Dogs like the Finnish Lapphund have been bred and used as a guard dogs and reindeer herder’s for centuries by the nomadic Sami people of Lapland, an area comprising of the northern parts of Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia. As times and technology changed, so too did the Sami lifestyle. They became less nomadic, opting to keep herds of reindeer, and this in turn resulted in a decreased need for the use of dogs in herding, which began to see a decline in numbers.
In 1940 the Finnish people realised that their beautiful herding dogs were fast on the way to extinction and so began a campaign to save the breed. Several dogs were purchased from the Sami with the hopes of starting a breeding program and this lead to the writing of the first official breed standard. This was published by the Finnish Kennel Club in 1945 under the breed name ‘Lapponian Shepherd Dog’, and included dogs with long and short coats.
In 1966, the standard was revised and by 1967 the breed had been split in to two types, long and short coated and each received their own standard. The shorter coated variety was known as a “Lapinporokoira” or “Lapponian Herder” and the longer coated variety a “Lapinkoira” or “Lapphund”. As type became more established, the breed standard was amended in 1975 and further revisions made in 1993 which resulted in a name change from “Lapinkoria” to “Suomenlapinkoira” or “Finnish Lapphund” as they are known today.
Although not a commonly utilised, both the Finnish Lapphund and Lapponian Herder breed registers are still open. This allows an unregistered dog direct from Lapland to be included on the breed register and used in breeding programs, provided they pass an evaluation process. Having an open register allows breeders to bring new lines into their kennels thus increasing the gene pool.
Finnish Sami Family. Photo credit: David P Filip
Sami boy with dog at Fjällnäs in Härjedalen, Sweden. Photo credit: David P Filip
'In 1995 the first Finnish Lapphund (Sulyka Sisko or “Finn”) arrived in Australia thanks to Brambleway Kennels and in the years following, they welcomed another two (Staalon Kolumbus "Kolumbus" in 1997 and Lecibsin Heissulivei “Lily” in 2000). The first Finnish Lapphund litter was born in Australia in 2001 between Kolumbus and Lily and resulted in three beautiful puppies.
Although still relatively new within Australia, Lappie numbers are beginning to climb with just over 1000 now registered across the country, and that number is still on the rise. Thanks to efforts from reputable breeders across Australia and overseas our gene pool remains fairly diverse with many breeders now importing their own dogs to assist in keeping our Lapphund population healthy.