Next Stop: Dogs Native to Europe

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Story at-a-glance -

  • Today’s stops on our round-the-globe look at native dogs include Sweden, Lithuania, Germany and Belgium
  • The Swedish Vallhund is believed to be an ancestor of the modern Welsh Corgi and the Lancashire Heeler
  • The Lithuanian Hound is a sleek, muscular descendant of the Bloodhound, among other hounds
  • The Keeshond is a very old breed native to Germany; his gentle temperament makes for a wonderful companion and watchdog
  • The Belgian Sheepdog comes in four varieties — the Groenendael, Laekenois, Tervuren and Malinois

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

On day two of our dogs-around-the-world week, we're taking a look at dogs native to Sweden, Lithuania, Germany and Belgium.

The Dogs of Sweden

Sweden is home to several dog breeds, many of which — as you might expect — have thick coats to protect against cold weather. Breeds native to Sweden include:

Dalbo (extinct)

Jämthund

Danish-Swedish Farmdog

Norrbottenspets

Drever

Schillerstövare

Hällefors Elkhound

Smaland Hound

Hamiltonstövare

Swedish Lapphund

And we can't forget the Swedish Vallhund, also known as the Västgötaspets and Swedish cow dog. Vallhund in English means herding dog, and the Swedish Vallhund was originally bred to drive and herd cows over 1,000 years ago.

It is an ancient, national dog breed of Sweden that dates back to the Viking settlement of England and is thought to have played a part in the development of the modern Welsh Corgi and the Lancashire Heeler. In 1942, the breed had a close call with extinction, but careful breeding and publicity saved the day.

Swedish vallhund

Male Swedish Vallhunds are about 12.5 inches tall at the withers; females are closer to 12 inches. These little dogs are strong, with long bodies, wedge-shaped heads and ears that stand at attention. They have wide variety of tail lengths, from no tail to full length. Despite the tail's appearance, it isn't docked — tail docking is illegal in Sweden.

The Swedish Vallhund is known to be an intelligent, alert and active dog who needs an active human to keep him busy with lots of exercise and dog sports.

Next Stop: Lithuania

The Lithuanian Hound, a rare, medium-sized hunting dog, is the only breed originating in Lithuania. These dogs are simultaneously heavy-boned and also muscular and sleek, and are thought to be descendants of Bloodhounds mixed with several other hounds. The breed has been traditionally used to hunt hare, fox and boar.

After World War II, there were only 78 Lithuanian Hounds remaining in the world, but the breed was saved from extinction. There were around 350 in existence in 1987, and around 150 by 1998 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The breed lost popularity due to a change in hunting habits in Lithuania from large to smaller game.

Dogs Native to Germany

Germany is the original home to almost 50 wonderful breeds, including dogs as diverse as the Boxer, Dachshund, Doberman Pinscher and the Pomeranian. Wikipedia has a full list here. What many people don't realize is that the Keeshond is also native to Germany. Originally called the German Spitz, or Wolfspitz, the breed name was officially changed in England in 1926, where it had been known as the Dutch Barge Dog.

keeshond

The Keeshond is a very old breed, and has always been bred as a companion and watchdog. In the 17th and 18th centuries, they were used as watchdogs on riverboats, farms and barges. The breed has never been used to hunt or as guard dogs, which may explain their gentle temperament.

The Keeshond bears a strong resemblance to her ancestor, the Samoyed. Her eyes are dark, and her ears are erect and set high on the head. The tail is carried over the back and the feet are catlike. The double coat stands away from the body and consists of a long, straight, harsh outer coat and a thick, downy undercoat. Keeshonds weigh between 33 and 44 pounds, and range in height from 16 to 19 inches.

Dogs Originating in Belgium

Breeds native to Belgium include:

Bichon Frise

Laekenois

Bloodhound

Malinois

Bouvier des Flandres

Schipperke

Griffon Bruxellois

Talbot

Groenendael

Tervuren

Another breed hailing from Belgium is the Belgian Shepherd, also known as the Belgian Sheepdog, a medium-to-large sized herding dog. Four types have been identified by various registries as separate breeds or varieties — the Groenendael, Laekenois, Tervuren and Malinois.

  • The Groenendael is fairly long-haired, with a double coat. Coat texture is stiff, tight and thick, and is typically solid black, though sometimes there are small white markings on the chest and toes.
groenendael
  • The Laekenois has a wiry, fawn-colored coat with intermingled white hairs.
Belgian shepherd laekenois
  • The Malinois is short-haired, tan to brown in color. There's a black mask and ears, and sometimes white markings on the toes and chest.
malinois
  • The Tervuren is similar in color to the Malinois, but may lean toward grey or sable. The double coat is long, sometimes with white markings on the toes and chest.
Belgian shepherd tervuren
+ Sources and References