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Breeder Buzzwords – The Norwegian Buhund

The Norwegian Buhund is one of nearly four dozen Nordic breeds and varieties developed in the Northern Hemisphere to function as herders, hunters, draft or companion animals. Buhund means “homestead” or “farm dog,” and it is as a multipurpose performer in and around the home that this unadulterated Spitz breed still excels today.

The Buhund calls the western coast of Norway home. The medium-sized breed has likely existed there since 900 A.D. as evidenced by an 1880 excavation at Gokstad in the county of Vestfold. According to the Norwegian Buhund Club of America, six dog skeletons of a type similar to the modern breed were unearthed at the site. The Buhund’s ancient ancestors are thought to have been companions to the Vikings, accompanying the seafaring people as they established settlements throughout Scandinavia, Britain and Iceland.

Although still in use as a herder of sheep, cattle and reindeer in the early 20th century, the Buhund was then threatened with extinction when the Norwegian State Council took action to ensure its survival. As noted by the NBCA, Jon Saeland took inventory of the breed in 1920, and a breed standard was drafted six years later. Identification was based on working ability as well as conformation, and the first breed exhibition was held in the coastal district of Jaeren in 1926.

The Norsk Buhundklubb was established in 1939.

In 1983, Norwegian expatriate Aud Marie Ferstad Maroni established the breed’s parent club in the U.S. The first American specialty show was held in 1990, and six years later the breed was accepted into the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock Service.

The Norwegian Buhund is one of several northern breeds that gained full AKC recognition in the early years of the 21st century. In 2009, the breed entered the Herding Group, then held its first AKC-sanctioned national specialty in Springfield, Mass., on November 27, 2010.

An energetic worker, the Buhund retains the herding and guarding instincts of its ancestors, as well as its devotion to home and family. Registrations for the breed in 2012 place it 163rd among the 175 AKC-recognized breeds.

The Norwegian Buhund is an energetic and intelligent herder and guardian that likely took part in Viking expeditions. Photo by Dan Sayers.

A Typical Northern Breed
The General Appearance section of the AKC breed standard describes the Norwegian Buhund as “a typical northern breed” with a wedge-shaped head, prick ears and a curled tail. Its closest living relatives are other Herding breeds of similar type, including the Icelandic Sheepdog and both the Swedish and Finnish Lapphunds.

Each breed of dog that calls the arctic north home is a true survivalist, and the Buhund is no exception. Like all breeds developed at the top of the world, the Buhund looks every bit the part. Each utilitarian detail of make and shape contributes to a dog’s ability to perform in a cold and wet environment: a straight nasal bone to facilitate breathing; black pigment to absorb the sun’s rays; mobile and pointed ears; a tightly curled tail; and a thick, double coat.

As noted by the NBCA’s Breed Presentation,“Buhunds were often sent up into the mountains on their own to gather and fetch the sheep.” As might be expected of a dog bred to think for itself, the breed retains the extreme intelligence needed to work on instinct alone. It remains an “upright, loose-eyed breed that communicates with a bark.”

“Northern” connotes more than just a breed’s place of origin and physical appearance. It also suggests a particular mentality, and the Buhund is described by the standard as possessing a temperament that is “self-confident, alert, lively.” Although it is independent in its thinking, it is nonetheless “very affectionate with people.”

Squarely Built
The Norwegian Buhund is a true all-purpose farm dog that’s meant to perform multiple tasks all day long. Its construction is accordingly moderate, with the physical properties required to get the job done – and then do it again and again and again.

The Buhund is squarely built when viewed in a natural standing profile. “The height, measured vertically from the ground to the highest point of the shoulder blade, equals the length, measured horizontally from the prosternum to the rear projection of the upper thigh. As expected of a working farm dog, the Buhund’s bone and overall substance are “in proportion to the overall dog.” Weight is noted by the standard as 31 to 40 pounds for dogs and 26 to 35 pounds for bitches.

“A little under medium size and squarely built,” is how the standard defines the Buhund’s make and shape. Dogs measure 17 to 18-1/2 inches “at the highest point of the shoulder blade,” and bitches measure 16 to 17-1/2 inches. More than 1/2 inch under or 1 inch over the allowable height disqualifies.

The standard describes the breed, in part, as possessing “a lot of energy, strength and stamina.” Correct size and proportions are therefore needed so that the body can facilitate the breed’s many duties.

The Buhund goes to extreme only by virtue of its “extremely intelligent” nature and unerring watchfulness. Otherwise this natural breed is equipped for tireless daytime work before adjourning indoors for the evening at the feet of its human family.

As of May 1, 2013, the Buhund became a “ramp optional” breed, and may be examined on a ramp at AKC conformation shows at the judges’ discretion.

A Wheaten or Black Coat
The western coast of Norway enjoys somewhat milder temperatures than does much of the country. As a result, the coat of the Buhund does not stand out straight from the body as it does on many other northern breeds. It does, however, present a true double coat with a “soft and dense” undercoat and a “thick and hard” outer coat that is “rather smooth lying.”

According to the standard’s section on coat, the length of the outer coat varies over the dog’s head and body. It is “comparatively short” on the head and front of the legs, and longer on the neck, chest and back of the thighs in typical Spitz fashion.

The Norwegian Buhund is seen in two allowable colors: wheaten and black. Wheaten is defined by the standard as any shade of color “from pale cream to bright orange, with or without dark tipped hairs.” A black mask is acceptable. Black coats should not present “too much bronzing,” which can be caused by sun exposure or diet.

Both wheaten and black Buhunds may present white in the following areas: “a narrow white ring around the neck, a narrow blaze on the face, a small patch of white hairs on the chest, white feet and tip of the tail.” Areas of white should be as small as possible. Although gray and “wolf sable” coats do occur, suggesting the Elkhound’s influence, they are not correct. Such coloration, however, is not a disqualification in this hardworking Herding breed.

The intelligent and trainable Norwegian Buhund possesses the physical form and mental character necessary to survive coastal summers and northern winters. It is a modern-day survivor with an ancient association with one of the world’s most expansive human cultures.

Written by

Dan Sayers started “in dogs” through a chance encounter with a Springer Spaniel in 1980. A student of dogs ever since, he’s shown Spaniels and Hounds in the conformation ring and breeds Irish Water Spaniels under the Quiet Storm prefix. A dog lover with a passion for the creative arts, Dan has worked as a freelance writer, photographer and illustrator for many years. His feature articles and columns have appeared in Dogs in Review, Dog World and the AKC Gazette, and his design work has appeared in dozens of publications in North America and abroad. An interest in all things “dog” brought Dan to Best In Show Daily, where he gets to work with the most dynamic group of fanciers every day. He lives in Merchantville, New Jersey, with his partner, Rudy Raya, Irish Water Spaniel, Kurre, and the memory of Oscar, a once-in-a-lifetime Sussex Spaniel.
Comments
  • Cheryl Loesch June 23, 2013 at 9:25 AM

    Nice article! The NBCA had 19 Specialties before it became an AKC parent club.

    • Dan Sayers
      Dan Sayers June 24, 2013 at 11:37 AM

      Thank you, Cheryl. Keep up the fine work promoting your remarkable breed!

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