Nenets Herding Laika
Other namesReindeer Laika, Reindeer Spitz, Nenets Laika, Olenegonka, Tavgian laika, and Russian Samoyed Laika
Height Males 44-50 cm
Females 40-45 cm
Coat Double
Color Grey, red, brown,white, black, sable, piebald
Kennel club standards
RKF standard
Dog (domestic dog)

The Nenets Herding Laika (Russian: Ненецкая лайка) also known as the reindeer spitz or olenegonka, is an aboriginal spitz landrace of dog originating from the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, in Russia. Unlike other laikas, Nenets Herding Laika are less commonly used for hunting. Instead they have been selected primarily for reindeer herding ability, originally by the Nenets people, and later by reindeer herders through Russia.[1][2][3] Nenets herding laika are thought to be the progenitor of several modern breeds, the most well-documented being the Samoyed.[1] Despite this, the breed almost died out during the Soviet era due to lack of interest in preserving genetically purebred examples.[3][4][5] In 1994, the Russian Kynologic Federation (RKF) approved the first official standard of the breed.[4][6]



Nenets Herding Laika Face

Nenets Herding Laika are small to medium-sized dogs with a thick double coats that are either solid or bicolored, coming in grey, tan, red, black or white.[4][1] They come in two coat lengths, a long-haired coat called “erre” and a short-haired coat called “yando,” and they should retain a well developed coat through the summer.[6][7] Regardless of coat length, the guard hairs should be straight, stiff and long, with a lush, soft undercoat.[1]

Nenets Herding Laika are muscular dogs with a moderate wedge-shaped heads, small, prick ears and a tail that curves over the back or is kept down depending on mood.[1] Nenets Herding Laika should display sexual dimorphism, with males standing 44–50 centimetres (17–20 in) tall and females standing 40–45 centimetres (16–18 in).[1]


Nenets Herding Laika should be functional and resilient in a wide range of conditions with minimal care.[1] They are confident, energetic dogs who learn quickly and strive to please their humans.[1][8] They are neither shy nor aggressive with humans.[1]

Nenets Herding Laika with Reindeer

While traditionally associated with herding, Nenets Herding Laika are versatile dogs that can and should perform a wide range of tasks, including hunting small game and dog sledding.[5][4] The Nenets people would often rank the quality of their dogs by their ability to herd as well as catch Arctic foxes, with especially fast dogs being able to catch up to three foxes in a day.[5][8] They have been successfully used as search and rescue dogs, especially in mountainous regions where dogs must be tough and agile.[1] Nenets Herding Laika have been successfully used as detection dogs, and the Sulimov jackal-dog hybrids used for bomb detection in Moscow International Airport were bred using Nenets Herding Dog.[9][8]


Nenets Herding Laika with Family

The Nenets Laika is one of the oldest dog breeds, surviving from the Paleolithic era to the present day almost unchanged with little genetic inflow.[5][10] Prized for their efficiency as a reindeer herding dog, by the 1930s Nenets Herding Laika had spread across the Arctic circle and into Central Europe, stretching from the Kola Peninsula to Chukotka.[3][7][1][5] Due to the close resemblance, the Nenets Herding Laika is thought to be the basal breed for many European spitz breeds including the German Spitz, Finnish Lapphund and Swedish Lapphund, the Norwegian Buhund, and Norbottenspets while others theorize that all breeds share a common extinct ancestor.[1][11][12][13][5] Though the Nenets people themselves primarily used reindeer to haul their sleds, several arctic explorers would use Nenets Herding Laika as sled dogs, most notably Russian painter and explorer Alexandr Borisov and Norwegian explorer and scientist Fridtjof Nansen.[14][7] The all-white surviving dogs from Nansen’s Fram expedition of 1893–1896 would form the foundation stock of the Samoyed.[4]

Nenets Herding Laika from the Fram expedition. Surviving dogs would become the progenitors of the Samoyed

As infrastructure and mechanized travel made Arctic regions more accessible, non-native dogs began to intermix with the Nenets Herding Laika population. This, combined with a prevalent belief during the Soviet era that only registered purebred dogs had any value, contributed to Nenets Herding Laika’s decline.[15][5] By the 1980s, a collective effort was made to replace the Nenets Herding Laika with humans on all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles, citing the use of dogs as an antiquated method.[5] At this time, it was widely believed that no purebred examples existed.[1] Fortunately, several small populations were discovered after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and efforts are underway to preserve the breed in Russia.[16][17] However the breed continues to be virtually unknown outside of Russia and Norway. There are currently estimated to be around 2000 purebred Nenets Herding Laika herding reindeer in Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug.[14]

In 1994, the Russian Kynologic Federation (RKF) approved the first official standard of the breed.[4][6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Shiroky, Boris; Shiroky, Oleg (2014-12-06). "DESCRIPTION OF OLENEGONKA". Primitive and Aboriginal Dog Society of Russia. 7. Archived from the original on 2014-12-06. Retrieved 2022-04-02.
  2. ^ Adaev, Vladimir. "Оленегонные лайки тундровых ненцев: особенности экстерьера и выполняемые функции" [Reindeer Laikas of the Tundra Nenets: Exterior Features and Functions]. Научный вестник Ямало-Ненецкого автономного округа (in Russian). 82. Archived from the original on 2022-02-12. Retrieved 2022-02-12 – via Academia.
  3. ^ a b c "Давай-ка, ненецкая лайка!" [Come On, Nenets Laika!]. MKRU Krasnoyarsk (in Russian). 2017-12-20. Archived from the original on 2022-02-12. Retrieved 2022-02-12.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Presberg, Carole (2014). "Herding Dogs of Asia: Russian Siberia". Archived from the original on 2023-03-31. Retrieved 2022-02-12.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Широкий, Борис; Широкий, Олег (1997). Наши северные собаки [Our northern dogs] (in Russian). Издательские решения. pp. 12, 103, 107, 157–160. ISBN 9785448509254.
  6. ^ a b c "О нас — Центр по сохранению и разведению ненецкой оленегонной лайки" [About Us - Canine Center for the Preservation and Breeding of the Nenets Reindeer Spitz Breed]. Canine Center for the Preservation and Breeding of the Nenets Reindeer Spitz Breed (in Russian). Archived from the original on 2022-02-12. Retrieved 2022-02-12.
  7. ^ a b c Volkova, Vera. "Forgotten Expedition" (PDF). Primitive and Aboriginal Dog Society of Russia. 10: 11–24. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2022-09-28. Retrieved 2022-04-02.
  8. ^ a b c Туров, Я.В. (28 May 2019). "Ненецкая лайка - уникальная арктическая порода – – Портал о развитии Арктики" [Nenets Laika - a unique arctic breed]. Go Arctic (in Russian). Archived from the original on 2022-11-27. Retrieved 2023-05-20.
  9. ^ Sauer, Pjotr (2020-10-12). "Russia Recruits Rare Dogs to Sniff Out Coronavirus as Second Wave Tightens Grip". The Moscow Times. Archived from the original on 2023-05-20. Retrieved 2023-05-20.
  10. ^ Feuerborn, Tatiana R.; Carmagnini, Alberto; Losey, Robert J.; Nomokonova, Tatiana; Askeyev, Arthur; Askeyev, Igor; Askeyev, Oleg; Antipina, Ekaterina E.; Appelt, Martin; Bachura, Olga P.; Beglane, Fiona; Bradley, Daniel G.; Daly, Kevin G.; Gopalakrishnan, Shyam; Murphy Gregersen, Kristian (2021-09-28). "Modern Siberian dog ancestry was shaped by several thousand years of Eurasian-wide trade and human dispersal". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 118 (39): e2100338118. doi:10.1073/pnas.2100338118. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 8488619. PMID 34544854.
  11. ^ Alderton, David (1984-01-01). Dog: The Most Complete, Illustrated, Practical Guide to Dogs and Their World. Book Sales. p. 82. ISBN 978-0-89009-786-1.
  12. ^ Staff, American Kennel Club (1998-09-15). The Complete Dog Book, 19th Edition (19th Edition Revised ed.). Howell Book House. p. 504. ISBN 978-0-87605-047-7.
  13. ^ Wilcox, Bonnie; Walkowicz, Chris (1995-01-01). The Atlas of Dog Breeds of the World (5th ed.). T.F.H. Publications. p. 436. ISBN 978-0-7938-1284-4.
  14. ^ a b Maistrenko, Mikhail (2020-03-08). "Здравствуй, ненецкая лайка!" [Hello Nenets Laika! Interview with the director of the NGO "Fund for Economic Programs" Yan Turov]. Archived from the original on 2022-02-12. Retrieved 2022-02-12.
  15. ^ Shiroky, Boris; Shiroky, Oleg (2004). "Reindeer Herding Dog (Olenegonka)" (PDF). Primitive and Aboriginal Dog Society Russia: 8–11. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2022-09-28. Retrieved 2022-04-02.
  16. ^ "Yamal to launch recovery of native Nenets herding dog". 2020-09-15. Archived from the original on 2022-02-12. Retrieved 2022-02-12.
  17. ^ Кузина, Полина (2022-01-10). "Собиратель оленей. Почему чистокровная ненецкая лайка может исчезнуть?" [Deer collector. How can a purebred Nenets Laika disappear?]. (in Russian). Archived from the original on 2022-02-12. Retrieved 2022-02-12.