Norwegian Buhund

Peter Richards
Peter Richards (BVSc, MRCVS)
 
Photo of adult Norwegian Buhund

Dogs have accompanied people in Norway for many centuries and were highly valued, especially by the Vikings. While other Norwegian breeds like the Norwegian Elkhound were used for hunting, the Buhund was a herding dog used to move sheep and other livestock. While they’re intelligent, training them can be a challenge as they often have their own ideas about what should be happening. However, this independence isn’t as accentuated as in other breeds, with Buhund displaying an inherent need to please their owners. They form strong bonds with their owners and prefer to accompany their owners in their daily activities. Buhund are a very active breed that require extensive outdoor exercise, but don’t think you can get away with letting them out in the garden. One of their characteristics is a loud bark, which they like to use frequently. This is a good trait for a guard dog, but your neighbours might not appreciate an unsupervised and bored Buhund next door. Instead, Buhund thrive on spending time with their owners on walks and other outdoor activities.

Buhund, like other Spitz-type dogs, have a wolf-like appearance and a heavy coat. While this keeps grooming simple, they will shed their coat twice a year, which could be a problem for those who like to keep their house dog-hair free. Although they are prone to a few inherited conditions, they have a long life expectancy of 13 to 15 years.

About & History

The exact history of the Buhund was never recorded. All we know is that Spitz-type dogs have been present in Norway for centuries, with canine remains found in Viking graves from 900 AD. Since useful and valuable possessions were buried with their owners, this gives an indication that dogs were highly prized in Viking society. Its thought they were buried with their owners so they could continue to help them in the afterlife. As with many breeds, the name can give us clues as to their history. Buhund is a composite derived from two Norwegian words, “bu” and “hund”. “Bu” can refer either to a mountain hut or livestock with “hund” translating as dog. It’s thought that the modern form of Buhund developed in the Rogaland region of southwestern Norway where they were used to guard farms and herd livestock from sheep to reindeer. They would accompany their owners and livestock to summer grazing grounds where they would stay in mountain huts until winter drove them back again.

The modern breed was largely created by a Buhund enthusiast called John Saeland in the 1920s. Saeland created a selective breeding program for which dogs were selected based on looks and working ability. Saeland also worked to promote the breed by holding Buhund shows alongside the popular state-run goat and sheep shows. Since then, the Buhund has spread over the world where they have fill various roles, such as service dogs for police and guide dogs for the hearing impaired. Outside of work, the Buhund is known as a good competitor in agility and obedience competitions.

Appearance

Norwegian Buhund Large Photo

The Buhund is a lightly built, medium-sized dog reaching an average height of 43 to 46cm and weight of 14 to 18kg. Females are slightly smaller averaging 44cm tall and weighing 12 to 16kg. The head is lean and sometimes described as wedge-shaped as it narrows towards the nose. They have black noses and dark brown eyes. The head is crowned with two upright, pointed ears. As you would expect of an active breed, their limbs are strong and lean. Another notable characteristic of the Buhund is the tail that curls and is carried over the back.

They have a double coat to keep them warm in the Norwegian winters. The outer coat is coarser but still smooth while the undercoat is soft and woolly. The main colour of the coat can be:

  • Wheaten
  • Red
  • Black
  • Wolf-sable

Markings in another colour are also common and a Buhund may have:

  • White on the chest or legs
  • A narrow ring around the neck
  • Black muzzle, ears and tail tip
  • A blaze on the forehead

Character & Temperament

The Norwegian Buhund is a cheerful dog with plenty of energy. They are intelligent and likely to think for themselves although the Buhund is perhaps the most amenable of the Spitz breeds. They enjoy human company and will get bored if left on their own for too long. Boredom can manifest in undesirable behaviours, such as destruction and excessive barking. They are an affectionate breed that form strong bonds with their owners. They can happily play with children but some supervision is recommended as Buhund are prone to jumping up and can be a bit boisterous.

In keeping with their working past, the Buhund retains a herding instinct. This may manifest in chasing behaviour, either of livestock, children or cars. They are vocal dogs and communicate with a variety of sounds. As guard dogs, they can be prone to excessive barking especially if left unaccompanied outside. While they will bark to alert you to strangers, a Buhund rarely bites or defends without provocation. Although they don’t bite, Buhund tend to be wary of strangers and will interact with them on their own terms.

Trainability

Photo of Norwegian Buhund puppy
Jon-Eric Melsæter / Flickr.com

Buhund are highly intelligent dogs who live to please their owners. Coupled with their high energy levels, this makes them suitable for activities, such as agility training. However, these characteristics don’t necessarily make the Buhund easy to train. They can be headstrong and independent, requiring some experience of training to properly master. Their use as police service dogs and guide dogs shows that under good direction they are capable of mastering complex tasks.

An important part of early training is socialisation. An adequately socialised Buhund will be better equipped to overcome their natural caution around strangers and in new situations. A good socialisation regime should aim to expose them to as many new people, dogs and places as possible.

Health

Buhund are healthy dogs with an average lifespan of 13 to 15 years. They are prone to the development of the following conditions:

  • Cataracts – Cataracts are opacities that form in the lens of the eye. They gradually progress causing reduced vision and may lead to blindness without surgical intervention. While there are many causes of cataracts the exact cause in the Buhund has not been identified, but appears to be heritable. The latest study of cataracts in the Buhund found a prevalence of 70% with an increasing probability of finding cataracts with increased age. The good news is that the cataracts rarely caused vision loss in affected Buhund.
  • Hip Dysplasia – Hip dysplasia is a progressive condition caused by poor conformation of the hip joint. The severity of the dysplasia varies between individuals and may only present mild symptoms however severe cases can cause pain and require surgery. Hip dysplasia will invariably cause arthritis in the joint, which can increase pain and decrease mobility. Hip scoring programs can be used to reduce the incidence of hip dysplasia in breeds so concerned future owners should ask the breeder if the parents have been hip scored.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Norwegian Buhund is an active breed that needs both physical and mental stimulation. In the absence of this, a bored Buhund can become noisy and destructive. Buhund need at least one to two hours of outdoor exercise a day with plenty of running around. They love to do interesting things so the same walk around nearby streets won’t be enough to keep them happy. Buhund make ideal hiking and running companions who can accompany an outdoor enthusiast on their expeditions.

Those who live in warmer climates should bear in mind that a Buhund can overheat under their coat so exercise should take place in the early morning and late evening.

Grooming

Norwegian Buhund shed their coat twice a year. Outside of shedding a weekly brush is enough to keep their coat in good condition. Once they start shedding, they’ll need daily brushing sessions to keep everything under control. You’ll also need to vacuum your house a lot. Aside from their coat, you should trim their nails when needed and check their ears every couple of weeks.

Dental care is also an important aspect of caring for any dog. Brushing teeth between two and three times a week is recommended to avoid the build up of plaque. Buhund don’t have any special bathing requirements but you should avoid bathing them more frequently than once a month.

Famous Norwegian Buhund

As far as we know, no Norwegian Buhund has reached stardom yet.

Cross-Breeds

There are no recognised Norwegian Buhund cross-breeds

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