Gampr – Armenian wolfhound – hunter, guard and warrior
From myth to reality
One of the symbols of Armenia is the Gampr, a breed of dog that has been preserved almost unchanged for more than two thousand years. Gampras (up to 77 cm tall and weighing up to 75 kg) have lived on the territory of the Armenian Highlands since prehistoric times. Rock carvings testify to this. The age of petroglyphs dates back to the 1st millennium BC. e., and about 20 percent of the surviving images represent dogs of the modern wolfhound type. Dogs are depicted alone or in a pack, there are hunting scenes – all this indicates that ancient people tamed these dogs. There are not many Aboriginal dogs left in the world today, and the Gampr is one of them.
These dogs are often also called Aralese. According to legends, these winged dog-like creatures descended from the skies onto the battlefield and licked the wounds of warriors who fell in battle, resurrecting them. This testifies to the cult of the dog in pre-Christian Armenia. The Aralese lived in the mountains, in particular on Ararat, or in the sky.
Dogs accompanied man to the world of the dead
What do we know about the cult of dogs among ancient people? As a result of the excavations, numerous graves were discovered, in which, along with the owner, his dogs were also buried. At the same time, the body of the owner was placed in the central part of the grave, and the bodies of the dogs on its two sides, facing the owner. So, during excavations in the vicinity of Lake Sevan, tombs were found, in one of which they found the skull of an identical dog, dating back to the 8th century BC. And in ancient times, people believed that a dead person was accompanied by dogs to the world of the dead.
Help for the shepherds
In Armenia, dogs of this breed are popularly called “gelheht” (wolfhound). From time immemorial, they have helped shepherds by protecting sheep from wolves. Gampr has a strangulation technique. If he manages to cling to the throat of the beast, then he will not let her go. In addition, they have an interesting tactic: if you approach the herd, you will not see a single dog. However, if you come within such a distance that they have determined for themselves as the border, then the dogs will immediately appear and cordon off the whole herd: sitting with their backs to him and facing danger. And the leader of the dogs will lead the further process. In addition to protection, wolfhounds are used in search and rescue operations during landslides or avalanches.
Gampr is a loyal warrior
Gampras not only hunted, guarded, but also fought. Armenian kings often used these dogs for military purposes. Wolfhounds occupied the first rows, huge, in chain mail, they terrified the enemy. Some individuals could easily break the limbs of a horse. The first mention of the use of these dogs by the troops of the Armenian king Tigran II the Great dates back to the 1st century BC. e.
Armenian wolfhound recognized by the international community
Gampr is recognized as a national treasure of Armenia and is protected by the state. In 2011, the International Canine Union (IKU) recognized the Armenian wolfhound as an aboriginal dog breed originating in the Armenian Highlands. Later, in 2016, the Gampra was recognized by the World Cynological Alliance (Alianz Canine Worldwide).
On our tours, you can meet gamprs while hiking in the Geghama Mountains, where a lot of shepherds graze their animals.