As mentioned previously, the Central Asian Ovtcharka, or Central Asian Shepherd dog, is not your typical breed of dog. It was subjected mostly to natural selection over a large geographical area and certain subtypes developed that were specifically suited to survive in their own local environments. Usually, the local environments corresponded to the central Asian states that the Ovtcharka called home; today, each state has a specific name for the subtype of Ovtcharka that is found within its borders; indeed, this breed of dog is known by names including Alabai, Aziat and others. The word ovtcharka is a Russian word and some feel it is wrong to use this name with the breed, as it is not a purely Russian dog. Some experts have been campaigning to separate the variations into separate breeds, each with its own breed standard, while others believe that the breed standard should apply to the entire Ovtcharka breed, with subtypes remaining simply variations, and that the breed standard should be loose enough to encompass all the variations.
The CAS (Central Asian Shepherd) is considered to be the ancestor of all, or at least most, working dog breeds and represents what dogs were like before organized breeding programs started to refine a very determined set of characteristics. These dogs followed nomadic tribes and had to adapt to local geographical and climatic conditions or they would never have survived. Since the area where the CAS ranged was so vast, the climate and the terrain in one location could be drastically different from the climate and the terrain in another location. Indeed, the Silk Road along which these dogs developed encompassed climates that were hot and dry as well as those that were characterized by harsh cold and strong winds; the terrain could be white with snow or brown with sand. In adapting to local conditions, the CAS developed into a few different types of different sizes, colors, coat lengths and texture, and temperament. Not only was geography important in determining a particular variation, but types also developed based on what the dog was used for and what predators the dog would most likely come up against in its region.
Though there may have been some variation as to the specific job a dog was given, this breed essentially had the function of protecting his owner and his owner's livestock from animal predators and humans. Some dogs were found in semi-permanent villages, while others were used to follow and guard their shepherd owners while traveling. Some variations developed to blend in with the infamously hardy and stubborn Karakul sheep that they needed to protect. Dogs that were used mainly in the desert were light and tall, fleet of foot and graceful, similar to a gazelle, while those used mainly in mountain areas were very heavy boned, had longer coats and gave the appearance of being massive, powerful dogs. Nowadays, the dogs are classified according to head type; there is the horse type head, which is narrow, the brick type, which is intermediate in width, and the bear type, which is quite large and broad. Even though there is an enormous amount of variation within the breed, though, all types are very closely related and were used for generally the same functions.