Category Archives: Spitz dogs

Icelandic Sheepdog: The Dog That Traveled with Vikings

Icelandic Alan LevineBy Linda Cole

The Icelandic Sheepdog is Iceland’s only native dog breed. A member of the Spitz family of dogs, this ancient breed traveled with the Vikings when they sailed from Norway and other Scandinavian countries to settle in new lands. Considered one of the oldest breeds, this primitive herding dog dates back to between 874 and 930 AD. They adapted so well to Iceland’s challenging environment and farming techniques, they were invaluable to farmers who used them to manage and move livestock.

The breed is known by other names such as the Iceland Spitz, Iceland Dog, Friaar Dog, the “dog of the Vikings,” or simply ISD. Legends tell the story of a loyal and noble dog that worked side by side with Icelandic farmers. The climate was harsh and the terrain difficult to traverse. The Icelandic Sheepdog, a crucial partner to those who worked the land, was a hard working and beloved companion of farmers.

Isolation from other dogs allowed the Icelandic Sheepdog to evolve over the centuries through natural selection and development by man. Well suited to work in and withstand the harsh Icelandic environment, these hardy dogs have changed little over the centuries. They were so respected and cherished by their owners, archaeologists have found many primitive grave sites of ISD indicating ancient farmers felt their dogs were worthy of being honored with a proper burial.

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What is a Spitz Dog?

Spitz PatiBy Langley Cornwell

Many years ago I rescued a dog that looked like a mix between a yellow Labrador retriever and a Samoyed. Her coat was longer than a Lab and she had a dense undercoat, especially around her neck and chest. In fact, she looked (and acted!) like she had a lovely mane.  Her ears were perky and triangular shaped and her tail was long and luscious, and curved over her back.

She was knock-down gorgeous. Out of all the dogs I’ve lived with, there’s never been another one that literally stopped traffic like this sweet pooch. Everyone we passed commented on her beauty and asked what type of dog she was. Upon learning that she came from an animal shelter, I was often told that she “had a lot of Spitz in her” or that she was a “Spitz type” dog.

At the time, I wasn’t clear on whether the term Spitz was an officially recognized dog breed, or if the designation was an umbrella term that referred to specific types of dogs. Turns out, Spitz is not an official dog breed. It’s more of an identifying term for a certain type of dog.
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