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  • Temperament: Intelligent, Calm, Powerful
  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 119 of 192
  • Height: 27-30 inches (male), 26-29 inches (female)
  • Weight: 80-130 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 10-12 years
  • Group: Working Group

    The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.

Black Russian Terrier lying in three-quarter view facing forward
Black Russian Terrier head and shoulders facing left
Black Russian Terrier coat detail
Black Russian Terrier

Find a Puppy: Black Russian Terrier

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GENERAL APPEARANCE

The Black Russian Terrier is a robust, large, balanced, agile and powerful dog.
He has large bone and well-developed muscles, and a great strength and endurance. The Black Russian Terrier must have a stable and reliable temperament, possessing self-assurance and courage.

HEAD

The head must be in proportion to the body and give the appearance of power and strength. It is approximately equal to the length of neck and not less than 40 percent of the height of the dog at the withers. The eyes are oval, of medium size, dark, and set relatively wide apart. Eye rims are black without sagging or prominent haw. Light eyes are a serious fault. The ears are medium in size, triangularly shaped, set high, but not above the level of the skull. The ear leather is dense, rounded at the bottom, hanging with the front edge lying against the head and terminating at approximately mid-cheek. Cropped ears are not acceptable. The skull is moderately wide with round, but not too pronounced cheekbones. The supraorbital arches and occiput bones are moderately expressed. The back skull is flat. The stop is moderate. The back skull is slightly longer than the muzzle measured from the stop to the occiput and stop to end of the nose, an approximate ratio of 5:4. The muzzle is broad with a slight tapering towards the nose. A mustache and beard emphasize volume and give the muzzle a square shape. Viewed in profile, the topline of the muzzle is parallel to the topline of the back-skull. The nose is large and black. Nose color other than black is a disqualification. Lips are thick, fleshy, black, tight and without flaws. The gums have dark pigmentation. The teeth are large and white with full dentition. Any missing tooth is a severe fault. The incisors form a straight line at the base. A correct bite is a scissors bite. Two or more missing teeth or bite other than a scissors bite is a disqualification.

BODY

The whole structure of the body should give the impression of strength. The chest is oval shaped, deep and wide with well-sprung ribs. The bottom line of the chest extends to the elbows or below and is not less than 50 percent of the dog’s height measured from the withers. The fore chest is pronounced. The withers are high, well developed and more pronounced in the male than in the female. There is a slight slope from the top of the withers into a straight, firm back. The back is approximately half of the distance between the top of the withers to the base of the tail. The last half of the backline is comprised of two equal parts, the loin and the croup measured to the base of the tail. (The ratio of back to loin to croup measured to the base of the tail is 2:1:1.) The loin is short, wide, muscular, slightly arched and elastic. The croup is wide, muscular, and slopes slightly (5 to 10 degrees). The tail is thick, set moderately high, and is carried at an approximate 45-degree angle from the horizontal. When the tail is docked, there are 3 to 5 vertebrae remaining. An undocked tail is not to be penalized. The preferred shape of an undocked tail resembles a sickle or saber. The abdomen is moderately tucked up and firm.

TAIL

The tail is thick, set moderately high, and is carried at an approximate 45-degree angle from the horizontal. When the tail is docked, there are 3 to 5 vertebrae remaining. An undocked tail is not to be penalized. The preferred shape of an undocked tail resembles a sickle or saber.

LEGS

The forelegs are straight, thick, of medium length, and parallel when viewed from the front. Length of the foreleg to the elbow is approximately 50 percent of dog’s height at the withers. Pasterns are short, thick, and almost vertical. Front dewclaws should be removed. Feet are large, compact, and round in shape. Nails are black.

COAT

The coat is a double coat. The natural untrimmed coat length varies from 1½ to 6 inches. While the outer guard hair is coarser than the softer undercoat, it is not wiry or curly. The body coat has a slight to moderate wave. The furnishings on the head form a fall over the eyes and a mustache and beard on the muzzle. The legs are covered and protected by long, dense coat. Trimming of the natural coat is needed for suitable shape and upkeep.

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Black Russian Terrier

About the Black Russian Terrier

What’s the word we’re looking for? Imposing? Massive? Majestic? How about just plain “big.” This brawny guard dog of the Siberian steppes can tip the scales at 140 pounds and stand as high as 30 inches at the shoulder. They’re much taller when the huge, brick-shaped head is considered. The tousled, all-black coat is warm enough to allow BRTs to patrol some of the coldest habitable places on earth. The old expression “He moves well for a big guy” applies to this nimble-footed giant.

National Breed Clubs and Rescue

Want to connect with other people who love the same breed as much as you do? We have plenty of opportunities to get involved in your local community, thanks to AKC Breed Clubs located in every state, and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country.
Black Russian Terrier

Find a Puppy: Black Russian Terrier

AKC Marketplace | PuppyFinder

AKC Marketplace is the only site to exclusively list 100% AKC puppies from AKC-Registered litters and the breeders who have cared for and raised these puppies are required to follow rules and regulations established by the AKC.
Find Black Russian Terrier Puppies

Care

NUTRITION

The Black Russian Terrier should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.

GROOMING

The Black Russian Terrier’s tousled double coat—a thick, soft undercoat covered by a coarse, protective outer coat—needs regular maintenance to prevent mats from forming, with a thorough brushing once or twice a week. The owner will need to learn to scissor around the face, especially his beard and mustache, to keep him looking his best, or rely on a professional groomer to do the job. A trim with clippers every few months can be done by a groomer, but many owners learn how to do it themselves. As with all breeds, the BRT’s nails should be trimmed regularly.

Grooming Frequency

Occasional Bath/Brush
Specialty/Professional
Daily Brushing

Shedding

Infrequent
Frequent
Seasonal

EXERCISE

The Black Russian Terrier needs at least 30 or 40 minutes of exercise every day. He is eager to take part in brisk walks, long runs, bike rides, swims, and hikes with his owner. In the backyard, he and his owner can play with a ball or a flying disc. A BRT who doesn’t get enough exercise will become unhappy and destructive, and one who doesn’t spend enough time with his human family can develop aggressive tendencies. Many BRTs excel at canine sports such as obedience, agility, rally, and Schutzhund (protection) competitions.

Energy Level

Couch Potato
Needs Lots of Activity
Energetic

TRAINING

An owner who is not willing or able to train a powerful, willful animal should not get a Black Russian Terrier. Socialization needs to start in puppyhood and continue throughout the dog’s lifetime in order to prevent aggressive behavior. Obedience training also needs to start as early as possible and should continue well into adulthood. BRTs are dominating and will become pushy with anyone they can intimidate. Training must be firm and consistent, but always reward based, never punishment based. The BRT is intelligent and learns quickly, but only if he is treated with kindness and respect.

Trainability

May be Stubborn
Eager to Please
Easy Training

Temperament/Demeanor

Aloof/Wary
Outgoing
Reserved with Strangers

HEALTH

The Black Russian Terrier is typically a healthy breed, and a responsible breeder will screen breeding stock for health conditions such as allergies, urinary tract stones, hip and elbow dysplasia, and progressive retinal atrophy, which can cause vision loss and blindness. As with all breeds, a Black Russian Terrier’s ears should be checked regularly, and the teeth should be brushed regularly.

Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Elbow Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • Cardiac Exam
  • JLPP DNA Test

Read the Official Breed Club Health Statement.

Black Russian Terrier
Black Russian Terrier
Black Russian Terrier

History

At a secret location near Moscow, the Red Star Kennel was established in the 1930s by the Soviet government. There, a team of scientists and breeders worked to create a superdog for the Russian army. The project was fraught with steep challenges. The indiscriminate slaughter of purebred dogs during the Russian Revolution was followed by a world war, economic disasters, and another world war. These upheavals decimated Russia’s best stock, painstakingly maintained over centuries. Importing quality dogs to Russia was near impossible—war and economic depression had ravaged kennels everywhere in Europe. Essentially, the Red Star team was starting from scratch.

Some 17 breeds—Giant Schnauzers, Airedale Terriers, and Rottweilers among them, with a dash of Newfoundland to mellow the temperament—were incorporated into the genetic jigsaw puzzle. The program was invigorated after World War II, when quality breeding stock was among the spoils of war brought to Russia from vanquished Germany.

The result was the BRT: a tireless fence dog who could patrol Russia’s endless borders, swift and powerful enough to down and hold a prisoner at Stalin’s notorious prison camps, with sufficient coat to work a Siberian night shift. (The English breed name is, by the way, a misnomer. The Black Russian Terrier is no more than 15 to 30 percent terrier in its makeup.)

The dogs were deployed successfully at border crossings, remote prisons, and military installations. By the mid-1950s, when closings of Stalin-era gulags reduced the number of dogs needed, the army began selling excess litters to hobby breeders and exhibitors. Retired officers bringing their K-9 partners home to civilian life in the late ’50s further acquainted the Russian people with this endearingly steadfast guardian, which they would nickname the Black Pearl of Russia, or Blackie for short.

Today, BRTs are more likely to be guarding suburban lawns than political prisoners. In 1981 the BRT was officially declared a breed by the Soviet Ministry of Agriculture, and it was admitted to the AKC Stud Book in 2004.

Did You Know?

The Black Russian Terrier is AKC's 151st breed.
The Black Russian was created in part due to Red Star Kennels, an army-controlled Soviet kennel dedicated to developing special-duty breeds.
The Black Russian was developed through selective interbreeding of many breeds including Rottweilers, Giant Schnauzers, and Airedales by the Russian military.
As insinuated by the name, the only acceptable color in the Black Russian Terrier is black.
Despite its name, the Black Russian is a member of the Working Group and not the Terrier Group.

The Breed Standard

GENERAL APPEARANCE

The Black Russian Terrier is a robust, large, balanced, agile and powerful dog.
He has large bone and well-developed muscles, and a great strength and endurance. The Black Russian Terrier must have a stable and reliable temperament, possessing self-assurance and courage.

HEAD

The head must be in proportion to the body and give the appearance of power and strength. It is approximately equal to the length of neck and not less than 40 percent of the height of the dog at the withers. The eyes are oval, of medium size, dark, and set relatively wide apart. Eye rims are black without sagging or prominent haw. Light eyes are a serious fault. The ears are medium in size, triangularly shaped, set high, but not above the level of the skull. The ear leather is dense, rounded at the bottom, hanging with the front edge lying against the head and terminating at approximately mid-cheek. Cropped ears are not acceptable. The skull is moderately wide with round, but not too pronounced cheekbones. The supraorbital arches and occiput bones are moderately expressed. The back skull is flat. The stop is moderate. The back skull is slightly longer than the muzzle measured from the stop to the occiput and stop to end of the nose, an approximate ratio of 5:4. The muzzle is broad with a slight tapering towards the nose. A mustache and beard emphasize volume and give the muzzle a square shape. Viewed in profile, the topline of the muzzle is parallel to the topline of the back-skull. The nose is large and black. Nose color other than black is a disqualification. Lips are thick, fleshy, black, tight and without flaws. The gums have dark pigmentation. The teeth are large and white with full dentition. Any missing tooth is a severe fault. The incisors form a straight line at the base. A correct bite is a scissors bite. Two or more missing teeth or bite other than a scissors bite is a disqualification.

BODY

The whole structure of the body should give the impression of strength. The chest is oval shaped, deep and wide with well-sprung ribs. The bottom line of the chest extends to the elbows or below and is not less than 50 percent of the dog’s height measured from the withers. The fore chest is pronounced. The withers are high, well developed and more pronounced in the male than in the female. There is a slight slope from the top of the withers into a straight, firm back. The back is approximately half of the distance between the top of the withers to the base of the tail. The last half of the backline is comprised of two equal parts, the loin and the croup measured to the base of the tail. (The ratio of back to loin to croup measured to the base of the tail is 2:1:1.) The loin is short, wide, muscular, slightly arched and elastic. The croup is wide, muscular, and slopes slightly (5 to 10 degrees). The tail is thick, set moderately high, and is carried at an approximate 45-degree angle from the horizontal. When the tail is docked, there are 3 to 5 vertebrae remaining. An undocked tail is not to be penalized. The preferred shape of an undocked tail resembles a sickle or saber. The abdomen is moderately tucked up and firm.

TAIL

The tail is thick, set moderately high, and is carried at an approximate 45-degree angle from the horizontal. When the tail is docked, there are 3 to 5 vertebrae remaining. An undocked tail is not to be penalized. The preferred shape of an undocked tail resembles a sickle or saber.

LEGS

The forelegs are straight, thick, of medium length, and parallel when viewed from the front. Length of the foreleg to the elbow is approximately 50 percent of dog’s height at the withers. Pasterns are short, thick, and almost vertical. Front dewclaws should be removed. Feet are large, compact, and round in shape. Nails are black.

COAT

The coat is a double coat. The natural untrimmed coat length varies from 1½ to 6 inches. While the outer guard hair is coarser than the softer undercoat, it is not wiry or curly. The body coat has a slight to moderate wave. The furnishings on the head form a fall over the eyes and a mustache and beard on the muzzle. The legs are covered and protected by long, dense coat. Trimming of the natural coat is needed for suitable shape and upkeep.

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Black Russian Terrier

Colors & Markings

Colors

Description Standard Colors Registration Code
Black Check Mark For Standard Color 007
Salt & Pepper Check Mark For Standard Color 167
Black & Tan 018
Blue 037
Sable 164
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