About the breed

The Karelian Bear Dog (Karjalankarhukoira) is a Finnish Breed. In its home country, it is regarded 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 game, including bears, moose, and wild boar. It was the breed's ability to hunt and offer protection from bears that earned the breed its name. The Karelian Bear Dog is among the top 10 most common dog breeds in Finland.


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.

Karelian Bear Dogs have been used for bear control at Yosemite and Glacier national 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 just 4 in 2017.


Males stand 54–60 cm (21–24 in) at the withers; females are slightly shorter, at 49–55 cm (19–22 in). Both sexes weigh about 20–23 kg (44.1–50.7 lbs).

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.


Karelian Bear Dogs can be aggressive towards other animals so they require socialisation around anything the owner is around often. They are very devoted to their owners, but can be sharp towards strangers. Proper socialisation and training is necessary due to their disposition. Karelian Bear Dogs are very territorial and make good guard dogs. They will alert their handler to the presence of any strangers or other animals nearby that they do not know.

They have a very social nature and love to be with people. They are very social hunting dogs that prefer an outdoor environment, and need plenty of space to run free and get lots of exercise. In addition, they need a lot of mental and physical stimulation, as this breed is used to having a job to do.

If you are considering this breed for your next family member, you need to have the time to put in to training and socialisation. With time and guidance they make a wonderful companion.