Russo-European Laika

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult Russo-European Laika

A medium-sized Spitz breed, the Russo-European Laika has the thick double coat, prick ears and curled tail of many other Spitz types. One of three recognised Laika dogs, the Russo-European Laika is the smallest of them all and was the final one to gain official acceptance.

An impressive hunter, the tenacity and stamina of the Russo-European Laika make it a well-respected breed within its homeland. Known for the devotion they show their family, the Russo-European Laika is an affectionate and loyal breed that is regularly used as both a family pet and a guard dog.

About & History

One of the few Laika breeds that are recognised by the FCI, the Russo-European Laika is linked to the East Siberian Laika and the West Siberian Laika. The Karelo-Finnish Laika is sometimes also grouped with these breeds. All of these Laika breeds are the modern descendants of the ancient Spitz type dogs that have been used as hunting dogs for thousands of years. It is often theorised that these are the dogs most closely related to the wolf, and indeed, their DNA confirms this belief.

For more than 10,000 years, the ancestors of the Russo-European Laika, who are thought to closely resemble today’s modern Laika dog, have been in existence in Europe. The Russo-European Laika has traditionally been used to hunt squirrels but can also be used to a hunt a variety of large and small game, including bears, racoons and rabbits.

Hunting has always been the main purpose of the Russo-European Laika – a job that has become less necessary with the modernisation of the agricultural industry. The breed fell out of favour in recent years and there was an influx of new working breeds, such as shepherding dogs and sighthounds, that were more suited to the farmers’ needs. The Russo-European Laika would commonly mate with these new dogs, rendering the breed ‘impure’ and jeopardising their existence.

By the 1930s, it was rare to find a purebred Russo-European Laika. Local hunters were aware of their perilous situation and made a conscious effort to re-establish the breed. The few remaining dogs were bred with other similar Laika breeds, adding genetic variety and improving the health of the Russo-European Laika. While the breeding programme was a success, the population suffered a second blow during World War II. Starving survivors were forced to consume their pets to stay alive. Once again, the remaining Russo-European Laika dogs were bred with other local dogs in a bid to ensure their survival. At this time, the modern white and black coat became the more popular option, rather than the historic red or grey coat. Not only was appearance important, but breeders would ensure that animals were field tested before mating in order to guarantee that they were adequate hunters. The most successful breeding programme is thought to have been officially set up in 1944 by a Mr. Shereshevsky. Today, the UKC recognises the Russo-European Laika within their Northern Breed Group.


Russo-European Laika Large Photo

It is quite apparent that the Russo-European Laika bears a close physical resemblance to the Karelian Bear Dog, and they are often mistaken for one another, though the Karelian Bear Dog will usually have a white stripe on its face (a trait which cannot be relied on as it does not hold true for all breed members) and the Russo-European Laika should be smaller and lighter than the Karelian Bear Dog.

The Russo-European Laika has a head shaped like a triangle, with small dark eyes, a black nose and ears that are erect and pointed. Their body is rectangular in shape and they have a deep chest and a well-muscled back with a tucked-up abdomen. Their limbs should be strong, while their feet are oval with hard pads; a trait that assists their walking in snowy and icy weather. As with other Spitz breeds, their densely furred tail should be curved and carried over their back.

The Russo-European Laika is a medium-sized Spitz type dog, measuring 54 to 60cm (males) or 52 to 58cm (females). Males weigh from 20-23kg, while females will typically weigh 1kg less than this.

Their double coat is moderately long and may be black, dark grey or ‘salt and pepper’ in colour and should have white markings. A predominantly white coat with coloured markings is also acceptable. Their thick undercoat is essential for the cold temperatures they often have to endure. Their fur is generally longer around their ruff and on the backs of their legs. Feathering is undesired. The breed standard advises that rear dew claws are removed.

Character & Temperament

Friendly with those they love, the Russo-European Laika can make a kind and trustworthy family pet. Cited as being good with children, they will happily play with the youngest members of the household, tolerating any rough housing well. However, the same level of tolerance does not extend to unfamiliar people or other animals, and the Russo-European Laika can be wary of new guests, tending to become defensive and territorial. Dog-on-dog aggression is a frequent issue, so care must be taken when near unknown dogs, particularly when those involved are two intact males.

Natural hunters, Russo-European Laika dogs are known for having a good sense of direction and a sensible head on their shoulders. They will gladly seek out their prey and pursue it with an impressive stamina. Once found, they will keep it at bay, treeing it and alerting the hunter to the find with their loud bark.

A versatile dog, the Russo-European Laika is probably best known for its hunting abilities and is indeed very apt at both the trailing and treeing of a variety of game. However, they are equally suited to being watchdogs, commonly employed by farmers to protect over their livestock herds. Similarly, they have earned a reputation as good guard dogs with their loyalty and courage making them well suited to the role.


A high energy dog with a big heart and a willingness to learn, the Russo-European Laika can be a very satisfying breed to train when in the right hands. They are intelligent, and can pick up on cues quickly, remembering any previous exercises they had been working on with ease.

Socialising a Russo-European Laika early on in life is critical to ensure they reach their full potential. Failure to do so can result in a fearful dog or one who shows aggression when uncertain. Exposing them to people of all sizes and a variety of animals, and encouraging their acceptance with positive reinforcement training, plenty of treats and kind words, will ensure that they are confident in new situations once older.


Known to be an incredibly healthy breed, there is not much an owner has to worry about in the line of inherited health disorders. A small number of health conditions have been reported in a minority of the population, namely:


A condition seen in male dogs, failure of the testicles to descend all the way into the scrotum is a fairly common occurrence, regardless of breed type. Typically, it is just one testicle that fails to descend, although it is possible for both to stay within the abdomen or inguinal canal.

A simple surgery can remove the offending testicle. It is not recommended for the dog to keep the testicle, as it has the potential to become cancerous due to the altered surrounding temperature.

Umbilical Hernia

A congenital defect in the abdominal muscles can result in fat and/or other tissues ‘poking out’ under the skin. A bulge is frequently seen in the region of the belly button. Small defects may be left alone, while larger ones are often surgically corrected.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Certainly benefitting from access to the outdoors, a large garden and life in a rural area, the Russo-European Laika relishes any opportunity to be on the go. They are particularly keen to show off their hunting and trailing, so any opportunity for them to use these skills should be encouraged.

Issues can arise when an owner fails to devote the time needed to exercise the Russo-European Laika, resulting in a frustrated dog that may begin to lash out in the home. Often, their excess energy will be used to dig up the garden, chew the furniture, bark excessively and act out. By simply providing them with activities to do and access to nature, this can easily be avoided.


Brushing once or twice a week will ensure the double coat of the Russo-European Laika does not become tangled or dry. Bathing too frequently is not advised, as this will result in a dry coat, and potentially dry and itchy skin.

Shedding can be an issue, particularly in any Russo-European Laika kept in a warm climate. Brushing them outside every few days can help to keep the level of loose fur in the house to a minimum.

Famous Russo-European Laikas

There are no celebrity Russo-European Laika dogs, but you will surely find some wonderful everyday examples of the breed by searching the tag #RussoEuropeanLaika on Instagram.


There are no popular Russo-European Laika crossings.

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