Native to Central Asia are the Kyrgyz people, a nomadic Turkic ethnic group whose main livelihood has been to keep cattle. For thousands of years, an integral part of Kyrgyz life has been a robust and agile sighthound that resembles an Afghan Hound, but is its own breed called the Taigan. Pronouned “tie-gun,” and meaning “swift/fast in Kyrgyz, the dogs were valued for their endurance, speed, and hunting ability. It was said that a family that kept Taigans would never go hungry because dogs could hunt pretty much everything from mountain goat and wolf to hare. What wasn’t eaten was traded or sold.
In the 1930s, Soviets did begin to register existing dogs in the Kyrgyz SSR, but after the German invasion of the USSR in 1941, the work stopped. When Kyrgyzstan became independent in 1991, the breed was rediscovered both by people who returned to the nomadic life after collective farms collapsed, and a new urban upper class who saw the Taigan as a prestigious symbol of national heritage (a modern manifestation are outfitters that offer traditional Kyrgyz hunting adventures, with bow, eagle, and a Taigan).
In 1995, the Cinologist Council of the Kyrgyz Republic adopted a new breed standard, and since 2005, Kyrgyzstan has a national kennel club that was admitted to the FCI as a contact partner in 2009. This makes it possible for Kyrgyzstan to seek international recognition of the Taigan. Thus far, the breed is recognized only by FCI member clubs in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Usbekistan, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, and Russia, and in Kyrgyzstan, by the Hunting Commission of the Kyrgyz Ministry of Environmental Protection. Sadly, the Taigan is another breed at risk, the current number of Taigans described as being only in the hundreds.
National Purebred Dog Day highlights this breed as one more that needs to be preserved and protected.
Photos shared by Jutta Rübesam