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Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 7 months ago

The West Siberian Laika (Zapadno-Sibirskaia Laika) is one of the four spitz type hunting dog breeds established in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics by the All-Union Cynological Congress of 1947. The breed is a medium-size double-coated northern type; males stand 19 to 20 inches at the shoulder, females 18 to 19 inches, with weights of around 40 or 50 pounds. Most of the modern dogs today are bigger and heavier than their original ancestors. Ears are erect, triangular, and the tail is carried high, curving over the back. The usual colours are grey, rusty, or white.

The West Siberian Laika was originally established using aboriginal dogs from the Mansi (Voguls) and Hanty (Ostyak). Mansi and Hanty dogs were attractive to Russian hunters, because of their exceptional hunting ability, size, strength, endurance and beauty. In the 1920's, hunters from Ekaterinburg, Moscow and other cities raised dogs brought from the North Urals and the Ob River basin. These were bred for type and hunting ability avoiding crosses with Karelian and other types. The two main breeding centres were in Ekaterinburg (then called Sverdlovsk) and Moscow. Government kennels played a major role in establishing the breed as a purebred, led by cynologist E. I. Shereshevsky of the All-Union Institute for Hunting. Dogs from government kennels were distributed to hunters in various provinces of Russia to establish a solid population base during the 1940's and 1950's. By 1960 the West Siberian Laika was one of the most popular hunting breeds in the Soviet Union.

Amalgamation of Laikas from two ethnic groups resulted in a divergence of type within the breed; although the Mansi Laika and the Hanty Laika were of similar size, hunting habits and colours, the Mansi dogs were lighter in build with longer legs, a narrow chest, longer muzzle and ears. The Hanty Laika was of a stockier build, with broader head and shorter muzzle, the ears small and more widely set apart. There are West Siberian Laikas with a narrow elongated head, long muzzle and racy build and there are West Siberian Laikas with a shorter muzzle, broad head, compact and sturdy body. The use of both types helps to maintain a healthy genetic diversity within the breed.

The West Siberian Laika as hunting dogs tend to be specialists. They are best trained to hunt one particular kind of game and this they will do to perfection. A West Siberian Laika may hunt small mammals such as squirrels, pine marten, or sable; big game such as moose, bear, or wild boar; or it may be trained to hunt birds such as capercaillies, pheasant, or waterfowl. They are brave, cool and calculating in their hunting behaviour, not as excitable or nervous as the other Laika breeds. They are highly bonded and affectionate with their owners but may be quite reserved with strangers.

One of the most popular breeds in Russia before the fall of the Iron Curtain, their popularity has since declined due to a mania for the importation of western dog breeds. However, the breed appears to have become known in the west and has gained popularity in a small way among hunters in North America.


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