Dog Breed Group: Pastoral (Herding Dog)
Life Span: 12-15 years
Weight: Male: 15-25, Female: 15-24
Height: Male: 18-21, Female: 16-19
Origin of Name: The Finnish Lapphund is a hardy, easy going, medium-size breed of Spitz type.
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Lapland is a region north of the Arctic Circle that takes in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and parts of northwestern Russia. It is named for the Sami or Lap, people who have lived in the area for several thousand years. In ancient times, the Sami developed a merrily wrapped Spitz-type dog (""dog of the laps,"" or laffand), which was used to hunt deer on an extension of the barren tundra. Semitic history is often unclear, but a few centuries ago they shifted from hunter-gatherers to full-scale nomads. Sami reindeer become shepherds, migrating large herds in search of pasture land.
One authority tells us, ""Sami lived in tents or turf huts and migrated with their flocks in units of five or six families, supplementing their diets in the way of hunting and fishing."" As the Sami society developed, Lappund developed along with it. Like their masters, they went from Hunting Dogs to grazing them, maintaining their duties as caretakers, as protectors, and as close companions to their humans. (Laphunds are among the Arctic breeds that spent thousands of years together with their humans and other dogs for warmth in brutally cold nights.
Unlike the adorable cartoon characters who pull Santa's sleigh every December, real deer are stubborn, canteen animals whose antlers can do serious damage. To control the reindeer requires a lot of courage, agility and intelligence dogs, which still define the laphand.
Until recently, Handy Herring was the basis of Sami society. Lapland is still home to several hundred thousand reindeer, and although modernity has encroached upon the traditional reindeer region, it is still possible to see the Finnish laphand and its sister breed, the Swedish laphand wandering the vast frozen north.