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Karelian Bear Dog
Characteristics, History, and Health

Karelian Bear Dog

The Karelian Bear Dog is a Finnish breed with a long history dating back to ancient times. This breed was originally used by the Karelian people, who inhabited the region between Finland and Russia, for hunting large game, including bears and elks. They were highly valued for their bravery and hunting skills. Over time, the breed's popularity spread beyond its native region, and it became recognized for its exceptional abilities as a hunting and working dog.

Main Info
Finland, Northwestern Europe
Alternate Names
Karelsk Björnhund (in Swedish), Karjalankarhukoira (in Finnish), Karelischer Bärenhund (German)
Life Expectancy
11-13 years
Average Male Height
19-23.5 inches
Average Female Height
19-23.5 inches
Average Male Weight
44-49 pounds
Average Female Weight
44-49 pounds
Coat Length
Coat Type
Coat Colors
Coat Pattern
White Markings

Genetic Predispositions and Health

Karelian Bear Dogs can suffer from degenerative myelopathy and progressive rod-cone degeneration, which are common genetic conditions in canines. A specific condition for which this breed should also be tested is chondrodysplasia. As for all breeds, genetic screening is recommended to assist veterinarians with diagnosis and proactive care, as well as help breeders identify affected and carrier dogs.

Personality and Behavior

Karelian Bear Dogs are known for their courage, determination, and loyalty. They are independent and strong-willed, which can make training a challenge for novice dog owners. Early socialization and consistent, positive reinforcement training are essential to shape their behavior and ensure they develop into well-mannered companions.

Their strong hunting instincts make them excellent watchdogs, but they may exhibit aggressive behavior towards other dogs, as well as small animals like cats, due to their strong prey drive. With proper training and socialization, they can get along with other dogs and pets in the household. However, these dogs can be difficult to handle around new dogs, as they love a challenge and can easily become aggressive. It is very important to have early and consistent training to prevent aggressive behavior around dogs not from the household.

Fun Facts

In their native region, Karelian Bear Dogs are still used as bear deterrents. They help prevent bear-human conflicts by scaring away bears from inhabited areas.

The breed has a dense, double coat that provides protection against harsh, cold weather conditions and brush while hunting.

The Karelian Bear Dog holds the title of the official state dog of Minnesota, USA.