Rules of Rating For Hunting Laikas In Russia

Tried on Moose With Some Comments on Related Spitz-like Breeds of the World

In my previous papers, I described rules for rating Laikas hunting in Russia applied to squirrel, sable, capercaillie, grouse, pheasant, bear, and wild boar. This great diversity of game hunted with Laikas allowed the native people the ability to use the same dogs to obtain meat for the table and furs to sell. Since prehistoric times, across northern Europe, Ural, and Siberia, moose hunting with Laikas has been especially important because in some areas moose meat was a major source of protein during long winter months. Hunting moose with Laikas is clean, relatively quiet, and efficient, because of the specific hunting style of these dogs.

In Russia, field trials of Laikas are conducted when the ground is free of or covered with snow. Trials may be organized specifically for the moose or done simultaneously with field trials on other kinds of game.

The following hunting qualities of dogs are evaluated during these trials.

“Chutyo” – a complex ability of the dog to find and bay the game quickly by using its scent, hearing, and vision. This also involves speed and correctness of search, skill of baying, persistence, voice, and obedience. The chutyo, speed and correctness of search, voice, and obedience, are evaluated in the same way as during trials on squirrel, marten, sable and other kinds of game described in papers published in previous issues of “Full Cry”.

Work of Laikas on moose is evaluated by using a scale of points as shown in the Table below.

“Chutyo” (scent, hearing and vision) – 20

Speed of search – 10

Correctness of search – 10

Skill of baying – 30

Persistence – 15

Voice – 10

Obedience – 5

Total – 100

Diplomas for good hunting qualities are awarded to Laikas, if they received minimal number of points as follows in the Table below.

Degree of Total Including

Diploma Points Chutyo Skill

I 80 16 24

II 70 14 22

III 60 12 20

Each dog is tried on one animal at a time. Two hours are allowed for a dog to find a moose in habitats typical of this species. Presence of animals is determined by a survey prior to trials.

If the dog did not bay a moose after it stopped up to three times, in the absence of unusual problems, it is removed from trials. If the dog barks during tracking or stops tracking the moose, it is also removed from trials.

All Laikas start working moose naturally and without specific training. The following abilities are judged during the trials.

  1. “Chutyo” (scent, vision, and hearing combined) used by the dog to detect and bay the game quickly. The dog must track the game with confidence. If the dog loses the moose before it is bayed, 6 points are lost. If the Laika shows lack of confidence during tracking fresh tracks and spends much time on old tracks left by foraging moose, 8 points are lost.
  2. Speed of search. A good moose hunting Laika is strongly excited by the scent of moose and must track the moose quickly using mainly the gallop. If the dog alternates galloping, with trotting, it loses just 2 points. If the dog frequently trots, it loses 3 points, and if it only trots, it loses 5 points. Dogs alternating trotting with walking, lose 8 points.
  3. Correctness of search. The moose hunting Laika must have a wide range and broad search. Dogs with a short range lose 5 points, and dogs with very narrow range lose 6 points.
  4. Skill of baying. The dog must approach the moose silently and first bark at him mildly from the front. If the dog does not slow down while approaching the moose and starts barking immediately, it loses 7-8 points. If the dog starts barking from afar allowing the moose to walk free, it loses 8-9 points. If during baying, the Laika makes dashes from behind, it loses 10-15 points.
  5. Persistence. A good moose hunting dog should stay with the moose for a long time allowing enough time for the hunter to walk close enough for an open shot. If the moose takes off, the dog must chase him and bay it again. If the dog is not careful during baying the moose, it loses 6-8 points, and if the dog stops baying before the hunter comes up, it loses 8-10 points.
  6. Voice. The voice of a moose baying Laika must be clear and loud. Dogs with a soft and weak voice lose up to 5-6 points.
  7. Obedience. The dog should come up when called. If the dog is reluctant to come when called, it loses 2 points, and if it refuses to come when called, it loses 3 points.

Obedience is not among the strongest qualities of all Laika breeds, especially when the dog is baying or tracking the game. However, the highest number of points in the moose trials is given for the skill of baying. Indeed, this is the most characteristic skill of moose hunting Laikas. Most of hunting and even other than hunting breeds, will chase a moose. However, the trick is how to stop it from running. The moose is a big and very strong herbivore, which cannot be stopped by force. When it runs on a rugged terrain, with bogs, or covered with deep snow, not every dog is able to keep up with him. A seriously frightened moose can cover a few miles easily, without stopping. Laikas have the innate style of dealing with moose using a peculiar performance of mild barking, wagging the tail, and even crawling on the belly in front of the moose. The dog seems very complacent, it takes short breaks to sniff some spots and make scent markings on the snow, and then returns to the moose. The moose seems puzzled but not frightened and continues to forage while keeping an eye on the dog. However, the dog makes squealing and mild barking noises frequent enough to send a message to the hunter. At this type of hunting an aggressive behavior is totally worthless, because it will never stop a healthy moose. With Laika, one can carefully approach the moose bayed by the dog and watch both of them for a while, which allows the hunter to determine sex, approximate age, and condition of the animal before shooting.

Despite seemingly easy and playful behavior of Laika baying a moose, this type of hunting is dangerous to dogs. Moose annoyed by the presence of the dog may become angry and will attack the dog by trying to hit it with its front or hind hooves, or with the antlers. At this moment the dog should avoid being hit and barks aggressively. Some dogs, not fast enough, get severely injured or killed by being hit in the skull or abdomen. One good dog is enough for successful hunting. Two dogs may become too much for a moose and force him to take off. Besides, two dogs may impair maneuverability of each other in front of a counterattacking moose.

In this series of papers I wrote about field trials and hunting with Russian Laikas, which include the Russo-European Laika, the West Siberian Laika, and the East Siberian Laika. Besides these breeds, a smaller breed, the Karelo-Finnish Laika, very similar to the Finnish Spitz, is used to hunt mainly squirrel, birds, and other small game. All Russian Laikas can be used to hunt big or small game. However, stronger and more agile dogs, such as the Russo-European Laika, West Siberian Laika, and the East Siberian Laika, are most suitable where the hunting requires moving faster in most wild habitats with tall grass, deep snow, rocky terrain, and water.

It would be unfair not to mention other Spitz type breeds successfully used on similar kinds of game in Scandinavian countries. In Norway, Sweden, and Finland, moose hunting with local Spitz type dogs is a very old tradition and there are remarkably sustainable and healthy moose populations living in this part of the world. Scandinavian Spitz type hunting dogs are very similar to Russian Laikas, but most of them are smaller. The include the Karelian Bear Dog, the Finnish Spitz, the Norwegian Elkhound Gray and the Norwegian Elkhound Black, the Norbotten, and the Jamthund. They are tough, small game and bird treeing dogs and some of them can bay a bear and moose. Among them, the Finnish Spitz, the Karelian Bear Dog, and Norwegian Elkhound (the gray version) are well established in the USA and Canada. Unfortunately, the Finnish Spitz and the Norwegian Elkhound (gray version) are underestimated American hunters. Most of them are in hands of people who are not interested in using or evaluating their dogs for hunting abilities. They breed them as show dogs and pamper them almost like lap dogs.

The Jamthund is a medium to large sized dog used to hunt moose in Sweden and it is the national dog of Sweden. Some experts believe it originated by selective breeding from ancient aboriginal dogs very similar to the West Siberian Laika. This dog can also be used for bear hunting.

The Norwegian Elkhound Black is a rare breed in Sweden and it is used mainly for moose hinting and as a family dog. The Norbotten is the smallest hunting Spitz of Sweden. It has a light build and is a very attractive colored dog with white and pale red spots, and very intelligent, lively expressive eyes. The Norbotten is used mainly for bird and squirrel hunting.

In prehistoric times, aboriginal Spitz type dogs were tough dogs of native peoples of the northern coniferous and mixed hardwood forests distributed from northwestern Europe, including Scandinavia, across entire East Europe, Siberia, and into North America, forming a circumpolar chain of races. Now, existing Spitz like hunting breeds represent the smallest dogs in Europe and largest ones in Siberia. Scandinavian breeds became considerably domesticated by prolonged selective breeding. Their females have two estruses per year, like typical cultured breeds, and these dogs are more obedient than Russian Laikas. However, they accumulated more hereditary health problems, including hip dysplasia. A general rule is, the smaller the Spitz type breed the more barky and excitable it is. However, if kept in close contact with the master, they are very affectionate and truly emotionally devoted to the master and his family, and excellent watch dogs.

Another series of bark point hunting aboriginal dogs is represented by Japanese breeds, some of which are well established in the USA. These are the Shiba, and the Kai. The Shiba rapidly grew in popularity as a companion and as a show dog. The majority of owners of the Shiba I contacted reported strong hunting curiosity of their dogs and that Shibas are treeing squirrels and raccoons well. Despite their small size, Shibas fight raccoon on the ground forcing them to tree. The Shiba is a quiet, not barky, small dog with a macho character developed in Japan for treeing and baying small and big game. The Kai is a medium size Spitz-like dog of brindle coat color. In Japan it is used as a small game and bird treeing dog and also for baying big game, including the wild boar. The Kai is not particularly friendly with strange people and makes a good watch dog.

Still another most recent introduction is the Jindo Dog of south Korea. According to Carl Semencic, in Korea the Jindo lives a semi-feral pariah dog way of life. Because of his semi-wild recent past, the Jindo is an extremely healthy and tough dog. It is a national dog of Korea and used as a guard dog and a hunting dog for big and small game. It is a particularly good wild boar hunting dog. However, because of its very independent character, the Jindo is a difficult dog to keep in overcrowded places, although it does not bark without a good reason.

I thank Kent Rapp for the information on the Norbotten and other Scandinavian breeds and hunting with them, Danuta Szylowiec and Cheryl Ciccaglione for the information on the biological peculiarities and hunting behavior of the Shiba, and I thank Carl Semencic for the detailed information on the Jindo. I also thank Alex Schubert for editing the paper.

Editor’s note: Mr. Beregovoy’s previous articles in this series were in the June – August, 1997 issues. This article was published in the October, 1997 issue of “Full Cry”