Scandinavia is a region in Northern Europe encompassing Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. Dogs originating there are called Nordic and include a variety of types, such as pointers, bird dogs, elkhounds and herders. Bred to withstand cold temperatures, they aid their owners in hunting and protecting families and livestock.
Norwegian Dog Breeds
The Norwegian buhund, Norwegian elkhound and the lundehund all hail from the kingdom of Norway, and all are closely related members of the spitz grouping of dogs. The buhund, whose name derives from the Norse word for farm, is used for herding and guarding homes. His cousins the elkhound and lundehund were both originally bred for hunting. The elkhound independently tracks and hunts moose and elk, while the tiny lundehund was designed to hunt puffins and locate their eggs among the cliffs of coastal Norwegian towns.
Swedish Dog Breeds
Sweden is home to three other spitzes: the Swedish elkhound, Norbotten spitz and Swedish lapphund. Both the Swedish elkhound (also known as the Jämthund) and the Norbotten spitz were bred for hunting and companionship, with high prey drives and keen senses of smell. While the Swedish elkhound was used primarily for hunting elk and moose, the Norbotten spitz hunted squirrel and rabbits. The Swedish lapphund is one of Sweden's oldest breeds and was originally bred to guard and protect reindeer for the ancient hunting tribes that traversed Scandinavia in the neolithic era.
Danish Dog Breeds
The old Danish pointer and Danish chicken dog are similarly marked breeds that are often confused. The old Danish pointer is taller and heavier than the chicken dog and is used for hunting waterfowl. The Danish chicken dog sports longer ears and a stockier frame and is a general working farmdog. Both are joined by another Danish breed, the broholmer, also known as the Danish mastiff. This gentle giant was employed as guard dog for wealthy Danish politicians and businessmen.
Finnish and Icelandic Dog Breeds
The Finish spitz and Icelandic sheepdog are both Nordic spitzes, but were bred for entirely different purposes. The agile Finnish spitz is a bark hunter; she barks to alert hunters to the location of grouse or squirrels, then points until the hunter arrives. The tough and muscular Icelandic sheepdog, on the other hand, spends his days herding livestock and searching for lost sheep. Despite his abilities to locate baby lambs and lost livestock, the Icelandic sheepdog has no innate hunting instinct.
- Go Scandinavia: About Scandinavia
- Norwegian Buhund Club of America
- Norwegian Elkhound Association of America
- Norwegian Lundehund Association of America
- American Rare Breed Association: Jamthund
- American Kennel Club: Norbottenspets
- American Canine Association: Old Danish Pointer
- The Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds; Juliette Cunliffe
- Icelandic Sheepdog Association of America
- NA/Photos.com/Getty Images