Lapponian Herder

April 12, 2012

There was a story that was handed down from generation to generation of Sami people. It was said that two dogs on a hill were watching humans trying to round up a herd of unruly reindeer. The humans were running around the elusive reindeer, there was so much yelling but the reindeer seem to be successful in eluding the humans. One dog tells the other “Let’s help these humans. We can gather the herd much better than they do”. From then on the herdsmen got an indispensable helper… a Lapinporokoira.

Lapinporokoira is the original name of the Lapponian Herder. This dog that originates in Finland is as much a part of Lappish history as the shamans and the troll drums. The Lapland Reindeer Dog is regarded by the Sami people or the Lapps as a part of the family. The Lapponian Herder is a wonderful companion but it is valued more for its instinct to herd as without the dog managing the reindeer would be a herculean task. These dogs are considered to be the best property of a Lapp. A herding dog will never be sold as without the dog the Lapps will become very poor. The Lapps have a way of determining if a dog will be a good herder or not. Puppies are carefully examined. The coloring, the position of the tail and surprisingly the puppy’s palate would somehow show the working ability of the dog. These dogs are constantly utilized even when the motor sledge is already used by herdsmen. The dog would usually sit on the sledge and jump down to run after scattered reindeer. This outstanding herding dog has the ability to handle a large herd consisting of thousands of reindeer. The dog has the stamina to run 60m miles a day without being hampered by deep snow. These extremely agile dogs have excelled in agility and obedience competitions.

The Lapponian Herder is a dog whose appearance is pleasing to the eye. It has a well constructed muscular body and an attractive black, brown or grey colored coat with distinctive markings. The dog has a light and effortless gait that shows its indefatigable nature. This medium sized spitz type dog is intelligent and noted for being a quick learner. A Lapponian Herder has a lively, friendly and energetic personality… qualities that make this dog a wonderful home companion.

Information

BreedLapponian Herder
Alternative namesLapinporokoira Lapland Reindeer Dog Lapp Reindeer Dog Lapsk Valhund Reindeer Herder
Height (male/female)20 inches (51 cm) / 18 inches (46 cm)
Weight (male/female)65 pounds (29.5 kg) / 65 pounds (29.5 kg)
Life expectancy12-15 years
Litter size
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Appearance

Some dog breeds are valued for their outstanding working ability, some are chosen for their remarkable appearance. Owners of Lapland Reindeer dogs are fortunate as this breed has both. The Lapland reindeer Dog is definitely a “one of” type of dog… one of the best herders as well as one of the breeds with appealing appearance. This medium sized herding spitz has a strong well boned muscular body and a dense impressive coat that protects the dog from the frigid arctic climate.

This breed has an elongated head, a slightly convex skull and a muzzle that gradually tapers to a black nose. Some individuals do not have black noses but nose color harmonizes with the color of the coat. A Lapponian Herder has tight lips and string jaws. The dog has complete dentition and scissor bite. Darkly colored eyes harmonize with the color of the coat. The oval shaped eyes have a lively, devoted and keen expression. Pricked medium length ears are set rather apart broad at the base and profusely covered with hair. A Lapponian Herder is a strong dog. It has a muscular back and well marked withers. The loin is rather short but muscular. The chest is not very broad but it is deep and spacious. The dog has slightly tucked up belly. The medium length tail is low set and profusely covered with hair. At rest the rail hangs down. When the dog is on the move the tail forms a loose curve but not raised over the back. This breed has powerful strong boned and well muscled limbs that enable the dog to run for miles unhampered by deep snow. A Lapland Reindeer Dog expertly rounding up the herd is an awesome sight. This agile dog has free effortless gait and a flexible tireless trot.

This breed has a weatherproof double coat. The long or medium length top coat is straight and erect and rather harsh to the touch. The thick and fine undercoat is brownish grayish or black in color. The neck chest and the backside of the thighs are profusely covered with longer hair. The most common coat colors are black, grey and dark brown. The head, the body and the lower parts of the head may have brown or grey markings. White markings may be present on the neck, chest and legs.

Personality

The Lapland Reindeer Dog has been used by the Lapps for hundreds of years because of the dog’s excellent ability to manage herds of reindeer. This tireless and energetic dog has been the able helper of the herdsmen. The Lapponian Herder is an intelligent breed that is noted for its ability to learn quickly. Teaching the dog has never been a challenge for the Lapps given that pleasing the master by immediately obeying the commands is the dog’s way of showing its loyalty and devotion. This breed is considered to be a part of the family as aside form its usefulness; the dog has a calm, friendly and obedient temperament. These qualities make the dog a wonderful home companion. Lively and playful, the dog is an ideal pet and companion of the children. This gentle dog is tolerant of the rough handling dished out by small kids.

A Lapponian Herder however has a dominant behavior. Female dogs are quite submissive but male dogs are noted to be harsher and more aggressive towards other dogs and smaller pets. This dog is friendly with the family but tend to be wary and reserve with strangers. As with any other breeds of dogs, socialization and obedience training that is best started when the dog is still you would be very necessary. This breed has a natural instinct to protect the family. A Lapponian Herder likes to hear its own voice. This breed has the propensity to bark whether working or playing. This protective nature coupled with the penchant to bark makes the Lapponian Herder and ideal watch dog.

This breed is a most suitable companion for an active owner as being a working dog this breed would require extensive exercise. Apartment or city living is not for this breed. The dog will require a large space where it can romp and play.

Care

A Lapponian Herder is a low maintenance breed. The weatherproof hair practically cleans itself. However the dog’s coat would benefit fro regular brushing. Brush the longish coat with a firm bristled brush to remove tangles and clinging burrs. Most often cleaning the dog’s teeth is not a part of the grooming regimen. Teeth as well as ears must be cleaned at least once a week. Nails must also be trimmed regularly.

History

For centuries, the Sami people that have inhabited the northern areas of Finland, Norway and Sweden have mainly subsisted on reindeer hunting and reindeer herding. Reindeer husbandry is an important part of Sami culture. A spitz type dog has always been the able helper of the Sami. Even before the reindeer were domesticated, these dogs were used in hunting reindeer. Over the years, the wild herds of reindeer slowly disappeared and domesticating reindeer became the main livelihood of the Sami. A different type of dog is now needed to help in managing the domesticated herds of reindeer. To create a new breed the Finnish Lapphund was crossed with the German Shepherd and working collies. The cross breeding resulted to a dog that has the northern spitz’s hardiness, the superb maneuvering skills of the German Shepherd and the outstanding working capabilities of the collie. The Lapponian Herder was born!

The Lappland Reinder Dog has a weatherproof coat that protects the dog from the extremely cold temperature. The coat enables the dog to stay and work outdoor day and night. This breed has excellent capabilities to keep the herd together and to find bring back strays even if it means running for miles in deep snow. Interest for the breed waned in the 1960s when the snowmobile was introduced. The Lapponian Herder was relegated to the back seat. However, it wasn’t long before the herdsmen realize the usefulness of the dog. The highly prized machine and the cost of the fuel made herdsmen reconsider the decision to replace the dogs with snowmobiles.

Olli Korhonen, the chair of the Finnish Kennel Club created the breed standard in 1966. An organization monitoring careful breeding of the Lapponian Herder was created as well. This organization ensured that the natural working capabilities of the breed will be maintained. Presently, the Lapponian Herder is still found with the reindeer herds in Lappland. Because of the well balanced temperament of the breed, some individuals were kept as home companions and other were acclaimed for their excellence in agility competitions.

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