Karelian Bear Dog


A medium sized Karelian Bear Dog
Karelian Bear Dog Quick Summary
Also Known AsKarelsk Bjornhund
Height (at withers)19-23in (48-58cm)
Weight44-50lbs (20-23kg)
Hair Colour(s)Black & white
Lifespan10-12 years
Energy LevelHigh
Litter size4-8
Barking TendencyLow
Exercise requirementsHigh
Ease of trainingMedium
Suitability for kidsLow
Animal compatabilityMedium
Aggression levelsHigh
Distress if leftLow

The Karelian Bear Dog is a robustly built medium sized dog. The body is slightly longer than it is tall with a tail that curls over a well developed back. The head is wedge-shaped with powerful jaws, small eyes and small cocked ears that are lined with dense fur to reduce the risk of frostbite. The all-weather double coat is soft and dense underneath with a stiff and straight outercoat, and the colouring tends to be black with white markings.


Karelian Bear Dogs are powerful yet sensitive dogs, often said to have a good sense of humour. Highly energetic, these are tough and independant dogs with good levels of intelligence. They are fearless and willing to take on any game animal, but are also very loyal dogs that make good household companions in the right hands. These dogs require a good deal of training and are best suited to outdoor enthusiasts. Karelians can see off a bear, or attack one that won't run, and so they need owners that are assertive and willing to put in the time to train them correctly. As a result they are certainly not suitable for the inexperienced nor for children. These are high energy dogs that need a lot of exercise, otherwise they can become bored and destructive. Karelian Bear Dogs must be socialised correctly around other animals, otherwise they will want to dominate or fight them. These dogs are affectionate toward people, but familiar visitors will be welcomed enthusiastically whilst strangers may be treated coldly. They are very protective by nature and will bark to announce both welcome and unwelcome visitors, and so they make good guard dogs and watch dogs.

History & Skills

Karelian Bear Dogs originate from the area once know as Karelia in Northern Europe, where they were bred as hunting dogs for hunting large game. Similar large hunting dogs were known to have followed the first settlers to Finland thousands of years ago, and dogs that were brave and robust enough to tackle bears, wolves and lynx were important for the survival of local tribes. Karelian Bear Dogs are more common outside their own country than similar hunting dogs such as Russian Laikas, and were first exhibited at a dog show in Helsinki in 1936. This breed almost became extinct after Word War Two, and most modern examples can be traced back to around forty dogs saved after the war. Despite anther deline in numbers in the sixties, this breed is popular again and is being bred in North America and many European countries. Able to hunt a wide range of prey from boars to bears, in their homeland of Finland they are used mostly for hunting elk and are the preferred dog of the native big-game hunters.

Breed Specific Ailments

Karelian Bear Dogs tend to live between 10-12 years. This is a very hardy, energetic and robust breed with little known by way of genetic health problems. They are noted to have small appetites considering their size and energy.


Karelian Bear Dogs are medium shedders and so may be suited to those suffering with allergies. Their grooming requirements are low and they will require the occasional brushing during shedding. Like many Arctic dogs, Karelian Bear Dogs do not suffer from doggie odor.

Exercise & Environment

Karelian Bear Dogs are not recommended for indoor life and certainly not for small homes or apartments. These dogs are very energetic and do not like to be confined, but they can be kept in kennels so long as they receive plenty of chances to run. Ideally a farm environment with plenty of acreage would best suit these dogs. Failing this, they will need a good daily walk lasting at least an hour. It is not a good idea to ever let two of these run freely together as they will go hunting!


FCIFCI - Federation Cynologique Internationale
AKCAKC - American Kennel Club

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