The Kuchi or Afghan Shepherd dog is an Afghan livestock guardian dog, taking its name from the Kuchi people of Afghanistan. It is a working dog following the nomads, protecting caravans and flocks of sheep, goats, camels and other livestock from wolves, big cats and thieves. It is sometimes known as just a local variant of the Central Asian Shepherd Dog and its status as a distinct breed is disputable.
Sage Kuchi or Sage Jangi or Afghan Shepherd dog is the standard Persian name, and the Pashto name is De Kochyano Spai or Jangi Spai, meaning “Dog of the nomads” and “Fighter Dog”. It is found around the central and northern parts of Afghanistan and the surrounding regions in Central Asia. This Mountain dog shares similar genetic background to the Central Asian Ovtcharka (CAO).
Because the Afghan Shepherd dog is intricately associated with nomad life in remote and rugged regions where Western breeding techniques are not used, it is difficult to identify a “true” Kuchi type of dog. Warfare and general unrest in the region has also affected the Kuchi people, of whom many have settled around cities creating ample opportunity for the Kuchi to interbreed with other dogs. There is no organizing body for dogs in Afghanistan and some Kuchi dogs have been exported to Europe.
The Kuchi dog breed possesses a very rich gene pool, and the dogs adapt well to varying environments. It also means that gene expression can vary greatly from one individual to another. For that reason, it is often difficult for an unaccustomed observer to determine what makes a particular dog a true Kuchi dog, or what type of a Kuchi dog it is.
In general, the Afghan shepherd dog are large, often giant dogs, with a coat that can be short, medium, or long, backed by thick underwool. They vary in height, reaching from 27 to 32 inches (69 to 81 cm) at the withers for the females, and from 28 to 35 inches (71 to 89 cm) and more for the males. Their weight ranges from about 84 to 120 pounds (38 to 54 kg) for the female dogs, and from 88 to 176 pounds (40 to 80 kg) and more for the male dogs. It seems probable that the so-called “dogs of Ghor” should be included among these “Kuchi dogs”:
“The dogs of Ghor are mentioned in the earliest descriptions of the province and were always regarded as particularly special mastiffs. According to the Seljuk chronicles of the eleventh century there was:’A remarkably fine breed of dogs in Ghor so powerful that in frame and strength every one of them is a match for a lion.’ The king of the Turquoise Mountain had two Ghor dogs, one named after him and one after the ruler of Ghazni. He would make them fight. It was dangerous to be around him on days when his namesake lost. These dogs formed part of the tribute from the Ghorids to the Seljuk and became such proverbial parts of Islamic culture that a medieval scholar is recorded as saying that ‘Avicenna could not fight with a dog from Ghor’.
Their build is molosser-like with lighter and heavier variants, all of them exhibiting a perfect scissor-bite, and a majority of them free from most genetic defects like hip dysplasia.
The shape of the head of a Kuchi dog can vary from a wedge-type head, to brick-type, or bear-type skull, the last one being associated mainly with the dogs of the mountain variety. Their tails are usually docked by about one-third of their length, and usually point straight up or at a slight angle. Traditionally, their ears are cropped, almost to the very base.
The the Afghan shepherd dog are tall dogs, with a straight backline, which usually forms a square profile with the front and hind legs. The neck is usually long and thick, with plenty of excess skin hanging from the base of the jaw to the chest. The head is carried horizontally, or at a slight downward angle, with eyes staring straight ahead. The muzzle is dry and muscular.
Their body is often covered with dark spots which don’t show through the coat. These spots can also cover the inside of the mouth, the bridge of the nose and the abdomen. The color of the coat comes in many varieties, and is of no importance to determining the breed or the type of Kuchi dog. Neither is the length or structure of the hair. Most often, a strip of longer, more wiry hair covers the entire length of the backline, while the neck area is packed with thick and slippery underwool, as well as hair that is slightly longer than over the rest of the body.
The tooth sizes range from small in some females, to very large in males, with the fangs often exceeding 1¼”. The shape of the fangs can form a hook with a thicker base and the point directed toward the inside of the mouth, or can be straighter and tusk-like, much like a wolf’s.
There are three main regional types recognized, belonging to one of two body types of dogs – the lion type and the tiger type. Those are determined depending on the build and the motor characteristics.