The Finnish Lapphund is a medium-size breed of dog and a member of the Spitz family. Traditionally it has been used for herding reindeer, but has also gained wide popularity as a companion animal. Although it is one of the most popular dog breeds in its native country, Finland, it is not very common elsewhere.
The breed has its origins as a reindeer herder of the Sami people, the indigenous people of an area in the Nordic countries. The Sami have used herding dogs for centuries, and these dogs were typically long in body, somewhat rectangular in shape, with long hair and a straight tail that would curl up over the back when the dog was moving.
The first breed standards were set in 1945 by the Finnish Kennel Club, who called the breed the Lappish Herder, also known as Kukonharjunlainen. It is believed that these dogs were the result of a cross between the Karelian Bear Dog and the reindeer dogs, and had short hair. In the 1950s the Finnish Kennel Association (the second major kennel association) created the first breed standard for the Lapponian herder. Acceptable colours for this breed were black, bear-brown and white.
In the 1960, the various Finnish kennel associations were unified, and in 1966 the breeds were reassessed. This resulted in the formal definition of two breeds: the Lapponian herder with a shorter coat was defined in 1966, and the longer coated Finnish Lapphund was defined in 1967.
At about the same time technology enabled changes in the lifestyle of the Sami herders. Previously the longer-haired dogs were generally preferred for herding, but with the advent of snowmobiles the preference started to change in favour of the shorter haired Lapponian herder.
- In 1982, Turid Uthaug (Koira Kennels) moved from Finland to Denmark and imported 15 Finnish Lapphunds, thus starting a hugely influential breeding line that resulted in more than 100 offspring. Denmark produced several dogs that were highly successful in the international show ring. Two of the most notable were Matsi (owned by Georg Carlsen of Inari Kennels) who won the World Winner title in 1989, and Fidelis Uuriel (owned by Sarah Brandes of Lapinlumon) who became the first Danish owned Lapphund to win an International Championship title in 1997.
- Tamerack Samoyeds in California imported the first Finnish Lapphund to the USA during 1987, and successfully bred litters in 1988 and again in 1989. By 2001, the number of dogs has grown to 154 and the breed joined the American Kennel Club's Foundation stock service. In September 2006 there were 237 registered dogs.
- The first import into the United Kingdom was in 1989, when Roger and Sue Dunger imported a Finnish bitch from the very successful Finnish kennel Lecibsin. Through further imports and local breeding programs, the number of registered dogs have grown to more than 180 in 2001, and more than 350 by Sept 2006. The Finnish Lapphund Club of Great Britain was formed in 1994.
- Brambleway Kennels imported the first dog to Australia in 1995, and also had the first successful litter in 2001. Since then, further imports and local breeding have swelled the population to 98 registered dogs in July 2006. 
- In 2006, there were about 30 registered dogs in Canada. The breed is not yet recognised for conformation showing by the Canadian Kennel Club, although dogs can be registered as miscellaneous.  They can, however, compete in agility and obedience.
The Finnish Lapphund is a medium sized, strongly built dog. It is slightly longer than it is high at the withers. It has a profuse coat with pricked, highly mobile ears.
The breed standard is 46-52cm at the withers (above the shoulder) for a male dog, and slightly smaller 41-47cm for a bitch. However, some variation is allowed, since the breed standard states that the type is more important than the size.
A typical male of 49cm height normally weighs 17-19kg, but the breed has a weight range of 15-24kg, depending on size of the dog.
The Lapphund has a profuse double coat, with a short, fluffy undercoat and a longer, coarse topcoat. The coat makes the dog waterproof as well as resistant to extreme cold. In Finland, only two dog breeds are legally allowed to be kenneled outdoors in winter: the Finnish Lapphund and the Lapponian herder.
The profuse hair around the head and neck gives the distinct impression of a mane. Although the coat is profuse, it requires only a modest amount of maintenance.
A wide variety of colours are found in the breed. Any colour is allowed in the breed standard, although a single colour should predominate. Almost any colour can be found: white, black, red, brown, sable and wolf-sable are frequently seen. One of the most common colour combinations is black and tan: a predominantly black dog with tan legs and face.
Many Finnish Lapphunds have very distinctive facial markings. One of the unusual facial markings is "spectacles", where a ring of lighter coloured hair around the eyes gives the impression that the dog is wearing spectacles.
Like other Spitz types, the tail is carried curving over the back. The Finnish Lapphund has a tail covered with profuse and long hair. The tail may hang whilst the dog stands.
Differences in breed standard between countries
The Finnish Lapphund is a recognized breed in Finland, Europe, Great Britain, Australia and the USA. The breed standards are mostly identical, with a few minor exceptions: in the English standard, the acceptance of tipped ears is omitted.
Temperament and Characteristics
The Finnish Lapphund is an intelligent and active breed. Since it was employed as a herding dog that needed to work closely with man, it remains popular as a family pet. In Finland, it is one of the ten most popular breeds.
The breed is friendly and alert, and makes a good watch dog, due to its tendency to bark at unfamiliar things. The breed was originally used to herd reindeer by droving, and barking helped it to be distinguished from wolves. The breed is highly trainable, although it is sometimes described as "thinking before it goes into action". Barking can be controlled with a modest amount of training.
The breed makes the ideal outdoor companion. It is active, cold-proof, and water-proof, and will gladly accompany people on walking or running trips.
In Finland, at least two dogs have won national championships for obedience (Obedience Champion Hiidenparran Tielkka and Fin and Nordic Obedience Ch Kettuharjun Elle, both owned and trained by Rauno Nisula).
Finnish Lapphunds are also suitable for agility. In the UK, Elbereth Taika has been awarded an agility warrant, and has represented England at the 2005 Kennel Club Nations cup, where she achieved a second place.
The Finnish Lapphund is a naturally healthy breed, and typically lives 12-14 years, although dogs of 16-17 years are not uncommon in Finland.
Known medical issues include Generalised progressive retinal atrophy (GPRA), hereditary cataracts.
- GPRA is a progressive eye disease that can cause permanent blindness in dogs. In the Finnish Lapphund, this tends to be late onset, but can typically appear between the ages of 1 an 8 years. GPRA is a genetic illness, and is transmitted via an autosomal recessive gene. A reliable genetic test for the prcd-form of GRPA has been developed by OptiGen , and breeders are increasingly testing breeding animals before deciding on suitable mating pairs. The Finnish Lapphund club of Great Britain adopted an ethical policy in 2006 that matings will only be allowed if the progeny can not be affected by GPRA. In 2001, 2.5% dogs of Finnish dogs were affected by PRA.
- Some Lapphunds are affected by cataracts, with 3.4% of Finnish dogs affected. Cataracts can be caused by a number of factors, and the mode of inheritance is not yet well understood. Since the incidence in Finland is relatively high, the disease is considered to be hereditary. In the UK and USA the number of affected dogs is very small.
- The ethical standard in most countries require the stud dogs to be hip-scored, but the incidence of hip dysplasia is low.
- Finnish Spitz
- Swedish Lapphund
- Lapponian herder
- ^ a b c d e f g h i Jackson, Toni (2003). Finnish Lapphund: Special rare breed edition. USA: Kennel Club Books. ISBN 1-5937-8374-4.
- ^ http://www.finnishlapphund.org/Breed%20Info.htm
- ^ http://www.armahani.com/AboutFinnishLapphund.html
- ^ http://www.angelfire.com/mb2/gracezfinnlapphund/history.html
- ^ http://188.8.131.52/History/HistoryLappalaiskoirat.html
- ^ http://homepage.ntlworld.com/elbereth/taika.htm
- ^ http://www.optigen.com/opt9_test_pra_finlapphund.html
- Jackson, Toni (2003). Finnish Lapphund: Special rare breed edition. USA: Kennel Club Books. ISBN 1-5937-8374-4.