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Estonian Hound

Nicole Cosgrove

June 18, 2021

The Estonian Hound is a medium sized purebred from Estonia with a life span of 12 to 15 years. It is a fairly new breed and is highly viewed there being the official national dog. It was bred when Estonia was still a part of the USSR. It is a hunting dog valued for its agility, drive and great sense of smell. Other names it is known by include the Gontchaja Estonskaja and Estonian Scenthound. Will need owners who have some time to commit as it does need a lot of grooming and training can be hard.

The Estonian Hound at a Glance
Name Estonian Hound
Other names Gontchaja Estonskaja, Estonian Scenthound.
Nicknames EH
Origin Estonia
Average size Medium
Average weight 30 to 45 pounds
Average height 17 to 21 inches
Life span 12 to 15 years
Coat type Short, rough, shiny, has a weak undercoat
Hypoallergenic No
Color Black, Tan and/or Yellow patches of varying sizes
Popularity Not yet a fully registered member of the AKC
Intelligence High
Tolerance to heat Moderate to average
Tolerance to cold Good to very good
Shedding Heavy – expect a lot of hair around the home
Drooling Average – some but not excessive
Obesity Above average – measure its food and track its exercise
Grooming/brushing Average to high – brush at least every other day, sometimes daily
Barking Frequent – will bark a lot and it bays and howls too, training to stop it on command is a good idea
Exercise needs High – will need very active owners
Trainability Moderate to difficult – experience will help
Friendliness Good to very good with socialization
Good first dog Moderate – best with experienced owners
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Very good to excellent with socialization
Good with other pets Moderate – socialization needed and has a high prey drive
Good with strangers Moderate – requires socialization, is wary
Good apartment dog No – needs space and a yard and it is also too noisy
Handles alone time well Low – suffers separation anxiety
Health issues Quite healthy, some issues include allergies, sinus infections and eye problems
Medical expenses $460 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $145 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $220 a year for toys, basic training, miscellaneous items and license
Average annual expenses $825 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $800
Rescue organizations None breed specific, check local rescues and shelters
Biting Statistics None reported

The Estonian Hound’s Beginnings

The Estonian Hound was developed in what was then part of the USSR in 1947 because an order was given by the ministry of Agriculture and Economy that all regions needed to have their own local hunting breed of dog. This would then replace the large hunting dogs that existed at that time. Reasons behind this order are not all clear but part of it was to encourage the different parts of the USSR that had been annexed that they were not just part of a Russian empire but something to be proud of. As a result most countries used local dogs to develop a breed but there was a problem in Estonia, there was no breed that was seen as suitable.

Before 1947 because the big game population in Estonia had been dropping rapidly a rule was passed that limited to size of the dog that hunters went out with. Lawmakers hoped that making a height restriction for the dogs would make it too difficult to hunt large game with. Hunters were limited to smaller game like vermin species, rabbits and foxes. Therefore when the new order came through Estonian dog breeders were facing a dilemma. They needed to breed a new dog that had to be smaller than those dogs they already had, and they found even when walking with the smallest of the native dogs they would not get small enough. They needed to bring in small hunting dogs from other countries.

As a result a large amount of breeds were brought from all around Europe to help create the new breed. Dogs like Dachshunds, Beagles, Swiss Laufhunds were favored for their size, hunting ability and being able to deal with really cold temperatures. Using different European breeds along with the already existing Estonian hunting dogs the breeders were able to develop a new hunting dog the Gontchaja Estonskaja or Estonian Hound. By 1954 there was a written standard drawn up for it which received formal approval from the USSR government.

New Lease on Life

The Estonian Hound became very popular in it country of origin. It had great energy and stamina, a great nose, high prey drive and could withstand the tough cold climate. It was also a sweet and charming dog with a create temperament. The small size meant more families could keep them as it was not too large to feed and look after, and the shortness meant hunters on foot could keep up with it. It quickly became one of the most popular hunting breeds there.

Then in the 1980s the USSR started to weaken and Estonia was finally able to declare its independence. The Estonian Kennel Union became a member of the FCI and the new government declared the Estonian Hound to be its official national dog breed. While other dogs bred during its time as part of the USSR fell out of favor this one absolutely did not. However outside of Estonia it is not really known. There are a small number in Lithuania and Latvia and even small number in some Nordic countries. So far it would seem that there are none in the US and it is not recognized by the AKC or UKC.

The Dog You See Today

The Estonian Hound is a medium sized dog weighing 30 to 45 pounds and standing 17 to 21 inches tall. It is similar looking to a Beagle and in the US most people would think it was a large Beagle. It has a strong body and is longer than it is tall with short legs and is sturdy but not stocky. Its tail is sword shaped and medium to long. It has tight fitting skin and its coat is rough, short and shiny. Common colors are tan, black, yellow, brown, red and some white markings, it is usually tri-colored. The tail appear thicker than it is because the hairs on it are the same length as what is on the body. The hairs on the face, tip of the tail, ears and front of the legs are a little shorter than the rest.

The tends to be in proportion to the rest of the body but quite long and it skull is broad and rounded. Its muzzle is very long and straight and its lips are tight and dry. It has a large black nose though some can have dark brown noses. Its ears hang down somewhat close to its cheeks, they are thin, long and have rounded tips. Its eyes are almond shaped, small to medium sized and dark brown in color.

The Inner Estonian Hound


This is a happy and playful dog with a very pleasant, calm and sweet temperament when it is well socialized and cared for. It is not an aggressive dog but in fact can be timid if not given good socialization. It gets on very well with its family and enjoys getting lots of attention and does not like being left alone for long periods, it can in fact suffer from separation anxiety. That can lead to it being destructive if it feels ignored or lonely. It loves to snuggle with you on the couch, it is very affectionate towards its family whom it becomes very devoted and attached to.

Being a hunting dog it was bred to be able to work with strange hunters as needed and so it is not aggressive at all to strangers. However it is less friendly to them than other scenthounds and tends to be wary and aloof with them, but polite about it! Socialization is important here to make sure it doesn’t easily turn to distrust and fear. It is an alert dog and will let you know if there is an intruder, the lack of aggression though means it is not a good guard dog. It does bark frequently too and even howls and bays very loudly so that is something that will need training to control. But keep in mind it is not something you can eliminate completely.

Living with an Estonian Hound

What will training look like?

In terms of hunting it takes to it easily and really needs very little training to be good at it. However obedience training is a lot tougher, it is moderately difficult to train in fact due its stubbornness and defiance, it needs firm handling, consistency, leadership and patience. The basic obedience can be done with a positive approach but beyond the basics can get even harder. It is though actually one of the easier scenthounds to train so if you are used to working with them, you may be happily surprised by how much easier this one is in comparison. Make sure training includes stopping the barking on command, and be prepared for it to struggle with coming to you when called, it has been bred when on the trail to be relentless and to ignore everything else. This can bleed into the home life too. Early socialization is also needed so it is not too fearful and learn how to react appropriately to different sounds, situations, people, animals and places.

How active is the Estonian Hound?

The Estonian Hound is very active and will need the same in its owners so that there is no issue with taking it out daily for at least 90 minutes, preferably more. It has a lot of stamina and endurance, it can track scents for hours and hours. It will need two long walks along with physical play time with you, then it needs regular opportunities for off leash time where it can run, roam and explore safely. It is a working dog, ideally it should be taken out on regular hunts as it is something it loves to do. If it gets enough physical and mental exercise it can even be quite inactive and calm indoors. If it does not it will be destructive, loud, hyperactive, nervous and hard to live with. It is not suited to apartment living though, due to its need for a yard to play in and the noise it can make. Also remember how focused it gets when following a scent. Keep it on a leash if you are not somewhere contained or it will go after a scent and likely ignore your calls.

Caring for the Estonian Hound

Grooming needs

The EH has average needs in terms of grooming, it does shed and heavily too so be prepared for a lot of hair around the home, to have to clean up every day, perhaps several times a day. This is certainly not a breed to have if you really do not want dog hair in the home, or if there are allergy sufferers in the home, the hair is not just on the floor it will cover the couch, stairs and wherever else your dog gets! It will not need professional grooming but it will need to be brushed at least every other day, but best if done daily to control the loose hair and to brush out any debris and such when out hunting. Give it a bath just as needed to avoid drying out the natural oils in its skin and also for the same reason only use a canine shampoo.

Other needs include checking and cleaning its ears weekly. They can easily pick up dirt, particles, ticks and so on and without care can get ear infections. Cleaning can be done with a damp cloth, or using a dog ear cleanser. Do not though insert anything right into the ear, just wipe the areas you can reach easily. Otherwise you could do permanent damage to its hearing and hurt it. Brush its teeth at least two to three times a week using a toothpaste and brush designed for dogs. Finally clip its nails when they get too long taking care not to cut into the quick of the nail. You can see about half way down the nail it changes color, that is where there are blood vessels and nerves and cutting there would hurt and cause a lot of bleeding.

Feeding Time

The Estonian Hound will eat about 2 to 3½ cups of a good to high quality dry dog food a day, split into at least two meals. The amount can vary as it depends on the dog’s size, health, level of activity, metabolism rate and age. It should also always have access to fresh water.

How is the Estonian Hound with children and other animals?

With good early socialization the EH can be playful, gentle, affectionate and sweet with children. It is even quite tolerant of rough housing, is not aggressive and forms very close attachments. It also can get on very well with other dogs with good, it has been bred to be able to hunt in packs of as many as 50 dogs and so dog aggression was not acceptable in its development. It actually would do very well with a canine companion and most owners of Estonian Hounds have other dogs too. However with non-canine pets there can be issues. Good socialization and being raised with them may help it accept larger non-canine pets like cats, though not always, but it would not be trustworthy with smaller pets like rabbits for example, it is too close to prey.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

Estonian Hounds should have a life span of 12 to 15 years and is quite a healthy breed apart from some issues including ear infections, luxating patellar, mange, skin problems, allergies, breathing problems, eye problems, obesity and joint dysplasia.

Biting Statistics

In North America in the last 35 years of reports of dogs attacking people and doing bodily harm there has been no mention of the Estonian Hound. However it is believed there are none or very few in this area so that is not unexpected. The fact is while this is an aggressive dog when out on the hunt, driven to catch its prey with no distraction, at home and with its owners it is not an aggressive dog especially not towards people or children. With good socialization, training, exercise, stimulation and attention you can lessen the chances of any dog having an off day or being drawn into something.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

The Estonian Hound puppy will cost about $800 when using a decent breeder with a good reputation, and then possibly even more if you are looking to get something from a top breeder. Keep in mind that finding a breeder outside of Estonia is tricky, so there may also be transportation cost to add on to the price of the dog itself. Avoid using less reputable options like some pet stores, puppy mills or ignorant backyard breeders. Adoption is always an option for people who are not set on purebred status or even age. A lot of dogs are hoping someone will walk into their shelter and bring them home, perhaps that could be you! Adoption costs $50 to $400 in most cases.

When you have found the puppy or dog you want to bring home there are some things to get in place for it. A crate, carrier, food bowls, collar and leash and so on. These will cost around $200. When you do have it home you should try to get it to a vet in the first couple of weeks for some tests and such. A physical will be done along with blood tests, micro chipping, vaccinations, deworming and spaying or neutering and these will cost another $190.

Annual costs are another thing to consider. Basic health care like tick and flea prevention, shots, check ups and pet insurance will cost about $460 a year. A good or better quality dry dog food and dog treats will be about $145 a year. Miscellaneous costs like license, basic training, miscellaneous items and toys is another $220 a year. This gives an estimated starting figure of $825 a year.


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The Estonian Hound is a great hunting dog for on foot hunters with great determination, stamina and focus. It is also a good family companion too as long as it is with active people who can give it lots of attention and are not out all the time. It can be a bit clingy so if you prefer a dog that does not get underfoot this is not the dog for you. It also does shed heavily so is added work in terms of cleaning up loose hair and grooming. In the right home though, with socialization and training it is calm and sweet, devoted and kind.

Featured image credit: Ricantimages, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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