Showsight Presents the Swedish Vallhund

“...they are always up for whatever their family wants to do, from a hike in the woods to watching TV. THEY ARE GENERALLY LESS INTENSE THAN SOME HERDING BREEDS, AND HAVE AN ‘OFF’ SWITCH AS LONG AS THEIR EXERCISE NEEDS ARE MET.”

History of the Breed Th e Swedish Vallhund’s nickname is “ Th e Little Viking Dog”, as some histori- ans state that dogs of similar physical type go back to the time of the Vikings. Th ere is debate about the connection between Vallhunds and Corgis, since there are many physical similarities. Some histori- ans feel the Vallhund is the older breed, and that dogs of this type may have been brought to Wales in the eighth or ninth century and used in the creation of the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, but we may never know for sure. While the specific details of its his- torical origins may remain under debate, breed fanciers have made the breed’s more recent history legendary. Th e breed had become nearly extinct by 1942, when a Swedish dog fancier named Björn von Rosen (who had helped save several other old Swedish breeds from extinc- tion), became involved in trying to save the breed we now know as the Swedish Vallhund. Von Rosen placed an advertise- ment in a newspaper asking for people to contact him if they had any information about these short-legged herding spitzes. He got a response from a school teacher named K-G Zetterstén, who volunteered his own time (and the time of his stu- dents) to help von Rosen. Th e men and

lighter, well-def ined mask with distinct contrast to the head color is desirable). The harness markings (lighter stripes running down the sides from the with- ers) are essential, and are a breed charac- teristic. White markings are allowed as long as the white does not exceed 30% of the dog’s total color, white markings are usually on the feet, chest, neck and face. This is a double-coated breed, and should be shown in a natural state. Temperament Swedish Vallhunds tend to bond very closely to their families and they genu- inely want to be an active part of their owners’ lives. Vallhund owners joke that you will never go to the bathroom alone again if you own a Vallhund— they are always up for whatever their family wants to do, from a hike in the woods to watching TV. They are gen- erally less intense than some herding breeds, and have an “off ” switch as long as their exercise needs are met. They have a double coat, which means that they do shed (especially during seasonal coat changes. Most are very gregarious with other dogs, especially other Vall- hunds, and their loving nature and gen- uine desire to please make them truly wonderful dogs to live with.

students rode their bicycles around likely areas of the countryside, looking for dogs that met their criteria for the breed, and eventually found one dog and four bitches (only three of breedable age) of the correct type. Th ese dogs were exhibited at a show in Sweden, where it was o ffi cially agreed that they were of a distinct, individual breed, and together this tiny handful of Vallhunds formed the foundation of von Rosen and Zetterstén’s breed salvation program. Careful breeding practices from those early days on have helped the breed become quite well-diversified genetically. Swedish Kennel Club The breed was off icially recognized by the Swedish Kennel Club in 1943, and was named the Svensk Vallhund ( Svensk means “Swedish” and Vallhund translates roughly to “herding dog”, so it was the “Swedish Herding Dog”). Today the breed is still called the Swed- ish Vallhund (a partial translation of its f irst off icial name) in English-speaking countries, but the Swedish breed stan- dard was revised in 1964, and the breed was renamed Västgötaspets (“Spitz of the West Goths”), after the Swedish prov- ince of Västergötland in south-western Sweden where Björn von Rosen believed the breed originated.

212 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , J ULY 2014

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