Gampr: the National Dog of Armenia

By: Shahan Goenjian

The Gampr is a rare breed of dog, genetically unique, and indigenous to the Armenian Highlands.  They share minor genetic similarities with only a few breeds of dog from Spain and Scandinavia.  Last year it was recognized as the national dog of Armenia by the International Kennel Union (IKU).  Gamprs are very large dogs.  They can grow up to be over 130 lbs, yet they are quite athletic.  They are noted for their intelligence and keen natural instincts, and they do not seek excessive attention like most domesticated dogs do. They are truly remarkable because they do not need to be trained like typical dogs either.   Furthermore, if a Gampr is brought up by a family as puppy, it will grow up to be extremely loyal to them.  A powerful physical build, combined with naturally protective instincts, makes the Gampr a fierce and faithful dog.

For these reasons, Gamprs are primarily used as guard dogs to protect cattle and livestock, and they are commonly called “hovvashoons.”  They possess a thick double coat of fur because they have adapted to the harsh winters of the Armenian Highlands.  Interestingly, Gamprs are also called “gelkheht” because they are often used for hunting wolves.  In fact, this past winter, the Armenian government was offering $250 for individuals who caught or killed a wild wolf.  Wolves are renown for preying on local defenseless livestock, so Armenian farmers and shepherds have utilized the guardian-nature of Gamprs to fend off wolf attacks.

Now if I may take you down a tangential, yet relevant line of thought, I would like to point out that there is a neo-fascist, ultra-nationalist group of Turks who go by the name of the “Grey Wolves.”  This group is primarily known for committing acts of terrorism since the 1970’s. Their name comes from the organization’s belief in a mythological story that the Turkic ethnicity was formed by the union of a young boy and a female wolf.  Now this story can be interpreted many ways, but it does have at least one parallel to reality:  a nationalist Turk, just like a wolf, can be known to savagely kill its peaceful and innocent neighbors.  Therefore, the wolf-hunting Gampr serves as an appropriate symbol of the Armenian nation.

The Gampr is a rare breed, just how Armenians are a rare race.  The Gampr is loyal to its family in the same way fellow Armenians look out for each other.  The Gampr is a proud dog, renowned for its rarity and praised for its temperament.  Finally, it is evident, even from the comments received on this website, that Turkish followers are eager to attack proud Armenians. So just like the Gamprs that defend against undesirable wolves, we Armenians must not be ignorant to the threatening nature of our national neighbors, and remain defensive against Turks.

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