Information about the Icelandic Sheepdog

The Icelandic sheepdog is a breed of dog of spitz type originating from the dogs brought to Iceland by the Vikings. It is of similar type to the Norwegian Buhund and to the ancestor of the modern Shetland sheepdog and Welsh corgi. They are still commonly used to herd sheep in the Icelandic countryside.

These are the current breed standards:

  • Neck: moderately long, muscular, arched, carried high.
  • Back: level, muscular, strong.
  • Chest: long, deep, well sprung; reaches its forearm
  • Belly: only a slight tuck upwards.
  • Tail: high-set, curled, touching back.
  • Forequarters: straight, parallel, strong forelegs.
  • Forefeet: oval-shaped toes, arched, tight, with well-developed pads.
  • Shoulders: oblique, muscular.
  • Hind legs: one or often two dew claws on each leg.
  • Gait: displays endurance and agility, driving action, covers ground effortlessly.
  • Head: strongly built, close-fitting skin, skull slightly longer than muzzle making it look triangular from side or above.
  • Nose: black, or dark brown in lighter-color breeds.
  • Muzzle: nasal bridge straight, slightly shorter than skull, tapers evenly towards nose to form triangle.
  • Lips: black, close-fitting. sometimes partially pink
  • Bite: scissor.
  • Cheeks: flat.
  • Eyes: medium, almond-shaped, brown, eye-rims are black.
  • Ears: erect, medium in size, triangular, very mobile as they move in sensitivity with dog’s moods. very sensitive with hearing
  • Height: male: 46 cm female: 42 cm
  • Color: tan, reddish-brown, chocolate, grey, black, with white as a required prominent color.
  • Appearance from side: rectangular, length from shoulder to base of tail is greater than height at withers.
  • Depth of chest: equal to length of foreleg.
  • Coat: two types: long and short, both thick and waterproof.

Icelandic sheepdogs are tough and energetic. Hardy and agile, they are extremely useful for herding and driving livestock or finding lost sheep. However, the dogs are not known for hunting. Icelandic sheepdogs are very alert and will always give visitors an enthusiastic welcome, without being aggressive. Friendly and cheerful, the Icelandic sheepdog is inquisitive, playful and unafraid. They generally get along well with children, as well as other pets.

Icelandic Sheepdogs can compete in dog agility trials, obedience, Rally obedience, showmanship, flyball, tracking, and herding events. Herding instincts and trainability can be measured at noncompetitive herding tests. Icelandic Sheepdogs that exhibit basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in herding trials.

The Icelandic sheepdog very much resembles dogs found in graves in Denmark and Sweden from about 8000 B.C. Dog imports to Iceland were limited and from 1901 even forbidden.

Plague and canine distemper destroyed over 75% of the breed in the late 19th century, leading to a ban on the importation of dogs to Iceland. The purebred Icelandic sheepdog was again bordering extinction in the late 20th century and in 1969 the Icelandic Dog Breeder Association (HRFÍ) was established to preserve the breed, among other aims.

The Icelandic sheepdog gained AKC recognition in June 2010, alongside the Leonberger and the Cane Corso.