Tuesday, May 6, 2014


To be honest, I had never heard of a Karelian Bear Dog until recently.  In fact, I had never even heard of Karelia.  But I had heard of bears, which are big, scary animals, and I wouldn't want to hunt them, which is what Karelian Bear Dogs do!  When I found out that KBDs can only be black-and-white, I was sorry that my sister Piper is not here to write about them because, as you may remember, she thought black-and-white animals were the prettiest of all.

Okay, so where is Karelia?  It turns out that it's where the Karelian peoples live, which is in Northern Europe.    Right now Karelia is divided between Russia and Finland.  The Karelian Bear Dog is considered to be a Finnish breed, and it is a national treasure.  This type of hunting dog has been around since Neolithic times.  A similar breed is the modern Russo-European Laika.  Nowadays, the breed standard for these dogs calls for black-and-white markings, but in the beginning, they could have been gray, red, or black-and-tan.

Eurasian Brown Bear
Photo:  Malene Thyssen

Karelian Bear Dogs are fearless and have quick reflexes, which is why they are good at hunting big, aggressive animals such as moose, lynx, wolf, and the Eurasian Brown Bear.  When hunters go after bear, they generally use at least two dogs to chase down the prey and then keep it cornered until the handler can come and shoot it.

The first time a KBD was in a dog show was in 1936 in Helsinki, but during World War II, people had other things to worry about besides dog shows.  By the time the war was over, the breed was almost extinct.  However, about 40 dogs were found to start breeding again, and now all KBDs can trace their pedigrees back to one of those 40.  The popularity of the breed declined during the 1960s, but now it is on the rise again.  Bear Dogs are being bred these days in the U.S. and in many European countries.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Modern hunters use KBDs for buck, elk, wild boar, hare, and moose.  And since the dogs are very brave, they can protect hunters who are going after wolf and bear.  The breed is also used in national parks such as Yosemite and Glacier for "bear control" work, which means they help teach the bears to fear humans and stay away from them, so the bears don't have to be euthanized.

Karelian Bear Dogs are always black-and-white, as I mentioned before.  They should have about 70% black and 30% white.  Their coat has straight, stiff guard hairs with a soft undercoat.  The bushy tail curls in a circle over the dog's back, and it has a white tip.  Males are about 21" to 24" tall, and females are a couple of inches shorter.  The weight for both sexes is between 44 and 50 pounds.

This breed is not a very good choice for a family pet.  KBDs like being outside, and they need lots of exercise and mental stimulation.  They are territorial and will alert their people to any unknown people or animals nearby.  They are independent, intelligent, persistent, and powerful.  Karelian Bear Dogs need a job to do, and that job is usually hunting, since that's what they've been doing for many centuries.


  1. I've never heard of Karelian Bear Dogs until I saw your post. The fact that they need to be outside and protect their owners and hunt bears kind of makes them warriors, don't you think? They're like warrior dogs :) Or maybe policedogs.

    1. I hadn't thought about it before, but they are kind of like warrior dogs. They definitely need a job to do so they don't get bored. I don't know if anybody has tried using them in police work or not, but it seems like they might be good at it.