The Laika breeds are russian working dogs of the Northern type. Laika is the Russian word for 'barker' or 'barking dog' and is derived from the verb 'layat', which means 'to bark'. The breed's name thus simply means 'a dog that barks' in Russian, referring to the fact that the hunting laikas are bark pointers, dogs selectively bred for their barking abilities.
Six breeds belong to this group: West Siberian Laika, East Siberian Laika, Russian European Laika and Karelo-Finnish Laika, Northeasterly Hauling Laika and Nenets Herding Laika. The first four are hunting dogs for bear, elk, forest birds, which are also occasionally used for pulling sleds; one is a herding dog (which can also pull sleds) and one, the Hauling Laika, is a pure sled dog.
They all have a tick, weather-resistant coat with woolly undercoat, a very strong and muscular neck and a feathered tail that is carried curled over the back when the dog is working.
All Laika breeds are very affectionate and loyal to their owner, sometimes to the point of being a one-man dog. They are wary of strangers and can be boisterous and noisy, which makes them particularly unsuitable for living in an apartment. They are very resistant and can survive in the harshest conditions, even when given only minimal care.
West Siberian Laika
Photo: Olga Filatova
East Siberian Laïka (Vostotchno-Sibirskaïa Laïka):
The East Siberian Laika is the largest of the four Russian hunting laikas that has been selectively bred strictly for its hunting capability. Males stand 22-26 inches at the withers and females are 21-24 inches at the withers for a weight range of 40 - 50lb (18-23 kg). It is a calm, good-natured and obedient dog.
The breed was developed from the working sled and hunting dogs of the indiginous people of the High Arctic. The dogs were later adapted to hunt large game such as bear and deer. The type was fixed in 1947.
A sign that this breed has kept close to the primitive dog is that the females come in estrus only once a year (just like the wolf), usually in January-March. To be allowed at dog shows, East Siberian Laikas must pass field trial tests. This ensures that the tempermant and capability for hunting are not comprised in favor of physical conformation to the breed standard.
West Siberian Laïka (Zapadno-Sibirskaïa Laïka)
The most common of all the Russian Laikas, the West Siberian Laika, is specialized in the hunting of valuable sable or ermine. Its head it longer and narrower than that of the East Siberian Laika and it has a longer body than its East Siberian cousin. It is usually wolf-colored, but may be darker or more reddish, as well as badger-colored or white with patches.
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Photos © Olga Filatova (West Siberian Laika); The Norwegian Barents Secretariat (Nenets dog)
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Soviet Union stamp with East Siberian Laikas hunting a bear
Nenets Herding Laika
(also known as Nenets Laika or Reindeer Herding Laika):
A medium-sized working dog which owes its name to the Nentsy tribe, an ancient nomad tribe whose main activity is reindeer herding. The Nenets Laika looks very similar to the Samoyed, a dog developed under similar circumstances by the Samoyed people.
Their main distinctive feature is their coat color, which is solid or bicolored grey, tan, black or white for the Nenets dog, while pure white for the Samoyed.
Northeasterly Hauling Laika
(Sewero-Wostotschnaja Jesdowaja Sobaka, North Eastern Sleigh Dog):
A hardy and reliable sleigh dog common in the extreme eastern part of Siberia, as well as some of the Arctic isles. They are used exclusibely as sled-pullers, for professional transportation (mail, medecine) or skijoring. The furry pile of dogs with their tick and weather-resistant coats can also proof very efficient in protecting their owners against blizzards, serving as a kind of ice-proof furnace. Coat colors vary from solid white or black, over reddish gray to black & tan or pied. The tail types can be sickle, curled or straight.
Nenets Herding Laika
Photo: The Norwegian Barents Secretariat
Russian-European Laïka (Russko-Evropeïskaïa Laïka, Karelian Bear Laika, Karelian Laika)
A breed developed to hunt large game such as bear, deer and wolf and mainly found in the region close to the Finnish border. Once, one and the same breed as the Karelian Bear Dog, untill it was decided in the 1940s to breed both dog populations separately. The Russian breed is taller, more powerful and more aggressive than its Scandinavian counterpart.
Photo kindly submitted by Olga Filatova
One of the smaller Russian hunting dogs, also known as the Karelskaja. The coat may be fawn or black with small white markings on the head, chest, legs and tail.