History of the Russian Toy Dog
Formerly known as the Russian Toy Terrier
The history of the Russian Toy Terrier, as well as the history of other breeds developed from their English ancestors, can be divided into two periods. The first period developed in Russia from the original English/British type beginning in the Eighteenth Century until the early 1920’s . The second period began when the new breed was being created in now what is the former USSR.
The earliest history of the Russian Toys goes back to the Manchester Terrier. During the early development of this breed there were different types of puppies being born; some were larger, and some smaller. Relatively big dogs were used for badger hunting, while the smaller ones (usually the ones under 5 pounds) became the ancestors of the English Toy Terrier. The first evidence of the English terriers in Russia can be seen in the Museum of Zoology in St. Petersburg. There is a stuffed short hair English Terrier approximately on foot in height among the artifacts of the old Russian Cabinet of curiosities dated 1716-1725. The sign next to it reads: “This dog is a short hair terrier named Lizetta. It personally belonged to the Russian Emperor Peter the Great”.
Early Russian aristocracy yielded easily to the temptation of the English way of life. For them it was a symbol of everything progressive and prestigeous. The popularity of English clubs was growing from the last decade of the Eighteenth Century. These clubs were for entertainment, political discussions, galas and celebrations. Aristocratic establishment conducted “English Tea Parties”. Soon English Thoroughbred horses appeared in the stables of horse breeding farms. Rich people did not count money in order to buy English shotguns and muskets. During this period English Setters and English Toy Terriers appeared in Russia. The latest were house dogs. They were appealing because of their fine constitution, small size and joyful, fearless temperaments. It became very fashionable to appear at an Assembly or in Russian Theater with a ladies’ small dog on one’s arm, and it guaranteed the well training of the dog.
The population of the English Setters became the largest among the breeds in the breeding kennels by the eve of the Twentieth Century. The number of English Toy Terriers increased considerably by the beginning of the Twentieth Century. British experts were invited very often to the Russian dog shows. These dogs were not rare or novel. Yet, they were the embodiment of prestige and of the elite. In Russia they were called simply “Toy Terrier “. Dogs of bigger size were called “Black and Tan Terriers”. In May 1907, at the show in St.Petersburg there were 46 “in house” dogs of different breeds. Among them were 11 Toy Terriers. There is evidence that those were Toy Terriers not Italian Greyhounds or Dwarf (Miniature) Pinchers . Every breed in the catalogue was registered by its name . For example: No. 801—Dwarf Pincher, No. 808—Chihuahua (called “Mexican Pug Dog), No. 824 and No. 822—White English Terrier, a very rare breed even in their homeland.
The Bloody Bolshevik’s revolution of 1917 diminished the population of Toy Terriers in Russia considerably, but did not eliminate them completely . During the cataclysms of the new Bolshevik’s regime it was easier to save and to keep a little dog. This is why the Toy Terriers could be seen before World War II at dog shows in different cities.Two Toy Terriers and one Manchester were at a show in Moscow in December of 1923. Three Toy Terriers were awarded medals at the dog show in Odessa in 1924. After the war, this breed practically disappeared. There was only one at the dog show in Leningrad in 1947.
Unfortunately, the further miniaturization of the state oriented home cynological (dog’s breeding and selection) to breed dogs for military purposes did not help to preserve these small breeds. The breeding of the Toy Terriers in official clubs almost came to a halt. Nevertheless, the breed survived and the population continued to increase because of the enthusiasm and love of the private breeders . They started the restoration of the breed, looking for any surviving individual dogs. Unfortunately, most of the Toy Terriers were of unknown origin, very often not considered to be thoroughbred, in the best case….mixed. The information of genealogy had to be accumulated all over again. It was impossible to import Toy Terriers from England even in small numbers. This is why the second period in the history of Russian Toy Terriers can be considered as developing a new breed and selection of works.
The new Toy Terriers possessed different characteristics, colors, and exterior structure. The collected repopulation was of different types . Breeders began to sort the dogs by size and similar characters and selected the dogs more or less by their similar breeding traits to achieve some sort of unification. There were approximately one hundred Toy Terriers of Russian type at the second All State dog show in 1967. The restoration of the Toy Terrier population simultaneously took place in different centers: Moscow, Leningrad (St. Petersburg), Sverdlovsk (Ekaterinburg) and Irkutsk. By the time the new Soviet standards were adopted for a number of breeds, including Toy Terriers, those standards did not coincide with the standards’ of the breeds’ homelands. The height that was required was not more than 25 cm for males and not more than 23 cm for females . The skull now must be roundish with noticeable transition. The colors now included not only black and tan but brown and tan along with reds of any shade.The tail must be cut very short. The political isolation of the whole country caused the creation of a whole new breed. The new contemporary Russian Toy Terrier possesses all the features of the classic Terrier with the addition of some characteristic differences. Now the head is high but not wide in the cranium region and the cheeks are flat and the eyes are round in shape. These new features make the Russian terrier unique and original.
In 1958, a long haired puppy named Chicky was born during the restoration period with the breed. When this unusual puppy was grown he weighed approximately 6 pounds, and had developed a fringe on his ears with longer hair on his body along with britches and feathering on the backs of his legs. His color was called black with tint (now known as red sable). The breeders were very interested in this original, decorative and effective appearance. They decided to create a new type of Toy Terrier. This work was done under the strict supervision of a Muscovite breeder Eugeniya Forminishna Zgarova. They selected a female to mate with this male of similar coat to the mother of Chicky. The experiment worked and three long hair puppies were born. The breeding went ahead and the population of the new type of Toy Terriers increased. The new type is a true creation of the Russian dog breeding. It is suggested that the breeders subsequently were adding a small amount of old type Pekingese or dogs who were close by the type of a long haired Chihuahua (although True Chihuahua’s as we know them today were not available in Russia at the time of creation of the modern Russian Toy Terriers). This brought positive results in producing permanent long hair in the breed, as well as to enhance specific structure of the hair an ears and the britches of the rear back legs. The first standard for The Moscow Long Hair Toy Terrier was created in 1966 and the breeders in the other Russian cities started breeding this new type of dog.
The Russian Long Haired Toy Terriers experienced a dramatic period of history in the 1980’s. A lot of exotic dog breeds were imported after the “Iron Curtain ” fell. Importation of the new breeds caused the population to decline due to the decrease of interest in the homeland breeds. The population of the long hair Toy Terriers decreased to critical numbers by the beginning of the 1990’s. Nevertheless, the breed survived because the young generation of dog breeders were very interested and enthusiastic. In addition, the new contemporary structure of the Russian Canine breeding was formed. The opportunity to establish private breeding kennels started and they became the main force in breeding. The new standard includes both the smooth coat and the long coat variety that was adopted in 1988 by the Russian Canine Breeding Federation. Including the Russian Short Hair Terrier and the Moscow long hair ones, the image of the Russian Long Hair Toy Terrier is on the emblem of the Terrier of the Commonwealth.
The population of the Russian Toy Terriers and the numbers of new puppies being born is constantly growing. Considerable breeding populations exist in Finland, Estoria Byelorussia, Ukrain, Czcchia. The dog breeders in the USA and Japan are very interested in importing the Russian Toy Terriers. The Russian Toy Terriers have now proven their own right to be international in existence.
The breed was given Kennel Club recognition in 2016. A full account can be found here.