The Dog Breed That Once Hunted Bears

Dogs are magical. Especially if you decide you really want one and have never owned one. Lassie. Rin Tin Tin. Balto. The list goes on and on. But as Susan Orlean points out in her biography of Rin Tin Tin, the phenomenon of dogs as pets is a relatively recent development in the relationship of man-and-his-best-friend: "Dogs, the very first domesticated animals, had lived with people for thousands of years, but until the nineteenth century, they usually had jobs — hunting or herding or guarding. Keeping an animal in the house is so familiar now that it's easy to forget how fundamentally odd it is." Dogs are still trained to hunt, to point out and retrieve game, especially birds. (As Warner Bros. taught us, labrador retrievers don't necessarily retrieve labradors.) But there are times when hunting includes trying to level the playing field between the puny human and the very large creatures of the forest.

Guns help, of course, but a good dog? Especially a bear dog? Then you'll want the Blue Ribbon Champion of bear annihilation: the Caucasian mountain dog, bred specifically to help take down Mr. Bruin in the Caucasus region of Russia.

Fast and furry-ous

Boredomtherapy explains that the beasts (though they all start out as puppies, don't they?) can grow to over 200 pounds and have exceptionally thick, heavy fur, providing helpful protection, no doubt, in a free-for-all with a bear. If you don't have bears on your to-do list this season, the dogs are also said to be very helpful guard dogs and show terrific loyalty to their own humans.

There are other bear hunting possibilities. Outdoor Life pinpoints the "smart, tough and gritty" Plott hound as the best dog for the job, while Spottingpro offers a list of 10 canines who might be helpful in a bear hunt, mostly for their ability to identify game. Those named include the Treeing Walker Coonhound, which "can run for hours without getting tired," which could well come in handy if the hunt takes a sharp left turn into the land of teeth and claws.

The list also includes that Caucasian Mountain Dog, described as "very ferocious and intelligent" but also "very hard to train." K9Web notes the dogs are "independent thinkers," which helps them properly discern what constitutes a threat, but can also lead to difficulty in controlling behavior — especially because they're slow to mature. At one year of age, they'll be 100 lbs, but have the mental maturity of a three month old pup.

An easier route to dog ownership– and we're just spitballing here — would be to take home a nice rescue dog and chill. The bears will thank you for it.