Skip to content

Main picture: Gitta Ringwall with Smooth and Wire Fox Terrier puppies, around the 50’s

In 1932 Gitta Ringwall’s mother Ruth Löfgren replaced her old car. The deal included four wire fox terrier puppies and their mother, and one of these puppies, named “Lady Pearl”, stayed with the Ringwall family for future breeding.

Out of one of Lady Pearl’s litters, Gitta kept the first-born puppy, named Whonny Black Spot. This otherwise light-colored dog had one distinctive black spot on its back. Later Ringwall named her renowned kennel Black Spot after this dog.

18 year old Gitta Ringwall and Black Spot kennel origins photographed in 1942. From the left: White Lady, Whonny Black Spot (after which the kennel was named) and Lady Pearl.

The first Black Spot litter was born on September 2nd,1946. The following year Ringwall began grooming and showing her dogs in post-war Finland. Her dogs did not perform to the best of their potential at their first show in Helsingin Messuhalli, because they were not used to this new environment after previously only spending time at Ringwall’s yard. Practice paid off, however, and in 1948 Black Spot Winnipeg won the first of several hundreds of CACIBs for the kennel.

“I remember someone asking: ‘Have you seen Winnipeg’s crate? (…) Well, go see!’ And there was the CACIB on his crate. It was fantastic. (…) My dogs have won over 400 CACIBs but that first one is the most precious to me.” 

Kaija Unhola’s book: Koiraelämää – harrastamisen historiaa (2009, page 123).

Through adversities to champions

In the beginning of Gitta Ringwall’s dog show career an earthdog trial was necessary in order for a dog to receive a CACIB. These trials often took place in the countryside, making it difficult for Ringwall to attend them since she did not own a car. She even purchased a fox of her own to practice for these trials at home, but the fox, called Ready, got along so well with the other pets of the household that it became a pet too.

The real life Fox and Hound? Domesticated fox Ready and possibly the Swedish import beagle Stenus BGL Sibert (b. 1959).

Despite the demand of the trial result, Black Spot kennel produced over 100 champions while the kennel was operational. Ringwall’s dogs won the Vuoden Voittaja title every year from 1955 to 1964 and again in 1966, 1967 and 1971. The kennel garnered well over 400 CACIB titles. Amongst these victorious dogs were Ringwall’s breeding and dogs she had imported from countries such as the UK and Sweden. Some of these dogs were among the first representatives of their breeds in Finland. Ringwall was a central figure in introducing such breeds as beagles, welsh terriers and norwich terriers to Finland. In 1947 Ringwall was among the founding members of the Finnish Terrier Club (now The Finnish Terrier Organisation). She was also involved in the founding of The Finnish Beagle Club, Norwich and Norfolk Terrier Clubs and The Welsh Terrier Club of Finland.

In the course of her career as a breeder, Ringwall bred hundreds of litters from several different breeds. These breeds included welsh terriers, cocker spaniels, poodles, dalmatians, boxers and dachshunds. Her love for wire fox terriers in particular had its roots in her childhood, and she became involved with norwich terriers out of a desire to try a smaller and more manageable breed.

Finland’s first Norwich terriers, 1966. Puppies are Black Spot Mascot, Black Spot Littleman and Black Spot L’Esprite. Sitting down are Culswood Challenger, Interfields Hasty and Black Spot Candida. Candida lived to be 18 years old.

Health above all

Gitta Ringwall only chose dogs with healthy stock for breeding in order to minimize any structural problems in future generations. She kept one or more puppies to herself from each litter and bred her imported dogs with different bitches in order to see which lines worked the best when combined. Ringwall did not hesitate to mix even close family lines from time to time in order to bring out her dogs’ true breeding abilitiesBlack Spot dogs often lived long lives, and Ringwall herself attributed this in part to a diet made of porridge, meat and vegetables.

Ringwall had a principle of selling her puppies at a reasonable price – dogs were a hobby, after all. 

Ringwall’s breeding of dogs took place while she also worked full-time. Her sister Metha Johansson helped her take care of the dogs. In 1955 after the death of their mother, the sisters purchased a house in Kalliorinne, Espoo, and an empty hen house on the property was turned into a house for the dogs. In their “house” the dogs had chairs, beds and windows. They also had large, fenced yard where they could run. The sisters got up every morning at 5 to feed the dogs before leaving for work and repeated this process upon returning in the afternoon. Similarly to Gitta, Metha was also a dog lover, and often took care of her sister’s dogs while she was traveling for judging or other dog business.

Gitta Ringwall also received recognition for her work as a breeder: in 1979, she was among the first recipients of the Vuolasvirta award, which is awarded to exceptionally commendable breeders. Her work was also awarded with a Cross of Merit from the Order of the Lion of Finland in 1980, and the following year she received the second breeder plaque given by The Finnish Terrier Club, which is awarded for long-term, commendable breeding work.

“Be demanding in your breeding. You should always use dogs that are healthy in both personality and structure, because remember: character and structure flaws will be passed on sooner or later.” 

Main picture: Gitta Ringwall judging in Sweden, 1960’s.

Gitta Ringwall was given rights to judge in 1954. At first, she graduated to judge her own breed wire fox terriers, and eventually other terriers and other breeds, ending up as an all-rounder, a judge of all breeds. She was an active judge in Finland, other Nordic countries and all over Europe, and traveled to judge all the way in Australia and South Africa.

Judging on dogs’ terms

When judging, Gitta Ringwall always paid special attention to a healthy structure. She allowed the dogs plenty of time to move around the ring in order to bring out their structural properties.

“Healthy dogs become better and better when they move, but those with poor structures will tire quickly. Anatomy is best judged when a dog is allowed to move. Overall impression is of course the most important thing, but no dog with a poor structure can be good overall.”

Judging in Poland in 1989.

Ringwall also thought it important that a dog was presented properly: the leash should be kept loose enough so the dog would move freely, and its proper posture would emerge. As a judge, Ringwall was strict but fair. She recognized a judge’s responsibility and kept her focus on the dogs presented. At times it took courage to place a beginner higher than an established competitor, if the beginner was the clearer winner. Ringwall was also known for her gentle way of handling dogs, and she was always friendly and kind to their handlers as well.

“A judge should be kind and encouraging to dogs as well as their handlers. Dog people have different personalities like everyone else, and some handle losing better than others.”

A popular judge

Ringwall was a well-liked judge who spent nearly every weekend between May and September at dog shows. While she was traveling, her dogs were looked after by so called kennel girls, many of whom went on to become established and successful breeders themselves.

Judging in 1985.

Dog shows changed significantly over Ringwall’s 50-year career as a judge. The rules were changed many times and judging categories multiplied and became more diverse. Until the 1970’s a countryside dog show would have 200 dogs and The Finnish Kennel Club’s main show in Messuhalli would have 500-600 dogsThe number of participants has increased exponentially since then: at the beginning of Ringwall’s judging career, a judge could have 30 to 40 dogs to judge, and nowadays over 80 dogs per judge is not uncommon. Ringwall thought that the increased popularity of dog shows lessened a certain sense of familiarity among participants, and increased rivalries among breeders. She was also concerned that dog shows would become overly commercialized, which could, at worst, lead to puppy mills and an increase in unwanted and exaggerated structural features.

Skeleton of a dog (breed of dog is Pointer) is made by Saki Paatsama.

The Finnish Kennel Club has received an old Terra Cotta Dog of Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE) from Kari Järvinen. The tomb statue is representing a natural sized dog.

At the beginning of the 1950's Olli Korhonen was a pioneer in getting the Finnish reindeer herding dog to the pedigree book. In his trips to Lappland he saw dogs and published his observations in the Finnish Kennel Club's magazine. In 1954 Olli Korhonen met Eino Takkunen and the two started co-operation.

Korhonen carried out a survey to Lappish dog owners and asked what kind of charasteristics the Lapponian Herder should have. During the duo’s trips to Lappland Eino Takkunen filmed Lappish dogs to cinefilm. This video is one of the gems in the Finnish Kennel Club’s video archive.

Despite the horrors of the Lapland War (1944–1945), Lappish dogs weren’t completely destroyed. Immediately after the war, the Kennel Federation and Kennel Club of the time (before they merged to form the Finnish Kennel Club) began to chart the dogs of Finland, and people started recreating the Lappish breeds. The Kennel Club was originally Swedish-speaking, and it followed Sweden’s model as it gathered information about Lappish dogs. At that time, the objective was to create a uniform Lappish breed.

In Finland, the Lappish Herder received its breed standard in 1945, and it was recognized by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI, World Canine Organisation) the following year. These types of dogs are also known as Kukonharju Dogs. The reindeer dogs of the fell region were the ideal in breeding, but the original foundation stock were not Lappish working dogs. They were from Pello and the Savukoski area, not the fell region. Samoyed dogs and Karelian Bear Dogs, among others, are mentioned as ancestors of the breed. The breed standard was quite extensive, and it did not differentiate between long- or short-haired dogs. Kukonharju dogs are no longer in the ancestry of modern Finnish Lapphunds.

Matti Jomppanen of Menesjärvi with his last Lapponian Herder, Cahpe, in 1971. Photo: Esko Salkonen.

While the Kennel Club achieved the milestone of registering the Lappish Herder, the Kennel Federation continued developing a Finnish dog breed that was equipped to herd reindeer in Lapland. The Swedish Lapphund wasn’t suitable for working in the north because of its coat, and the Lappish Herder was also developing into something unlike the original Lappish herding dogs.

The preliminary development of the Lapponian Herder began in the 1950s, when dogs were charted and counted in Lapland. Chairman of the Kennel Federation at the time, Lieutenant General Olli Korhonen, was indispensable as he, for example, travelled through Lapland interviewing reindeer herdsmen. He found out that the herding dogs still in use were long-tailed and short-haired spitz of the Menesjärvi type.

In practice, there was only one registered breed of Lappish dogs in the 1950s, that constituted a very multiform native breed. These dogs were extremely varying in their colour, structure, and coat.

Much work was done in the 1960s to register and establish two different types of Lappish dog breeds. But a major setback struck in 1962, when the above-mentioned two significant kennel associations merged, and two different types of Lappish dogs were placed in the same register. The long-haired Kukonharju dogs from Southern Finland and the short-haired herding dogs found in Lapland during the charting endeavour in 1959–61, or the Menesjärvi dogs, could now officially breed together.

The Lapponian Herder receives its own breed standard in the 1960s

The problems were however noted quickly, and the registers were once again separated in 1966. The Menesjärvi dogs got their first breed standard in 1967 and were named Lapponian Herders. At the same time, the Lappish Herder’s name became the Lapphund. The Lapphund was a fairly square-proportioned dog type with a handsome, thick coat and a sociable, calm character. Because of its long coat, it wasn’t as good in snow as the Lapponian Herder, but as a companion and sports dog it was very popular right from the start.

The original breed standard was revised in the 1970s. In one decade, the Menesjärvi type (see info box) of the first breed standard had spread from Inari to Western Lapland. At the same time, focusing on appearance at the expense of working characteristics had become a problem. Many excellent reindeer dogs were left outside the official breed standard because of colour or conformation criteria.

The Lapponian Herder’s thick and wiry double coat protects it effectively from the cold and moisture. It can manage well even in deep snow. In Lapland, their coat is called ‘närpiäkarvainen’, which means somewhat short, bristly, yet glossy and water-proof, to differ from Lapphunds ‘rössökarvainen’, shaggy-haired coat.

A research project was undertaken in 1974 to try to get the breeding of the Lapponian Herder back on the right track. The study revealed that the young generation included alarmingly few genuine herding dogs, and the number of cross-breeds was rising. Good females were the hardest to find. To solve the problem, kennels were established where both sexes would be bred equally. Private families also took on the responsibility of raising females. They could easily be raised even outside the reindeer herding area.

From the right: Matti Kuivila, general Olli Korhonen and Juha Perttola.

Still in the 1970s, several different types of reindeer dogs that were valued by old-school reindeer herdsmen could be found in Lapland. The Menesjärvi type was only one of many. The situation was particularly good in North-Western Lapland, where the herding culture had prevailed, even over the snowmobile. The reason was that dogs were better at keeping reindeer on the right side of the border.

Even though the breeds had been separated, distinct differences weren’t always seen in their appearance, even in the 1970s. Coat length was a difficult characteristic because both long and short-haired dogs were born to both breeds, even within the same litter. That is why people started focusing more and more on the dogs’ proportions, limb structure (hock angle), and tail carriage in the 1980s.

A register is established for the long-haired Lappish dog in the 1970s

The 1970s were a significant decade for the development of the present-day Lapphund. In 1971, a register was established for the long-haired Lappish dog, the modern Finnish Lapphund. Modern dogs are descended from the Lappish dogs of this era. Breeding consulting for Lapphunds was begun in 1973, and in 1975 the Lapphund received a new breed standard.

An important point in the new standard was an arctic conformation. The standard size was now smaller than in the Kukonharju type, and the tail had to bend up onto the back when in motion. The Lapphund’s body was defined as slightly longer than its height, which gave them a strong general conformation. The head needed to have strong features and a short muzzle. Two of the first significant males of the new type were Kalikkakaula (‘Stick Neck’) and Lecibsin Torsti.

The coat of the Finnish Lapphund is thick and coarse, and enthusiasts like to call them ‘rössökarvainen’, or shaggy-haired (as near a translation as can be made of the colloquial word!)

The new standard demanded coat uniformity, although all colours were still permissible. The coat had to be thick and coarse to differentiate it from the shorter coat of the Lapponian Herder. The outer coat had to be long, coarse, and weather-proof. In addition, the Lappish dogs had different types of gaits.

The definition of the breed’s conformation has been established over the last 30 years, and breeding data has been gathered since the early 1980s. The Lapphund’s name became the Finnish Lapphund in 1993, and the present breed standard dates from 1996. It defines the Finnish Lapphund’s size as slightly smaller than the standard of 1975. In 1996, the Finnish Lapphund joined the PEVISA Program, which works to prevent hereditary defects and diseases, and nowadays, it is quite a healthy breed.


Elli and Matti Jomppanen lived in Menesjärvi of Inari in the 1960s, and the first breed standard of the Lapponian Herder in 1966 was based on their dogs. The family had a long history of breeding, and thanks to their quick and far-sighted action, the Lapponian Herder survived the Lapland War. Matti Jomppanen urged a group of reindeer keepers to stay on a remote fell with their dogs and reindeer while everyone else was evacuated. In this way, they saved the lives of some dogs. The Lapponian Herder’s first breed standard and its Menesjärvi tradition gave strict criteria for the dog’s appearance. It had to have a short, black coat with tan markings. This so-called four-eyed colouring meant that the dog had light-coloured spots above its eyes. One of the most significant Menesjärvi foundation males was Menes-Lappi. Many of the Menesjärvi characteristics are still clearly visible in today’s Lapponian Herders. For example, they are dark-coloured and fairly short-coated, and they have a narrow head and straight tail, and most often pricked ears.

Source: Dogs of Lapland – Cheerfully present (2012). Sanna Karppinen. Lappalaiskoirat ry, Kirjakaari, Jyväskylä.

Large-scale reindeer husbandry developed in the 1700s. At the same time, wild reindeer hunting declined. The turn of the 17th and the 18th century was a clear boundary marker between the hunting and the herding Lappish dogs. The hunting dog had to adapt to its new job as a reindeer herder.

During the 18th century, small-scale reindeer herding (Forest Sámi) developed in many places into year-round nomadic reindeer husbandry (Reindeer Sámi). Herds grew, and the workload increased. The number and value of dogs increased, because people could not cope with the work without their four-legged friends.

Sámi families started considering dogs as their most important assets. Good reindeer dogs cost a fortune, and a family’s wealth and status was measured by their number of both reindeer and dogs. Nowadays, year-round reindeer husbandry is most typical to Western and North-Western Lapland.

Many kinds of herding dogs

Already in the 1800s, the reindeer herding area extended all the way across Northern Scandinavia to the Kola Peninsula. Cultures, peoples, and livelihoods varied, but reindeer herding was the predominant way to bring food to the table. All the dogs in the reindeer herding area were arctic spitz, but their appearance and manner of herding could be quite different.

The most important task of the Lappish dogs was to help guard and transport large reindeer herds to different pasturelands, according to the season. The herding and guarding tasks were varied, and the dogs had to be brave, cooperative, and independent. They had to be able to work in the expansive fell landscape without their owner’s constant guidance.

When large herds were moved from place to place, the dogs of different herding cultures mixed together. In some places, herding by barking was emphasized; other ways elsewhere. The dogs were free to breed together, and the working dog stock of Lapland was dynamic and diversified. But they were not yet distinct breeds.

At that time, ‘dog name lists’ were published. The first mentions of Lappish herding dogs are from 1891.

The Sámi’s area inside Finland was expanded, and partially for this reason, organized national kennel activities were begun in the late 1800s. The first Finnish dog show was organized the following year, and Lappish dogs participated under the names Lapland’s Herding Dogs, Laplander Dogs, and Reindeer Dogs. The same dogs were sometimes even called Finnish Barking Bird Dogs, even though over time a whole new breed was created from bird dogs, the Finnish Spitz.

Although many groups in society were interested in the primitive dog breeds, no actual breeding was being done. The Lappish breeds were not differentiated, and the main focus was on developing the Finnish Spitz. General interest in the northern regions and wilderness brought hunters up north from Southern Finland, who brought with them their own hunting dogs, which cross-bred with the reindeer-herding dogs.

From the prime to war-time

By the end of the 19th century, wild reindeer and wild forest reindeer had virtually disappeared from Finland. The wild reindeer that survived all the hunting blended with the semi-domesticated reindeer, and the early 1900s are considered the golden age of reindeer husbandry. There were many kinds of dogs in Lapland, and their status was stable. Dogs eased people’s work load and made it possible to maintain larger herds. Dogs could control reindeer just as well in open terrain or snow as in dense birch forests or on a fell.

In Southern Finland, there were dogs called Lapland’s Spitz and Lapland’s Herding Dogs in the 1930s. Interest in our original, native herding dog breed increased, and Lappish dogs weren’t only used as reindeer herders: in the southern parts of the reindeer herding area, they drove stray reindeer out of farmers’ fields, gardens, and pastures for cattle. The reindeer herding dogs of the Fell Sámi in Enontekiö were considered the earliest dog type.

Swedish breeders registered their own Lapphund in the mid-1930s. Finnish kennel associations had the same objective, but they wanted to avoid the mistakes that the Swedes made. The Swedish Lapphund had very little to do with the traditional herding dogs of Northern Sweden. The breed had been created in the south, and it no longer met the requirements of a working dog.

The breeding objectives of Finnish kennels had not yet made a real influence before the Second World War broke out. The Lapland War, fought in the aftermath of WW2 (1944-1945), almost annihilated the Lappish dog population. Dogs weren’t allowed aboard the evacuation trains to Southern Finland, and people preferred shooting them to leaving them to be caught in the fighting. Original reindeer dogs survived only in remote villages far from the war.


The Forest Sámi made their living from hunting and small-scale reindeer herding. They herded their few reindeer mainly during winter, but in the summer, the animals were free to roam the family’s extensive pasturelands. Their reindeer were a source of milk and meat, and they used them as draught animals and decoys for hunting wild reindeer. Dogs were used for many tasks: hunting, guarding domestic animals, and herding reindeer in the winter. The Reindeer Sámi lived mainly from reindeer herding. Dogs were used year-round for herding reindeer, but the same dogs probably also guarded the home and participated in hunting. Their herds of reindeer were large, and they only kept a few tame ones at home as draught animals. The dogs of the Reindeer Sámi were like family members: they lived closely with their owners, ate the same food, and slept inside their goahtis (tepee-like portable abodes).

Source: Dogs of Lapland – Cheerfully present (2012). Lappalaiskoirat ry. Kirjakaari, Jyväskylä.
Main picture: Johan Tirén (1853-1911). Samepojke leker med sin hund. Year unknown.

The ancestors of the present-day Lappish dogs helped the northern people as they hunted, for example, wild reindeer, already 10,000 years ago, perhaps even earlier. In the north, dogs were used as herders of domestic animals, as tenacious draught animals, and as courageous guards to keep wild animals away from the homestead. The dogs, which were energetic, adaptable, and content with what little they had, were a lifeline in the demanding terrain and weather conditions.

Ancestors of the Lapponian Herder helped hunters

The oldest evidence of Lappish dog breeds has been dated in the Mesolithic period around 10,000 years ago. In that era, dogs were used for hunting wild reindeer and other wild game. The Sámi people inhabited a much broader area back then, and Sámi cultures are known to have existed as far south as near Lake Ladoga in Karelia.

Stepping 5000 years forward to the Bronze Age, there are signs of the development of agriculture in Finland. The Ice Age began to give way, and the Finnic people followed the withdrawing ice cap northward. They spread out to new areas, and new languages and sources of livelihood were born. The hunting culture was first displaced by agriculture in the west, near Oulu and Pello. People started farming and living in permanent abodes. They needed dogs to guard their domestic animals, homes, and grain stores.

While the Finnish settlers spread north and began farming, the Sámi still lived on wild reindeer hunting. Dogs were a big help. The Sámi rarely settled in one place, so their dwellings were temporary and light. It is likely that already at that time they tamed some reindeer for home use as, for example, strong draught animals.

Dogs were used to guard those reindeer and to help transport possessions and people.

Around the year 500, the Sámi hunting culture was influenced more and more by farming and trading. People travelled around more extensive areas, traded, and found new forms of livelihood They started hunting wild reindeer, not only for meat, but also for their fur. Dogs travelled freely along with humans and led a semi-wild life as village dogs.

An era significant for Lappish dogs was around the year 700, during the late Iron Age. At that time, Finns had already settled in Kainuu and Northern Ostrobothnia, and the Sámi who had previously inhabited those areas either withdrew or were assimilated with the newcomers. The Sámi who decided to leave travelled north and spread to their present-day living regions in Northern Scandinavia. Their dogs came into contact with those of the peoples around them.

Many nationalities lived in the north in those days, and people didn’t care about national borders the same way they do nowadays. The Sámi in different lands kept in contact with each other and with neighbouring peoples such as the Vikings. Domestic animals and dogs mixed freely between them. It is possible that present-day Lappish dogs have received influence from both eastern hunting and herding dogs, such as Laikas, and the Vikings’ sheepdogs.

The earliest pictures of Lappish dogs can be found in Knud Leem’s book Beskrivelse over Finnmarks lapper (Writings about the Lapps of Finnmark, 1767)

Reindeer husbandry developed side by side with hunting culture

After the Middle Ages, the church and state both developed a keen interest in the exotic, northern areas. Literary evidence of the Sámi culture can be found from the 16th century. The first references to reindeer herding and Lappish dogs can be found in Olaus Magnus’ book Pohjoisten kansojen historia (History of the Northern Peoples, 1555).

The Sámi hunting culture did not end abruptly. It lived on side by side with reindeer herding, giving the Sámi people their livelihood. More and more wild reindeer were tamed and used for pulling sleighs, carrying burdens, and as decoys in hunting wild forest reindeer. At the same time, dogs were needed for increasingly diverse tasks.

Reindeer husbandry probably developed first in Sweden and Norway before it spread to Finland. People had close interaction with people in neighbouring lands, and the likely spark for reindeer herding was probably in Norwegian sheep herding and the Finnish settlers’ cattle breeding.

In the 1600s, the Sámi hunting culture and the Finnish cattle breeding culture had already merged in many ways. The Sámi led a half-nomadic life, living from hunting and fishing, but they also kept domestic animals, which were herded by dogs. More permanent habitats meant that Lappish dogs were also needed to guard homes and food stores.

Court records from the 1600s state that the obligation to keep dogs on leashes did not apply to reindeer dogs. This clearly means that Lapponian Herders were the reindeer keepers’ fellow workers and enjoyed special status.

Lapponian Herders differed from the other village dogs by colour, too: they were black. The colour was significant in another way, too: a black dog was easily distinguished from wild predators such as wolves, which were light grey.

Reindeer husbandry grew in importance as a source of livelihood for many reasons, including the decrease in numbers of wild forest reindeer because of overhunting. There was a high demand for reindeer skin products, and in addition to the Sámi, the Finnish settlers also hunted wild reindeer. Reindeer were also an important source of meat. In the cold conditions of the northern areas, meat was an important source of nourishment, and its availability was secured by domesticating the wild reindeer. At the same time, people began to protect reindeer with fences and herding dogs.

Source: Dogs of Lapland – Cheerfully present (2012), Lappalaiskoirat ry, Kirjakaari, Jyväskylä.

A statue of a Lapponian Herder stands in the yard of the Sámi Museum Siida in Inari.

The history of the Finnish native dog breeds is closely connected to that of our national dog associations. Who else would further the cause of dogs with equal zeal to that of dog owners, breeders, and dog enthusiasts. From early on, The Finnish Kennel Club has worked towards preserving the native dog breeds. Later, a breed club for the Lappish breeds, the Finnish Lapphund Association, was established to continue this work.

From today’s perspective, it was extremely fortunate that two strong, national associations were behind the Lappish breeds: Suomen Kennelklubi, the Kennel Club, and Suomen Kennel-liitto, the Kennel Federation. The Kennel Club achieved results already in 1945 as it created the breed standard for the Lappish Herder. It was not yet the Finnish Lapphund, but an earlier type of dog. The Kennel Federation did its share by charting the dogs used for reindeer herding in Lapland.

A statue of a Finnish Lapphund stands in the yard of the Fell Lapland Nature Centre in Hetta, Enontekiö.

In 1962, the two major associations merged, which also marked the combining of their interests. The arrangement was meant to stabilize the status of the Finnish breeds and standardize the characteristics of Lappish dogs. The Lappish Herder and the short-haired reindeer dog were placed in the same register. However, the concept of one Lappish breed caused confusion among enthusiasts, breeders, and reindeer herders because of the clear differences between the dogs. The dog people wanted to divide the dogs into two different breeds, and four years later, in 1966, they succeeded.

The Finnish Lapphund Association was established in 1970. It was the first organization to exclusively promote the Lapphund. The Finnish Spitz Association’s Lapponian Herder division took care of the reindeer dogs. In 1991, the Finnish Lapphund Association changed its name to the Lapphund Club of Finland, and it became an official breed association in 1997. At the same time, the club’s operations expanded, and it also became the official representative of Lapponian Herders and Swedish Lapphunds in Finland.


Statues of both breeds were sculpted by the former Executive Director of the Finnish Kennel Club, Pekka Ketonen. The statue project's patron was Hannele Pokka, governor of the province of Lapland. A statue of a Lapponian Herder stands in the yard of the Sámi Museum Siida in Inari. It was revealed in September 2004. A statue of a Finnish Lapphund stands in the yard of the Fell Lapland Nature Centre in Hetta, Enontekiö. It was revealed in June 2007. The statue project was executed by the Finnish Kennel Club and the Lapphund Club of Finland.

Source: Dogs of Lapland – Cheerfully present (2012). Sanna Karppinen. The Lapphund Club of Finland. Kirjakaari, Jyväskylä.

Marjatta Visasalo with her Finnish Spitz Ari in 1955 in Viiala, in front of kennel Vuolasvirta. Picture © Marjatta Visasalo.

– The Finnish Spitz Ari and I are in the picture to the right. Ari was born in the famous kennel Vuolasvirta, owned by Finnish Spitz specialist Lauri Vuolasvirta. The picture is taken in Viiala (today a town called Akaa) in south-western Finland, where the kennel was located. You can see Vuolasvirta’s house in the back, the kennel building was in his garden, Marjatta Visasalo, 78, describes.

– This beautiful dog was given as a free gift for the signatory, as an act of neighbourliness. Another reason was the dog’s nose; it was not perfectly black, which is required from show dogs.

The dog Ari was a typical Finnish Spitz. He was to his coat and his exterior more beautiful than many of the so called show dogs. His coat was strong and thick, and he could bark at anything for hours. We did not go hunting with him, but he did join us in the forest when we went cross-country skiing for fun in the winter.

– The bond between the dog and the owner grew very strong because I had no siblings to play with. I often lured the dog upstairs into my bedroom against my parents’ will, although at that time the dog was supposed to live in his own house outside. I got to keep Ari for 5 years. One day he got loose and was hit by a car. I can still not understand how it could have happened – he always came back home, even if he had gone away for a while. Ari used to walk us when we went somewhere, and then he always returned home to guard the house.

– The Finnish Spitz is a lovely breed. There is no other dog just like it, Visasalo sighs.  

Lea Nordberg, the daughter of Marjatta Visasalo, came also in contact with dogs with the Finnish Spitz of her grandparents’ neighbour Lauri Vuolasvirta.

– My god mother had a Finnish Spitz called Turre. I got Turre’s puppy Tessa as a gift for my 10th birthday. I might have gone little too often to their garden to play with the kind and very child friendly Turre. I got to choose my own puppy from the litter. When I crouched down with the puppies, Tessa came running right into my lap. The choice was made, Nordberg reminisces.

Turre’s puppy Tessa and Lea Nordberg in 1973. Picture © Lea Nordberg.

 – My Tessa spent her whole life at my grandparent’s house, she lived there as ”my dog”. Tessa was beautiful, very wise and eager to learn new things. The funniest memory I have of her is when she barked up at the full moon during crispy winter nights without getting tired, Nordberg tells.

The main picture: Turre and Lea Nordberg in 1970. Picture © Lea Nordberg