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The Taigan Dog: A Watchdog Turned National Treasure

The Taigan dog is native to Kyrgyzstan, where it is a highly prized national treasure. 

The Kyrgyz people are secretive and guarded about their best dogs. So much so that if you are looking for a Taigan dog for sale, you need to gain the respect of village intermediaries just to be shown a dog.

The Taigan has recently been interbred more often with the neighboring Kazakh Tazi dog breed to create the Tazoid and shares the expected sighthound lifespan of between 11 and 13 years. 

It is swift, agile, and a superior hunter. Unlike other sighthounds that it bears a resemblance to, such as the Saluki, it is also a good guard and watchdog. 

Other names for the Taigan include the Kyrgyz Sighthound or Greyhound, the Kyrgyz Borzoi, or the Kyrgyzdany Taighany.

History of the Taigan: Where do they come from?

Local lore has it that a puppy hatched from an egg laid by a stolen from a Kumai Mountain Vulture and grew up to save an entire village. It did this by chasing away a pack of wolves that were eating the village cattle.

Although the myth is a stretch for the wildest imagination, we can still see the seeds of where the Taigan comes from in it and how this dog was shaped. 

The Taigan stems from the nomadic people who once traveled the ancient Silk Road, particularly from the Altai Mountains in Mongolia to the remote and rugged Tian-Shan Mountains on the Chinese borders.

There the early Kyrgyz people bred the dog for functionality and toughness. It needed to hunt for both its own food and the sustenance of its owner.

The Taigan also had to be brave enough to chase away predators such as wolves away from livestock, kill jackals, and warn its master of any strangers. Impressively, the Taigan was also hunted alongside trained eagles or falcons.

Looking at its purpose, it's clear how the myth arose.

Their livestock and homestead guardian instinct make the Taigan different from other sighthounds like the Afghan hound. 

Today these dogs are as valued in their native Kyrgyzstan as they ever were. Traditionally, one could only get one as a gift or through theft. A good Taigan was considered priceless and often given as a wedding present. 

And it's not that different today since outsiders may need permission from village elders even to see a real Taigan. 

While modern technology, rabies, and crossbreeding have drastically reduced their numbers, it is impossible to say how many dogs are left. 

After all, most of them are kept in mountain ranges away from prying eyes. One might need to go through an organization like the American Rare Breed Association to find one.

Today, it is reported that pure Taigans are facing extinction. However, the Kyrgyz Sighthound is celebrated with annual festivals to show off its abilities, so it is still thriving in some ways. 

What are the physical features of the Taigan? 

Height

Weight

Lifespan

Color

Nose

Eyes

Female: 23-26 inches (58-66 cm)

Male: 24-27 inches (61-69 cm),

Female: 62.5 pounds (28.5 kg)

Male: 67.5 pounds (30.5 kg),

11 – 13 years

Cream, white, gray, black, fawn, or brown. May be bi-colored or have white markings.

Nose is usually dark but may be pink or liver with lighter colors

Brown or  Hazel

The Taigan is a medium-to-large sighthound. It is sleek, slender, and athletic, similar to a Greyhound, but with a longer coat and a more robust and hardier constitution since the breed lives and hunts some 10 000 feet above sea level. 

It usually stands between 23 and 27 inches tall and weighs between 63 and 68 pounds.

It looks similar to a Saluki in that it usually has a longer fur around its ears, tail, chest. 

However, because the Taigan isn't as standardized as the Saluki for the show ring, there is some variation in their looks. 

For instance, they can have longer or shorter coats, depending on which region they are from. Usually, they have featherings of mid-length, curly, smooth fur. The feathering around its ears is called the "bourki."

They may develop a thick downy undercoat in the weather.

One unique feature of the Taigan is the tail has a spiraling tip called the "ring" and hangs like a saber. The vertebrae at the base of the ring are fused, meaning the spiral cannot be unrolled.

They have a long, elegant nose that is usually black, but grows lighter according to the coat color, with oval eyes that range from hazel to brown. 

These are not hypoallergenic dogs, although they are low shedders except when molting.

General Care of the Taigan

Hypoallergenic

Shedding

Exercise

Housing

Temperament

Trainability

No

Low shedders except when molting

Sighthounds can do well with an hour’s walk a day. However, they love to run, and will do best when given a chance to sprint.

The Taigan can be kept indoors or outdoors. Make sure they shelter from extreme weather. Will enjoy a secure yard or homestead.

Sensitive. Independent.

Alert with strong guarding and hunting skills.

Moderately trainable. May ignore trainers if they spot something they want to chase.


Energy

Sighthounds usually enjoy long naps and are generally not too restless. However, the Taigan can run over 37 miles per hour and loves to sprint, so owners should make time for a weekend sport like lure coursing that will make use of their hunting instinct.

Housing

A hardy breed used to rugged terrain, a Taigan can be kept outside provided it has shelter from extreme weather conditions. They are best suited to homes with a yard and will not adapt well to small spaces without sufficient exercise.

They do best in active homes that will make use of their hunting and watchdog drives. 

Food & Diet Requirements

A Taigan should be fed a high-protein, quality kibble that is suited for its age and size. Speak to your vet about the best diet, considering how much exercise the dog gets and if it develops any allergies. 

Since the Taigan was developed as a hunting dog that caught its own food, you may consider a raw diet. However, make sure you speak to a veterinary nutritionist first to ensure that the meals are balanced and your dog doesn't develop any nutritional deficiencies. 

Because of their deep chests, Taigans are susceptible to bloat or gastric torsion. This might happen when they eat too fast and drink too much water, especially within 30 minutes of exercising. 

A slow-feeder bowl can help prevent this problem.

Grooming

The Taigan is not a heavy shedder and has minimum to moderate grooming requirements. They do not need to be bathed often but should be brushed two to three times a week to prevent matting and distribute the oil in their coat.

Regular brushing with a slicker brush will keep their coat shiny and healthy. Also, please pay attention to the thick hair between their paw pads. Puppies should be desensitized to this from a young age, as adult dogs might not like having their paws handled.

When it comes to paws, don't forget to trim your dog's nails, either. Having a good clipper or nail grinder should be part of your dog care kit.  

Finally, invest in a doggy toothbrush or dental chews since bad teeth are not only painful for your dog but can cause other health problems too.

The health of a Taigan

Exercise

A Taigan loves to run and chase. Even so, many sighthounds are okay with a long daily walk, with weekly bouts of more intense exercise such as lure coursing or hunting. 

This is the perfect dog for runners, but beware that if you take them on hikes, they will likely chase after anything that moves. So keep them leashed. 

They may also leap out of your car at precisely the wrong moment if they spot something interesting, so be sure to keep them buckled in when traveling. 

Concerns    

Severe Health Problems

Mild to Moderate Health problems

Rare Health Problems

Hip and elbow dysplasia

Bloat

Early Osteoarthritis

Patellar Luxation

Dental issues

Skin and Food allergies

Hypothyroidism

Cancer

As an aboriginal breed raised in harsh circumstances, the Taigan is considered a healthy dog with few defects.

That said, like any dog, it might be prone to certain conditions, particularly those that affect most sighthounds.

Aside from bloat, Taigans are mainly vulnerable to musculoskeletal issues related to their size and activity levels. 

They need to be screened for hip and elbow dysplasia. They may also suffer from early osteoarthritis because of their love of running, much like a pro athlete.

Their kneecaps might also shift out of place in a condition known as patellar luxation.

Try using a harness to prevent damage to their thyroids

Taigans may also struggle with skin and food allergies.

Occasionally they may develop cancer types that appear in other sighthounds, such as tumors that develop in their blood vessels. 

What is the Taigan's life expectancy?

The Taigan lives from 11 to 13 years.

The trainability of the Taigan: Temperament and Intelligence

The Taigan is generally sweet-natured with his owners but can be aloof, even with its own family. They are independent dogs who strive to do what they do best: run, hunt, and guard. 

They are also more versatile than most sighthounds, as they have a history of serving as watchdogs and livestock guardians. This might make the Taigan an ideal farm dog for somebody looking for a dog who can hunt and chase away predators. 

Like all sighthounds, they use their eyes to spot prey rather than their nose the way scent hounds do. This means they are easily triggered by movement and can take off after something in the brush like a flash. 

Try to keep this in mind when traveling with your dog, as you don't want your Taigan causing havoc in a dog park by chasing the nearest Chihuahua.

The Taigan is also a sensitive and intelligent dog that is moderately trainable with positive reinforcement. They are known for being unusually smart and can make decisions independent of their owner.

But like other more primitive breeds, such as the Greenland Dog, they may be trainable enough to get all the basics of obedience down but independent enough to forget their training when they spot a squirrel. 

Sociability with other pets

As with any dog, early socialization is recommended, although Taigans usually get along well with other dogs. However, they may be inclined to chase cats and smaller animals, but being raised around them can help this. 

Many owners report their dogs getting on well with cats, so it seems that provided the Taigan is raised with an animal, it will learn to see that animal as part of its "pack." 

They can also work as livestock guardians and so might make excellent farm dogs. In fact, Taigans have a reputation for naturally guarding farm animals, especially from predators such as wolves and jackals. This speaks to their natural courage and fearlessness

Suitable Home: Are Taigans good pets?

Since Taigans are pretty sensitive, a home without small children might be better. However, in general, they can make good family dogs for active families. 

Provided their needs are met and given a chance to run and chase something, they should make peaceful and easygoing companions.

How much does a Taigan cost?

It is so difficult to get a hold of a true Taigan that they are sometimes called the breed that is not for sale. The breed's exact price could not be determined for this article, and import costs may have to factor in. 

Nevertheless, there are groups dedicated to the Taigan where more information on breeders can be found.

Conclusion

The Taigan is one of the world's rarest hunting dogs and remains prized today in its native Kyrgyzstan. While it has not yet caught the eye of most official kennel clubs and societies such as the AKC or the FCI, it is still a remarkable breed with unique aptitudes. 

It deserves more attention in the rest of the world, particularly in the sighthound and hunting dog community. 

 

References

Beregovoy, Vladimir. “Journal of the International Society for the Preservation of Primitive Aboriginal Dogs.” Jag Wind Hund, 1 May 2011, www.jagdwindhund.com/jagdwind/dokumente/upload/Journal_of_PADS_27_SH.pdf.

Dobias, Peter. THYROID GLAND DISEASE MAY BE RELATED TO COLLAR INJURIES. My Hero Dog Training, 2017, www.myherodogtraining.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Thyroid-gland-disease-may-be-related-to-collar-injuries.pdf.

i3dthemes.com. “Gallery.” American Rare Breed Society, www.arba.org/Pages/gallery-group-10-breeds.htm. Accessed 19 Mar. 2021.

National Purebred Dog Day®. “Kyrgyzstan’s Sighthound, the Taigan.” National Purebred Dog Day®, 11 Jan. 2018, nationalpurebreddogday.com/kyrgyzstans-sighthound-the-taigan.

---. “The Breed with a Ring, Bourki, and Shoes.” National Purebred Dog Day®, 20 July 2019, nationalpurebreddogday.com/the-breed-with-a-ring-bourki-and-shoes.

PetMD Editorial. “5 Scary Consequences of Neglecting Your Dog’s Teeth.” PetMD, 3 Dec. 2019, www.petmd.com/dog/general-health/5-scary-consequences-neglecting-your-dogs-teeth#:%7E:text=But%20did%20you%20know%20that,lead%20to%20a%20broken%20jaw.