The Norwegian Buhund (pronounced BOO-hoond) sometimes referred to as the Norwegian Sheepdog, originated on the rainy west coastland of Norway where they were used primarily to herd sheep, guard farms, and hunt bear and wolf. Today the Norwegian Buhund performs basically the same duties in western coastal areas of Norway. The name Buhund is a combination of “bu”, meaning farm, homestead, or mountain hut where shepherds lived while tending flock for the summer, and “hund”, which means hound or dog.
The Norwegian Buhund is one of the oldest Nordic breeds and a Spitz-type sheepherding dog, notable for its prick ears and tail that curl across its back. Nordic Spitz-type breeds are thought to be the most closely related to the Arctic wolf. These ancient ancestors to the modern-day Norwegian Buhund were used throughout Scandinavia dating back to the time of the Maglemose Culture in Denmark of 6000 B.C.
Even prior to the Viking Era, Scandinavians believing dogs were guardian of the underworld, commonly buried them alongside their owners to guide the deceased person into the afterlife; such as those found in the Vendel graves in Sweden. In her 2004 publication "Dogs in graves – a question of symbolism?" author Anne-Sofi Graslunds, provides a detailed description of the practice:
"A good example of a high status burial from the Vendel Period (c. 550-750/800 AD) is a cremation grave situated in a large mound, Rickeby in Vallentuna parish north of Stockholm, dated to the 7th century AD. The dead warrior, 40-50 years old, was buried with fine weapons, a dice inscribed with runes, one horse, four dogs, some birds of prey and, as meat, parts of pigs, sheep and cow. The four dogs belonged to at least three different types: one dog normally built with a height at withers of c. 40 cms, two rather big slender-limbed dogs, c. 55-65 cms height at withers and one dog, big and coarse-limbed, c. 65-70 cms height at withers. The osteologist’s conclusion is that these dogs must have had different functions in their lifetime."
This above is illustrative of the period and the custom of those during the time of the Vikings, to bury the deceased’s most cherished possessions and supplies with them for use in the afterlife. The Buhunds, highly regarded for their role as protectors of the farm and livestock herders in this life were expected to carry on their duties in the “next” one as well. As unfortunate as the practice was for the Buhund, it has allowed archeologists to trace the breed and its migration.
An early companion to man Norwegian Buhunds traveled both on land and see with their Viking masters with the earliest evidence of their existence tracing back to 900 A.D. in Gokstad, Norway. The site of a Viking grave excavation in 1880, Gokstad provided the remains of six dog skeletons determined to be representative of the modern day Buhund. Archeological evidence in the form of dog skeletons in Viking graves also shows that by the latter part of the seventh century, the Vikings had brought Norwegian Buhunds to Scotland, Ireland, the Shetland Islands, Greenland, and the Isle of Man. In 874, Vikings and Scandinavians settled in Iceland and brought these herding dogs with them; the Icelandic Sheepdog and the Shetland Sheepdog are mostly likely descendants of the Norwegian Buhund.
Norway did and still does have the largest numbers of the breed, but in the early 1900s the number of Norwegian Buhunds began a rapid decline. In part, this decline was due to the importation of foreign breeds that outcompeted the Buhund. Another factor was the common perception that the native Norwegian breed was not show dog material, because it had for so long served strictly utilitarian purposes. Fortunately this situation was taken seriously and the Norwegian Kennel Klub (NKK) implemented systematic registrations, controlled breeding, and participation in dog shows, which increased both the popularity and the population of the Norwegian Buhund. These dog shows, held in conjunction with state-run sheep and goat exhibitions, were especially helpful in promoting the breed since many active Buhund breeders lived in the “sheep country” of Rogaland in southwestern Norway.
The first Norwegian Buhund dog show was initiated by John Saeland (Norway’s state-counsel) and held in Jaeren, Norway in 1920. The Norwegian Buhund Klub was founded in 1939; Toralf Raanaas was the club’s first president. John Saeland and Raanaas selected the best specimens for breed type and working ability; the first registered Buhund was named Flink. The establishment of the Norwegian Buhund as a viable purebred in Norway gathered momentum after the breed club was formed.
Currently, one hundred to one hundred fifty Norwegian Buhund puppies are registered annually by the NKK; their popularity continues to increase in their native country, although the numbers of Buhunds are still relatively low. In Norway, efforts are underway to ensure a large and viable population of not only the Norwegian Buhund, but also the six other native Norwegian dog breeds: the Black Norwegian Elkhound Black, Grey Norwegian Elkhound, Norwegian Lundehund, Halden Hound, Hygen Hound and Norwegian Hound (Dunker) through the establishment of a canine semen bank. The semen bank a joint project between the various breed clubs, the NKK, and the Norwegian Genetic Resource Centre aims to get semen deposits from ten different dogs per breed, to be stored for ten years. The semen could then be used in the event of a sudden crisis within a specific breed or if older genetic material is needed for breeding.
The Norwegian Buhund Club of the UK was formed in 1965. Since that date the Buhund has also established itself in other parts of Europe, Australia, and North America. It wasn’t until 1983 that The Norwegian Buhund Club of America (NBCA) was formed by Ava-Marie Ferstad Maroni, who was also the club’s first president.
When she decided to return to live in her native Norway in 1989, she turned the presidency over to Jan Barringer. Mrs. Barringer began her presidency by sending a questionnaire to all U.S. Buhund owners encouraging them to be more actively involved in the organization. In January, 2010, The Norwegian Buhund Club of America obtained full licensure to hold AKC shows and was confirmed as the AKC Parent Club.
The NBCA had existed for twenty-six years before it attained sanctioning by the AKC. During that time, the club held nineteen National Specialty Dog Shows. Finally, in November, 2010, the NBCA held its first ever AKC sanctioned Specialty Dog Show. On September 18th, 2011, the NBCA will host its Second Annual AKC Specialty in conjunction with the Licking River Kennel Club’s show in Lancaster, Ohio.
The Norwegian Buhund became eligible to participate fully in AKC Herding events in November, 2006. January1, 2007 the Buhund was approved to compete in the Miscellaneous Class of the AKC. In January, 2009 the breed was fully recognized by the AKC and assigned to the Herding Group. Until January 1, 2012, AKC registry for the Norwegian Buhund remains open. In the United States the Norwegian Buhund is still relatively unknown. In a 2010 AKC survey of breed popularity conducted in the United States, the Norwegian Buhund came in at a lowly 159th place out of 167 breeds.
Norwegian Buhunds are herding dogs and typically Spitz-like with their prick ears and curly tails. Slightly less than medium size with square builds, their heads are wedge-shaped; their tails curl tightly across their backs.
The Norwegian Buhund’s head should not be too heavy, but in proportion to his or her body. The wedge-shaped skull is almost flat and parallel with the bridge of the nose. The muzzle is the same length as the skull. Both the lips and nose of the dog are black; teeth meet in as scissors bite with complete dentition. The Buhund’s eys are dark—the darker the better—with black rims. Ears should be medium-sized with pointed tips; even though erect the ears should be very mobile. When Buhunds are relaxed or showing affection their ears naturally go back.
A Norwegian Buhund’s neck is medium length without any loose skin on the throat. Their tails are set high and carried over the center line of the back, curled tight. The Buhund’s coat is shorter on the head and the front of the legs and longer on the neck, chest, and back of thighs. The dog has a soft, dense under coat and a thick, hard outer coat that lies smoothly against its body. When in motion, the dog’s topline remains level.
The coloration of a Norwegian Buhund is either wheaten or black. If wheaten is the predominant coloring, the shades range from pale cream to bright orange, with as little white as possible. Hair tips may or may not be dark; a black mask is allowed. If the color is primarily black, bronzing and white should be at a minimum. White is permissible in the following locations and configurations: a narrow, white ring around the neck, a narrow blaze on the face, a small patch of white on the chest, and on the feet and tail-tip.
Male Buhunds should measure 17 to 18 ½ inches in height (from ground to highest point of withers) and females 16 to 17 ½ inches tall. Proportionally, Norwegian Buhunds’ height should equal their length, when measured from the breastbone to the rear projection of the upper thigh. The weight for male Buhunds ranges from 31 to 40 pounds; female Buhunds weigh from 26 to 35 pounds.
Norwegian Buhunds are self-confident, intelligent, lively, and alert. They are affectionate with people and make wonderful companions, as well as great watchdogs. Today they are used for assisting hearing impaired people and in certain types of police work, such as drug-sniffing tasks. They perform well in agility and obedience competitions. Because Norwegian Buhunds are Scandinavian dogs, they enjoy cold weather but aren’t as well adapted to hot temperatures. On hot days, your Buhund will not be too active, preferring to sleep in a cool, shaded area.
Buhunds are happiest in a home setting, because they are friendly, enjoy human company, and need to feel like a part of the family. Norwegian Buhunds are happy and playful and can remain so their entire lives. Still, Buhund puppies should be socialized from a few weeks of age in order to get used to normal household activities and to be at ease with all sizes and ages of family members, guests, and pets. Generally, they are good with children but, as with any dog, should not be left alone unsupervised with young ones, who may inadvertently hurt or scare them. Unlike most breeds the male Buhund tends to be more affectionate and loyal than the female of the breed. Female Buhunds are self-possessed, preferring their own company much of the time, while the male Buhund could be happy spending all of his time with you.
Norwegian Buhunds in their homeland are often found living on farms, where they enjoy a large outdoor area in which to roam. But a Buhund will do well even with a home with a small yard and possibly an apartment, as long as he or she gets plenty of exercise. Norwegian Buhunds love to fetch, retrieve, and swim. Bred to be energetic, working dogs, Buhunds are extremely athletic and highly energy animals. They do well with active families as they do require a lot of exercise. Once your dog is fully grown, he or she can handle as much exercise as you can give him. But your dog will also be happy with several short walks a day, provided you keep him or her mentally stimulated. The Norwegian Buhund is typical of pastoral breeds in that he or she is intelligent and gets bored if left alone or ignored for long periods of time. In such situations your Buhund may become destructive or bark continuously out of frustration. If no one is at home much of the day or you don’t have a lot of spare time to devote to a dog, the Norwegian Buhund is not the choice for you.
Norwegian Buhunds are the easiest of the Spitz-type dogs to train because they have an innate desire to please, coupled with the ability to learn quickly. However, they do require obedience training as all Spitz dogs are innately independent. The female Buhund is easier to train because she is less stubborn and more sensitive to reprimands than the male. The energy, strength, stamina, and intelligence this breed possesses, means that they require consistent training and exercise from the time they are puppies. The Buhunds’ sense of independence also means that, if treated unfairly or mistreated by their owners, they won’t continue to be obedient to them. Training should be in short intervals because they get tired of continuous repetition. If dog agility classes are available, they are a great choice for the Buhund because both you and your dog will enjoy them, as they incorporate both training and exercise.
Both the male and female Buhund has a strong guarding instinct. Do not be overly indulgent about this tendency; if allowed, your dog may claim an area of your home as exclusively his or her own. Even with firm, consistent training from puppyhood, your Buhund may try to dominate you, especially during their adolescence. Even though Norwegian Buhunds have a high tolerance for humans and other dogs, they are capable of attacking if put in a defensive position. Their warning bark serves as a deterrent to intruders.
For the sake of successful dog training and maintaing your sanity, it is better to get one Norwegian Buhund puppy at a time. If you want a second one, wait until the first is eighteen months of age. By then, your first dog should be fairly well trained and still young enough to enjoy playing with a new puppy without jealousy. Two puppies require about four times the amount of work as one, because they take the lead from each other, making it difficult to get them to pay attention to you. Training them together is virtually impossible; they are more interested in playing with each other than learning to obey you.
Norwegian Buhunds are generally not aggressive toward other canines, but they may take an instant dislike to another dog, even one from their own litter. Also, Buhunds tend to herd other dogs, who may take offense at this behavior. The common belief that two males together will fight though, is not true, especially in the case of Buhunds; the males tend to be more peaceable than the females of the breed. The best combination of Buhunds to own is a male and female, one of them neutered. Regardless of the combination of dogs in your home, they will sort out their own pecking order and decide who is the leader among them. The key is to be sure you as the owner are the leader of the leader.
Because Buhunds still possess the instinct to work--in fact, some are still used to herd livestock on farms—they may chase other animals. If you live in an area with livestock, a farmer could decide your Buhund is a threat to his animals and shoot your dog. Some Norwegian Buhunds will hunt squirrels or other small creatures, but they generally get along with household pets if raised with and socialized with them as puppies.
Overall, the Norwegian Buhund is a low-maintenance dog. Buhunds are naturally clean, washing themselves like cats. Also, they lack the strong dog odor most breeds have. Their coats are smooth and don’t mat; most of the time a once a week brushing is enough. But they do shed heavily twice a year, in the fall and spring.
During these heavy shedding times, you need to brush your dog daily and vacuum your house twice a day. At the peak of your Buhund’s shedding, bathe him to loosen the dead coat more quickly; the sooner the old hair falls out, the sooner the new coat comes in.
Norwegian Buhunds are a hardy breed with few genetic health issues. Until 1985 it was thought they had no hereditary diseases, but it was found that Norwegian Buhunds are vulnerable to hereditary cataracts, although the breed is only minimally affected. However, a dog with small cataracts can produce puppies that are more seriously affected. As such no Buhund with cataracts should be bred. The Norwegian Buhund Klub is working to eliminate the condition altogether from the breed, but due to the small numbers of Buhunds, it will take a number of years to accomplish. In Buhunds, the condition is caused by a recessive gene, so no dog can be guaranteed free of the condition. But most Buhunds with cataracts tend to live normal lives without suffering any ill effects. Norwegian Buhunds generally live twelve to fifteen years.
Other possible health problems include: