THE RUSSO-EUROPEAN LAIKA
Since very old times and until early XX Century, medium size compact built Laikas with pointed muzzle and prick ears were wide distributed across the taiga forest zone of northeastern Europe from Finland and Karelia to Uralian Mountains. Originally, they had several different coat colors: black and white, wolf gray, red, black and tan, white and any color with white patches. These dogs were used mainly for hunting all kinds of game and as watchdogs. In most of their original range in central Finland, Poland and Central Russia they became replaced by imported specialized hunting breeds, such as scent hounds, sight hounds and bird pointing dogs. Relatively pure of genetic contamination stocks still existed in Vyatka Province, Komi Republic, Perm Province and North Ural as late as 1930.
Fossil remains of very similar dogs dated about 10,000 years ago were found in archeological sites in central and northern Europe. Their range shrunk as a result of deforestation and replacement of hunting by agriculture. Other dogs, such as sheep guarding dogs, scent hounds and sight hounds replaced them. Medium size, prick-eared Laikas remained favorite hunting dogs of peoples living on the fringes of European part of Russia, mainly in the taiga zone of northeastern Europe. However, not all of these Laikas were used for hunting. Many of them were simply watchdogs of peasants living their entire life running loose near the house or behind the fence on the backyard. In late XIX – early XX Century, influx of new settlers from the west and south of Russia brought many different dogs and this was a major reason of deterioration of the aboriginal Laika stock even in remote taiga forests. Traits of these medium size Laikas are still well recognizable among local mongrels living in Russian villages even today. Russian hunters living in and near big cities, especially in Moscow and Leningrad were well aware about outstanding hunting qualities of aboriginal Laikas of northeastern Europe. They purchased some dogs and bred them systematically close to the aboriginal type. Local Laika of certain slightly different types were often named after name of native people who owed the dogs or after geographic provinces where from the dogs were found originally. For example, the Karelian Laika, the Komi Laika, the Zyryan Laika, the Votyak Laika and the Archangelsk Laika. Despite general similarity of these dogs, dogs of certain geographic regions differed in length of the muzzle, size of ears, rangy or short body and thickness and color of the coat.
Before World War II, in Leningrad, there were many similar looking small to medium size Laikas raised by hunters. Dogs sampled from large territories from Karelia and Ladoga Lake region to Archangelsk Province and Udmurtia became a foundation for development of the Russo-European Laika. Interesting fact is that in the beginning, among these dogs, there were very few black and white dogs. According to Voilochnikov and Voilochnikov (1982), among dogs registered at the dog show in 1940, only three were black and white. The remaining dogs were red, reddish gray and gray like wolves. Best dogs of Vyatka Province and Udmurtia (Votyak Laika) were wolf gray. During World War II, Laika population of Leningrad was decimated. To save the breed, hunters living in Leningrad and in its vicinity brought new dogs from Karelia and Arkhangelsk Province and bred with survived dogs. Majority of them were wolf gray. However, at this time, a new standard was accepted and black and white dogs became favored. Black and white-coated dogs were rapidly replacing dogs of other coat colors. Unfortunately, many excellent dogs were eliminated out of the breed in favor of the black and white coat color. Finally, by 60th, majority of these dogs became black and white in various proportions ranging from totally black to totally white.
Another very important center of purebred Russo-European Laika was established in 1944, in experimental kennel of All-Union Research Institute for the Hunting Industry in Kalinin Province. Here, E. I. Shereshevsky was a leader of breeding hunting Laikas programs. Dogs were kept in pens, well cared of and each dog of the breeding stock was diligently tested for the hunting ability on squirrel. By this time, the name of the breed, the Russo-European Laika, became officially established. Here, the first progenitor of the pedigree group was male named Champion-Pootic, born in 1946, and his sister Pomka. According to Voilochnikov and Voilochnikov (1982), Champion-Pootik and Pomka were obtained by breeding of the Hanty type West Siberian Laika female named Pityukh-II with black and white male from Pomozda District, Komi Republic. The mother was considered an average dog by the conformation and the hunting ability. The father was excellent in both the conformation and the hunting skills. Champion-Pootik had outstanding conformation and won Champion titles at dog shows in Moscow in 1953, 1954 and 1955. He was highly rated at field trials for the hunting ability. By the conformation, Pomka’s was not as good dog as Chapion-Pootik was, but at hunting she was rated high. Shereshevsky, a noted Laika expert of his time, used these dogs for establishing a new pedigree group of the Russo-European Laika. As a result, of breeding of these two dogs, he obtained 40 puppies. Another 40 puppies were obtained by breeding Champion-Pootik with other females and Pomka with other males. Majority of these puppies was very good in both hunting and conformation and produced many outstanding dogs. Thus, best traits of Champion-Pootik were well inherited in his progeny and a desirable type of the Russo-European Laika became fixed after only one-two generations of selective breeding. Puppies of this breeding were distributed among hunters and breeders in different Russian provinces and some were left in the kennel. Because this progeny was obtained as a result of inbreeding, Shereshevsky introduced a new blood by breeding daughters of Champio-Pootik with a not related male named Druzhok. Druzhok was raised in the same kennel. Druzhok had only two generations pedigree, but he had excellent conformation and hunting ability. Breeding of Druzhok with daughters of Champion-Pootik and Pomka produced about 90 puppies. Many other dogs were obtained by breeding of puppies of Champion-Pootik and Pomka by other breeders who were also hunters. Shereshevsky (1956) describes his Russo-European Laika as follows: “Body structure is lean and sturdy; nervous system type is strong and somewhat excitable; height at the shoulder is 50-55 cm (20-22 inches); coat is well developed with thick undercoat; majority of dogs has black and white coat color. Body is well developed and with broad chest. Head and carriage style of the tail are very typical of the breed. Hind legs are positioned wide; legs are mobile and fast in action. Hunting reflex is very strong. Both males and females are maturing fast. Many dogs start to work independently on squirrel, marten and grouses at age of eight-ten months. Several sired by Champion-Pootik dogs became champions at field trials before they were one year old”. The Moscow group of the Russo-European Laika became established at a later time. It consisted mainly of dogs originated from Champion-Pootik. Further development of the Russo-European Laika involved crossbreeding of lines of Russo-European Laikas of Leningrad and Moscow. More dogs of similar type were brought from Arkhangelsk Province and bred with best pedigreed dogs. By 1960, the Russo-European Laika became established as a purebred.
The Russo-European Laika is a hunting dog of the taiga zone of northeastern Europe. In the appearance, it includes traits of similar native dogs of Karelia, Komi, Aarkhanglesk Province, Udmurtia and other parts of European Russia. According to the breed standard, the Russo-European Laika is a middle size dog with a compact, lean and strong body. Males are 21-23 inches at the shoulder and females are 19-22 inches at the shoulder. Males are about a half-one inch higher at the shoulder than at sacrum. Females are about one inch higher at the shoulder than at the sacrum or the same. Deviations from the size indicated in the standard are faults.
Coat color of the Russo-European Laika is black with white patches of variable size ranging from entirely black to entirely white. Gray color, ticking on the head and dense ticking on legs of same color as body are deficiencies. Red color, ticking on the body, head and legs and brown brindle colors are faults. The standard does not specify the shade of the black coat color. Actually, there are glossy black and mat black dogs can be seen. Coat of many black dogs living outside becomes bleached on the sun and obtains a brownish shade.
Females of the Russo-European Laika mature by eight months of age and come in heat two timers per year. Number of puppies per litter is ranging from five to nine. Females are capable to dig a den for whelping and are good mothers. They take care about their puppies and some even regurgitate meat for their puppies. Usually everything is don well without assistance of veterinarian or the owner.
The Russo-European Laika always barks when he has a reason and with this breed the reasons are many, because its excitable temperament. A persistent barking may indicate that the dog is bored with a monotonous life being confined for a long time. The dog may bark for a long time while treeing a squirrel, a raccoon or a cat, but this is an important part of its hunting profession. A Russo-European Laika may bark persistently at another dog that comes too close to the house, if a stranger coming on foot or in a vehicle. When you have a few dogs and one of them is in heat, the entire kennel will become very noisy.
Attitude to humans
The Russo-European Laika is a very affectionate and strongly attached to the master and his family dog. Majority of these dogs avoids being petted by strange people, but some may be more or less friendly. Dogs bark at strangers and some show aggressiveness making intimidating dashes with raised hairs on the back, but usuallydo not bite.
Puppies must be socialized with people since age of four weeks. Puppies of the same litter may differ from each other in this process. Puppies avoiding hands must be handled and petted more often to help become accustomed to humans.
The Russo-European Laika, if transferred at age of eight months or older, does not forget the first owner for years and returns to him at the first opportunity.
Attitude to other dogs
The Russo-European Laika is a territorial dog and displays aggressiveness towards unfamiliar dogs intruding their place. Dogs of the same household establish a kind of pecking order and well come along with each other. When obtained as adults, even females may fight each other in the beginning and, in some cases, will remain enemies for lifetime. Despite the Russo-European Laika becomes easily engaged in a fight with another dog, it is not suitable for pit fighting. They fight only when they need to solve their problem and the fight often stops as soon as one of the dogs submits or retreats. A dog very aggressive near its home may refuse to come closer to another dog, if taken in an unfamiliar environment in a new place.
Attitude to domesticated and wild animals
All Russo-European Laikas are aggressive to predators and are enthusiastic hunters for many kinds of small and big game. However, their hunting attitude is very discriminating. They become strongly excited by scent and appearance of squirrels and species belonging to the weasel family. Scent of bear or moose also excites them and they follow it sniffing air or tracks on the ground. Through their history they were dogs of people who were peasants and hunters. Local people have never tolerated dogs attacking farm animals. Therefore, Russo-European Laikas easily learn to leave domesticated animals alone. However, they would harass unfamiliar cats and tree them like a game. Poultry is safe, if the dog is taught to leave these birds alone since puppy age. Rabbits should be kept locked up in sturdy built cages.
Russo-European Laika is primarily a hunting dog. He is a very good pet and a family dog and he is exceptionally tolerant with children. He is a great watchdog without dangerous viciousness to unfamiliar people. The Russo-European Laika will be alerted by appearance of other dogs or animals. This is not a good city dog, because it needs freedom for free interactions with the surrounding and plenty of exercise to stay healthy mentally and physically.
At hunting, the Russo-European Laika is among most efficient dogs treeing any small game. He is baying moose, wild boar or bear. In Russia, majority of these dogs is used to hunt squirrel, capercaillie and, occasionally, marten. In the USA they already proved themselves to be excellent squirrel and raccoon treeing dogs.
The Russo-European Laika will make and excellent companion dog for hiking trips. One, who takes them to hike, should know that this is a very territorial dog that may fight other dogs approaching your tent. Besides, this dog will never miss a chance to tree a squirrel or other animal and lag behind barking for a long time. The Russo-European Laika is quite confident in woods where bears are present. When the dog detects a bear, it will attack the bear barking loud forcing it to defend itself. This will give you enough time to go away and the dog will catch up with you after a few minutes. The Russo-European Laika can be used in programs for repelling nuisance bear from public places. The dog can do this job only if it is turned loose. If chained or leashed, it becomes simply bait for the bear, because it cannot maneuver escaping bear’s attack.