The movie White Dog is an important study of race in America by way of dog ownership. It’s the type of movie that illustrates how dogs, like children, are unfiltered reflections of the worst parts of humans.
The story literally follows a dog that is white who attacks persons of color. It’s a literal white dog. While the dog breed in the film is fairly mutty, there is a somewhat funny breed related to the “white” dog: the Caucasian Shepherd Dog, a breed separated from race entirely but bred with the weight of white privilege atop of it.
The dog is a Eurasian fluff ball from Caucasus, a mountain system uniting the Caspian and Black Seas with Russia, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan between, an area referred to as “Caucasia.” The dog is from this area and, therefore, Caucasian. There are two versions of the dog—a plain and a mountain version—and are all rather large, coming in at almost thirty inches tall and weighing up to 220 pounds. Yes, that is a big ass dog.
The dog is a type of Molosser which is code for burly shepherding dogs like Swiss Mountain Dogs, Newfoundlands, Saint Bernards, and the like. The Caucasian dog in particular is known for guarding livestock and killing pests like wolves that invade properties. Basically, they are protectors and could be radicalized like the dog in White Dog if “nurtured” to be that way.
Beyond geography, how does this dog relate to the general notion of the “caucasian”? A few things: “Caucasians” as a group are a reference to the area this dog is from because, way back when, in a time when taxonomizing people was super racist and pseudo-scientific, the term was to denote that the people from here were extremely white. The word was eventually racialized negatively and later ameliorated to the norm of “white people.” This dog carries the lexicological burden of Caucasian history.
Dogs have a bizarre relationship to race and ethnic groups, as White Dog illustrated and as I’ve discovered living in my own neighborhood. This Caucasian dog, unfortunately in America, is a byproduct of generations of racial profiling. Perhaps we can call it by one of it’s other names? Those names include Azerbaijani Shepherd Dog, Georgian Nagazi, Circassian Sheep Dog, Armenian Khobun Dog, and Kars (Kafkas) Köpeği: take your pick on which you prefer to “caucasian.”