You are never given the dog you want, but the dog you need.

A National Treasure of Finland

Happy Thursday, everyone!

For those of you who are new visitors, every Thursday I cover a new breed of dog. Some of them are familiar, tried and true breeds, while others are exotic and rare. This week I decided to take a different route than usual and asked the mister to pick a country. This week’s pick was Finland, so there were a couple different breeds that I was entirely unfamiliar with- meaning that I got to learn all about a breed that I have no prior knowledge of! Gotta love those learning moments!

This week, I have a truly unique breed of dog to introduce to all of you- the Karelian Bear Dog.

Karelian Bear Dog


This breed, much like last week’s Petit Bleu, is a fairly ancient breed. They are regarded as a national treasure in their home country and are cherished by those who own them. Based on what has been found in the archaeological record from excavations of various sites in Europe and Scandinavia, the Karelian Bear Dog has existed since the early Neolithic time period. An area that was once known as Karelia is the birthplace of this old breed. It was first seen in the show rings in 1936 in Helsinki. However, the breed nearly vanished after World War II, surviving on thanks to the tenacity of roughly 40 dogs that were recovered after the war had ended.  Originally, this breed came in a wide variety of colors- various shades of wolf gray, pale to dark red, and black-and-tan. However, the current breed standard only allows for dogs with black and white markings on them.

Bred to hunt small animals such as squirrels and martens, this breed also excels at hunting moose, lynx, wolves, and bears- specifically the Eurasian Brown Bear. Early hunters would use a pair of Karelian’s to hunt the bear. Their task would be to distract and confuse the animal until the hunter could strike, their fearless nature making them an ideal candidate and member to any hunting party.

In modern times, the Karelian Bear Dog is still used for its original purpose. Karelian’s have assisted in keeping the bear population in check and under control at both Yosemite and Glacier National Parks, and have also been used by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.


As one would expect for a breed such as this one, Karelian Bear Dog’s should be in excellent physical condition while being shown. Their coat consists of a soft, thick undercoat and an overcoat of straight, stiff guard hairs. Curl in the coat is not permitted and the colors must be black with white markings in order to be recognized as a Karelian. The preferred combination of black and white is roughly 70% black and 30% white. Powerfully built and being of moderate size, this breed is well boned and slightly longer than he is tall. The tail should fall over the back in a circle and have a white tip. Dogs whose tails curve in a sickle shape are not usually considered purebreds. At the shoulder, males should be about 21-24 inches, while females fall in at about 19-22 inches. They weigh in at roughly 44-50 pounds, depending on gender.


Owning a good sense of humor, Karelians are independent and skillful, often hard on themselves while learning, and energetic. This breed is known for their silent hunting until the prey is cornered, barking to alert only once they need to. Due to their hunting nature, it is not uncommon for them to be aggressive towards other dogs, and proper socialization and training is necessary to curb this and teach positive interactions. Despite this, the Karelian Bear Dog is a very social breed, often becoming extremely attached to its owner and can be extremely anxious when separated from them. Due to their territorial nature, they will alert their owner whenever they perceive any strange people or animals nearby that could be a threat to their pack family. Towards those that are familiar, the Karelian will give an enthusiastic welcome; while unwelcome or unfamiliar people may be treated coldly and with aloofness.


The Karelian Bear Dog is one that was bred for rigorous exercise in order to track and corner prey, often having to cover great distances in order to do so. As a result, this breed is one that needs plenty of space to run and explore, and it is necessary to give them a job to do. Much like any dog that is allowed to become bored due to a lack of mental and/or physical stimulation, they will find ways to entertain themselves, often turning towards destructive boredom in order to make up for what they are lacking. For this reason, this breed is not a popular companion animal. They require a well fenced yard and should not be allowed to run free with another- unless you want to track them down when they do hunting. This breed has a natural instinct to hunt in pairs, so when two run loose together, that instinct kicks in.


Karelian’s have a hardy, all-weather coat that requires little attention in the way of grooming. They shed their undercoat during the summer months and, as with many other Artic breeds, they do not have that ‘doggy’ smell to them.

Health and Life Expectancy:

This breed is a healthy breed overall, suffering from some of the same hip issues that plague medium and large dog breeds. They can live up to 10-12 years or longer, depending on their health.


And there you have it! The Karelian Bear Dog is one that is slowly gaining popularity and awareness about them is gradually spreading across the world. They are a hardy, hardworking breed that enjoys having a job to do and excels at hunting game. Extremely loyal, they will love and protect you with all their heart once they have named you their pack leader. While they are not a breed for the casual dog owner or the faint of heart, it is hard not to appreciate the unyielding bravery and determination that this breed exhibits in all that they do. I hope that you enjoyed this new breed and learned something interesting from it!

Happy Thursday again, everyone! Hang in there- the weekend is almost here! Don’t forget to click on over into the sidebar and vote for your FreeKibble question of the day so that hungry shelter animals can be taken care of!

A trio of Bear Dogs getting ready to go out and explore!




3 responses

  1. Tina

    LOVE this one!! I have seen on TV the WA state fish and game working their IS an awesome breed!!

    May 9, 2013 at 9:37 pm

  2. Pingback: Fit For A Viking- The Icelandic Sheepdog | The Love of a Dog

  3. Pingback: Fit For A Viking- The Icelandic Sheepdog | The Love of a Dog

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