As the name leads one to suspect, the Swedish Lapphund is one of Sweden’s national breeds. He is also referred to as Lap dog, Lapponian or Lapphund in Sweden. According to Hellqvist’s etymological dictionary, the word “Lapp” means “someone living in the northern wilderness”.
Originally, Lapphunds were hounds and it was not until the 17th century that people started using them for tending reindeers. In those days, the Sami had small groups of reindeers which were mainly used as breeding and pack animals. They were not kept in larger groups until later and Lapphunds proved extremely useful for keeping the herd together. As hounds, they also proved useful by hunting wolves, bears, and small game including martens and squirrels; a welcome source of income. Their skin was sold, the meat was food for people and animals, and the herd remained intact. The Lapphund is a very versatile dog that has always worked closely together with humans through hunting, guarding, and tending. These dogs have always been very valuable to the Sami.
The Lapphund is extremely suitable for cold climates and has enormous stamina; the vastness of the Northern regions called for a dog that could run for extended periods of time and many miles. Due to their square build, medium height, and muscular body, they were very capable of doing so. The double black coat, the outer coat of which feels somewhat firm, protects the dog from rain and snow, while the woolly undercoat provides the warmth required for the extreme weather conditions in the high north. The coat also protects against the warm sun in the summer months.
Despite the fact that, according to archaeological findings, the Lapphund was found in Sweden 7000 years ago, the Swedish Lapphund was registered in Sweden in the early 20th century and in 1944 at the FCI.
After WWII, the population of Swedish Lapphunds was extremely limited. The Finns and Swedes took the initiative to make an inventory of the breed and to standardise it. Many dogs that had survived the war were owned by the Sami. Resulting from differences in insights about various types, the two breeds currently known originated: the Swedish Lapphund and the Finnish Lapphund, also referred to as Lapinkoira.
The Lapphund today
In Sweden, the Lapphund has a good population; about 200 dogs are born annually.
Originally, Lapphunds are a breed that has always had to work hard. As a house dog, they will thus require sufficient distraction and activities to prevent them from developing into a nervous dog with too much energy. As other breeds from the spitz group, Lapphunds are able to use their voice but this can be easily controlled because it is an intelligent breed.
They have the “will to please” and today are popular dogs for obedience and agility training in Sweden. Despite the fact that they can easily be trained and are friendly and devoted to their boss, they are also incredibly stubborn and love doing things their own way. They feel best if not shackled. The love for their boss and children make them great family dogs.
According to the standard, Lapphunds are medium-sized and somewhat longer than high. Their ideal height is 48 cm for a male dog (+/- 3 cm) and 43 cm for a bitch (+/- 3 cm). They are lively, alert, friendly, and dedicated.
They are typical spitz dogs with a double, water-repellent coat which provides sufficient warmth to endure extreme cold; upright, agile ears and a curly tail on the back. Their coats are black or “bear brown” (a white marking is permitted), making them well visible in the long months of snow in the high north.