Karelian Bear Dog (Karjalankarhukoira)

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black (may be dull or shaded with brown), with white markings
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The Karelian Bear Dog is a powerful, fearless and buoyant hunting dog that is specialized in hunting on such dangerous animals like wild boar, moose and bear. The breed has turned to be really viable and survived lots of revolutions, civil wars, two World Wars to become a highly valued national dog in its native Finland.

The Karelian Bear Dog is known to have descended from Spitz-type dogs in the times of Vikings. The breed was developed by the Vikings simultaneously with other varieties of hunting dogs in Karelian region of Northern Europe. It was bred specifically for hunting on a big game like bears and wild boars that reflects in its name.

In more modern history the Karelian Bear Dog has been developed mostly in Finland and is called there the Bjornhund and Karjalankarhukoira. In 1920 in the wake of war conflict between Russia and Finland Karelian region has been divided in two separate territories. This led to somewhat artificial split between two almost identical breeds – the Russian-European Laika on the Russian side of Karelian region and the Karelian Bear Dog on the Finnish side.

As the result of two World Wars a current territory of habitation of the dog has been split between the Russian Republic of Karelia, Russian Leningrad Oblast, and Finland (the regions of South Karelia and North Karelia). Right after the World War II the Northern part of the Finland was laid in ruins and the numbers of survived dogs were truly scarce. Local fanciers of the breed launched a breeding program and searched for remaining dogs all over the country. These specimens participated in restoration of the Karelian Bear Dog. All modern dogs have in its lineage one of that forty or so dogs, that have been tracked, rescued and used in breeding process after the war.

In 1945 the Finnish Kennel Club approved the first breed standard and gave it a name «Karelian Bear Dog». In the same year the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) recognized the breed and in 1996 the United Kennel Club (UKC).

Nowadays, in Sweden, Finland and Norway the Karelian Bear Dog is used to hunt elks.

In America the usage of the dog is considered to be the best choice when things concern bears harassing suburban areas. The Karelian Bear dog is utilized by the National Park Service to frighten off and teach bears to stay away from territories occupied by people. Another organisation, which is interested in this breed is the Wind River Institute whose goal is to diminish number of bears killed by humans by training them to leave out human settlements.

The Karelian Bear Dog is a smart and loving animal, which establishes close connection with its owner and its family, including children. The breed possesses vigilant, nervous temperament that can become the reason of extreme barking. It seems to be really territorial, so when it is exposed to even slightest stimulus that arouses its anxiety the dog can bark for hours. However, this also makes it an excellent personal and property guardian.

The strangers are tolerated by the Karelian Bear Dog but with certain rate of restraint and coldness. It will feverishly defend the subordinated territory from strange people who are perceived as unwelcomed guests but won’t resort to open aggression if it’s not absolutely needed.

The unknown dogs that intrude its territory will also stir a protective instinct in this breed that may lead to cruel fights between them. Actually, the Karelian Bear Dog is able to cohabitate with other canine animal only if they have been raised together and even then one should expect some confrontation till the dogs clarify its place in the pack.

The Karelian Bear Dog has a hunter instinct imprinted in it during the millennial history therefore the dog constitutes a great danger for cats as well as other small home pets. Naturally, there is a chance that things turn out to be just fine if they are brought up in the same household, but still there is no guarantee.

Health Problems
The most common problems for the breed include:

• canine hip dysplasia;
• eye problems.


The coat of the Karelian Bear Dog is not so easy to take care for. It consists of two different layers. The top one is long and firm and the undercoat is thicker but softer. The latter the dogs tends to shed every year and for females it can be twice a year. The period of shedding lasts up to 3 weeks. The specimens, which live in warmer weather conditions may throw off their coat on a constant basis.

Regular brushing (preferably daily) can alleviate this problem to some extent, but the future owner should accept the fact that dog’s rigid hair will be found in abundance all over his/her possessions.

The Karelian Bear Dog is a large and intimidating breed, which concedes only to an experienced and confident owner. The dogs hunting past thought it to be an independent thinker and problem solver therefore it should completely recognize the authority and dominative stance of the trainer. Having said that, it’s worth to consider that harsh treatment and negative reinforcement won’t work with this breed and may only cause an outburst of aggression.

Designed for hunting purposes, the Karelian Bear Breed isn’t a good choice for a family. But if you still intend to adopt this dog, socialisation is the only way you can learn it appropriate behavioural patterns in a family as well as in outside world.

The Karelian Bear Dog is a breed with resilient energy and requires intense and long exercises, for instance, in a form of brisk walk. If you confidently control your dog it will make up a superb partner in your jogging routine as well as it can run alongside a bicycle. 
The leash is a must for this breed; otherwise your carelessness may cost a life of neighbourhood cat. It will greatly enjoy a free run in a safely secured territory, if you are able to provide it.