THE ICELANDIC SHEEPDOG A Living Piece of History in the Breed Ring & Out By Jo-Ann Secondino
W hen consider- ing the Icelan- dic Sheepdog in the breed ring, one must first under- stand the breed’s history and how these factors have contributed to the shaping of the Icelandic Sheepdog of today. The Icelandic Sheepdog is descended from a Nordic Herding Spitz brought to Iceland with the original Viking set- tlers in 874 AD. These Viking masters, the rugged terrain, harsh weather, fam- ine, epidemics, natural disasters and the daily struggle to survive created a highly adaptable, hardy dog uniquely capable of fulfilling the needs of the Icelandic farmer. To survive in these lean times, these dogs had to be physi- cally sound, alert and intelligent, have a good work ethic and be of good tem- perament. Today’s Icelandic Sheepdog is a direct descendant of those dogs, that not only survived the hard times in Iceland’s history, but have truly become a living piece of history, a testament to these early settlers and their canine companion’s determination to succeed in their new homeland.
Th e Icelandic Sheepdog is an all- around farm dog and Viking herder, while not a guardian breed; it will raise an enthusiastic alert when visitors come to their borders without being aggres- sive. Th ey are tasked with the tending of small and large livestock and are equally capable of driving flocks of sheep to and from mountain pastures, as well as man- aging herds of horses and cattle. Icelandic Sheepdogs in the ring should appear alert, confident and cheerful with a gentle expression. Upon initial exami- nation a friendly and curious dog should be observed, they have very mobile and expressive ears, it is not uncommon for a dog to greet the judge with a smile, laying their ears back and wagging their tail in greeting. A shy, anxious or aggres- sive dog is not typical of the breed; this temperament does not meet the standard and should be judged accordingly. Th ey are considered to be a breed slightly under medium sized with prick ears, curled tail, and rectangular body. Th e ideal Icelandic Sheepdog male is 18" and bitch 16 ½ ". When viewed from the side they should be rectangular, the length of the body when measured from the point of shoulder to the point of
buttock should be greater than the height at the top of the withers. Th e depth of chest should be equal to the length of foreleg. While there are no specified lim- its in terms of size, an Icelandic Sheepdog who is seen to be overly large or small in comparison to the ideal lacks type. Th ere should be a marked di ff erence in appear- ance between the sexes. Th e Icelandic Sheepdog’s head should appear to be an equal-sided triangle when viewed from the top or the side. Flat cheeks and a filled nose to the top of the ears make up two of the equal sides, and a line between the ears creates the third equal side. A common fault is a long narrow head with a flat looking stop and tall narrow ears. Th e skull should be somewhat domed and the stop clearly defined. A male should look masculine and a bitch feminine. Nose leather is black, except on choc- olate brown and some cream colored dogs where it is dark brown. Eyes are medium sized and dark brown in color, chocolate brown and some cream dogs will have a slightly lighter eye. Eye rims are to be black except in chocolate brown or some cream dogs are to be dark brown. Yellow or protruding eyes is considered to be a fault, blue eyes are not typical for the breed. Large or round eyes are not desir- able as well as narrow or inclined eyes. When examining the dog’s scissor bite, one or more missing P1 molars are a common fault; other missing molars are not as common and should be consid- ered when evaluating the dog. Th e ears should have rounded tips, be triangular in shape and be very mobile expressing their mood. Ears must be in harmony with the head and not be too large or small. Th e height of the ear should be equal to its base; the distance between the ears should match the width of the base of the ear when they are in the
“UPON INITIAL EXAMINATION A FRIENDLY AND CURIOUS DOG SHOULD BE OBSERVED, they have very mobile and expressive ears, it is not uncommon for a dog to greet the judge with a smile, laying their ears back and wagging their tail in greeting.”
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