West Siberian Laika
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|A male West Siberian Laika|
|Other names||Zapadno-Sibirskaïa Laïka|
|Country of origin||Russia|
|Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)|
The West Siberian Laika or WSL, is a breed of hunting dog. Russian publications indicate that the term West Siberian Laika loosely applied to dogs from Ural and West Siberia, but there were no standards or registrations of WSL as such until 1930. Then WWll disrupted it for a while, but systematic breeding with registrations resumed after the war ended, in 1946. This was the time the breed began taking modern shape. Before that hunters only knew of Mansi Laika and Hanty Laika. In early 1960 many hunters in Ural still preferred the term Mansi Laika, when speaking of West Siberian Laika. In Russian language, the term Laika originated from the word layat that means to bark. The word Laika simply means a dog that barks. Any hunting Laika is a bark pointer (pointing at animal of interest by barking and staying with the animal ). It is a versatile dog depending on use and environment, but in certain parts of the country they have become more specialized.
E. I. Shereshevsky's WSL foundation stock gathered from Ural and West Siberia for pedigree work in experimental kennel of industrial hunting dogs of All Union Institute of Hunting Industry, Russia.
Vogul (Mansi) type Laika of Prince A. A. Shirisnky-Shikhmatov, late 19th century.
Hanty type Laika named "Ulf" of G. Vinogradov, there was no WSL breed at this time.
Laikas, occurring on Russian territory, belong to northern primitive breeds retaining traits of their wild ancestor, the wolf, in the appearance and behavior. They are dogs with pointed muzzle, slightly rangy or nearly square body and often gray or gray mixed with red like in the wolf coat color predominate. They are small to medium size pariah- type dogs that originally accompanied humans since prehistory worldwide, until they became replaced with lop-eared, specialized for certain style of hunting, cultured breeds. In large sparser populated parts of Russia, this process came at a later time and aboriginal Laika types still remain with hunters in remote northern and northeastern provinces of the country.
The West Siberian Laika is a medium to large size dog. Males are 19-20 inches and females are 18-19 inches at the shoulder. The head is triangular in shape and has little to no stop, with the pricked, triangular ears set high on the skull. The body is well proportioned and without excesses. The tail is carried over the back curving straight up or on either side, in a quiet state the tail can be carried low. Eyes are almond shaped, medium size, deep set and distinctly slanted. Eyes color is amber-brown to dark brown. Ears are always firmly pricked and directed straight up, but their size, pointed tips or slightly rounded tips of ears are variable. The neck is very strong and medium length. Tail is carried high, curving over the back or slightly on either side. The body is slightly longer than height or nearly square and with well muscled forequarters and hindquarters. The coat of the West Siberian Laika is double coat of harsh straight guard hairs and thick and soft undercoat. The guard hairs on the neck, around the head and shoulders are particularly long and stiff. Tugether with very thick undercoat they form a ruff framing the dog's face. On the tail, the guard hair and undercoat are also longer and thicker then on the rest of the body. Although the coat quality varies individually, dogs raised in countries with cold climates have longer and thicker coat then dogs that live in warm and hot climate or dogs that are kept inside most of the time. Most common coat colors are agouti gray, pale red and white. The gray coat can be of various shades from almost white to very dark gray, nearly blac. The gray can be mixed with red producing array of brownish and red shades. Dogs of either color described above have so-called "zonary" pattern of distribution of pigment in each guard hair, which means guard hair has alternating bands (zones) of white and black, brown or red color. Presence of hairs with evenly distributed pigment indicates an admixture of other than Laika breed.
Character. The West Siberian Laika is a very affectionate and devoted to the master dog. Majority of Laikas bark at strangers approaching the house. The attitude to unfamiliar people varies individually, depending on the situation. Some dogs first bark and then wag their tails, greeting the guest and allow themselves to be petted. Many West Siberian Laikas are aloof with a strange person, avoid hands and watch him suspiciously. Some dogs become protective of the master, his family and their property. Attitude to other dogs in the same household is well balanced and friendly. However, s males and some females tend to become dominant with age and challenge older and stronger dogs, particularly the males. Strange dogs intruding on their home territory are met with aggression. Laikas can learn not to bother farm animals and can easily distinguish between domesticated and wild animals. The latter would be treated like game.
Contemporary hunting Laika breeds of Russia are fragments of formerly wide distributed primitive pariah type dogs common in the forest zone of Europe and Asia. With deforestation of land for agriculture and industrial development, native Laikas became replaced by cultured hunting breeds of European origin: scent hounds, bird dogs, sight hounds and terriers. Range of Laika type dogs retreated to northeastern parts of European Russia and Siberia, where Laikas are used the traditional way for commercial hunting for fur bearing and by sportsmen. In fact, Laika was never recognized as a purebred until the 1930s. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, dozens of varieties of Laikas were distinguished by Russian experts, such s Prince A. A. Shrinsky-Shikhmatov and M. Dmitrieva-Sulima. After Communist overthrow in Russia, rapid industrialization and influx of new settlers in Ural and Siberia importation of all kinds of dogs from the west seriously endangered aboriginal Laikas, because they were kept free of any form of confinement and mated free. From the 1930s through the 1950s, the former Soviet Government realized economic value of aboriginal Laikas, because these dogs were instrumental in the fur trading industry of the time. A project for preservation of Laikas was funded by the government, which resulted in recognition of four Hunting Laika Breeds: the Karelo-Finnish Laika, the Russo-European Laika, the West Siberian Laika and the East Siberian Laika. Since that time, with Government's assistance, West Siberian Laika became one of the most popular hunting dogs in Russia and former Soviet republics, such as Kazaklhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Georgia. The first pair of West Sierian Laikas was imported in the US in 1990 and bred. Names of first imported dogs, such as Alex, Shelma, Chekhov and Vern are found in most pedigree documents issued by United Kennel Club of America (UKC. At present, Laika Hunters Association of North America had been formed, which is promoting West Siberian Laika and other hunting Laika breeds among hunters in USA and Canada. Up-to-date, almost all West Siberian Laikas in USA are kept only by hunters. 
Sources in Russian Language:
- Voilotchnikov, A.T. and Voilotchnikova, S.D. Hunting Laikas, . Moscow: Forest Industry Publishing House 1982.
- Voilotchnikov, A. T. and Voilotchnikova, S.D.Laikas and Hunting With Them . Moscow: Forest Industry Publishing House, 1972.
- Voilotchnikov, A. T. and Voilotchnikova, S.D. "Which breed of Laikas is the best?" Hunting and Hunting Industry, 1972: Issue 10. page 30-31.
The authors are a Russian family recognized as the world's leading experts on West Siberian Laikas.
Sources in Bulgarian Language:
- Raytchev, Vasko. The Bulgarian Shepherd-Legend and Reality, Stara Zagora: Bioshield Publishing, 1992. (pg. 20-23)
Sources in English Language:
- Demidoff, L.B. How to Raise and Train a Siberian Husky. New York: 1964
- Beregovoy, V. Hunting Laika Breeds of Russia. Crystal Dream Publishing, 2001 .
- Little, Clarence C. The Inheritance of Coat Color in Dogs. New York: 1971.
- Quoted by Vladimir Beregovoy - Author, WSL Advisor and Curator of Russian-PADS
- Quoted by Vladimir Beregovoy - Author, WSL Advisor and Curator of Russian-PADS
- Beregovoy, Vladimir (2001). Hunting Laika Breeds of Russia. USA: Crystal Dreams Publishing. pp. vi–vii. ISBN 1-59146-037-9.
- Beregovoy, Vladimir (2001). Hunting Laika Breeds of Russia. USA: Crystal Dreams Publishing. p. 46. ISBN 1-59146-037-9.
- Vakhrushev, I.I. and M. G. Volkov (1945). Hunting Laika. Russia.
- Vakhrushev, I. I. and M. G. Volkow (1945). Hunting Laikas. Russia.
- Beregovoy, Vladimir (2001). Hunting Laika Breeds of Russia. USA: Crystal Dreams Publishing. p. v. ISBN 1-59146-037-9.
- "Hunting Laika Breeds of Russia" by Vladiimir Beregovoy, MMP, 2000; "Hunting Laikas" by A. T. Voilochnikov and S. D. Voilochnikova [In Russian], N Moscow, Lesnaya Promyshlennost, 1982; "Laika and Hunting with It" by M. G. Dmitrieva-Sulima [In Russian], 1911, S.-Peterburg, republished in 2003, Moscow, Aquarium.
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