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Karelsk Bjornhund Breed Description

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Breed Organization

American Karelian Bear Dog Alliance

Native Country

Other Names
Karelian Bear Dog, Karelischer Barenhund, KBD, Karjalankarhukoira

Life Expectancy
Approximately 10-12 Years

Litter Size
Average 5-8 Puppies

Breed Group

General Description

In its home country, it is seen by many as a national treasure. Karelian Bear Dogs will hunt a variety of animals. Its quick reflexes and fearless nature have made it very popular for hunting large game including small black bears, moose, and wild boar. It was the breed's ability to hunt bears that earned the breed its name. The Karelian Bear Dog is among the top 10 most common dog breeds in Finland.

The breed has a coat of straight, stiff guard hairs and a fine, soft, thick undercoat. There should be no curl in the hair at all. The colour should be black with white markings. Often the jet black hair is slightly tinted with brownish highlights on the ends giving it an iridescent quality. The ideal colour percentage is around 70% black and 30% white. The bushy tail curls in a circle over the back in a ring and has a white tip. It falls gently onto the dog's back or to one side. Purebred Karelian Bear Dogs have tails that curve into a circle rather than a sickle.

Breed Standard

Head: Triangular when viewed from the front. Broad skull. Slightly convex forehead. Distinct stop. Deep muzzle. Large nose. Thin, tightly closed lips.
Ears: Carried erect. Slightly rounded tips.
Eyes: Small. Brown color.
Body: Solid. Strong, arched neck. Capacious chest. Straight, supple back. Broad, slightly sloped croup.
Tail: Set high. Moderate length. Carried curled over the back.
Hair: Stiff and harsh. Longer on the neck, back, and back of the thighs. Soft, dense undercoat.
Coat: Black with dull brownish cast caused by the normally chestnut undercoat. White spots or markings on the head, neck, chest, underbelly, and legs.
Size: Dog: 57 cm (ideal) (22.4 in).Bitch: 52 cm (ideal) 20.5 in).
Weight: Approx. 25 kg (55.2 lb).


The Karelian Bear Dog originated from the Komi dog. Basic stock dogs originated from the Ladoga Karelia, Olonets Karelia, and East Karelia where they were used for hunting. The breeding was started in 1936 to create a sturdy dog which would bark at big game, and named the Karelian Bear Dog. The first standard was established in 1945 and the first dogs were registered in 1946.

The Karelian Bear Dog was used mainly for hunting small fur-bearing animals, such as squirrels and marten. Like the Norwegian Elkhound, the Karelian Bear Dog was also used in hunting moose, lynx, wolf and, as its name would suggest, hunting the Eurasian brown bear. In hunting bear, at least a pair of Bear Dogs would be used to harry the animal, barking loudly, in order to distract the bear while the human hunter came in for the kill.

Karelian Bear Dogs have been used to reduce human-bear conflicts in the U.S., Canada and Japan, through dogs bred by and programs developed and introduced by the Wind River Bear Institute and its Founder Carrie L. Hunt. Larger scale programs have been run by the Institute in coordination with Alberta Parks, Yosemite and Glacier national parks, with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. Karelian Bear Dogs were introduced in 2004 in Karuizawa, Japan, a popular resort town 170 km northwest of Tokyo, where they reduced the number of bear incidents from 255 in 2006 to four in 2017.


Karelian Bear Dogs are naturally aggressive towards other animals. They typically require deliberate socialization or acculturation with anything the owner is around often. They are very affectionate with their owners, but can be aggressive towards strangers. Proper socialization and training is necessary due to their aggressive disposition. Karelian Bear Dogs are very territorial and will alert their handler to the presence of any strangers or other animals nearby that they do not know.

They are silent but tenacious hunters and alert their handler only when they have the prey at bay. They will keep prey cornered there by barking in a very high, fast bark and running back and forth or around the animal until their handler comes and dispatches it. Karelian Bear Dogs have been known to hold an animal at bay for a very long time. If a bear tries to leave, the dog will nip at it on the backside and otherwise aggravate it to keep it from running away.

They do not always have to hunt with their master, as they can be trained to work with other people. However, they are prone to separation anxiety due to their very social nature. It is very rare for a Karelian Bear Dog to bite a human, but it may kill another animal if it feels threatened or hungry.

They are very social hunting dogs that prefer an outdoor environment, and need plenty of space to run free and get sufficient exercise. In addition, they need a lot of mental and physical stimulation, as this working breed is used to having a job to do. These traits tend to prevent the breed from becoming popular companion dogs.

This dog must not be closed up indoors. He needs a lot of space and considerable exercise to burn off energy. Daily brushing is required.


Hunting Dog (large game), Guard Dog, Pet. A dog mainly for elk and bear hunting, holds the game at bay. Eager hunter; very independent, yet works cooperatively to game, marking game by barking. The senses, especially of scent, are keen, thus the breed is suitable for big game hunting. Very good sense of direction.


This is a very healthy breed. No issues could be found.

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