Information about the Swedish Vallhund

The Swedish vallhund is a breed of dog. It is believed that the Swedish vallhund distinguished itself during the age of Vikings, more than 1,000 years ago. Known as the “Viking dog”, the vallhund were bred to herd cattle, catch vermin (such as rats), and guard the home. The vallhund were also referred to as “the little cattle dog of the Vikings

Height for these little dogs at withers : Males 33 cm. Females 31 cm. A variation of 1.5 cm above or below these heights is permitted. Weight : Between 9 – 14 kg or 19.8 – 30.8 pounds.” They should be strong for their size and have a muscular body. They are quite a substantial dog, with short legs.

The dog’s coat is generally of short to medium length, and harsh. The topcoat is close and tight and undercoat is soft and dense. The hair is short on the head and on the foreparts of the legs, while a little bit longer on the neck, chest and back parts of the hind legs. Colour vary from grey, greyish brown, greyish yellow or reddish brown with darker hairs on back, neck and sides of the body. Lighter hair in the same shade of colour as mentioned above can be seen on muzzle, throat, chest, belly, buttocks, feet and hocks. They have lighter markings on shoulders, also known as harness markings. Some dogs show white to a small extent as a narrow blaze, neckstop or slight necklace, as well as white markings on fore and hindlegs and on the chest.

This breed makes a great companion and can also be used for herding and ratting. They love human attention and are very devoted to their owners. They are a clownish type dog and can be a show-off at times. The Swedish vallhund is responsive and even-tempered with most people, but they can be wary of strangers and should be properly socialized and trained as a puppy as to avoid over-protective behavior as an adult. They will try to guard your home even if they are three sizes too small, so to say, for the job at hand. They are also known for heel nipping due to their inbuilt herding traits. This is a habit that can either be encouraged for working farm dogs or discouraged in companion pets.

The Vallhund 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. Vallhunds that exhibit basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in herding trials.

The Swedish Vallhund is a National Breed of Sweden. Thought to date back some 800 – 900 years there is believed to be a possible connection between the breed today and the Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Historian Cliff Hubbard, a foremost authority on Welsh dogs, believed that if they are related breeds then the Swedish Vallhund would have preceded the Pembroke Welsh Corgi. There is sufficient differences between the breeds to suggest they may not have a close connection. The uncertainty may be only settled definitively with future DNA testing. The Swedish name for the breed is Västgötaspets, which translated means ‘Spitz from Västergötland’.

In the early 1920’s one Karl Gustave Zetterstén a school teacher and well known Scottish Terrier breeder, took up a position at the local high school in Vara. Karl had noticed and was interested in the attractive, usually bobtailed little Svensk Vallhund at horse sales and the surrounding farmland district. These dogs were the invaluable working farm dogs that rounded cattle, and cleared the farm yard of vermin. These jaunty dogs had been relatively common right up until WWI. But over the next decade or two their numbers had rapidly declined and had all but disappeared. Fate though was about to intervene. Karl’s attention was caught one spring day in 1942 by an advert placed in a in Skarabårg newspaper. The advertisement had been placed by Count Björn von Rosen. Björn, a dog enthusiast and coincidentally a terrier judge, was looking for the little Svensk (Swedish) Vallhund. Having already been involved in the saving of several other Swedish breeds Björn had set his sights on the farm dogs he remembered from his boyhood days. As a child he had spent summers with a friend on their farm in Västergötland. The dogs were a very familiar sight. They were oft observed eagerly running ahead of the horse teams, following the farmers to market and noted at stock sales.

United by an advert, and a passion for dogs Björn and Karl were about to embark upon a rescue. While the world was in the grips of WWII, a search for what surviving dogs remained began in earnest. They toured around the Vara plains, up and down country lanes on bicycle scouring for surviving dogs. They found many crossbreeds and dogs with obvious Svensk Vallhund in their lineage. But hope of finding unmixed dogs was waning. Of historical interest, pertaining to the possible relationship with corgis, Count von Rosen noted that with their extensive search there were no known Pembroke Welsh Corgis in the Vara region.

The summer weeks passed in this endeavour, and then suddenly there she was. They had happened upon Topsy and she was found on Andersson’s farm. Topsy was described as a perfect, grey, bobtailed female. Later discovered, a male called Mopsen. While healthy, Mopsen only had one testicle. Not an ideal situation. But without a lot of choice and considering cryptorchid was not a disqualifying aspect at the time, Mopsen was to become the first recognised stud of the breed. And so with two more bitches, Lessi, and Vivi, the men started upon a breeding programme. It is believed that Mopsen sired a dog pup, Jerry265OTT,out of Lessi. Mopsen also sired a bitch pup, Tessan3999VV, out of Vivi. And Mopsen may have sired Borgalls Mopsan7871VV out of Topsy. Although this is uncertain as at the time she was found Topsy was an older bitch of 12 years. Also in the uncertainty is the belief that Vivi may be a daughter or granddaughter of Topsy, as both Vivi and Topsy came from the same owner, farmer Herman Johansson.

Björn von Rosen recognised early that Topsy was the best specimen of them all and began to write the first breed standard based on her qualities. This standard, along with photos of the other dogs was sent to the Swedish Kennel club. Credit must also be paid to the Swedish Kennel Club, they too were very keen to see the breed saved and recognised. So by that autumn a total of six initial dogs, along with their owners, traveled to a Göteborg dog show where the dogs were assessed by three judges. The first being Count von Rosen, also Colonel Bertil Burén, and Baron Carl Leuhusen. The gentlemen were of one mind that Topsy was indeed the ideal specimen. She was regarded as having a beautiful body, a strong head and perfect quality of hair/fur and the correct grey colour. All the initial dogs were grey. Although Karl-Gustaf Zetterstén managed to have the acceptable colors include brown, yellow and red-brown in the 1950’s. There was much determination to ensure that in ongoing breeding the dogs should still “look like grandfathers dog” and retain the ability to herd. The men also believed that a correct Swedish Vallhund’s coat was maintained as vital. The breed should always have half-long coat with undercoat. It should not be soft or open. After a year of exhibition shows the kennel club recognized the breed in 1943.

Björn von Rosen had been writing articles about the breed, published in Svenska Dagbladet, a major newspaper. This prompted a lot of public interest and demand. Karl Gustave Zetterstén, still breeding terriers and initially with no intention to breed Sewdus Vallhund established the kennel Borghälla. This was prompted by the Swedish Kennel club continually referring puppy seekers to him. Karl felt a duty to care for and continue the breed, Karl continued with the bicycling and the search for more dogs and managed to find a lovely bitch, Tyra. Tyra sported a white chest, and had a good length of leg. And her breeding was known back three generations (of dams). And her father was known as Nicke. Tyra was mated to Pelle, a Mopsen son out of Tessan. One very beautiful boy, Borghällas Ajo from the litter of five that resulted went on to become a very notable stud with his very straight forelegs, close fitting, short & hard grey coat. Karl also bred the ‘Borghällas Delila’, the very first Swedish Vallhund Champion.

Then in 1964, the Swedish Breed standard was revised and the name Västgötaspet was officially adopted acknowledging the region of Västgötaland were the rescue was initiated. The Swedish Vallhund is also known as the Swedish cattle dog, and Svensk Vallhund

The breed remains quite rare worldwide.