Karelian Bear Dog

Karelian Bear Dog

Infobox Dogbreed
altname = Karjalankarhukoira
Karelsk Björnhund

image_caption = An adult Karelian Bear Dog
ckcgroup = Group 3 - Working Dogs
ckcstd = http://www.ckc.ca/en/Default.aspx?tabid=99&BreedCode=KBD
country = FIN
fcigroup = 5
fcinum = 48
fcisection = 2
fcistd = http://www.dogdomain.com/fcistandards/fci-048.htm
akcgroup = FSS
akcstd = ?
akcfss = yes
name = Karelian Bear Dog
ukcgroup = Northern Breeds
ukcstd = http://mail.ukcdogs.com/UKCweb.nsf/80de88211ee3f2dc8525703f004ccb1e/a9ae060efa9bfdb18525704a00474d0d?OpenDocument
The Karelian Bear Dog is a Finnish or Karelian breed of dog. In its home country it is regarded as a national treasure. In Finland they are more often used for hunting moose and elk although they will hunt any kind of animal. Bear and moose tests are conducted in Finland, Sweden and Norway to determine an individual's ability as a beardog and weighs heavily in the dogs breeding potential. This dog will put a bear to flight or attack it with great pugnacity and will sacrifice its own life for its master. Its quick reflexes and fearless nature have also made it very popular for hunting other aggressive game such as the wild boar. It was the breed's ability to hunt and offer protection against a bear that earned the breed its name.



The dog should be in excellent physical condition. Males stand 54 to 60 cm (22 to 24 inches) at the withers, while females stand significantly shorter at 49 to 55 cm (19 to 22 inches).

The breed has a striking coat of straight, stiff but soft guard hairs and a fine soft undercoat. There should be no curl in the hair at all. The colour must be black with white markings. Often the jet black hair is slightly tinted with brownish highlights on the ends giving it an iridescent quality. This is caused by the sun's "bleaching out" of the jet black hair color. Preferably the color percentage is around 70% black and 30% white. The bushy tail curls over the back in a ring and has a white tip which falls gently onto the dog's back or to one side.


The dog should be brave. Often they tend to be aggressive towards other dogs but usually it is because they are very territorial or they feel threatened. They are cautious around strangers at first but usually warm up to them eventually. They have been bred to be very independent and a good bear dog should be able to actively hunt for hours at a time without any contact with its master.

Proper socialization and training is necessary as these dogs demand proper authority and respect to work well with their master and other animals. Treating them harshly will cause them to mistrust so one must be firm but careful when working with them. They must have a trusting and obedient master/dog relationship for everyone's safety.

They must always hunt only with their master and it is best not to have more than two Karelians hunting together or they will either go off hunting on their own or fight over the prey. They work better with other Karelians with which they are raised.

They are silent but tenacious hunters and only alert when they have the prey at bay. They will keep it there by barking in a very high, fast bark and running back and forth or around the animal until the master comes and kills it. They have been known to hold an animal at bay a very long time. If a bear tries to leave the dog will bite it on the backside and aggravate it to keep it from running away.

They are extremely loyal to their master and love their people. For this reason, they must be around them. They also love children and love to play. It is very unusual for a KBD to bite a human but they will kill another animal if they feel threatened. If more than one lives together there is a hierarchy in the pack much like wolves. One will be the alpha dog or leader and the others will usually defer to him/her.

This is not a dog that can be tied to a lead outside, kept in an apartment or never worked with. They are very social, outside hunting dogs and they need plenty of space to run free and get lots of exercise. If they get bored they will dig up the yard or try to get out to go hunting. These traits tend to prevent the breed from becoming popular companion dogs.

They are very territorial and will alert their master to the presence of any strangers or other animals nearby that they do not know.


The history of dogs in every region is linked to the history of the people with whom they lived. The Karelian Bear Dog is the namesake of Karelia, an area in Northern Europe of historical significance for Finland, Russia and Sweden. After centuries of conflict among these three peoples, the territory is now divided between the Russian Republic of Karelia, the Russian Leningrad Oblast, and two Regions of Finland: South Karelia and North Karelia

The Komi dog originates in the virgin forests of the Komi Republic to the northeast of Russia. Its people were conquered by Russia in 1472 thus the Russian connection to the bear dog.

The Karelian Bear Dog in Finland is a primitive breed that has not been interbred with any other breeds (including the Russian Laikas) and in Finland there is no confusion between the breeds. "In the native home country of the Karelian Bear Dog, which is Finland, we do not have problems like this, because the Finnish dog breeds are well known here. Both Karelian Bear Dog and Russo-European Laika have their own separate FCI breed standards (the one for Russo-European Laika was not recognized until in the 80’s), and these two breeds should never under any circumstances be regarded as the same as they are not. The KBDs are bred for their hunting instincts in their home country of Finland and their beauty comes from their abilities in the field. Not every dog makes a good big game hunter and only the best are allowed to breed." (Laukkanen, the Finnish Spitz Club March 1999) This is how the hunting instinct has been preserved as opposed to the KBDs bred in some other countries.

The Karelian Bear Dog should not be confused with the Russo-European Laika. This close relative was bred by Russian hunters who wanted to distinguish their own Karelian Bear "Laika" from the Karelian Bear Dog in Finland, and introduced other strains of native Russian laikas to the breed.

Despite the erroneous information still out there, the Russo-European Laika is not the same dog as the Karelian Bear Dog. The following, widely repeated remark is doubly spurious: “Closely related to the Laika, the Karelian Bear Dog is descended from an old Finnish breed to which Russian breeders introduced Utchak Sheepdog blood.” Such a breed did not and does not exist in Russia. We do not know who introduced this false statement about interbreeding with the Utchak Dog, but it occurs in many writings about the Karelian Bear Dog. Unfortunately Mark Derr also picked this up and included in his article about Karelian Bear Dogs published in Smithsonian. One question remains. What kind of dog the Utchak Dog is? Is it merely a corruption of "ov(t)charka" (овчарка), the Russian word for "sheepdog"? (See, South_Russian_Ovtcharka, Caucasian_Shepherd_Dog .) We would like other members of R-PADS and guests to help us to find the answer to this question."(HISTORY OF THE RUSSO-EUROPEAN LAIKA AND MYTH ABOUT ITS INTERBREEDING WITH THE UTCHAK DOG by Vladimir Beregovoy and Marina Kuzina PAWS 2000)

Last but not least, the Finnish people have never mixed the Karelian Bear Dog with any other breed of dog.

External links

* [http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/karelianbeardog.htm Karelian Bear Dog Information]

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