There's something familiar about the Swedish vallhund. The handsome herding dog certainly resembles his corgi cousin, but there's also something relatively lupine about his appearance. That's why the breed is sometimes known as the "wolf corgi."
But there's so much more to this distinctive dog than his interesting good looks.
Here are lots of other fascinating facts about the ancient breed.
Viking dogs — It's believed that the Swedish vallhund comes from Sweden, naturally. According to the American Kennel Club, in Sweden it's believed that the breed dates back more than 1,000 years to the time of the Vikings. At that time, the breed was known as the Vikingamas Hund (Viking dog). Some time during the eighth or ninth century, the Swedish vallhund was brought to Wales or the Welsh corgi was taken to Sweden, which is why the breeds seem so similar.
Coming to America — Though the breed has been around for likely a century or so, it's a relative newcomer to the United States. Reportedly, the first two dogs were imported to California around 1985, but weren't bred. That's the same year, according to the AKC, a Rhode Islander of Swedish descent saw Swedish vallhunds while attending the Crufts dog show in England. She researched the breed, then brought two dogs home with her that summer. Two more soon followed and the first litter of Swedish vallhunds was whelped in the U.S. in September 1986.
In addition to Sweden and the U.S., the breed can now be found in the U.K., Finland, France, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Holland, Denmark and Switzerland.
Helpful herder — Like the corgi, the Swedish vallhund's build makes his herding job easier. Being low to the ground puts him in a good position to nip at cattle's heels. But at the same time, it keeps him safe from getting kicked in the head.
Vital stats — They're between 11 1/2 and 13 3/4 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 20 to 35 pounds. Their lifespan is 12 to 15 years.
Chatty canine — If you want a quiet canine companion, you may want to look elsewhere. The Swedish vallhund is quite talkative. In fact, the AKC says it is among the world's most vocal breeds, saying the dog's collection of barks, howls and yips has been described as "argle bargle," a phrase meaning, "copious but meaningless talk or writing; nonsense."
What's in a name — In addition to being nicknamed the wolf corgi, the Swedish vallhund is known as "the Västgötaspets" for Västergötland, the county in Sweden where it is thought to have originated. This dog is also sometimes known as a Swedish cattledog or a Swedish cowdog.
Fighting extinction — The breed nearly became extinct in the 1940s, but two men in Sweden formed a partnership to save the breed. Bjorn von Rosen and K.G. Zettersten searched the country for the best dogs they could find. One male dog named Mopsen and three females named Vivi, Lessi and Topsy became the foundation for their program, resurrecting the breed.
Jobs and fun — Still used as a herding dog in some places, the versatile Swedish vallhund also excels in agility, flyball, obedience and tracking. The breed is considered smart and easy to train.
Good looks — The breed has two recognized colors (gray and red) and "harness" markings, which are bands of color that run down the dog's sides from his shoulders. The Swedish vallhund can be born with no tail (called a bobtail), a stub tail or with a full, curl tail.
All in the family — Although the Swedish vallhund looks like a Pembroke or Welsh corgi, genetically they're not very closely related. Instead, the breed is actually a member of the spitz family. That puts him in the same family tree as the Norwegian elkhound, Alaskan malamute and Finnish spitz.
Lots of personality — The AKC calls these pups "zesty" companions, describing them as sociable, cheerful and alert. They're hardworking and fun loving. “They have a sense of humor and a real joy for life,” says one owner.
Are you a fan of all things Nordic? If so, join us at Nordic by Nature, a Facebook group dedicated to exploring the best of Nordic culture, nature and more.