Breed standards

Karelian Bear Dog

Breed standards are the official guidelines that describe the ideal characteristics, temperament, and appearance of a breed and ensures that the breed is fit for function with soundness essential.

Last Updated: 08 Aug 2019

FCI Standard No 48

TRANSLATION: Finnish Kennel Club. Revised by Renée SporreWilles.

ORIGIN: Finland


UTILIZATION: Hunting spitz. A dog mainly for elk and bear hunting, holds the game at bay.

FCI-CLASSIFICATION: Group 5 Spitz and primitive types. Section 2 Nordic hunting dogs. Working trial only in the Nordic countries (Finland, Sweden & Norway).

Group 7 (Non Sporting)

The Komi dog, also called the dog of Zyrians, is considered to be the origin of the breed. However, the basic stock dogs originated from the Lagoda’s Karelia, Olonets and Russian Karelia, where they were used for all different types of game hunting. The breeding was started in 1936 with the goal to create a sturdy dog which barks at big game. Then it was agreed that the name of the breed is Karelian Bear Dog. The first standard was established in 1945. The first dogs were registered in 1946. Today the breed is common in Finland.


Medium sized spitz with dense coat. Robust conformation with strong built.

IMPORTANT PROPORTIONS: The length of the body is only slightly longer than the height at the withers. The depth of the body is about the half of the height at the withers. The ratio between muzzle and skull is approximately 2 : 3. The length of the skull is about the same as its breadth and depth.


Eager hunter; very independent, yet works co-operatively to game, marking game by barking. The senses, especially of smell, are sharp, thus the breed is suitable for big game hunting. Very good sense of direction. Balanced, courageous and persistent. Highly developed spirit for game. Very self-confident, may be territorial towards other males, never aggressive towards people. Slightly reserved.

Head And Skull:

Viewed from the front triangular in shape, not very long.

Skull: Broad; viewed from the front and in profile slightly convex. Broadest between the ears. The frontal furrow is barely visible. The superciliary ridges are only slightly developed.
Stop: Not very pronounced, rather long, arched gradually towards the skull.

Nose: Large, black in colour.
Muzzle: Deep, tapering only slightly towards the nose. The nasal bridge is straight. Lips: Rather thin and tight.
Cheeks: The zygomatic arches are well developed.


Rather small, slightly oval. Brown of different shades. The expression is alert and fiery.


Erect, set rather high, medium sized with slightly rounded tips.


Jaws/Teeth: The jaws are very strong. The teeth are well developed and symmetrical; 42 teeth, according to the dentition formula. Close fitting scissors bite.


Muscular; of medium length, arched and covered with profuse hair.


General appearance: Powerful with strong bone. Viewed from the front straight and parallel. The upper arm and the shoulder are equal in length, the forearm is slightly longer.
Shoulder: Relatively oblique, muscular.
Upper arm: Slightly oblique and strong.
Elbow: Pointing straight backwards, placed on the vertical line drawn from the point of shoulder.
Forearm: Strong and vertical.
Metacarpus (pastern): Of medium length, slightly oblique, flexible.


Withers: Clearly defined, especially in males.
Back: Level and muscular.
Loin: Short and muscular.
Croup: Broad, strong and slightly sloping.
Chest: Spacious, not very broad, rather long, reaching approximately to the elbows. The ribs are slightly sprung; the forechest clearly visible, yet not protruding.
Under line and belly: Slightly tucked up.


General appearance: Strong and muscular, viewed from behind straight and parallel.
Thigh: Broad and long with strong muscles.
Stifle (Knee): Pointing forward, moderate angulation. The front line of the hind leg has smooth angulations.
Lower thigh: Long and muscular.
Hock joint: Low set; angulation clearly defined.
Metatarsus (Rear pastern): Short, strong and vertical.


Forefeet: Tight, well arched, roundish and pointing forward. Pads springy, the sides covered with dense hair.
Hind feet: Tight, slightly longer and less arched than the front feet. Pads elastic, the sides covered with dense hair.


High set, of medium length, curved over the back, the tip of the tail touching the body on either side or on the back. A natural bobtail is permitted and is of equal value to a natural long tail.


Light, effortless, covering a lot of ground. Changes easily from trot to gallop, which is the most natural gait. The legs move parallel.


Skin: Tight overall without wrinkles.
Hair: Outer coat harsh and straight. On the neck, back and backside of the upper thighs longer than elsewhere. Undercoat soft and dense.


Black, may be dull or with nuances of brown. Most individuals have clearly defined white markings on the head, neck, chest, belly and the legs.


Height at the withers: Males: 54–60 cm, females 49–55 cm.
Ideal height: males 57 cm and females 52 cm.
Weight: Ideal weight males 25– 28 kg and females 17–20 kg.


Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog and on its ability to perform its traditional work.
• Light in bone.
• Narrow skull.
• Strongly bulging forehead.
• Snipey muzzle.
• Missing teeth (excluding the PM1 and M3).
• Yellow eyes.
• Soft or bat ears.
• Dewlap.
• Too deep or barrel shaped ribcage.
• Upright shoulders.
• Insufficiently angulated hocks and flat feet.
• Predominantly white colour with black markings or some so called wolf hair.
• Heavy ticking in white areas.
• Wavy coat.
• Straight or insufficiently curved tail.
• Slightly timid.

• Aggressive or overly shy dogs.
• Any dog clearly showing physical or behavioural abnormalities shall be disqualified.
• Overshot or undershot mouth.
• Blue eyes.
• Ears hanging or semi-drop.
• Other colours than described in the standard.


• Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
• Only functionally and clinically healthy dogs, with breed typical conformation, should be used for breeding.