Posts Tagged ‘Happy People: A Year in the Taiga’

pavel West Siberian laika

Pavel, a West Siberian laika in Alberta. Photo by Dave Parsons.    

Mark Derr reviews Werner Herzog and Dmitry Vasyukov’s Happy People: A Year in the Taiga (2011).

In the piece, Derr extols the virtue of the multipurpose dog, the one that has the intelligence and the ability to do many different things and pursue a wide variety of quarry.

Laikas certainly fit the bill. Developed over the millennia over the vast expanses of Russia, these dogs have had to have the abilities that the English have reserved for specialized hounds and gun dogs.  The laika may bay up a moose or brown bear or wild boar, then dive into a frigid river to fetch a shot duck.

They were the dogs of the people who lived off the land, and in Happy People, the dogs are their sustenance.

Left alone for months at a time in the taiga, the Siberian trappers must hunt to survive and to provision their traps.

And without the dogs, they simply couldn’t survive.

Very few dogs living in the West make their own keep.

And virtually none are their owners’ survival.

These laikas are that and so much more, for these trappers live for much of the year as hunter-gatherers.

Perhaps their relationship with their laikas is much like the relationship that man had with the wolves that eventually became dogs all those thousands of years ago.

It’s tempting to think so.

It’s certainly tempting to imagine.


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Here’s a clip from the film:



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