Swedish Lapphund is an ancient breed which was developed north of the Artic Circle by the Lappland people, who were first herders of the reindeers. It is certainly one of the oldest dog breeds.
At the time when the dog still was a wild animal and the reindeers ran around in big herds, man had a big problem keeping an eye on the reindeers without working day and night. At the same time it became more difficult for the dog to find food for the day, so it came to seek up the Laplander and a long and fateful relationship started. He showed his new master that he could keep the heard together so effectively that no reindeers ran off and got lost, which of course made everything a lot easier for the man.
Lapphunds have followed the Sami (or Lapps), an Inuit population when they entered Northern Scandinavia, in Neolitic era about 9,000 years ago from Siberia.
Sami people were first herders of the reindeers and they lived in tribes near lake Ladoga together with the Lapphund dogs of Canis familiaris palustris type (Spitz dog) which was widely spread in Europe at that time. Excavations show that the Spitz breed was one of the first domestic dogs in Scandinavia. It is believed that the Spitz originated from Northern Russia and spread from there further out through Europe to countries such as Germany, where it became ancestor to the breed "Wolf Spitz".
In the old days the Laplander normally needed two different types of dogs that could work the field for him, a winter and a summer kind. The summer dog was an excellent edge dog, who without difficulties could search an area for lost reindeers and gather the shattered herd, while the winter dog was a more endurant dog. He had stronger legs and thicker fur in order to force the herd forward. Of course there were also those that were equally good in summer and winter. Besides this the Lapphund has, during the years, developed into a very nice, faithful and easy taught friend who suits well as a family dog.
Excavations of the Russian zoologist Antusching in the early Neolitic in 1882, who found settlements of Sami people and skeletons of the dog near Ladoga lake show that two different breeds of dogs from the peaty moor Ladoga lake existed. These breeds were the summer dog (Canis Familiaris Palustris) and the winter dog (Canis Familiaris Inostranzewi). Antuschin described the winter dog and found out that later he became a house and family dog.
Below are listed some opinions about Lapphund from different authors:
Swede Carl v. Linne (1707-1778) and French Georges Louis Lecrerc (1707-1788) were the first writers who decribed a Lapphund dog. Writers P. Walther and D. Reichenbach described Lapphund as an authentic breed very different from other Nordic breeds.
Strebel however described a Lapphund as a variety of Swedish Elkhound and by doing this he overlooked the fact that an Elkhound is an excellent hunting dog, while Lapphund is a herding dog. As a main distinction between the two breeds he mentioned the colour (black with white markings), different form of ears (tipped ears of Lapphund, errect ears of elkhound) and relationship between height and length of the body. Because of more angulated legs Lapphund is suitable also as a sleddog.
In time of Normans and later with Norwegian people Lapphunds have probably travelled to England and from there returned back to Scandinavia, therefore relationship with collies can not be excluded.
Hauck thought that Lapphund and black Norwegian Elkhound are related. They are about similar size and weight, but Lapphund has longer body, square head, less pronounced stop and stronger muzzle, usally with errect ears and tail carried over back, profuse coat and can be solid black, black with white markings or black with brown patches.
Also Byland described Lapphund as a long-haired dog.
Heuillet probably gave the closest description of a Lapphund: Lively, loyal, very attentive. Rounded skull, well marked stop, straight muzzle rather short, wide at basis, legs only moderately angulated and quite steep. Undercoat usually very light color, white markings on forechest, head, ruff, white tip of tail, white paws. Completely white Lapphunds were disqualified. Grey colour is a fault and it shows cross-breeding with Elkhound. The breed description is not very clear and it does not distinct between Swedish and Finnish Lapphund. In Sweden the breed was called Lapphund, in Finland Lappland herding dog.
ORIGINAL USE AND SPREAD OF LAPPHUND
Principal task of Lapphunds was guarding and herding the reindeers together. They were also guarding the dwellings of Lapplanders, who were herders of the reindeers, and they were also used as sleddogs. Beside that Lapphunds also accompanied Lapplanders on their long travellings in the summer and also in the wintertime and Lapplanders also used them for hunting bears, mooses, wolfs, foxes, rabitts, squirrels and birds.
When Lapplanders were still nomads they were estimating hunting abilities of Lapphunds. When Lapphund saw a prey he had to bark at it. Lapphunds especially had to bark at squirrels (which they still do today when they see a squirrel) because hunting squirrels was at that times an important source of additional income for Lapplanders, who earned good money for a nice squirrel's fur coat.
Originally Lapphunds were spread around whole northern Scandinavia. Because individual populations lived mostly isolated life - settlements of Lapplanders were lying rather far from one another - they could not avoid matings in close relationship and in-breedings. As a consequence of in-breedings Lapphunds from different populations differed from each other by size, colour and quality of the coat.
In the western part of Scandinavia long haired black or brown Lapphunds predominated, while in the eastern part Lapphunds were parti-coloured of long-haired and short-haired type. Short-haired Lapphund was better accomodated to eastern climate than his long-haired cousin, because in wintertime no snowballs were formed in the coat.
Because working abilities of Lapphunds were for Lapponian people more important than their appearance, they were not afraid of crossing in other breeds - for example Collies, which caused that an aboriginal breed was becoming more and more degenerated.
Life of Lapponian people drastically changed in the 20th century. Numerous Lapponian people settled down in permanent homes; hunting squirrels does not bring good earnings anymore; the role of herding together disperesed herds of reindeers nowadays took over helicopters and snowmobiles. Losses of reindeers are considerably greater than they were before, when Lapphunds indicated young animals and herd together the reindeers. Reindeers were afraid of helicopters and snowmobiles and many died from heart-attacts, because of fright many animals fell and broke their necks or legs. That is why some Lapponian people returned back to the old methods of reindeer management.
A typical Lapponian family usually had more dogs. But these dogs were not allowed in their cottages or tents. Day and night they were living outside in any kind of weather. But that does not mean that Lapponian people did not have close contacts with their animals. As an old Lapponian proverb says »Give the first bite to a dog and it will work harder for you« they normally gave first bite of food to their Lapphunds and then they were working very hard for their masters. Also nowadays a good dog means for a Lapponian family a precious propety, which they would sell never and for no money.
Nowadays Lapphund is becoming more and more popular companion and family dog outside of Lappland due to his excellent characteristics: »Lapphunds are tenacious, robust, insensible to any weather circumstances and very modest animals, who performed very hard work at herding together of huge herds of reindeers. They are becoming very popular as companions and family dogs, but as originally working dogs they need some kind of employment and a task or two to perform. Long, harsh coat of Swedish Lapphunds is relatively easy to take care of; besides regular brushing it does not require any special care.«
Lapponian people did not care too much for purity of Lapphund breeding. It was more important that dogs could complete given tasks to satisfaction of their masters. For that reason Lapplanders crossed Lapphunds with Collies and other herding breeds to improve their working abilities. Around the year 1940 it was very hard to find purebreed Lapphunds in Lappland. Up to early 1970's as a consequence of crossing with Collies in Lapphund litters occasionally tricoloured puppies were born altough the official FCI breed standard, which was accepted in 1944, allows only black and brown colour.
Thanks to some serious breeders in and outside Lappland Lapphund was saved as a pure breed dog. Those breeders tried to breed original Lapphunds for centuries. One of such reputable breeders of original Lapphunds was C.O.Bergmann from Santraesk. His Lapphunds were black, strong and good tempered.
Many Lapphunds were exported and imported back from England. But in those »English« litters occassionaly white puppies were born which lead us to surmise that Englishmen crossed Lapphunds with samoyeds. For Lapponian people a white Lapphund was wothless, because they could hardly see it in the white winter snow.
In 1930's about 40 Lapphunds were registered yearly, but the breeding anxiously declined. Lapponian people and some serious breeders froum southern Sweden saved the breed from the complete extinction.
Breeder J. Thomsen's breeding was based on dog »Roy aus Foserum« and bitch »Ulla aus Hedemora«. Mary Stephens from Torno in Smaland founded another kennel »av Torno«.Her breeding was supported by the then secretary-general of the Swedish kennel club baron Carl Leuhausen. Together they travelled through Lappland and searched for typical purebreed Lapphunds. She started her breeding with a bitch named Tjappa from the kennel of Mr. Thomson and with a dog named Musti. After a long search in Lappland she and Baron Leuhausen found 43 more purebreed and typical Lapphunds, which corresponded to the officially valid breed standard for Lapphunds. So the breeding basis was quiet broad and it meant the start of the succesfull breeding of Lapphunds. Most of today's Lapphunds can trace their pedigrees back to dogs from Mary Stephen's »av Torno« kennel. One of her dogs »Sacko av Torno« was ancestor of numerous successful showdogs.
In 1952 the breed standard was revised and in 1963 the breed club for Lapphunds »Lapphundsringen« was established, which nowadays is called »Svenska Lapphundklubben«. With establishment of the special Lapphund club the breeding prospered. In 1960's about 50 to 60 Lapphunds were registered yearly, while the peak was reached in 1980, when 342 Lapphund puppies were registered. In later years number was declining rapidly reaching another peak in 1992 with 209 registered puppies. After that year the number of registered Lapphunds is quite steady - approximately 130 to 150 Lapphund puppies are registered every year in Sweden, which means that Lapphund has a firm circle of friends. We can see them on every dogshow in Sweden.
Outside Sweden, most Swedish Lapphunds are presented in Norway, where we can also find some excellent breeders. Lapphunds are also bred in Finland, Denmark and Great Britain. Of other European countries Lapphunds can be found in Germany, France, Holland, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland and Slovenia.
Outside Scandinavia Lapphund is still a very rare breed but it is gaining popularity in the last years mostly because of its friendly personality, good temperament and nice looks.