Armenian Gampr is a breed of livestock guardian dog that originated in the Armenian Highlands, including the territories of modern Eastern Anatolia of Turkey and the Republic of Armenia. The Armenian Gampr was bred by local people using primitive selection. Though not recognized by any notable kennel clubs or fancier organisation as a pedigree dog breed, they are a distinct type, becoming the subject of intense genetic research.
Gampr dogs are not trained. Instead, they perform naturally. The Armenian word “Gampr” means “watchdog”, but the same breed may instead be called a “gelkheght” (from “gel” – “wolf” and “kheghtel” – “to smother”) if it is predesposed to be used as a wolfhound; a bear-hunting dog is known as “archashoon” (“bear-dog”); an avalanche dog is named “potorkashoon”, and a shepherd dog is named “chobanishoon”. One of the main traits of Gampr dog is its ability to adapt independently and arrive at a proper decision. If the Gampr dog sees that you need its help, it will protect you. This breed is extremely loyal to the humans raising it.
The Armenian Gampr is not recognized by any of the major kennel clubs or other fancier organisations around the world. In April 2011, a new organisation called the International Kennel Union (IKU), but which appears to only exist in Moscow, Russia, “officially” recognized the Armenian Gampr as Armenia’s national dog breed.
In Armenia Gampr dogs are bred by “Gampr”, “Tiknapah”, “Aralez” and “Aspar” Clubs, as well as “Amasia” Kennel that carry on the breeding to preserve the phenotype and working traits of Gampr dogs.
Only dogs without any inclusions of non-Gampr (i.e. CAO, Alabai, Kochee etc.) bloodlines shall be bred as Gampr, in order to keep the breed pure. There are two strains of gampr, the palace guardian type and the livestock type. The livestock type tends to be smaller, tireless, and slightly more volatile. The palace guardians are generally taller, more square-built, and fairly congenial but still very protective. They have a tendency to be more sedentary, and to stay in one location. During the invasions of Armenia over the last several hundred years, the palace guardian type dogs have been dispersed, with a few remaining in remote villages, but many were taken out of the country and used in the development of the breeds elsewhere, such as the CAO, and in the Red Star Kennel in the USSR.
Gampr is supposed to be unique by its genotype, belonging to the haplogroup of dogs of other parts of the Armenian Highlands that cluster only with the dogs of Spain and Scandinavia.
The geographic and cultural coexistence of the Caucasian Ovcharka and the Central Asian Ovcharka, and its use as a standard, is itself seen as an issue threatening the continued existence of the Armenian Gampr dog breed. The Armenian Gampr Club of America states: “The gampr is not an Alabai, a Caucasian Ovcharka, a Kangal, an Anatolian, an Akbash, a Karakatchan, a Central Asian Shepherd, a Koochee, a Tornjak, a Sharplaninatz, or a cross of these.”