Posts Tagged ‘laika’

This is the same story that John Vaillant recounts in The Tiger, but this documentary plays up the role of Trush’s laika a lot more. Warning: lots of gory images in this film, including human remains.

This is my all-time favorite wildlife story. It’s like Jaws met No Country for Old Men, and it’s a true story!

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The ancient union


This is a haunting photograph of an indigenous Siberian and a laika hunting dog. If we were somehow transported back perhaps 15,000 year ago, we might be witness to a scene very much like this one.

Dog domestication may have happened as early as 30,000 years ago, and certainly by that time, there were humans and dogs living together, hunting together, working together.

We now live in a world so removed from those times.  Our age is that of the smart phone and the online petition. It’s of a time of even greater delusion about our relationship to the natural world than the previous generation.

And it was more deluded than the generation before it.

But 15,000 years ago, there was no such delusion. Meat meant life. The mast from the trees fed the wild animals, and so humans and dogs were connected to the acorn and the beechnut by way of venison.

A trip to the grocery store gives us the meat now. The dog food is mostly the byproducts of our meat industry.

But at one time, the dogs helped us hunt the big game, and for their efforts, they got a bit of the scraps and the offal.

It was in ancient world that our union was formed.

Later on, we used them to manage and protect our herds, haul our nets and sleds, and turn the wheels of our machines.

But now, we don’t need them for those things. Most Western dogs don’t do anything but live as companions, a life that on the surface appears to be absolute perfection. It’s certainly true that there are millions of dogs in the United States right now who have better standards of living than millions of children throughout the world.

However, their brains and bodies are still yearn for a different time.

Virtually no retrievers have the rigor lives of their forebears working for market hunters in on the east coast of England or on Chesapeake Bay nearly a century ago.  And one would be hard-pressed to find dogs that live as aboriginal hunting dogs, even though they still hold on in the redoubts of the Siberian taiga.

The urban and suburban dog lives in a world so foreign from its ancestors. It is a testament to the adaptability and intelligence of the species that so many dogs have made the transition without incident.

But let that town dog loose in a forest, and it will run. It will sniff where the wild turkeys have been. It will tree the squirrels.

The dog may be a cute pet that snuggles with the children, but in the forest, the beast is reawakened.

It is as marvelous as it is disconcerting.

But it shouldn’t be.

For in my own experience, my mind suddenly awakens to that ancient time when I step foot in the forest with dog.

We become canid smelling, ape seeing once again.






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This is dubbed in English, so you can understand the method. They don’t believe in closed registries out on taiga. The dogs they use in the crosses don’t even have to be domestic!


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Pavel’s pretty much grown up.

Pavel with Riley the vallhund in the Alberta taiga.

Pavel with Riley the vallhund in the Alberta taiga. Photo by Dave Parsons.

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Warning:  Violent hunting scene. Viewer discretion advised:


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Pavel grew up

pavel grew up

Photo by Halla Seppälä.

Yes. This is the same puppy I sent to Canada!

Pavel at 11 weeks.

Pavel at 11 weeks.    

Pavel’s spend most of the winter in Finland, but he’s going back to Canada next week.



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Pavel is fetching

Yep. He’s a fetching big game hunting spitz. He oddly looks nothing like a retriever.


He is being clicker trained to refine the behavior.

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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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This is Pavel at 11 weeks treeing some squirrels in Miley’s woods:


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Does it look like he’s having fun?


That’s a Swedish vallhund he’s playing with. Halla breeds Swedish vallhunds (West Goth Spitzes).


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