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Finnish Lapphund
Finnish Lapphund Glenchess Revontuli.jpg
Other names Lapinkoira
Country of origin Finland

The Finnish Lapphund is a hardy, easy going, medium-size breed of Spitz type. 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 numerous outside of the Nordic countries. There are two lines of the breed: the original herding line and the nowadays more popular exhibition line.





Distinctive facial markings and mane on a wolf-sable coloured male


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. It usually has long hair, and a bit of a long snout. Its color might be brown & black.


The breed standard is 46 to 52 centimetres (18 to 20 in) at the withers for a male, and a slightly smaller 41 to 47 centimetres (16 to 19 in) for a female. 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 to 19 kilograms (37 to 42 lb), but the breed has a weight range of 15-24kg 15 to 24 kilograms (33 to 53 lb), depending on size of the dog.

Predominantly black Finnish Lapphund female with spectacle markings around the eyes


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.[1]

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.


The wide variety of colours and markings in Finnish Lapphunds.

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. The spectacles of the Finnish Lapphund, while reminiscent of their cousins, the Keeshond, are larger and more pronounced.


Cream sable Finnish Lapphund

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.


The Finnish Lapphund is a very intelligent and active breed. Finnish Lapphunds take well to training due to their intelligence. Some owners and fanciers claim that "Lappies" even have the ability to think through actions first. Although small in number worldwide, a noticeable number of Finnish Lapphunds have excelled in activities such as obedience trials, agility, herding trials, and pet therapy.

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. Even when not herding, the Finnish Lapphund tends to bark with a purpose, and more rare cases of problem barking can normally be controlled by 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. It is one of two breeds permitted to live outdoors in Finland.

Lappies are ideal choice for a family with small children. This very friendly breed and it normally avoids and flees from threathening situations. The breed is very curious, however, so some watching after them is necessary.

Finnish Lapphunds enjoying the snow.

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).[2]

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.[3]

The breed adapts well to family life, including being responsive to children. Finnish Lapphunds have a gentle nature with children, people with disabilities, and the elderly.


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.[1]

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 [4], 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.[1]
  • 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.[1]
  • The ethical standard in most countries require the stud dogs to be hip-scored, but the incidence of hip dysplasia is low.



The breed has its origins as a reindeer herder of the Sami people. The Sami are an indigenous people residing in areas now divided between Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Russia. [1] Traditionally, reindeer herding has been very important for the Sami people, and they are still involved in herding today. 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.[1] Finnish Lapphunds are the most similar to the long haired dogs developed by the Sami people in order to assist them with herding, often favored as winter herders for the reindeer. [2]

Norwegians and Swedes were among the first to consider standardizing the dogs of Lapland prior to World War II.[3] In the post war years, the dogs of Lapland were at serious risk due to distemper outbreak. [4] Swedish Lapphund breeders today believe that their breed, and other Lapphund breeds, were in serious danger of extinction. [5] A standard for the related Swedish Lapphund was adopted in 1944 in FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale), and the Finnish Lapphund standard soon followed.

In Finland, 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 in Finland) created the first breed standard for the Lapponian herder. Acceptable colours for this breed were black, bear-brown and white.[1]

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.[1]

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.[1] However, popularity did not die for the longer-haired breed, which was ranked the sixth most popular companion animal in Finland, ahead of the Finnish Spitz (ranked ten), and the Karelian Bear Dog (ranked 17). [6]


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.[7] The Finnish Lapphund quickly became a popular pet choice for the Danes due to the vast variety of colours and friendly temperament of the breed.

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.[1] The Danish breeders follow the standard set forth by the Finnish Kennel Club. [8]


Tamerack Samoyeds in California imported the first Finnish Lapphund to the USA during 1987, and successfully bred litters in 1988 and again in 1989. Additional kennels, first Sugarok, breeder Linda Marden [9]and then Forest Trail (breeder Andrea Johnson), acquired their foundation stock in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Sugarok bred a first litter in 1989 from Scandinavian imports [10] and Johnson's parents bred a litter after obtaining a breeding female in 1991 [11], thus establishing the breeding lines in the United States.

It has taken considerable effort for the breed to become recognised in America. During the late 1980s the breed was only recognised by the American Rare Breeders Association. [12] In 1994, the breed was then recognised by the United Kennel Club (UKC), the second largest kennel club in America, in the Northern Group. [13] In 2001, there were 154 dogs and the stock records, which were collected by Marden of Sugarok, were forwarded to the American Kennel Club's Foundation stock service (FSS). In September 2006 there were 237 registered dogs.[5] The breed remains on the Foundation stock list as of August 2007, with hopes for full AKC recognition in the next few years. [6] The Finnish Lapphund Club of America (FLCA) is currently the parent organization in the United States, assisting the breed as it moves towards AKC recognition in the Miscellaneous class. Like the Danes, American breeders follow the Finnish standard for the breed.

Finnish Lapphunds routinely participate in conformation events.

United Kingdom

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. Much of the UK's foundation stock, including Sulyka Valio of Curdeleon and Sulyka Mischa of Elbereth appeared during the early 1980s. [7] 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. As of August 2007, a total of fifteen kennels were listed by the Finnish Lapphund Club of Great Britain.

Like their Danish cousins, some British dogs have sported well in international competition, notably, from Toni Jackson of Elbereth. The only English language book regarding the breed was penned by Toni Jackson in 1993. Jackson has been joined by other successful British kennels, including but not limited to Glenchess Finnish Lapphunds, whose dog, Fin Ch Himmelriks Mahti-Joiku took top stud in the All Rare Breeds in 2006; and Crufts Reserve best dog in class in 2007. [8]


Brambleway Kennels imported the first dog to Australia in 1995, and also had the first successful litter in 2001. Forming a foundation stock has involved importation and successful whelping by Brambleway, and other kennels, such as Theldaroy Kennels, [14] Watersedge Kennels, [15] Maivig Kennels, Armahani Kennels [16], Articmal Kennels [17], Magpielane Kennels [18] and Janoby Kennels [19]. The population has swelled to 141 registered dogs as of April 2007. [9] Australian breeders also maintain the Finnish standard. [10]

New Zealand

Finnish Lapphunds can also now be found in New Zealand but no longer bred. [11] Several dogs have been imported from Australia by Keesstars. The first litter born in New Zealand was on February 18, 2007, with three boys and two girls joining the small, but growing population in the country. The Finnish standard has been set by breeders in New Zealand and their kennel club. [12]


The first Finnish Lapphund to permanently settle on Canadian soil was imported in 1995 to Medicine Hat, Alberta from the United States. MySidekick Kennels and Shadagrace Kennels [20], both located in Manitoba, Canada, have been instrumental in establishing the breeding lines in Canada. As of 2009, with the arrival of litters from MySidekick Kennels, Shadagrace Kennels, and Icyridge Kennel [21] there are now 69 registered Finnish Lapphunds in Canada. The breed gained Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) [22]recognition in the Miscellaneous class in July 2007. The Finnish Lapphund breed was admitted in Group Seven, the Herding Group. [13]. Canadian Finnish Lapphunds also participate in Canine Federation of Canada events and American UKC organization in American and one yearly UKC confirmation event held in Canada. Recently, the Finnish Lapphund Club of Canada received its accreditation from the CKC. The Finnish Lapphund Club of Canada [23] is currently the parent organization in Canada; it educates and encourages owners, breeders, and the general public in all aspects of the breed. The Canadian breeders follow the Finnish standard for the breed.


  1. ^ 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.  
  2. ^
  3. ^ Elbereth Taika
  4. ^ OptiGen - PRA - Finnish Lapphund
  5. ^ Breed Info
  6. ^ American Kennel Club - Finnish Lapphund
  7. ^ Finnish Lapphund & Border Collies at Elbereth
  8. ^ Glenchess Finnish Lapphunds
  9. ^ About Finnish Lapphunds
  10. ^
  11. ^ Keesstars Kennels, Graeme, Glenda, and Krystal Savage breed Keeshonden, Finnish Lapphunds, Australia and New Zealand
  12. ^
  13. ^ The Canadian Kennel Club


  • Jackson, Toni (2003). Finnish Lapphund: Special rare breed edition. USA: Kennel Club Books. ISBN 1-5937-8374-4.  

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