Norwegian dogs were born with a purpose. They were bred to be hunting dogs, herding dogs and farm dogs. All the dogs are medium size but many had large jobs such as hunting moose or bear. Some came with the settlers and Vikings to Norway while others were developed from the 1800s. However, as man ‘progressed’, the need for the dogs declined, so many breeds have suffered and nearly all are on the verge of extinction. These are they that are left:
The Dunker was created by Captain Wilhelm Conrad Dunker in the early 1800s. This dog was bred to hunt hares. It has always struggled with popularity and there has been a large amount of inbreeding that has made the dog less attractive, even though it is a very good looking dog. The Dunker has come close to extinction a couple of times last century. In the late 1980s efforts were made to preserve the dog using a sperm bank and a strict selection of breeding lines to ensure genetic variation and health. The dog has very strong paws for digging in snow and ice and bred to handle the cold winters of Norway. It has a good temperament, trusting and social. This dog is still rare, even in Norway.
The Norwegian Moose Hound is popular in Norway, especially as a hunting dog. They are from the Spitz family and come in two varieties – grey and black, grey being more favoured. The dogs hunt moose, of course, other large game and also bears. They have been around since the mid 1800s in Norway and Sweden but during the 1950s the black hund nearly became extinct. The Norsk elghund are still used today to hunt moose and other game. The dog’s temperament is quite willful but they love to be with the family.
The attorney Hans Fredrik Hygen was the creator of the Hygen breed. He started by breeding the local dogs in Ringerike and then with the local dogs in Hygen Romerike in the early 1830s. They were bred as hunting dogs, however, some lines became aggressive. In the 1970s the breed was saved from extinction. To strengthen its genetics the dog was crossed with the Finnish Hamilton blood hounds in 2000, 2002 and 2006. The breed isn’t out of the doghouse yet as only 27 to 44 pups are registered each year.
This dog dates back to the first settlers of Norway – the Vikings! It is from the Spitz family and originally was a herding dog, often taking on the role as a livestock guardian. At one time it was considered that every farm in Norway had a Buhund. Like the other Norwegian breeds, their popularity fell, mainly due to the increase of imported dogs. The dogs can be energetic and loves the family, but it is said that a quiet and affectionate Buhund is a happy dog.
This dog has six toes to help it to climb the rocky coastlines hunting puffins. The Lundehund can be found in writings over 400 years old. The dog survived in small coastal towns but during WWII the breed was nearly wiped out by influenza. A lady called Eleanor Christie took great interest in reviving the breed and made a couple of attempts to rejuvenate the stock. Along with a couple of other breeders, over ten years, she was able to produce a healthy litter to kick-start the breed. The dog has some interesting physical characteristics. It can tilt its head back to almost rest on its back, its outer ears can be folded back to protect the inner ear, its front legs can stretch straight out to the side which is great for climbing, and not to mention the six toes on each paw. However, this dog is still on the verge of extinction, largely due to lack of need (puffins are now protected and that there are much more cuddlier dogs out there). The dog also suffers from deformities and hereditary diseases. The Lundehund is one of the rarest dog breeds in the world and is in great need of development. The Norwegian Lundehund club and the sperm bank are looking for people interested in breeding this dog out of extinction.
The Lundehund probably originates from an older dog breed known as the Varanger, which, through archaeological findings, is the oldest domesticated dog in Norway dating back 7000 years to the Stone Age. The Varanger was a descendant from another ancient dog called Torvhund (peatmoss dog) which is also documented through archaeological findings.
This type of blood hound is a hunting and family dog. It was developed in Halden by crossing an English Foxhound and a local ‘beagle’ at the end of the 1800s. The interest in this dog has yoyoed and as a result has always had a small breeding base. Inbreeding is a problem as well as hereditary diseases. This dog is friendly, easy to train and a good family dog.
Unfortunately Norwegian dogs have had their day, peeking during the agricultural boom in Norway. There has been established a sperm bank for all the Norwegian dog breeds. The purpose is to provide genetic material for emergencies or when “fresh” genes need to be inserted into a breeding stock. However, it is evident that for most of the Norwegian breeds they need to have a new purpose to survive. Hunting will certainly not give them a future but maybe their nature can be curved into being an appropriate livestock guarding breed – an old farming technique that is trying to establish itself in Norway.