The Five: Swedish Dog BreedsApril 13, 2016
Since before the Vikings, the great popularity of dogs as pets, working animals and especially as companions in Sweden is obvious by the frequency with which they are found in ancient gravesites, buried with their masters. Many of these original breeds were hunting dogs that lived to assist in the chase. Here’s a look at several varieties of Swedish breeds.
Jämthund (Swedish Elkhound)
This spitz-like hunting dog bears the honor of being the national dog of Sweden. Named for Jämtland, a northern Swedish province, its bear and moose-hunting history stretches to the end of the last ice age. Some canine experts believe the breed resulted from the selective breeding of ancient aboriginal dogs. These sturdy, loyal dogs are also the official service dogs of the Swedish Marines and Air Force.
Smålandsstovare (Småland Hound)
First recognized in 1921 by the Swedish Kennel Club, the Småland Hound has its roots in 16th-century Sweden. In addition to being the oldest native scent hound, this smallest Swedish breed is quite rare. Originally bred to hunt foxes and hares, it nonetheless has a kind demeanor and loyal spirit. They’re excellent with children and other pets, although very protective of home and family. There are no outstanding health issues common to this breed, thanks to its natural resistance to disease and high immunity.
Västgötaspets (Swedish Vallhund)
While similar to a Welsh Corgi in size and appearance, this playful little dog is very versatile thanks to a high level of intelligence. It excels in performance events such as agility, herding, obedience and tracking, making it a valuable assistant on a farm or ranch. While these dogs have a tendency to be “barkers” (which makes them wonderful watchdogs), Vallhunds are also calm and adaptable to various environments if plenty of daily exercise is available. They love their people and want to be with them as much as possible.
Over the centuries, this dog worked as a guard dog, hunting dog and even a reindeer herder. Another rare breed of which little is known outside of Sweden, it’s estimated that fewer than 1,500 exist today. Originally bred by the nomadic Sami people of Lappland, these dogs – the oldest of Sweden’s nine breeds – make wonderful, loyal companions that do best in a loving home. These small, Spitz-type dogs enjoy barking, so some training is necessary. They do well in competitions, and are sturdy, tireless playmates for children.
Hamiltonstövare (Hamilton Hound)
This native hunting dog was named after Count Adolf Patrick Hamilton, the founder of the Swedish Kennel Club. These beautiful dogs are low maintenance in the home, partially because they enjoy being lazy. Hamiltons are extremely flexible and agile, which calls for plenty of exercise. These traits make them perfect jogging or hiking partners. They possess natural instincts as rabbit or fox hunters and make excellent tracking dogs. They thrive in colder climates, as they cannot tolerate prolonged periods of heat.