The Central Asian Ovtcharka is considered one of the oldest breed of dogs; indeed, some experts claim that it is THE oldest distinguishable breed and could be the ancestor of all modern day dogs, or at least all modern day working dogs. Cynologists (scientists who study dogs) used to believe that the Tibetan Mastiff was the oldest breed and the direct ancestor of the CAO, though there was no concrete evidence to prove this. Now, however, many other theories are popping up and historical and geographical evidence points to the idea that the CAO and Tibetan Mastiff are related, though not necessarily in an ancestor-descendant way, and that the CAO could be the first true¯dog breed.
Scientists agree that the first group of dogs that shared a set of similar characteristics and were the subject of human rudimentary breeding were dogs given the name Molossers. This name comes from Molossi, tribes living in Epirus, in northwestern Greece/southern Albania, which were purportedly the first to have kept these dogs. These dogs were not bred in the sense that dogs are bred today; nature played a more important role than man, and only dogs that were able to survive the working conditions and the natural environment of their human companions survived. The Molossi used their dogs both as guardians and as war dogs and these dogs gained a considerable reputation for being fierce and courageous. Nowadays, the term Molosser is used to indicate Mastiff-type dogs, though the dogs of the Molossi tribe were most likely not Mastiff-type dogs.
For some reason, however, the name Molosser is given to Mastiff-type dogs which were most likely even older than the dogs of the Molossi tribes. The breeds considered Molossers today all share a relatively similar structure; they are heavy-boned, have a short, muscular neck, pendant ears and a relatively short muzzle. It is thought that these dogs originated in Mesopotamia, the area in which civilization began. Humans first began to keep livestock in this area, and once this occurred, they would have needed powerful guard dogs to make sure large predators would not decimate their flock. The farmers in Mesopotamia that settled down most likely came from nomadic tribes that traversed the area, which already had with them dogs that had followed them in their wanderings; these dogs were similar to the Central Asian Ovtcharka. Indeed, the CAO has the largest geographical distribution of ancient dog breeds and the area where they are found matches quite well with the early wanderings of the nomadic tribes which would eventually form the basis for organized civilization. Evidence also puts the CAO in the region before any kind of engravings of Assyrian Molossers, thought to be the first Mastiff-type dogs.