Karelian Bear Dog

Other names: Komi Dog, Dog of Zyrians

Karelian Bear Dog
Karelian Bear Dog

The Karelian Bear Dog is revered as a national treasure in its native Finland. Its quick reflexes and fearless nature made it a popular hunting dog. They were used to track the biggest and most fearsome land animals, including the brown bear. They’re still used by National Park gamekeepers to keep wild populations within sustainable levels. The Karelian has a bright, intelligent expression, and appears to be very approachable. However, it’s important to note that they’re naturally aggressive towards other animals and as such, should be handled with care and a lot of respect. 


Key facts about the Karelian Bear Dog

  • Life expectancy : Between 11 and 13 years
  • Temperament : Hunter
  • Size : Medium
  • Type of coat : Long
  • Price : Between £1000 and £1500

FCI Group

FCI Group

Group 5 - Spitz and primitive types


Section 2 : Nordic Hunting Dogs

Physical characteristics of the Karelian Bear Dog

Adult size

Female dog Between 19 and 22 in
Male dog Between 21 and 24 in


Female dog Between 37 and 44 lb
Male dog Between 55 and 62 lb

Coat colour

Black and white. 

Type of coat

Harsh, straight topcoat. Soft and dense undercoat. 

Eye colour

Chestnut brown.


Medium sized spitz breed. Black fur covering the back and legs. Large white blaize on the chest. Small, compact head, pricked ears. Fluffy tail that curls upward. 



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These independent dogs are not very affectionate, but they definitely enjoy being around their owners.


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Although they’re lively and energetic, the Karelian Bear Dog is not interested in playing games. These dogs prefer to work and hunt. 


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Full of energy and always on the move. Constantly exploring or investigating. This dog prefers to live near wide open spaces and likes to spend most of its time outside. 


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A very intelligent dog with a strong and independent mind. 


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A formidable hunting dog. Often works independently as it tracks large game and wild bears. Used all over the world as a hunting companion. 

Fearful / wary of strangers

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A fearless dog. If great big bears can’t scare these dogs, then strangers definitely won’t. 


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Although they often work independently, the Karelian is still very dependent on it’s master. They thrive off having a strong, but fair handler.

Behaviour of the Karelian Bear Dog

Tolerates solitude

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This powerful dog is highly prone to separation anxiety, so make sure they’re not left alone for long periods of time. 

Easy to train / obedience

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This willful animal can be difficult to train. Highly intelligent dogs like the Karelian tend to get bored very quickly, especially if the training methods are dull and repetitive. 


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A very quiet dog, even when they’re out on the hunt. Will only bark to attract the attention of the hunting party. 

Tendency to run away

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There’s very little chance of this dog running away. They’re physically capable of doing so, but they also have a real desire to stay close to their owners. A very loyal dog.


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Due to being prone to separation anxiety, the Karelian is also prone to destructive behaviour. If kept indoors for long periods of time, they’ll tear up carpets and destroy sofas. 

Greedy / Gluttony

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No issues with overeating.

Guard dog

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As well as being an excellent hunter, the Karelian often doubles up as a guard dog. And it’s a job they do really well. This dog will deter burglars and home invaders.

First dog

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An unwise choice for the first-time dog owner. The Karelian is a bold, strong-willed, and naturally aggressive animal. If you haven’t handled dogs before, adopting one that was bred to hunt bears is very irresponsible.


Karelian Bear Dog in a flat

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To put it simply, a flat is the worst possible environment in which to keep these dogs. Any owner who does so is putting the dog’s long-term health at risk.  

Need for exercise / Sporty

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This dog needs around two hours of exercise every day. They also like to spend most of their time outside.

Travelling / easy to transport

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Can be an awkward travel companion. Tends to get restless and anxious during long journeys.


Karelian Bear Dog and cats

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Because of it’s very high prey-drive, Karelian Bear dogs shouldn’t be kept alongside domestic cats. 

Karelian Bear Dog and dogs

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The Karelian gets on very well with other Karelian Bear dogs. They enjoy working closely together and form close bonds. Can be aggressive towards other breeds.

Karelian Bear Dog and children

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The Karelian Bear dog isn’t really a pet; it’s a working dog. Given the nature of their work, they can be confrontational. Not suitable for families with children. 

Karelian Bear Dog and the elderly

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Elderly people could easily get overwhelmed by this independent, powerful dog. 


The initial cost of a Karelian Bear Dog puppy is between £1,000 to £1,500. The average cost to keep one of these dogs (including vet bills, insurance, and food) is between £50 to £100 a month. 


A weekly brush is required.


Heavy shedders during the spring months.

Nutrition of the Karelian Bear Dog

4 cups of high-quality dog food.

Health of the Karelian Bear Dog

Life expectancy

A very healthy and well-bred dog with a life expectancy of 11 to 13 years.

Strong / robust

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One of the toughest dog breeds. Strong, well-built, and very robust. 

Withstand heat

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Although they weren’t bred for warmer climates, these dogs support heat very well. They shed lots of hair during the spring, which helps keep them cool during summer.

Withstand cold

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They have a thick, double-layered coat that provides protection against the cold, the rain, and the wind. No problems surviving cold temperatures. 

Tendency to put on weight

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As long as they are being fed within the recommended limits, the Karelian Bear Dog will maintain a healthy body-weight.

Common illnesses

Good to know

The Karelian Bear Dog is a fearless and formidable hunter.They should never be handled by inexperienced dog owners. Keeping them as just a pet is not the best idea. These dogs need to be put to work to be truly happy.

Origins and history

The Karelian Bear Dog was developed by the Vikings of Scandinavia. Given the warrior culture of the ancient vikings, it’s easy to see why they prized this brave, strong, and extremely confident dog. Excavations of ancient sites showed that many Karelians were buried alongside their masters. The Norse culture believed the dogs would guide their masters through the underworld until they reached Valhalla, the Viking version of heaven. As well as being highly-revered in its native Finland, the Karelian has been exported to Canada, the USA, and even Japan. They provide vital assistance to hunters and gamekeepers who are tasked with maintaining the delicate balance of local ecosystems.


Butch, Sammy, Dolly, Luz

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