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The Karelian Bear Dog

The Karelean Bear Dog is a close cousin of the Russian Laika and there is a very strong resemblance between the two. However, the Karelean Bear Dog is a native of Finland. The Finnish name of the dog is Karjalank Arhukoira. The first settlers of Finland had to survive in a rough land and hunting rather than farming was their main source of food. They needed a strong and fearless dog to hunt and bring down the animals of the area, which included deer, elk, moose and bear. The Karelean Bear Dog has always been the hunting dog of Finland and has changed very little since the early years. Because they are of a limited gene pool, the lines are pretty clear. It became a very popular hunting dog for large game and there were significant numbers 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 Karelean Bear Dogs can be traced back to only forty dogs that were still around after the war.

The dog has excellent hunting ability although not extremely large. Height at withers is approximately 22-24 inches. It is always black with white markings. The body is Spitz type (short back and square with a tail that curls over the back.) Some Bear Dogs are born with a bob tail. The coat is not abundant or long, but rather dense and double in nature. He is a dog with good “substance” but not a massive aspect. It must be a nimble and fast hunter and therefore is of medium size and slightly longer than its height. The ears are erect. It has a keen sense of hearing and smell and is considered a sniffer rather than a hound.

The Karelean Bear Dog has today gained a popular following in Canada, where it is used as a dog that hunts and destroys big game and especially bear, but this is of course only during the “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 bears away as protection for summer tourists. There happens to be an extremely interesting experimental program going on at a place called the Wind River Institute in Canada that uses the Bear Dog to “train” bears to stay away from residential areas. It is currently unknown if this program is effective, but from the looks of it, it may well be a new and quite useful application of Bear Dog. Dogs are trained to bark and chase away (rather than hunt and kill) problem bears raiding garbage dumps and so on…and correspondingly bears are “trained” to stay away from residential areas. This breed has a courageous and fierce natural hunting instinct, will follow its game to the end, and is stubborn and unyielding. This is a breed that has never deviated from its original purpose and should not be owned by the casual pet owner.

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