Russian Setter vs Bisben - Breed Comparison | MyDogBreeds

Russian Setter is originated from Russia but Bisben is originated from India. Russian Setter may grow 8 cm / 3 inches shorter than Bisben. Russian Setter may weigh 23 kg / 50 pounds lesser than Bisben. Both Russian Setter and Bisben has almost same life span. Both Russian Setter and Bisben has almost same litter size. Russian Setter requires Moderate maintenance. But Bisben requires Low maintenance

Basic Information

Setter dog
Working dog
Height Male:
57 - 68 cm
22 - 27 inches
50 - 76 cm
19 - 30 inches
Height Female:
57 - 68 cm
22 - 27 inches
48 - 74 cm
18 - 30 inches
Weight Male:
27 - 32 kg
59 - 71 pounds
18 - 55 kg
39 - 122 pounds
Weight Female:
27 - 32 kg
59 - 71 pounds
16 - 52 kg
35 - 115 pounds
Life Span:
10 - 14 Years
12 - 15 Years
Litter Size:
5 - 8
4 - 10
Medium dog
Giant dog
Other Names:
Bisben Sheepdog, Bisben Shepherd, Himalayan Bisben, Himalayan Bisben Sheepdog, Himalayan Bisben Shepherd, Himalayan Sheepdog, Himalayan Shepherd, Indian Sheepdog, and Indian Shepherd
Colors Available:
Grey, reddish-brown with some black and white
jet black, either solidly or with white markings on the feet and chest. Other commonly seen colors are tan, tricolor, and “wolf-color,” which probably means grey, brown, black, and/or various shades of sable.
Short or long, smooth or wiry
long, wiry, coarse, harsh
Affectionate, Alert, Cheerful, Courageous, Curious, Energetic, Friendly, Gentle, Independent, Intelligent, Lively, Loving, Loyal, Outgoing, Playful, Protective, Quiet, Responsive, Social, Stubborn, Territorial
Aggressive, Courageous, Energetic, Independent, Intelligent, Stubborn
Moderate maintenance
Low maintenance
Kids Friendly:
New Owners Friendly:


People often think it is ridiculous that a Setter dog comes from Russia. It is believed that the Russians did have some kind of Griffon and the word Pointer is also often translated as Setter.

It is believed that the Russian Setter is one of the ancestors of the Wire-haired Pointing Griffon and that it possibly shared an ancestry with the German wire-haired and broken-haired pointers.

References to Russian Setters were fairly common in the 19th century, but there is such contradictory information that it is hard to get good information on the dogs. The Russian Setter is believed to have existed before the Russian Revolution resembling the English Setter. Dog experts tell us the dog no longer exists.

There is a lot of mystery surrounding this large herding dog said to come out of the Himalaya Mountains of Asia. The belief is that sheepdogs were crossed with wolves toward the end of the 18th century, but his origin is basically unknown. They are both herding dogs and guard dogs. Others theorize that rather than a wolf, the breed arose from the Mastif family. Still others claim that the Bisben is not a breed at all but rather a “landrace”. A landrace is an animal group that is only found to exist in the local area or is bred locally for a specific reason, while a breed is developed intentionally and from a select purebred with pedigree. The Bisben may be a landrace since it is very popular in India but hardly known anywhere else. What is known is that the Brisben was in existence at the end of the 1700’s and its job was to protect and herd livestock. There are three main theories about the origin of the Bisben. They are, in no particular order:

1. The Bisben was developed by mixing several different Himalayan and Indian Sheepdogs with wolves. The wolf population in the Himalayas and in India live in very close proximity to dogs and people and this population is quite large. These Tibetan and Indian wolves are known to be smaller, more comfortable with people and less aggressive than wolves from other parts of the world.

2. The Bisben was developed by mixing local sheep herding dogs with the Tibetan Mastiff. This gave the breed its protective nature and its large size according to this theory.

3. The Bisben was developed by mixing local dogs with the ones the British, Portuguese and French imported to the India subcontinent.

There is a fourth theory as well and it combines all three of these, supposing that the Bisben is a product of crossing local dogs with wolves, Tibetan Mastiffs and European dogs.

Regardless of their origins, the Bisben grew into one of the most respected animals in the Southern Himalayas. Their assistance to the shepherds of the area was unquestioned and irreplaceable. They were touch enough to herd flocks of goats or sheep across several treacherous and unstable mountain passes. The environment in which these dogs worked when herding is one of the harshest environments on the face of the earth. Temperatures were dangerously cold, altitudes dangerously high and the terrain just plain dangerous. Many deadly large predators live there as well. This included tigers, Asiatic black bears, golden eagles, Himalayan brown bears, snow leopards, fox, dholes, wolves, and small cats. The Bisben had to be able to fight off all of these predators. In addition to these herding and protecting duties, the Bisben was also known throughout the region as an excellent hunting dog. They are capable to this day of hunting large prey such as antelope or deer. They are equally comfortable hunting alone or in a pack. He has grown into one of the most popular hunting dogs in all of India.

The Himalayas, being so rugged and treacherous, were inaccessible to most of India for many centuries and the Brisben was unknown as well. Through the British imperialist expansion across all of the Indian subcontinent, the lowlands people were connected to the highlands and mountain people for the first time. This also meant that the Brisben was no longer unknown. The entire country began to appreciate the dog for its protection and herding of livestock, as well as a companion animal who would protect its owner and family as well. As India continues to grow the popularity of the Brisben grows as well and its numbers increase regularly. The breed, if it is a breed, remains an Indian secret. They have migrated to the countries around India, but their number are small. It is only in India that they are revered and prosper. They are not present in any great numbers in Europe, North America, Japan, or most of Asia.

Whether or not the Bisben becomes a recognized breed depends upon those who own and fancy them. Most Bisbens are bred to only other Bisbens in an effort to purify the breed. However, few dogs have pedigrees and the practice of breeding the Brisben to other breeds and mixed breed to acquire specific characteristics continues to this day. It is unlikely that the Bisben will ever be a purebred dog. It is quite variable in how it looks depending upon what the breeding line of the individual dog actually is. Does it look like a wolf? Does it look like a larger version of a local or European dog? There will always be these questions around the Bisben. Is it a breed or a landrace?


In terms of appearance, it was John Henry Walsh who said that the Russian Setter was a dog hidden by its long, woolly matted coat.It seems to have been a medium sized dog with an elegant appearance. It seems the dog came in two varieties - the curly coated liver coated dogs and the fawn colored dogs which are straight coated.

Because there is very little information on these dogs, we assume they were between 57 – 68cm in height and between 27 and 32kg in weight. The coat was no doubt in colours such as grey, reddish-brown with some black and white and shortish and wiry. The ears were floppy,and the face no doubt had some longer hair around the muzzle.


Nobody seems to know exactly what the temperament of this dog was, but when you look at some of his ancestors you can assume that he was strong-willed, confident and a skilled hunter.

He would have required a lot of exercise too. He was lively and energetic. Because he had Pointer in him you can be sure that he would have been intelligent so that he could be trained and socialized.

He would have been keen to learn with an owner who was firm and consistent in his treatment of him. He is a dog most happiest when he can spend time with his human family, a most loyal and devoted family friend, capable of getting on well with children and pets in the home.

As mentioned in the previous section the appearance of the Brisban can vary greatly from one dog to another based on the individual dogs’ ancestry. Breed or landrace, the Brisban breeding line is not very pure. Therefore, appearance can vary greatly from what is described here and there is no standard by which to measure the Brisban. Most are distinctly large animals, being as tall as the European mountain dogs – the Newfoundland or the Bernese Mountain Dog, Swiss Mountain Dog. St. Bernard and Great Pyrenees. Reports are that it is perhaps the largest dog in India. At least it is one of the largest dogs in India. The Bisben is said by some to be a large, bulky, husky dog while others claim it to be tall and athletic, leaner than the Mastiff bred. Again, there is disagreement on the size and shape of the Bisben’s head with some claiming it is massively square like a Mastiff while others say the head is long and like that of a wolf not a Mastiff. The long hair of the Bisben and its confusing heritage may be the cause. They are most often black but might also be found to be tricolor, tan and “wolf-color” or brown, grey, shades of sable and black. No matter how it looks, this is a dog that was designed to work in the harshest conditions known and their physical appearance should make that abundantly clear.

Health Problems

The Russian Setter had an average lifespan of 10 – 14 which is a fairly good innings for a dog. Nonetheless you would have had to be aware of some common dog problem. These dogs were prone to major health issues such as both hip and elbow dysplasia, deafness, epilepsy and hypothyroidism.


The thyroid glands produce hormones that affect the function of many parts of the body. Dogs with this illness have a low production of thyroid hormones.

This disease is mainly caused by inflammation or shrinkage of the thyroid gland. The most common signs of low thyroid in dogs is thinning of the fur, the coat is dull, there is weight gain and excess shedding. The dog doesn’t tolerate cold well either. These dogs also often have ear infections.

Because he is not a purebred and is probably a land range, there have not been a lot of health studies done and written up on the Brisban. It is believed that the Bisben is for all practical purposes a healthy working dog. As long as the breeding practices are not compromised it should remain a healthy line. It is bred for temperament and work not for appearance and showmanship. Some problems that plague large dogs have been noted in the Bisben. These conditions include hip and elbow dysplasia; optical issues such as Entropion, Ectropion and cataracts; ear infections; and Demadex and Demodectic mange. Most of these conditions can be tested for either in DNA or early in a pup’s life and should be tested for by the breeder before a puppy is sold

Caring The Pet

Whatever kind of coat the Russian Setter ad it would have required a brushing twice a week to keep it in top form.

The medium length floppy ears would have to be checked inside for ear infection.

His owners would have checked inside the mouth for any signs of rotten or bad teeth.

His nails would have required trimming.


Dogs need the best food there is to stay healthy. The Russian Terrier, if it were still around today, would have had the best commercially manufactured food there was.

You want to provide dogs with some good homemade food too. Dogs thrive on simplicity and consistency to avoid upsetting the stomach. Some home-cooked food such as boiled chicken, sweet potatoes, brown rice or pasta, carrots and spinach would be perfect for him. Chop the food up finely and add it into the dry kibble once or twice a week. Raw meat should also be added in when possible to promote good skin health.

Make sure your pet is never without a constant supply of fresh, cool water.

The Bisben is a large working dog that needs a lot of calories if you are keeping him busy. Do not let him get overweight. The Bisben should not be free fed but rather given two controlled portion meals per day.

Health issues

As previously mentioned, the Bison was developed with the harshest of conditions in mind and long hours of hard work. It is a healthy breed that is however prone to any of the issues that any large dog is prone to including dysplasia and mange and well as optical issues.

Exercise and games

The Bisben needs a lot of exercise as the breed is developed for hard work. Walks are essential but if you have more than one dog, pack walks are even better and pack time at the dog park or in a fenced yard is great. The Bison was bred to hunt in packs as well as alone and they love to play in packs. In any respect they need at least an hour of strong exercise daily. If they don’t get enough exercise, they can become aggressive, destructive and fearful. This could result in destructive activity, barking and excess excitability. They are not very happy in the city and thrive in the countryside.


It appears, according to records that the Russian Setter has come and gone. However he would have been a calm, gentle pet with running ad hunting keeping him happy. He would therefore have required a lot of exercise.

We can assume that according to the few records that there are, that this was an affable, pleasing dog breed which made a great family pet.

The Bisben was so important to the people of the Indian subcontinent because of her temperament. He is a loyal, productive and courageous worker who took care of her flocks, her family and her pack. They are devoted to their family and if raised with children will care for them as well. He is suspicious of strangers. They are territorial and great watchdogs. They can take on any large challenger if need be to protect what they consider to be theirs. They can be highly dog aggressive and must be socialized as a puppy. Do not mix them with strange, unknown animals as the Bisben might attempt to kill them. If he sees them as his “pack” he will love and protect them, but not if he does not know them. Take as much time as you need to introduce him to a new animal and do not leave them unsupervised. They are not easy to train as they are stubborn, intelligent, want to be dominant and is a problem solver. If he doesn’t want to learn something forget it – he won’t. You can still train them. It just takes time and patience.

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