Sage Koochee - also known as the Koochee dog - Afghan dog of the Nomad
The Sage Koochee ??“ general breed information
The Sage Koochee (in Dari this means ???Dog of the Nomad???) describes a unique breed of dogs found around the northern parts of Afghanistan and the surrounding areas in Central Asia, and anywhere else that these dogs might have travelled with the Koochees (the Nomad people of Afghanistan). They are very closely related to Central Asian Ovtcharkas (CAO) in that they come from a similar genetic backgroung that the CAO emerged from, before they became the CAO show breed. Throughout Central Asia, there are many dogs that have a mixture of genes which preserves the common characteristics of ancient working dogs. With time, they acquired different names in different geographical regions. In some areas, one type of dog was favoured more than the other (for example in mountainous regions, a more favourable type would be heavier coated and large boned, while in a desert environment a lighter, more agile built was more desirable). Natural selection occurred due to environmental conditions, as well as human preferences. Over the centuries, the breeds that ???settled??™ would become associated with that region, and some even received names and international kennel breed status. Those would include the Kangal dog of Turkey, the Caucasian Ovtcharka in the Caucasus region and many other breeds like the large shepherd breeds in Europe which are the descendants of this widespread group of dogs. The Central Asian Ovtcharka was an invention that came out of the desire to classify a highly varied group of dogs of Central Asia into a ???breed??™ that could be bred and then shown in dog shows. Attempts to breed these dogs into massive super dogs through poor breeding practices have produced overly bulky dogs incapable of performing tasks that these dogs were originally meant for. There are still many great ???CAO??™s in Central Asia, but the dog world is now filled to the brim with handicapped behemoths of monstrous sizes and fallible proportions that debilitate the dogs and make them exist as poor reflections of what their predecessors used to be.
A unique fate
The Koochee dogs of Afghanistan have largely escaped this fate, thanks to their relative isolation from the outside world because of the turbulent, war-torn history of Afghanistan. Because of the Russian invasion, the Koochee people of Afghanistan have preserved their old ways for a few generations more than was the case in regions annexed into the Soviet empire and those affected by the Western civilizations. This helped the breed of dogs, that was an integral part of Koochee culture, tradition and daily livelihood, survive, unchanged in its special nature, until the modern times. Sadly, those ways of old are continually disappearing, now faster than ever, since the American invasion of Afghanistan and its liberation from the Taliban. The Koochees and their dogs never were acceptable to the Taliban regime, and weren??™t welcome by the Russians either, but they managed to stay in their old ways because of poor advancement of civilization in the country. They could still live off the land and have been able to preserve the values and traditions that have helped them to survive for centuries. Their dogs played a crucial part in ensuring that survival. Nowadays, that world is shrinking faster than ever due to changing lifestyles where barns replace fields and herds of sheep and goats are replaced by cows and the caravan is replaced by motorized transport.
Throughout history, the Koochees needed their dogs to be extremely vigilant in guarding their livestock and belongings and to safeguard their camps and caravans on their seasonal journeys. They needed their dogs to be extremely tough, not only in the face of danger, but also against the rough environmental conditions that called for unbelievable adaptability. The Koochees travelled from mountains through deserts, in the freezing cold and in searing heat, through country that, for days, did not offer shelter or food and water. They needed dogs that would survive in all kinds of extremes and still be able to perform their duties without hindering the progress of the caravan, ithout the need to feed and take care of them. Without having to wait for them, if they fell ill, or watch over them, so they don??™t fall behind or run off. The Koochees needed dogs that would be fierce and unmatched in stamina, courage and strength, but at the same time would be extremely intelligent, trustworthy and independent and could function without any special guidance or training. For centuries, they acquired the experience and expert knowledge on how to breed these types of dogs and have kept the best ancient bloodlines alive. The fruit of their age-tested labour is still visible today throughout parts of Afghanistan in the form of dogs that still remain true to those high standards. An attempt at transferring some of those bloodlines to the Western world in order to help maintain them is being made as part of an unofficial breeding scheme conducted with the help of a few private individuals in Europe, all under the supervision of a world renowned expert on Central Asian breeds and Koochee dogs, Mr. A. Rasaq Qadirie.
Preservation of the breed
The Sage Koochee are one of the last true breeds of dogs in the world that remain true to their nature, even though they are not classified by any western kennel organization. No matter. This only helped the Koochees maintain good standards of their dogs, without being spoiled by breeding practices that cater to looks and size that translate into profits as the most desirable criteria and sought after characteristics. Such was the case for the now grotesque CAO ???breed??™. Hopefully, for the sake of their wonderful nature, the Sage Koochee will never become a kennel-recognized breed with its own international standard.
The Sage Koochee have a very rich gene pool which enables this breed to show incredible potential for adaptating to their environment. That also means that the way these genes are expressed can vary greatly from one individual to another. For that reason, it is often difficult for an unaccustomed observer to see what makes a dog a Koochee dog or what type of a Koochee dog it is. In general, the Sage Koochee are large, often giant dogs with short-medium to long coat and thick under wool. They vary in height, from 27 inches (68 cm) to 32" (82 cm) for the females, and from 28" (71 cm) to 35" (89 cm) and more for the males. The weight ranges from about 84 lbs. (38 kg) to 120 lbs. (55 kg) for the female dogs, and from 88 lbs. (40 kg) to 176 lbs. (80 kg) and more for the male dogs. The built is molosser-like with lighter and heavier variants, all of them exhibiting a perfect scissor-bite and being free from most genetic defects that plague the contemporary dog world, such as hip dysplasia, especially common among the larger breeds. The head shape of the Koochee dog can vary from a wedge-type head, to brick-type, or bear-type skull, the last one associated mainly with the dogs of the mountain variety. Their tails are usually docked by about 1/3 length and point straight up or at an angle. Their ears are traditionally cropped almost to the base. The Sage Koochee are tall dogs, with a straight backline. The front and hind legs and the corpus usually make up a square profile. The neck is usually long and thick, with large skin excess hanging from the base of the jaw to the chest, with the head held horizontally or at a downward angle with eyes looking straight ahead. The muzzle is dry and muscular. Their body is often covered in darker spots which don't show in the coat, including the inside of the mouth, the bridge of the nose and the belly. The color of the coat is of no consequence and neither is the length or structure of it. Usually, the back is covered by a strip of longer, more wiry hair, while the neck area is packed with thick and slippery underwool and hair slightly longer than the rest of the body. Teeth can be small in females to very large in males, with the fangs exceeding 1??". The fangs are either hooking towards the back with a thicker base or can be straighter and tusk-like, much like a wolves. There are three main regional types recognized that can belong to two body types of dogs, the lion type and the tiger type, depending on the built and the way the animal moves.
Sub-variants and types
The Koochee dogs can be roughly divided into three sub-types: the Mountain-type, the Steppe-type and the Desert-type.
The Mountain-type dogs represent the very large boned, heavy coated variety that is well adapted to living in mountainous regions of the Pamir range. They are usually found at higher elevations, with greater humidity and more extreme cool temperatures.
The Steppe-type dogs are of much lighter built, with medium to long hair. They are faster and more agile on large flats than the mountain variety. They can be characterized as having a mastiff-like built with wind hound habitus.
The Desert-type is a variant most often found in the large desert expanses with little vegetation and hotter climate. They are of medium height and short to medium coat with very thick underwool in the cold season. They can possess characteristics of both of the other types, especially when it comes to the head structure.
Another way to divide the Sage Koochee is into the Lion-type (Djence Sheri) or the Tiger-type (Djence Palangi). These divisions refer mostly to the Desert-type dogs, but it is important to keep in mind that each of the regional types can display characteristics found in other types as well.
The Lion-type dogs are of heavier built with larger heads and deeper chests. Their coat is usually thicker and they are of medium height with a larger, bear-type head.
The Tiger-type dogs are the more athletic looking with long and deep habitus, brick or wedge shaped head and shorter coat. They are often linked with more Steppe-type dogs. The difference between the two can also be seen in the way they move. The Lion-type are the more majestic in motion, they have a look of pride as they walk with the head most often raised. The Tiger type has more of a sidewinding, catlike motion with the head usually at the level of the body and front paws swinging inwards when walking or running and jumping. Both types are extremely agile and exhibit tremendous speed when running or attacking.
If it looks like a Koochee dog, well..
One important thing to realize, is that not all dogs found in Afghanistan are Koochee dogs, even though they may resemble them in many ways. That seems to be the general misconception in modern times. Many breeders in Afghanistan and surrounding countries now advertise their dogs as being Koochee dogs but often that is not the case. Many CAOs have characteristics that make them virtually aesthetically indistinguishable from the Koochee dogs, especially in the young age. While they can still be wonderful dogs, often they turn out to be dogs that have been bred improperly and demonstrate character flaws and problems usually not associated with dogs bred according to traditional standards.
The difficulty with civilization
The environment in which the dogs are brought up and the duties that are reserved for them in the traditional setting also make for the outstanding characteristics of those dogs. They will not have a chance to develop and use their full potential if taken out of their original context. Any attempt to do that will likely produce dogs that are unsuitable for keeping in a more civilized environment where they will be smothered by the demands of living in a modern society and deprived of opportunity to perform the work they were bred to do for ages past. The Sage Koochee are proud animals that need to have duties which they can fulfill, otherwise they may act out their frustration and lack of purpose in life in ways that can be unacceptable to their owners or the rest of society.
This is what most people fail to understand and refuse to accept but what truly defines the nature of the Koochee dogs and what sets them apart from any other breed. The Sage Koochee are working dogs which possess all the tools that enable them to do their work. The tools that, sadly, are usually missing from most of the modern breeds. They are also very sensitive animals with high emotional intelligence, requiring partnership and respect from their owners, as well as other people and animals in their immediate environment, to lead a satisfied and harmonious existence. That is why the only Koochee dogs that are ???true-type??™, ???pure bred??™ Koochee dogs are the ones remaining with the people who are the undisputed experts on dog breeding, and raising this amazing, unique breed in general, the Afghan Koochee people.