To most people, the name of this special dog breed may not sound as familiar as, say, the Siberian Husky. Dog lovers, though, would likely know better about it. Sulimov dog, also known as Shalaika, is a breed of dog that can only be found in Russia and there are only 40 of them today. What is so special about Sulimov that it is exclusively Russia’s and is it a natural breed? Let us introduce you more to it.
The Breeding History
In 1975, Klim Sulimov – a Senior Research Assistant at the Institute for Cultural Heritage and Environmental Protection, cross-bred two Lapponian Herders and two Turkmen golden jackals which then resulted in the birth of a Russian jackal-dog hybrid. While in the breeding process, Lapponian Herders female should foster male jackal pups so they would slowly accept their mates. Jackal females, on the other hand, could accept dog males more easily. However, the half-bred jackal-dog was difficult to train, so Klim Sulimov bred them again with Huskies to get quarter-bred that turned out to be more trainable and had excellent noses. These were the first generation of Sulimov dog or Shalaika.
Why Klim Sulimov chose Lapponian Herders and Turkmen golden jackals as the initial parents of Shalaika was of course based on a thorough research. Lapponian Herders, originally from Finland, themselves are hybrids between female wolves and male dogs and used to herd and guard reindeer. Turkmen golden jackals are small wolf-like canids that live in the valleys of Southeast Europe, Southwest Asia, South Asia, and some parts of Southeast Asia.
The cross-breed was done for Aeroflot airline security to get the best dogs to help at the airport as sniffer dogs. They can smell forbidden goods better than any other sniffer dogs even machines with 95% accuracy. Sulimov dogs are also perfect to work under extreme weather conditions with temperature as low as -70⁰C and high as 40⁰C. Until today, though, Shalaika or Sulimov dog is still not yet registered as a working breed of dog and still exclusively bred for Aeroflot.
Behavior, Temperament, and Physical Characteristics
Being the best sniffer dog in the world up to date that can detect explosives and banned items, Sulimov dogs actually behave and look a lot like domesticated dogs. They are obedient and eager to please. Unlike other sniffer dogs or police’s K9, Shalaika looks very friendly with long fur, round eyes, curly bushy tail, and slim legs that explain its heritage of jackal and Husky very well. These characteristics make dog lovers around the world wonder if they can adopt one into their homes. But, until today, there are only 40 of this breed in existence and all are kept in the Russian territory. Because of this exclusiveness, Sulimov dog’s true traits still remain a mystery to people outside of Russia.
According to Klim Sulimov, just like people, each of the Sulimov dog has its own unique character. After birth, the dogs would have to go through all the dog handlers and then they would decide whether the dog is suitable to work for Aeroflot and the airport or not. Some of the dogs would show lack of desire to be sniffer dogs and this is when they get to be adopted by regular families. The trainers would also divide dogs with superior noses to be sniffer and the more aggressive ones to be guards.
Other Unique Dogs from Russia
Sulimov dog or Shalaika is not the only dog breed “made in” Russia, there are other breeds that can hardly be found outside of the country. Here they are:
1. Black Russian Terrier
Also known as Stalin dog – because it was the period where it was first bred – a black Russian terrier is not actually a terrier. It is a mixture of Giant Schnauzer, Rottweiler, the Airedale, Ovcharka, and the Moscow Water Dog. Black Russian terriers are big, could weigh up to 60 kilograms, and the life span could reach 12 years. Just like Sulimov dog, a black Russian terrier is a working dog which means it needs a lot of activity to stay healthy. With enough time spent socializing with humans, this breed of dog can be a very nice pet.
2. Russian Ovcharka
The looks of this dog may deceive you with its fluffy long fur that needs to be brushed daily. Ovcharka is actually a livestock guard dog that could be fierce, distrustful of strangers, and known to be tough when it comes to guarding its territory and herd. An Ovcharka needs good trainings to keep them obedient and also a lot of socialization with humans if it is meant to be let around a home.
Commonly associated with the nomadic tribe of Kyrgyz, Taigan is a hunter. Despite its lean and small build like dogs from the hound family, Taigan has a great lung capacity and is capable to bring down big game like wolves and ibex. This dog can collaborate well with golden eagles and is superior with its sight, ears, and nose. Because Taigan can hardly be found outside of its region, the valid data of its life span and health is still not officially recorded.
4. East-European Shepherd
This is another hybrid dog especially developed for Russian military purposes. Bred during the Soviet Union time, East-European Shepherd was a cross between German Shepherd and Siberian Husky. These two breeds of dog were chosen because they had the needed traits; intelligent, hardy, and cold resistant. Not recommended to be kept as pets, East-European Shepherds must only be handled by the trained dog handlers.
Now you know why Sulimov dog is special and why it is kept inside Russia only. Maybe if one day this breed already gets its registration, it can be bred outside of Russia to be either working dog or a loyal pet at homes.