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Herding  Article : 

by Linda Rorem (this article originally appeared in The Shepherd's Dogge magazine)

The Norwegian Buhund or "Norsk Buhund," a herding dog of the spitz group, is the farm dog of Norway. "Bu" in Norwegian means homestead or the mountain hut lived in by shepherds at the summer pastures, and "hund" of course means dog. Buhunds taken along by the Vikings on their travels and colonizing journeys over 1,000 years ago were the ancestors of the Iceland Dog and influenced the collie breeds.

The written standard for the breed states: "The Norwegian Buhund is a typical spitz dog of middle size, lightly built, with a short, compact body, fairly smooth-lying coat, erect, pointed ears, tail carried curled over the back, and with a courageous, energetic character." The thick coat is short and smooth on face and lower legs, longer on the neck and chest. The tail is tightly curled, even double curled. Buhunds often are born with double dewclaws on the rear legs; the dewclaws are left on in Norway but usually removed in Britain (Canada) and the U.S. Colors listed are: "Wheaten (biscuit) -- Ranging from light to yellowish red, with or without dark tipped hairs; mask permitted but should otherwise be self-colored. Black -- preferably self-colored, but white blaze, white markings on chest, narrow ring on neck and white on legs are permissible." The lighter shades of wheaten were preferred as being more visible against trees and rocks, particularly in the western coastal areas where rain and fog are frequent. Darker colors sometimes were preferred in snowy inland mountain areas. The dogs from the rainy western coasts of Norway are said to have been particularly influential in the Buhund's development as a modern show breed.

The Buhund ranges in size from 16 to 17-l/2 inches for females, 17 - 18-l/2 inches for males, with weights of 26-1/2 to 35-l/2 pounds for females, 31 to 40 pounds for males. In overall appearance the Buhund should be well balanced and without exaggeration. Like most kennel club recognized breeds, the Buhund has gradually taken on a more standardized appearance compared to its earlier, more varied appearance. Originally wolf sable colors also were seen, as well as longer coats and more loosely curled tails, but these are now considered faults by show breeders.

 

The Buhund is still used as a general-purpose farm dog in Norway, herding livestock and guarding property. Other activities in which Buhunds now take part include conformation shows and obedience and agility competitions. Buhunds have been trained as hearing dogs, and one dog in England was taken through the training course at the RAF Police Dog training school, where it performed protection work (only lack of size made it unsuitable for this in a practical situation) and tracking.

"In the spring the sheep are driven onto the mountains and looked after by just a handful of shepherds and their dogs. In the autumn when it is time to bring them down to the lower pastures all of the owners with their Buhunds congregate at a given point. They then send the dogs up the mountains (the dogs now work on their own initiative), to gather in and drive the sheep down to the large open space set aside. Time and again the dogs will go out and bring in, sometimes just one or two, sometimes twenty or thirty, sheep at a time. Now you can imagine, conditions are not conducive to sheep spotting; outcrops of rock, fallen boulders and hard springy gorse all combine to hide the sheep from the dog. So what does the dog do? He barks. This disturbs the sheep so that they move and are therefore very easily spotted and rounded up. During shearing the Buhund can and does work in the same way as the Kelpie. He walks over the backs of the sheep ... The Buhund also guards his flock. When brought down from the mountain, the sheep are not enclosed by fences, it is up to the Buhund to ensure than no sheep get out (day and night) and more importantly no marauders get into the flock. This guarding instinct can be very strong."

This account accords with the kind of work done by the "huntaway" dog of the Scottish Highlands, as well as with the work done by the herding dogs of Iceland and other northern islands settled by the Vikings. Buhunds introduced to livestock in the U.S. show the typical free-moving working style of the loose-eyed, upright breeds. They have a natural tendency to circle and gather, fetching the sheep when the handler gives ground, turning back any individual animal that tries to leave the group.

When dog showing began in Norway, the Buhund at first was overlooked as being something of a utilitarian animal. The breed was first entered in agricultural shows in 1913, then the first Buhund shows were held in the 1920's. A breed club was established in 1939 and rapid progress was made. After World War II, Buhunds were brought into England. The Buhund has since become established in other European countries and in Australia and North America.

In the United States, the Norwegian Buhund Club of America was formed in 1983. The NBCA held its first National Specialty show in 1990 in Roanoke, Virginia. Performance activities were given early attention, and obedience, agility, and herding instinct tests have been regular features of the subsequent National Specialties. Breeders have demonstrated a commendably strong interest in promoting the versatility and wide range of talents of the Norwegian Buhund.

Information about the Norwegian Buhund is available from the
NBCA,  (618) 377-3714.

 

 

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Linda Wendelboe
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