Dare To Be Different: The Norrbottenspets

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Dare To Be Different: The Norrbottenspets
Posted May 20, 2010 by www.CanadianNorrbottenspetsClub.com
 
      

Published by CANADIAN DOG DIGEST
Photos courtesy of Linda Erickson, Rayan Horswill Tees and Solie Torvinen

Someone at the show asks you, "Did you see the Norrbottenspets?" Until recently, for most, the answer would be, "What in the world is a Norrbottenspets?"
 

Other names this rare, small to medium sized hunting dog is known as are: Pohjanpystykorva (meaning "Prick Ear"); Norbottens- skollandehund, Nordic Spitz; Norrbotten; Norb and Nob. Take your pick! It takes a bit to become familiar with the "Norrbottenspets" pronunciation, but with a little practice, it is certainly doable. Nor - Bot - Ten - Spitz. After a few attempts, it just rolls off the tongue! Go ahead, try it. For those of you who want an easier name to remember, Nordic Spitz will work just fine. The name "Store-boughten-pet", which has been popular among the show crowd will get you a glare akin to that you will get for calling a dachshund some permutation of "Weiner dog", so be kind and don't use it. The name results from where the dog originated - in the wilderness settlements both in Norrbotten (North Botnia), Sweden and in the border area of Lappland/Kainuuland, Finland. When hearing this Spitz referred to as a Nob, a Norb, or a PPK you can be sure the person doing the talking is quite familiar with the breed.

The Norrbottenspets is a hunting breed of the Northern Spitz type. Sweden promotes the Norrbottenspets as one of the national dogs of Sweden and it is still used to hunt small game like grouse and fur-bearing creatures, although this brave little hunter has been known to stop a moose, bear or elk in its tracks. Both Sweden and Finland lay claim to its origin and both countries have contributed much towards the breeds survival and existence, but Sweden lays claim to owning the breed standard.

History of the Breed

It is widely suggested that the white spotted or piebald multi- talented hunting dogs probably descended from the small laikoista (small spitz type dogs), living with Nordic hunters in prehistoric times. Indeed, genetic studies suggest this breed has been around for thousands of years. In order for the people to survive in the Nordic regions of Scandinavia, hunting for food and clothing was a necessity, not a sport. Through natural selection and, later, artificial selection by the hunters in the region, only the strongest, smartest and best performing were able to reproduce. Finland and Sweden still aim to breed only the best, and in the origin countries breed advisors work to identify good matches for Norrbottenspets breeders. In these countries, hunting trial scores and hunting performance indicate the dogs that will be bred, yet these breedings have still led to beautiful dogs. The Norrbottenspets as a breed has relatively small litters, which relate to the function and difficult lifestyle it developed under.

Although both Finland and Sweden declare a long history of the Norrbottenspets use as an indispensable hunting dog and farm companion, the first written documentation of the breed only dates from the 17th century. Despite the lack of written documentation, the breeders in Sweden and Finland tell tales of the breed's unique past. In the 19th century, breeders in Finland's Lappland region developed the Finnish Spitz (the national dog of Finland). The dogs with solid color were favored for breeding, whereas the white, predominantly bi-colored dogs were not used. Over the years the bi-colors were adopted by the visiting Swedes and taken back across the border to Sweden. The first standard was approved by the Swedish Kennel Club in 1910. When trade fur prices collapsed after World War II, interest in the Norrbottenspets in Sweden and Finland also vanished and numbers shrank, causing the Swedish Kennel Club to declare the breed extinct (it was taken off their registry in 1948). Historians speculate now that this decision was based upon misinformation because of language barriers and cultural differences. In the 1960's a few Swedish breed fanciers and dedicated hunters, scoured the countryside for typical  dogs, fitting the looks and characteristics of the thought to be extinct hunting dog. Finally, a few suitable specimens of the breed were located in the village of Smithstown (Pajala) that were the leftovers of a breeding kennel and put in the studbook in the late 1960's. In 1966, the breed was officially named the Norrbottenspets. That same year the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) accepted a new breed standard and officially recognized the breed. In 1967 the Swedish Kennel Club again registered the breed and a new standard was developed. By 1973 the Finnish Kennel Club (Suomen Pystykorvajorjestˆ) was also recognizing the Norrbottenspets as one of three Finnish hunting dogs of the Northern Spitz type, including the Karelian Bear Dog and the Finnish Spitz. Both Sweden and Finland have now closed their studbooks to found  dogs in northern settlements. In the past year, Sweden has revised the FCI Standard for the Norrbottenspets, which will define breeding practices around the world for the longevity of the breed.

The history of the breed in Canada began when Inger and Zale Collins introduced the Norrbottenspets with ten foundation dogs coming from Sweden. The Canadian Kennel Club added this breed to the hound group in 1994 as result of the Colin's dedication to the breed, and as of November of 2007 this rare breed was listed with the American Kennel Club's Foundation Stock Service, with the help of breeders Linda Erickson and Norma Hewitson. Additions to the North American gene pool have come as a result of imports from Sweden, Finland, and Denmark.

Construction:

The Norrbottenspets is of small to medium size, sturdy, compact and powerful, its body slightly longer than tall. It is of medium bone, agile and hardy. It stands about 42 to 45 cm (16 to 18 inches) at the shoulder depending on gender. The male is noticeably more masculine in looks. The size and proportions makes the Norrbottenspets stunning to observers on a walk and an ideal house dog, but it does well outside too. The Norrbottenspets luxurious coat is one of the shortest in the Nordic breeds with the outer coat made up of hard, close fitting, weather repellent guard hairs, making it less furry and long than that of the Finnish Spitz. The under coat is dense, fine and soft, insulating the dog from the extreme cold. The hair is shortest on the muzzle, head, ears and front of the legs. It is longer on the neck, undercarriage of the tail and back of the thighs. This coat is excellent for keeping the Norrbottenspets clean and tidy, as once mud has had a chance to dry, it slides off the guard hairs, leaving no signs of ever being on the dog. The grooming of a dog prior to a conformation show in Sweden and Finland may include a bath, but usually is just a brush of the coat since it does not mat -- what a dream for the non-groomer! Another remarkable quality of the Norrbotten's splendid coat is the absence of doggie smell . This is just one step below having a dog that doesn't shed. The Norrbottenspets should be classified as a medium shedder, with the undercoat blown (comes out in clumps that can be compared to pulling Kleenex out of a box) twice a year.

Character:

This small to medium sized dog has a large personality, making a strong presence wherever he goes. Independent, lively and cheerful, the Nordic Spitz knows what they want and are extremely intelligent. Having a sense of humor, they love to be the center of attention. They are excellent with children, but will not tolerate rough handling or teasing long. Rather than nip or bite, they will ignore the offender and stay far away from their tormentor. They love their humans and make themselves an indispensable member of the family, happily spending every waking moment alongside their humans . They get along well with other, non aggressive dogs and their  cats. A stray cat or rabbit wandering across their property will promptly be chased. Norrbottenspets think that squirrels were put on this earth for their personal pleasure. If you come home and your Norrbottenspets is nowhere to be found, just take a look outside, under a tree. If you see your companion staring up into the branches, still as can be (or barking like crazy -- giving rise to the name barking bird dog), you can be sure there is a squirrel sitting patiently, hoping you will take its enemy into the house for a bit, giving him a good head start, which it will need if it hopes for a clean getaway. Not only are Norrbottenspets excellent squirrel getters , they can catch a bird in midflight. Gophers, mice, rats and moles do not have a chance. Even your bug and slug population will diminish if you are the owner of this unique dog with the unforgettable personality.

Carriage:

These hunting dogs must be able to cover the rough terrain of Scandinavia (much like our Canadian Shield terrain) to flush birds for hunters or give chase to a larger animal. The Norrbottenspets' body proportions provide speed, agility and stamina - movement should be considered crucial. The deep ribcage and well developed ribs ensures endurance and strength, whereas the arched neck, clear withers, and slightly slanting croup make the Norrbottenspets fast -- very fast! With training Norrbottenspets do make a good off leash dog, but without training, their hunting instinct will have them galloping off after something at their standard pace -- hunters in Sweden and Finland now use GPS regularly to find their dogs for obvious reasons! The Norrbottenspets ability to move around unusual terrain, with amazing precision, is shown in their excellence at moving through an agility course. In this activity one can see the benefit of a looser shoulder, and fast changes in position, that are clearly of great use to the hunter.

In the show ring, or on flat ground, the gait of the Norrbottenspets should be smooth, even with a great amount of drive so that a vast amount of ground can be covered with tight cat-like feet and long hocks. At a trot, the top-line is firm and the hind legs must stay parallel in action.

The head should be wedged shaped, which is a hallmark of a galloper, with a distinctly black nose. The muzzle should be moderately long, with a length being half that of the head or a little shorter. Medium sized eyes that are dark brown in color and almond shaped, contribute to the alert appearance of the Norrbottenspets, as do the slightly rounded ears that are set high, a little more than medium in size, that stand very erect. The tail of the Spitz type breeds is its most distinguishing characteristic and often gets the most complements. The Norrbottenspets' tail should be proportionately high set, with a fairly high curve, loosely carried over the hip, with the tip touching the upper thigh. The tail is not to reach below the hock and, although bobtails do occur, they are not accepted in the show dog - this is currently the only CKC defined disqualification for the Norrbottenspets -- but for hunting one does not need a tail!

Color:

The coat is mostly white and generally patterned with yellow or red/brown markings. Although other colors are acceptable, the most desirable colour is the red. The ideal amount of white in the Norrbottenspets ranges from 30% to almost 100%, with extreme amounts of white being accompanied by colored ears and at least one colored marking on the body, usually at the base of the tail. The dog is to be clearly marked as piebald, with distinct patches, and not an all over colouring. If a dog is extremely colored they should also have the white be clearly visible, coming over the back and breaking up the saddle. Although ticking is acceptable, excessive ticking is not. The dogs may have a mask that gives a black marking to the face. Colour was given particular attention in the new FCI Standard for the Norrbottenspets and over the next few generations the goal is to reduce the number of darkly coloured, tan-point, and fawn coloured Norrbottenspets. Summary: This Norrbottenspets' great personality, combined with its agility and physical endurance make it a winner for those looking for a combined outdoor & family dog, or competitor breed. The Norrbottenspet is a strong hunter, proven at Obedience and Rally-O with CKC awarded titles, and even though titles have not been obtained, performs in Agility, Flyball, and Tracking. Owners also hope to do herding and search and rescue training with the Norrbottenspets, and time will show the breeds true potential with other less known events. The Norrbottenspets is proving itself a strong competitor in the Conformation ring and is seen in many juniour Conformation events, due to its gentle personality and connection with children. With many Norrbottenspets coming out (there were 15 in Chilliwack at the Auld Lang Syne Dog Association's show in the fall of 2009), it is likely the next time you are asked Did you see the Norrbottenspets? , you will say, Of course! Wasn't it a beauty? .

Article courtesy of www.CanadianNorrbottenspetsClub.com

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