The East Siberian Laika, like the West Siberian Laika, Karelo-Finnish Laika and Russo-European Laika are part of a group of Russian dog breeds considered to be Spitz type. The term Spitz type as it is commonly used defines a type of dog that is characterized by thick, long and more often white fur, with pointed ears and muzzles and a tail that generally curls over the dogs back.
Although the exact origins of Spitz type dogs are unknown, it is believed that all dogs of this type present today originated in arctic regions. Genetic testing of Spitz type dogs has found that dogs in this group are the most closely related to wolves, and thus are presumed to be some of the oldest types of dogs. It is thus theorized that it was the ancestors of these Spitz type dogs that mated with wolves, and human selective breeding from that point lead us to the variety of dogs present in this category today.
Being such a primitive northern breed the East Siberian Laika retains many of the traits of its wild ancestor the wolf in both appearance and in behavior. Although all Laikas are considered versatile hunting dogs, each breed of Laika became more or less specialized to perform a certain task based upon their use and the environment in which they lived.
During the early 19th century as hunters in populated areas began to use specialized lop eared hunting breeds, the Laika was almost lost through genetic contamination and uncontrolled interbreeding with scent hounds, sighthounds, and bird dogs.
As a result the last of the few remaining purebred Laikas were located in sparsely populated hunting villages along the northern provinces of the country. As the numbers of purebred Laika’s began to dwindle to near extinction levels, the Russians stepped up with a breeding program to save the hunting Laikas from extinction. This was accomplished by importing the few remaining purebreds from these outer regions throughout Russia to re-establish the pure lines.
As a result of this newly established controlled Laika breeding program, during the period between 1930 to 1950 four individual breeds of Laika were established and recognized as purebreds these were the Karelo-Finnish Laika, the Russo-European Laika, the West Siberian Laika and the East Siberian Laika.
Although the hunting style of every Laika is generally similar, each specific breed of Laika brings with it its own advantages relative to the geographical conditions of its country of origin and the most popular game in that region.
It would be impossible to draw a line on a map that delineates the distribution of the East Siberian Laika relative to the West Siberian Laika, due to the fact that the ancestors of the West Siberian Laika (the Mansi and Hanty strains of Laika) also inhabited East Siberia. However in the Russian far east near the Amur River basin and Maritime Territory there were large, hardily built Laikas used for hunting all types of game and pulling sleds. It was the dogs of this region that would later to be recognized as the purebred East Siberian Laika.
It was during the 1960’s and 1970’s that a systematic breeding program for East Siberian Laika’s was established in a government kennel in Irkutsk the largest city in Siberia, as well as in Leningrad. In 1979, the All-Russian Stud Book of Hunting Dogs, reported that there were only 39 purebred East Siberian Laikas recorded.
In was in the Irkutsk Kennel, that the two major breeding males purchased from these far east provinces as pure breds were used to reestablish the breed. There was 'Julbars' a large powerful male, with a sable patterned redish black coat, and 'Bulka' another large powerful male with a black and white coat. In the Leningrad, purebred East Siberian Laikas were also being used to reestablish the breed but these dogs had lighter builds with a more slender head and longer wedge shaped muzzle that more closely resembled the West Siberian Laika. The result was some variance in appearance among pure bred East Siberian Laikas that remains to this day, and although this variance may not bode well for the show breeder it was beneficial to the overall genetic health of the breed.
The East Siberian Laika is the largest of the Russian Laika’s to be used for hunting, a large, strong dog that is capable of not only hunting but possesses the strength and endurance to pull sleds as well. Males are typically 22-26 inches at the should with females slightly shorter at 21-24 inches, with a breed weight of 45-70lbs. Males should be one inch lower at the base of the spine than the shoulders and females should be one half inch lower.
The coat forms a ruff surrounding the head with straight course guard hair and a thick, dense woolly undercoat. The ruff on males will be is significantly more developed and pronounced than it is on females. The hair on the tail should be full with the hairs being longer than that of the body, especially the underside with no feathering. Coat colors will vary to include all black, black and white, grey, red or any shade of brown.
The East Siberian Laika is a hunting dog with the natural instinct to hunt game both big and small. In their native Russia, they are used to hunt a wide variety of game, from small animals such as squirrel, marten and sable to bigger more aggressive game such as moose, wild boar and bear. Anyone looking to own an East Siberian Laika needs to understand that this is a working hunting dog, and that these traits have been bred into this breed for generations. Their wolf-like appearance, endurance, strong health, intelligence and ability to survive under conditions of minimal care have made them attractive to hunters for generations.
The East Siberian Laika is the quietest and most even tempered of the four recognized Russian Laikas, and although this breed is not typically aggressive toward humans, they do make a good watchdogs and when encouraged can become aggressively protective toward human intruders.
The East Siberian Laika breed is very affectionate and devoted to his master and his masters family. When walking, hiking, jogging or camping with their master, the presence of the East Siberian Laika can bring peace of mind, as this dog will detect and react aggressively to dangerous predators, such as mountain lions, boars or bears. It is in this dogs nature to harass these intruding predators by dashing in and out aggressively biting, forcing the predator to choose between defending itself, or fleeing.
The attitude of this breed towards other dogs is a different story, and they are apt to meet any unfamiliar dog of the same sex with aggression, especially in or around its home territory. Items such as food, a favorite toy, dominant status etc. are items of importance to this breed and items for which it is prone to fight for. Although the East Siberian Laika posses the strength, skill and capability to fight well, they like all Laikas do not have a desire to kill other dogs, but only to make them submit so that they may gain that which they feel is important (status, toys, food, breeding rights etc).
As for other animals, we must keep in mind that the East Siberian Laika is a natural and instinctive hunter that is highly aggressive toward big predators. Although, it is fairly easy to teach this breed to ignore live stock, cats and other small animals may be just too tempting and should be kept securely away from this breed.
Since the East Siberian Laika possess a thick double coat of fur, that consists of a thick, dense, soft undercoat and a coarse longer topcoat some grooming and ritual brushing is going to be required if you plan on letting them in the house. The undercoat will shed or “blow out” annually and for females this may happen twice a year. For dogs living in warmer climates there is a tendency to shed year-round. Caring for your East Siberian Laika will require that you put up with plenty of dog hair on the furniture and carpet, and floating through the air during these shedding sessions that can last three weeks or more. You can reduce the loose hair you find with regular brushing and grooming sessions during these times.
East Siberian Laikas are some of the healthiest dogs in the world. Currently there are no serious hereditary health problems known to be associated with them. However, minor abnormalities typical of all purebred dogs may occur among East Siberian Laikas. Infrequent occurrences of umbilical hernia and monorchidism (the state of having only one testicle within the scrotum) have been seen among puppies.