Prepare to make the acquaintance of the Swedish Lapphund, or the ‘Lappie’, as it’s known to its friends. An ancient breed from Scandinavia, the Lappie is a distinctive looking dog with a distinctive history and a very distinctive set of features (just wait till you hear one bark). A reindeer herder by vocation, a cuddly playmate by avocation, and as hard to find as a needle in a haystack, the Swedish Lapphund is the kind of dog that deserves way more publicity than it gets. Get ready to lose your heart to the Lappie as we talk you through the ten things you didn’t know about the Swedish Lapphund, but really probably should.
1. They come from northern Scandanavia
You wouldn’t expect a dog with ‘Swedish’ in its name to come from Mexico, and you’d be right. As its title implies, the Swedish Lapphund originates in Sweden and the other parts of northern Scandanavia that make up the region known as Lapland. Some people sometimes confuse the Lappie with another breed that comes from the area – the Finnish Lapphund. But despite their similar appearances and origins, they’re actually two separate breeds – at least according to the AKC’s classification, in any case.
2. They achieved AKC recognition in 2007
In 2007, the American Kennel Club finally got around to awarding the Swedish Lapphund official breed recognition. For the Lappie, it was probably not before time. They’d already managed to wangle recognition from the Swedish Kennel Club over 100 years previously (1904, to be exact), while the Federation Clinologique Internationale (FCI) decided to follow their example in 1944.
3. They were bred as reindeer herders
These days, the most amount of exercise most Swedish Lapphund’s get is a sedate game of frisbee in the park. But back in the day, they were some of the hardest working animals in Lapland. When the Sami, the semi-nomadic indigenous people of northern Scandinavia, first began keeping Lappies, they were bred less as companion dogs and more as reindeer herders. Lappies proved amazingly adept at their work, even going so far as to adapt their bark to become even more efficient at their jobs than they already were. These days, Lapponian herders and Border collies have taken over as the country’s preferred herders, but some old school Scandi’s still remain loyal to the faithful old Lappie.
4. They have a strange bark
There are a few things that make a Swedish Lapphund stand out from the crowd. There’s their thick, super-shaggy coats for one. There’s their distinctive dark coloring for another. And then there’s their bark. As mentalfloss.com notes, their distinctive, high pitched bark is achieved by rapidly squeezing air through their diaphragms while simultaneously restricting their vocal cords. The end result is a sound that manages to be both loud and squeaky at the same time. It’s believed that Lappies developed the bark to help them in their duties as reindeer herders – the bark is loud enough to let reindeers know it’s time to move on but unthreatening enough not to create panic by making them think a predator is on the loose.
5. They’re ultra-rare
If you’re surprised never to have heard of the Swedish Lapphund before, don’t be. If there’s one thing this breed of dogs is, it’s rare. According to iheartdogs.com, there are only around 1200 Swedish Lapphund’s in the entire world. Most, as you’d expect, live in Sweden, with the rest scattered around Finland, Norway, England, Denmark, The Netherlands, France, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia, Russia, and Australia. A small (but growing) handful lives in the US.
6. They’re prone to diabetes
Although the Lappie is generally a robust little dog, it’s not completely free of health niggles. Some of the main things to watch out for include hip dysplasia, epilepsy, progressive retinal atrophy, and diabetes. As with all dogs, you should ensure they receive any recommend vaccinations to prevent some of the most common canine diseases and be sure to whisk them to the vet at the first sign of trouble.
7. They hate the heat
Considering their origins (not to mention their thick, furry coats), it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to learn the Swedish Lapphund doesn’t mind the cold. In fact, the colder the better – if there’s one thing the Lappie was born to handle, it’s a sub-zero temperature. What they don’t get on with, on the other hand, is hot, humid weather. If you live in tropical climes, think twice before welcoming a Lappie into your life. Regardless of where you live, make sure to keep them indoors during the height of the summer heat.
8. They’re high maintenance
Some dogs are low maintenance but think they’re high. Others are high maintenance but think they’re low. The Swedish Lapphund falls into the second camp. They may be hard workers, devoted companions, and reliable guard dogs, but they’re also hugely demanding, at least as far as their coat is concerned. Simply put, unless you plan on living with a matted dog and a houseful of hair, you’re going to need to give them a good brush as often as possible – every day, if you can. During shedding season, you might even need to take AKC’s advice and draw on the help of a professional groomer.
9. They’re a member of the Spitz family
The Swedish Lapphund might have been domesticated for hundreds of years, but there’s still something about their appearance that just screams ‘wolf’. Maybe it’s their shaggy coats. Perhaps it’s their long snouts and pointed ears. Or maybe it’s just because they’re a member of the Spitz family of canines, a variety of domesticated dog that’s never quite managed to shake off its wolfy origins. Other members of the family include the Alaskan Malamute, the Shiiba Inu, and the Pomeranian.
10. They’re the national breed of Sweden
The Lappie might not be too well known outside of Scandanavia, but in its native land of Sweden, it’s practically a celebrity. Not only was it the first dog ever to be recognized by the Swedish Kennel Club, it’s even managed to achieve the distinct privilege of being named the country’s national dog.