The Finnish Lapphund, or Lapinkoira, is one of two closely related breeds, the second being the Swedish Lapphund. The two share the same ancestry and although they do not have the typical herding dog appearance, they were bred to control reindeer.
Both Lapphunds are considered to be ancestors to a third breed, the Lapponian Herder. They take their name from the indigenous Sami, who were once known as Laps.
Finnish Lapphund Standards
History of the Finnish Lapphund
Lapphunds (both Finnish and Swedish) descend from spitz dogs kept by the indigenous Sami, who inhabited the northernmost portions of Europe in what is now Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Russia. Dogs had a wide variety of roles amongst the tribes, such as hunting, herding, and as guardians of both property and livestock. Archeological digs in Norway show spitz dating back to 4,000 B.C.
The ancestors of the Lapphunds hunted large prey such as reindeer, elk (moose), and bear. However, as the Sami began to keep reindeer herds as livestock the Lapphunds developed into the dogs that herded them.
Due to the extremely harsh and frigid climate, the Sami lands remained virtually unchanged (despite which country actually claimed the land at the time) until the late 1800s. As motorized vehicles and later snowmobiles were invented this gave access to the lands. Foreign dogs entered the region and with them came distemper and other diseases. This put all the Sami dogs in danger of extinction from various outbreaks as well as cross breeding.
By the 1930s both Finnish and Swedish breeders took an interest in native breeds, including the Sami herding dogs. They found the best surviving samples and began a breeding program. While the Finnish preferred all coat colors the Swedish had a preference for the solid black, which would eventually become known as the Swedish Lapphund. The Finnish Kennel Club recognized the Finnish Lapphund as the Lapinkoira in 1960, and a short coated variety was split into the Lapinporokoira in 1966 as its own breed.
Today the Finnish Lapphund is rarely seen as a working dog, both the Sami and Finns prefer the Lapinporokoira for herding. Most Finnish Lapphounds are kept solely as companions and show dogs. It remains somewhat rare outside of Scandinavia, despite being recognized around the world.