Norrbottenspets: Dog World Magazine Rare Breed Spotlight
Posted March 06, 2008
by Alice Bixler
By Alice Bixler
Dog World: March 2008 Issue
The true origin of this lively Nordic breed is hidden in the icy past of Scandinavia. Historians suggested the Norrbottenspets may indeed hark back to the prehistoric peat bog dog, presumably the predecessor of many, if not all, spitz breeds. Sweden is accepted as the country of origin and the breed has been known since the 1600s as a hunter of small game. Finland, which also shares credit, dubbed their canine companions Pohjanpystykorva, meaning “pricked ears,” and the Swedes named the breed Norrbottens-skollandehund.
As has happened with so many other breeds, World War II had a devastating effect. The conflict, a declining interest in hunting with these dogs, and the increased influence of foreign breeds, rendered the Norrbottenspets just about extinct. But not quite. However, there were so few that the Swedish Kennel Club dropped them from their ranks in 1948. Fortunately, some devoted fans who appreciated the breed’s qualities searched and found a sprinkling of them in remote villages in North Botnia (Norrbotten) as well as the border territory of Finland and Sweden. Established breeding programs followed, leading to the reinstatement of the breed by the kennel club of Sweden in 1967. The FCI accorded the Norrbottenspets recognition at approximately the same time and the Finnish Kennel Club followed suit in the 1970s.
This medium-sized Nordic spitz has regained popularity in its native land primarily as a clever companion. Some are still used for hunting game birds such as grouse and a smattering have scored highly in trials.
Introduction to the United States: The first litter in North America was born in Canada in 1990 where the breed has since been recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club. Several pups were sold to fanciers in the United States in the 1990s, but there are only two Norrbottenspets breeders in this country – Linda Erickson in Oregon and Norma Hewitson in California. Linda acquired her first Norrbottenspets in 2001 and Norma’s arrived in 2004. There are fewer than 100 in the U.S. and no breed club as yet, although the two breeders are taking the first steps to have the breed accepted into the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service. The breed has been admitted to the United Kennel Club roster and shows at International All Breed Canine Association events. As more and more Americans become acquainted with the Norbie, the breed is bound to gain admirers.
Appearance: Square in outline, the Norrbottenspets is a moderate dog in all respects, being neither heavy nor slight in build. Ideally, males should measure 17 ½ inches at the withers while females will be just a bit smaller at 16 ½. Weight will range from 25 to 30 lbs. In proportion, the depth of the firm body from the withers to the lowest point of the chest should be equal to half the height of the dog.
The breed has the usual spitz features – a wedge-shaped head, erect ears, double coat and high-set tail carried in a loose curl over the back. The balanced head displays a moderately wide flat skull, equal in length to the tapering muzzle which houses a full set of teeth meeting in a scissor bite. The obliquely set, dark brown eyes are almond-shaped and contribute to a bright expression. The high-set, erect ears are a bit larger than medium sized with rounded tips. The head is carried high atop a relatively long, gently arched neck.
The short, sturdy back is muscular, slopes slightly over the withers and continues on straight to a short and strong loin followed by a long, broad and somewhat sloping croup. The relatively deep and long chest should descend to just above the elbow and sport a well-developed forechest. Long, broad shoulder blades are set obliquely and fit close to the chest. The upper arm matches the shoulder blade in length and forms a marked angle. Straight, sturdy forearms descend into strong pasterns which slope just a little when viewed from the side. Forefeet are small with well-arched toes and solid pads.
Hind legs are parallel when viewed from behind with muscular, rather long thighs. The lower thighs form a marked angle to the upper thighs. Hind feet are similar in shape and size to the front paws. At a trot, the Norrbottenspets should display smooth, even, ground-covering movement while the topline remains firm.
The coat sets this breed apart from many other full-coated spitz breeds by virtue of having a short, harsh and close-fitting outer coat over its fine and dense undercoat. The coat is quite short on the bridge of the nose, the skull, ears and front of legs. Longer hair will appear on the neck, back of thighs and the underside of the tail. This is a coat which never mats. Norrbottenspets will blow undercoat twice a year but one good thorough brushing is generally sufficient to handle it. Incidentally, they’re very clean dogs that never carry a “doggie” odor, even when wet.
Though the standard permits all colors, the most popular combination is white with splashes of yellowish red or reddish brown. Pups are rarely marked alike, each having its own unique pattern. Breeder Linda Erickson notes, “Never is there a need to wrap ribbons around their necks in order not to confuse them with their siblings.”
Temperament: What’s not to like? Folks can’t seem to say enough nice things about this breed’s sterling personality. All are quick to agree they are particularly good with considerate children as they’re very playful and not the least bit aggressive. They’re also reputed to get along with other dogs and most family pets. Alert, active, intelligent, energetic, self-confident and spirited are all adjectives which have been applied to the Norrbottenspets. But for all their lively nature, Erickson comments, “They are polite dogs and do not force themselves upon you, being more content to wait for an invite into your space.”
When it comes to training, they’re highly intellectual problem solvers that can quickly become bored with repetitive practices. They respond to challenges and firm voice.
Modern Function: A capable canine that hunts with both sight and scent, the Norrbottenspets has proven to be an able search-and-rescue dog. Blessed with extended endurance, he can stay on the job for endless hours and being smaller than the average search-and-rescue dog makes it easy for him to squeeze into tight quarters when the search demands it. He could also be a promising candidate for agility due to his nimble nature and athletic abilities. And if you enjoy hiking, camping or even a bit of skijoring, the Norrbottenspets is a competent and enthusiastic companion.
Perhaps the only real drawback to this spirited Swede breed is learning how to spell its name.
Alice Bixler judges for the AKC, CKC, ARBA, Canine Rarities and IABCA. She breeds and exhibits Bearded Collies, Briards and Lowchen and has been a professional dog writer since the 1970s.
Well, happy Olympics everyone!
Grimmner made his way twice in the newspaper this winter. Good way to get the breed known. He handled the olympics crowd (torch relay celebration)very well.
He his already going into his foxy hunting rodents mode as we are having an El Nino winter here in British Columbia, Canada. His ears fan out in the direction of the rodent noise, then he pounce like a fox (half jumping, half diving).
Found out we have another Norrbottenspets boy living near by, also a sweet energetic boy.
Met someone from Finland. The Norrbottenspets are known there as the farmer's best helper; half gardian, half hunting, half companion. Always following their master, making sure everything and everyone is ok. To that testinony, I nicknamed my dog captain grimmne as he patrolls our cmapsite at night, even eating the bugs who dare too close to the tent. The young finish lady says these dog are territorial, no kidding! They are a spitz after all.
- Francesca Sanna (February 19, 2010)
We purchased our Norrbottenspets, Roscoe from Linda Erickson three years ago. In fact, Roscoe's birthday was yesterday. Roscoe is the most intelligent and delightful dog I have ever encountered, let alone owned. He learns new tasks in literally minutes and during our blustery Ohio winters even runs down the driveway to fetch the newspaper for us in the morning. We adopted a kitten this summer that was a throw away stray we found while camping in Southern Ohio. Roscoe immediately took little J.J. under his wing and they remain the best of buddies. Roscoe is so gentle with the kitten you would never know he was a hunting breed at heart. I am an avid runner and Rosce loves nothing better than to head to the park for a brisk six mile run. I cannot say enough wonderful things about our boy and would highly encourage anyone interested in owning a Norrbottenspets to continue researching the breed. I would say this is a breed that is better suited to a family or person(s) who maintain an active lifestyle and enjoy the outdoors. The Norrbottenspets is an active breed and needs exercised daily.
- Michelle Stenger (January 27, 2010)
I am a proud owner of a five year old Norrbottenspets. We just experienced one of the harshest and coldest winter of this decade and it did not bother the dog at all. They are indeed bred as squirrel and grouses hunter.
The norrbottenspets is kinly aware of its surrounding. My dog know that a bear den was near by and that the bear had awaken (found tracks later). Would not let me go any further down the path.
I highly recommend this breed if you live in the northwest or in British Columbia.
- Francesca Sanna (March 31, 2009)
About 7 years ago we rescued the cutest pup from a dog rescue group in Chesterfield, Mo. No one, not even the vet, could tell us what our wonderful Fable was. Some guessed Basenji mixed with a terrier. Then, my daughter-in-law found a sight highlighting the Nordic Spitz. I wish I could send you a picture of Fable. She looks just like a carbon copy of this lovely dog. How did such a rare breed of dog end up in a rescue group in Missouri 7 years ago? This dog is a delight to us. She is bright, fun and very loyal. And most everyone comments on her incredibly soft fur and adorable face.
- Linda Meyer (February 10, 2009)
We purchased a Nordic Spitz a couple of year ago and we love her, she is the sweetest girl. We live in Texas and she lives inside most of the time but seems to tolerate the heat well.
- Cheryl Albanese (November 05, 2008)
i love nordic spitz in fact i like all types of spitz from the pomeranian to the gaint german spitz.
- Ngoal (October 09, 2008)
My husband and I have owned a norrbottenspet since 1997. We named him Murray. He rarely appears to need gooming because of the thick double coat that always appear so beautiful. However we do groom him every 4 months wether he needs it or not.
We live in Mission British Columbia Canada and there is alot of rain here and somehow this dog never seems cold as his coat seems to keep him dry. We would highly recommend this breed.
- Darlene West (September 22, 2008) (September 23, 2008)
I am anxious to see this dog in Alabama. We have had an extremely intelligent white Spitz for 11 yrs. until her recent passing. We had her groomed quite often. Grooming made her think she was something special. Do you groom the Norrbottenspets?
- Don Compton (September 17, 2008)
Viking Heaven Nordic Spitz • Sue & Jacqueline Vareberg • The Dalles, Oregon 97058 • (541) 298-4577