The Karelian Bear Dog
By Michael Russell
The Karelean Bear Dog is a close cousin of the Russian Laika and there is a very strong similarity between the two. However the Karelean Bear Dog is a native of Finland. The Finnish name for the dog is Karjalank Arhukoira. the earliest settlers of Finland had to survive in a rugged land and hunting rather than agriculture was their main source of food. They needed a dog that was strong and fearless to hunt and bring down the animals of the region, which included deer, elk, moose and bear. The Karelean Bear Dog has always been the hunting dog of Finland and has changed very little from the earliest times. Because it is of a limited genetic pool the lines are quite pure. It became a very popular hunting dog for large game and there was a considerable number of these dogs at the turn of the century in northern Europe and Scandinavia. However the two World Wars decimated the population. It is now a rare dog and today all of the Karelean Bear Dogs can be traced back to only forty dogs which were still in existence after the war.
The dog has exceptional hunting ability although not exceptionally large. The height at the withers is about 22-24 inches. It is always black with white markings . The body is of a Spitz type (short backed and squared off with a tail which curls over the back.) Some Bear Dogs are born with a bob tail. The coat is not profuse or long, but is quite dense and double in nature. He is a dog with good “substance” but not the appearance of massiveness. He needs to be an agile and speedy hunter and is therefore of moderate size and is slightly longer than he is tall. The ears are upright. He has a keen sense of hearing and smell and is considered a scenting dog rather than a sight hound.
The Karelean Bear Dog has today gained a popular following in Canada where it is used as a dog which does hunt and bring down the large game and especially bear, but this of course is only done during “bear hunting season”. However there is now another use for the Bear dog. Today there are resort owners who keep two or three of these dogs and use them on a regular basis to patrol their resorts and keep the bears away as a protection for the summer tourists. There happens to be an extremely interesting experimental program in progress at a place called the Wind River Institute in Canada which is utilizing the Bear Dog to “train” bears to stay away from populated areas. It is unknown at this time whether this program is effective but to all appearances it may very well be a new and quite useful application of the Bear Dog. The dogs are trained to bark and chase away ( rather than chase down and kill) the problem bears which raid the garbage dumps and so on…and correspondingly the bears are “trained” to stay away from the populated areas. This breed has a courageous and fierce natural hunting instinct, it will follow its game to the end and is persistent and unyielding. This is a breed which has never deviated from its original purpose and should not be owned by the casual pet owner.
Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Dogs
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