standard, again aided by clever computer images based on the Italian Tchiorny Terrier Club’s recently published book Il Terrier Nero Russo, then there was a presentation on ‘General Breed Care and Show presentation’, given by Peter Dugdill and Sue Holmes. Only then were our eyes allowed to feast on the real thing. Then an example of the breed was flanked by one of Kari and Sigurd Wilberg’s Bouvier des Flandres, and one of Frances Krall’s Giant Schnauzers. It was fascinating to see these three great breeds side by side, though it was a pity that the space allowed for this was overly limited.

Masti Willa Taira.

All this had happened and it was not yet lunchtime! Many repaired to the bar for the morning’s final half hour, but others preferred to take advantage of the time to become acquainted with the dogs about which we had come to learn. It was such a pity that the weather was not more favourable, for it would have been good to have had a chance to see the three breeds moving together outside had the opportunity arisen.

By 1.30pm we had all found our way to the dining hall, and the morning’s event had certainly given everyone much to discuss. But another topic of discussion was the magnificently painted ceiling which, amongst other things, depicted anthropomorphic monkeys. It was good that we had plenty to discuss, for the hearty lunch was slow to arrive and I, for one, was glad I was surrounded by enjoyable company at table! Unfortunately, the over-prolonged luncheon shortened the afternoon considerably but this was out of the hands of the event’s organisers. Still everyone was in great spirits and we all listened attentively to Chairman, Ralph Holmes, reading a poem which began, ‘Great dogs are like white water’. It was great pity there was insufficient time to reflect on its poignancy.

Jean McDonald-Ulliot and Mary Phillips were to have a given a short presentation entitled ‘Brains and Beauty’, but Mary, though present, was suffering from laryngitis, so her place was taken by John Staples who is Treasurer of the Club. This section, aided by visual images, showed that this is a breed that mixes well, provided it is socialised from an early age, and is remarkably agile, despite its large size. This is also an amazingly bright breed, known to be perfectly capable of opening bolts, and of scaling six foot chain link fencing!

Yasno Solnyshko Iz Russian Dynasty (b) with owner/handler, Olga Vorobieva

Following this we were quickly treated to another look as some RBTs and then to the long awaited question and answer session. Finally it was time for presentations and thanks all round, and a distinguished audience member, Sid Pollock, thanked the many people who had worked so terribly hard to put together a thoroughly informative and enjoyable day.

Earlier in the day, every participant had been issued with a handy laminated card, giving ten ‘Points to Remember’ about the Russian Black Terrier. Indeed the entire day was certainly memorable, and was hopefully one of many similar events to follow, as this magnificent breed becomes further established in Britain.

© Russian Black Terrier Club UK 1998-2023