The Karelian Bear Dog is a very old breed and it is believed that they evolved from the Komi dog and that came west from the Ural mountains with migrating Komi people or Zyrian people. Later, the breed spread into the area of Lake Ladoga, where the basic stock of Karelian Bear Dog originated and where they were succesfully used for hunting large game.
2) Almost extinct
The selective breeding of this breed started in 1936, but only shortly after that, Second World War and Winter War started which almost decimated the breed. Many dogs were killed and many many other were released into the wild. The breeding started once again in 1945, when 43 pure Karelian Bear dogs were found and gathered and that were used for new breeding. All the Karelian Bear dogs we have today can trace their history to these dogs from 1945. Luckily the breed survived and today it is quite common in Finland where it is regarded as national treasure.
Even today, these dogs are working as hunters in Finland and they are amazing at it! Their fearless and courageous personality combined with quick reflexes, great athleticisim, independence and good problem solving ability make them very popular for hunting large game such as small black bears, wild boar or moose. These dogs are also known for its amazing sharp sense of smell, sense of orientation, persistance and confidence, all important traits for succesfull hunter.
When the Karelian Bear Dog is not hunting, it creates a loyal companion for its owner and family. These dogs are able to stand by his owner’s side in any situation. It is not overly affectionate dog, just like some other breeds, but it definitely love its owners. These dogs are naturally alert and reserved with strangers, but they should never be agressive without a reason. It is not a dog for everyone, the Karelian Bear dog definitely needs experienced owner who will properly, firmly and patiently train them and socialize them from the puppyhood. Some individuals can also be extremely territorial, which is why they can make very good protectors and guard dogs as well.
The Karelian Bear Dog is a powerful, muscular and sturdy dog breed, but it is not a heavy dog, they are also very athletic and agile and they are little bit longer than tall. The average height is between 49-60 cm, which is 19-24 inch and weight is usually between 20-30 kg, which is 44-66 pounds. The females are naturally slightly smaller than males.
These dogs are used for hunting outdoors in cold Finland for long hours, so it is only logical, that they have very practical thick doublecoat, which fits perfectly for this purpose. The breed has a coat of straight, stiff guard hairs and a fine, soft, thick undercoat and the color is black and white with clearly-defined markings. Sometimes, the coat can have slight shade of brown as well.
Not many dogs we have these days are capable of surviving on their own in wild nature, but if there are some, than the Karelian Bear Dog is most likely one of them. They still possess the ability to survive in the wild without human intervention and if they would not be socialized with people during their life, they can easily become feral dogs.
8) Bear control
Thanks to the breeds experiences with bears, they were used for one interesting purpose in the USA and Japan, where they have been used for bear control. To be more specific in the American Yosemite and Glacier national parks and in Karuizawa, Japan, where they reduced the number of bear incidents from 255 in 2006 to four in 2017.
The all weather coat of Karelian bear dog is not hard for grooming and maintenance. It is a very very dense doublecoat which sheds some deal all year long and if you want to minimize the shedding, than regular brushing is essential, but it is impossible to stop the shedding. No other grooming is necessary. Just like with all dogs, you should regularly check the dogs ears, eyes, nails and teeth and clip them or clean them if needed.
One of the reasons why these dogs are quite popular in Finland and some other Scandinavian countries is their exceptional health and longetivity. Of course, they still may suffer from some health issues, which may include hip dysplasia or eye problems, but none of those are extremely common with this breed. The lifespan is around 13 years, which is quite good for dog of this size.