Modern Finnish Lapphunds are descended from hardy, double-coated working dogs bred for hundreds of years as reindeer herders and watchdogs by the Sami people of Lapland in northern Scandanavia. These dogs were varied in type and length of coat, and as modern farming methods developed in the 1960s the shorter-coated dogs became more desirable. In the 1970s enthusiasts set out to preserve the longer-coated variety and developed the Finnish Lapphunds we have today. From the original working stock grew two distinct breeds with separate Standards: Finnish Lapphunds and Lapponian Herders. Today, in addition to these two separate breeds, there are also two recognised types of Finnish Lapphund: suomenlapinkoira, the more square and stocky type we see in the show ring, and the paimensukuinen lapinkoira, a dog of rangier build known as the “working type” of Finnish Lapphund.
Finnish Lapphunds in the UK
A Brief History of Finnish Lapphunds
Finnish Lapphund vs Finnish Lapponian Dog
Don't be confused - the Finnish Lapphund is the same as the Finnish Lapponian Dog. At the end of 2016, the Lapphund club of Finland, Lappalaiskoirat Ry, changed the English name of the Suomenlapinkoira from Finnish Lapphund to Finnish Lapponian Dog. At the moment in the UK we still say Finnish Lapphund, but Finnish Lapponian Dog is now used by the governing body of the international dog fancy, the FCI, as well as by other European countries, including Finland.
Finnish Lapphunds in the UK
In 1989 Roger and Sue Dunger (Sulyka) imported the first Finnish Lapphund into the UK , a black and tan bitch, Lecibsin Loru. She was followed by the top-winning Finnish bitch of the time, Multi Ch Lecibsin Hissukka, who was brought to the UK in whelp to Finnish Ch Fohrmans Hermanni. Five puppies were born in quarantine and she returned to Finland. One of these puppies, Sulyka Lecibsin Nilla, was mated to Loru and out of two litters produced two top-winning Lapphunds: Sulyka Valio 'is' Curdeleon and Sulyka Mischa at Elbereth, the grand-dam of both our Neka and Keskiyo.
Further importations followed in the mid-1990s, including a brown and tan dog, Staalon Runne of Sulyka, and a black and tan dog, Tsinghuan Poarka at Chelville. They were joined by three bitches; Shezadun Abjatar at Chelville, a cream colour, Kutrin Lumo at Chelville, red sable, and Lecibsin Hanka at Leemax, a wolf sable. By 2000 there had been two further bitch imports, Finnish Ch Eetla and Staalon Kidda, and breed numbers in the UK were just over 150. More imports have followed in recent years, and with the Pet Passport scheme facilitating overseas travel, many bitches have been mated abroad. At the beginning of 2011 there are more than 500 dogs registered with the population covering a broad spectrum of colours.
One of the many appealing features of the Finnish Lapphund is his wide range of colours and patterns. They may be solid black, brown or cream, with or without distinctive markings of white fur around the eyes known as “spectacles”. The black or brown may have tan points which can show as pale as white, giving the familiar tricolour pattern. Other colours seen in Lapphunds are sable in shades of red or cream and wolf sable. Less familiar, and certainly more rare in the UK, is the domino pattern appearing as a large amount of pale cream or white, particularly in the middle of the face. Infindigo Persikka Kuura illustrates the unusual domino colouring. The only restriction on acceptable colours in the breed is that the main colour must dominate, so the only colours not permitted by the Standard are brindle and saddle patterning.
Physically, the Finnish Lapphund is characterised by a long and thick double coat that does not continually shed but rather is “blown” at once in a regular annual or bi-annual moult. The male, in particular, has a luxurious mane of thick fur around his neck and shoulders. The females must be feminine and the males masculine, but they should retain a soft and gentle facial expression. He is slightly smaller than medium-sized and relatively strong for his size, both in build and in physical ability.
With other members of the spitz family, Finnish Lapphunds share the typical pricked ears and tail curled over the back. However, one or both of the Lapphund's ears may also be “tipped”, where the point is folded down, and the tail may hang loosely when he is standing at rest.
Character & Temperament
Bred to work, the Lapphund is an energetic dog with a great deal of stamina and remarkable agility. He was bred as an assistant and companion to people, so he is keen to live with and please his owners. He can be humble and unassuming, but is a highly intelligent, inquisitive character who can show an independent streak and a sense of humour. His alert nature makes the Lapphund an excellent watchdog who rarely misses anything. However, his friendly character means he will never be a guard dog.Their energy and intelligence make them very trainable dogs, and they can be found working in assistance roles such as Dogs for the Disabled, Hearing Dogs for the Deaf and in the Pets as Therapy programme. In addition, Lapphunds have competed at a high level in obedience and agility and have trained in working trials, tracking and search and rescue.Infindigo Monta Tarkka, right, illustrates the breed's correct head with oval eye and an alert, yet soft, melting expression.
Lapphunds & Children
It is said that Finnish Lapphunds have a special affinity with children. Certainly they are very gentle with them and seem to recognise little people and their special needs. As youngsters they see children as their peers and playmates; as adults they are the children's loyal sidecick. Dorothy (far right) was born when Rauhan was a puppy and so they are growing up together. When they were both 2 years of age, he would do anything she commanded - a special and heartwarming bond.
Lapphunds are very social creatures and tend to love everyone and everything. However, they are hunters too and when out & about they will chase any small furries they see. Having said that, they can and do live happily with all sorts of other animals, including the very same small furries they chase outside! So while they may be perfectly respectful to their own cats, rabbits or even chickens in some cases, they will chase any others who don't live with them. And for some Lappies, this is a serious hunt rather than just a game. Our dogs live happily with cats but will chase unfamiliar moggies. Having cornered said moggies, though, they don't do anything more than wag and jump around barking trying to get the cat to continue with the game.
Lapphunds & Other Animals
The Finnish Lapphund differs enormously from other heavily coated breeds in which the glamorous appearance comes with a high price in grooming and maintenance. The Lapphund's coat is designed to protect the dogs during harsh northern winters and consists of a thick, felt-like undercoat with a long, heavy top coat. In contrast to other similarly coated breeds, only about 30 minutes a week is sufficient to keep the coat in top condition. They rarely need bathing, tend not to have a doggy smell (unless they have rolled in something unsavoury, that is!), and are more or less self-cleaning. They do love to get muddy, but when they dry the dirt just drops off - the proof is given below!
One good brushing a week is usually plenty, paying particular attention to the softer fur around the ears and behind the legs which can sometimes mat if not combed regularly. Lapphunds don't tend to continually shed hair like some breeds, but rather the coat is "blown" all at once, once or twice a year. At this time more brushing is required to remove the enormous amount of undercoat the dogs lose.
Keskiyo (right) illustrates how much fur you can brush out every day during a moult.