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Finnish Lapphund Breed Description

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Breed Organization

Finnish Lapphund Club of America

Native Country

Other Names
Lapinkoira, Suomenlapinkoira, Lappies

Life Expectancy
Approximately 12-16 Years

Litter Size
Average 4-5 Puppies

Breed Group
AKC-Hearding Group

General Description

The Finnish Lapphund is a medium-sized, strongly-built dog. It has a profuse coat with pricked, highly mobile ears, distinctive markings and an elegant nose. Colors include black and cream, black and tan, white and gray, brown and white, brown and cream, as well as pure black, white and gray. The breed standard is 46 to 52 centimetres (18 to 20 in) at the withers for a male, and a slightly smaller 41 to 47 centimetres (16 to 19 in) for a female. However, some variation is allowed, since the breed standard states that the type is more important than the size. A typical male of 49 cm height normally weighs 17 to 19 kilograms (37 to 42 lb), but the breed has a weight range of 15 to 24 kilograms (33 to 53 lb), depending on the size of the dog.

The Lapphund has a profuse double coat, with a short, fluffy undercoat and a longer topcoat. The coat is water-resistant, as well as resistant to extreme cold. In Finland, only two dog breeds are legally allowed to be kenneled outdoors in winter: the Finnish Lapphund and the Lapponian Herder. The profuse hair around the head and neck give the distinct impression of a mane in most males. Although the coat is thick, it requires only a modest amount of maintenance. Weekly brushing is recommended throughout the year, except during shedding seasons, where a daily brush may be required.

A wide variety of colors and markings are found in Finnish Lapphunds. Any color is allowed in the breed standard, although a single color should predominate. One of the most common color combinations is black and tan: a predominantly black dog with tan legs and face. Any color combination is allowed as long as the primary color is dominant. Common colorations may include creme, black, red, brown, sable and wolf-sable.

Breed Standard

Head: Fairly short. Broad skull. Distinct stop. Slender, tapering muzzle. Tight lips.
Ears: Held erect and forward. Rather wide set.
Eyes: Fairly wide set. Dark color.
Body: Slightly longer than tall. Dry, strong neck. Deep chest. Belly is slightly tucked up. Straight, broad back.
Tail: Moderate length. Thick and carried curled loosely over the back.
Hair: Moderate length. Straight, rather stand-off and coarse. Dense, soft, thick undercoat.
Coat: Shades of gray-black, fawn with other color markings. Ideal is black with reddish nuances.
Size: Dog: 46 to 52 cm. (18-20.5 in).Bitch: 40 to 46 cm. (15.7-18 in).
Weight: Approx. 25 kg. (55 lb).


The breed has its origins as a reindeer herder of the Sami people. The Sami are an indigenous people residing in areas now divided between Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Russia. Traditionally, reindeer herding has been very important for the Sami people, and they are still involved in herding today. The Sami have used herding dogs for centuries, and these dogs were typically long in body, somewhat rectangular in shape, with long hair and a straight tail that would curl up over the back when the dog was moving. Finnish Lapphunds are the most similar to the long haired dogs developed by the Sami people in order to assist them with herding, often favored as winter herders for the reindeer.

Norwegians and Swedes were among the first to consider standardizing the dogs of Lapland prior to World War II. In the post war years, the dogs of Lapland were at serious risk due to distemper outbreak. Swedish Lapphund breeders today believe that their breed, and other Lapphund breeds, were in serious danger of extinction. A standard for the related Swedish Lapphund was adopted in 1944 in FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale), and the Finnish Lapphund standard soon followed.

In Finland, the first breed standards were set in 1945 by the Finnish Kennel Club, who called the breed the Lappish Herder, also known as Kukonharjunlainen. It is believed that these dogs were the result of a cross between the Karelian Bear Dog and the reindeer dogs, and had short hair. In the 1950s the Finnish Kennel Association created the first breed standard for the Lapponian herder. Acceptable colors for this breed were black, bear-brown and white.

In the 1960s, the various Finnish kennel associations were unified, and in 1966 the breeds were reassessed. This resulted in the formal definition of two breeds: the Lapponian herder with a shorter coat was defined in 1966, and the longer coated Finnish Lapphund was defined in 1967.

At about the same time, technology enabled changes in the lifestyle of the Sami herders. Previously, the longer-haired dogs were generally preferred for herding, but with the advent of snowmobiles, the preference started to change in favour of the shorter haired Lapponian Herder. However, popularity did not die for the longer-haired breed, which as of 2014 was ranked the sixth most popular companion animal in Finland.

The first American litter was born in 1988. In 1994, the breed was recognised by the United Kennel Club (UKC), the second largest kennel club in America, in the Northern Group. The breed was accepted into the AKC Miscellaneous Group on July 1, 2009 and became a fully recognized breed in the Herding Group on June 30, 2011. The Finnish Lapphund Club of America (FLCA) is the parent organization in the United States and was awarded parent club status on November 25, 2015, thus allowing it to hold licensed championship point events.

The breed was first introduced to the United Kingdom in 1989 and is represented by the Finnish Lapphund Club of Great Britain. It was introduced to Australia and Canada in 1995 and is accepted by the New Zealand Kennel Club and Canadian Kennel Club. In Canada, its parent club is the Finnish Lapphund Club of Canada.


The Finnish Lapphund is a very intelligent and active breed. Finnish Lapphunds take well to training due to their intelligence. Some owners and fanciers claim that "Lappies" even have the ability to think through actions first. Although small in number worldwide, a noticeable number of Finnish Lapphunds have excelled in activities such as obedience trials, agility, herding trials, and pet therapy.

The breed is friendly and alert, and makes a good watchdog, due to its tendency to bark at unfamiliar things. The breed was originally used to herd reindeer by droving, and barking helped distinguish it from wolves. Even when not herding, the Finnish Lapphund tends to bark for a good reason, and rarer cases of problem barking can normally be controlled by training.

The breed makes for an ideal outdoor companion. It is active, its coat is waterproof and it can endure cold very well; it will gladly accompany people on walking or running trips. A slight independent streak is common, though with training, Finnish Lapphunds can have excellent recall and obedience skills.

"Lappies" are an ideal choice for families with small children. The breed adapts well to family life, including being responsive to children. Finnish Lapphunds have a gentle nature with children, people with disabilities, and the elderly. This is a very friendly breed and it normally avoids, and flees from, any threatening situations. The breed is very curious, so some supervision is recommended.

The Finnish Lapphund needs space and plenty of exercise. Regular brushing is required.


The Finnish Lapphund can compete in dog agility trials, carting, mushing, obedience, rally obedience, showmanship, flyball, tracking, and herding events. Herding instincts and trainability can be measured at noncompetitive herding tests. Lapphunds exhibiting basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in herding trials.


The Finnish Lapphund is a naturally healthy breed, and typically lives 12–14 years, although dogs of 16–17 years are not uncommon in Finland.

Known medical issues include:

  • Generalised progressive retinal atrophy (GPRA) and hereditary cataracts. GPRA is a progressive eye disease that can cause permanent blindness in dogs. In the Finnish Lapphund, this tends to be late onset, but can typically appear between the ages of 1 and 8 years. GPRA is a genetic illness, and is transmitted via an autosomal recessive gene. A reliable genetic test for the prcd-form of GRPA has been developed by OptiGen, and breeders are increasingly testing breeding animals before deciding on suitable mating pairs. The Finnish Lapphund club of Great Britain adopted an ethical policy in 2006 that matings will only be allowed if the progeny can not be affected by GPRA. In 2001, 2.5% dogs of Finnish dogs were affected by PRA.
  • Some Lapphunds are affected by cataracts, with 3.4% of Finnish dogs affected. Cataracts can be caused by a number of factors, and the mode of inheritance is not yet well understood. Since the incidence in Finland is relatively high, the disease is considered to be hereditary. In the UK and USA the number of affected dogs is very small.
  • The ethical standard in most countries require the stud dogs to be hip-scored, but the incidence of hip dysplasia is low.

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