The Lapponian Herder: Everything You Need to Know

Originating from the Scandinavian region, the Lapponian Herder is an old breed developed by the Sami people for herding reindeer. 

In this article, we will take a closer look at the Lapponian Herder and the breed’s history, physical traits, personality, and health issues. 

History and Origins of the Lapponian Herder

The Sami People and Their Reindeer Herding Dogs

The Lapponian Herder breed is deeply rooted in the history and culture of the Sami people, who have been living in northern Scandinavia for thousands of years, and have a unique way of life that revolves around reindeer herding and hunting.

The Samis relied heavily on their reindeer for survival, and they needed a dog breed that could help them with their daily activities. The Lapponian Herder breed was developed specifically for this purpose.

These dogs were trained to assist the Samis in herding and guarding their reindeer, as well as hunting small game. The Lapponian Herder has always been highly valued by the Samis, and they took great care to breed and train these dogs. 

Development of the Modern Lapponian Herder Breed

The Lapponian Herder breed was officially recognized by the Finnish Kennel Club in the 1950s. It was given the name “Lapinporokoira,” which means “Lapland Reindeer Dog.” The breed was later renamed “Lapponian Herder” in 1966.

Despite its long history and cultural significance, the Lapponian Herder breed remains relatively rare outside of its native country. The breed is not recognized by the AKC, but it is accepted into its Foundation Stock Service. 

Physical Characteristics and Appearance

The Lapponian Herder is a fascinating breed of dog that is known for its incredible physical characteristics and unique appearance. Let’s dive deeper into what makes this breed so special.

Size and Weight

The Lapponian Herder is a medium-sized dog breed. However, their size does not take away from their strength and endurance. Breed members typically weigh around 70 pounds and stand between 18 and 20 inches tall at the shoulders. 

Coat and Colors

The Lapponian Herder has a thick, double coat that protects it from the cold climate. The coat comes in three color options, including: 

  • Black
  • Gray
  • Liver

It’s worth noting that the Lapponian Herder’s coat requires regular grooming to keep it in good condition. Brushing the coat frequently will help prevent tangles and mats from forming. 

Distinctive Features

The Lapponian Herder has a muscular build and a broad head with round eyes and a bushy tail that curls over its back. Its appearance is striking, and the breed is easily recognizable.

However, what sets it apart from other breeds is its distinctive feature called ‘wolf-claws’ on its hind legs. The claws have an extra digit that helps the dog gain traction on slippery surfaces.

Temperament and Personality Traits

Working Dog Instincts

The Lapponian Herder is a hard-working dog breed that has a strong work ethic. It is intelligent, alert, and has a high energy level. It is loyal to its family and excels in activities such as obedience training, agility, and herding competitions.

Intelligence and Trainability

The Lapponian Herder is a highly intelligent breed, which makes it easy to train. Breed members are eager to please their owners and enjoy learning new tasks. Positive reinforcement techniques work best when training a Lapponian Herder.

Socialization and Interaction with Other Animals

The Lapponian Herder can be wary of strangers, but it is generally friendly with its family and people who it is familiar with. It gets along well with other dogs and pets, especially those that they have grown up with.

Health and Lifespan

Common Health Issues

Common health conditions in the Lapponian Herder include:

  • Hip & Elbow Dysplasia: Developmental malformations that affect the joints and cause pain, lameness, and mobility issues
  • Eye Problems: Breed members can develop eye issues such as cataracts, glaucoma, and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)
  • Skin Allergies: The breed is sensitive to common environmental allergens that cause itching, rashes, and other skin irritation

Preventative Care and Regular Checkups

To keep your Lapponian Herder healthy, ensure it receives a nutritious diet and daily exercise. Also, take the dog to regular veterinary checkups and stay up-to-date on vaccinations, dewormers, and flea & tick preventatives. 

Expected Lifespan

The Lapponian Herder has an average lifespan of 10 to 14 years, which is typical for a dog breed of its size. However, with proper care and attention, some Lapponian Herders have been known to live even longer. 


The Lapponian Herder is a fascinating breed that has a rich history of working with the Sami people in Scandinavia. The breed is energetic, affectionate, and playful with its family. 

Today, it remains a rare breed that is highly valued for its loyalty, intelligence, and work ethic. If you are looking for an unusual dog, the Lapponian Herder is an excellent choice.

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