On this page I am planning to collect various articles - translated or my own -
about the Finnish Spitz. I hope you will enjoy and learn more about our
Maybe the first article should be about the history of the breed.
We all know that Hugo Rickhard Sandberg was the first promoter of the Finnish
Barking Bird Dog. He was also a keen and active advocator of sports. He was
particularily interested in skiing as sports. At the same time as he announced
the rescue of the native spitz dog he wrote a book about skiing called "Skiing
as Sports in Finland". Naturally on the cover there is pictured a young hunter
with a spitz dog. The facts and photos of this article are from various books
completed with my own impressions of those times. When pointing on the photo of
any dog you can read who he/she is.
EXCERPTS FROM THE HISTORY OF THE FINNISH BARKING BIRD DOG
Before the Finnish Kennel Club (Suomen Kennel Klubi, SKK) took the
responsibility to keep the studbook records, the Sporten magazine
(a Swedish-language magazine) collected records from the first known specimens
of the breed already in 1890. They did not use any numbers for them
and the dogs were identified only by name/owner and sometimes parents or the
place where they came from. Not all these dogs received the studbook numbers or
gained the breed status.
The first Finnish Kennel Club Show was held on 23
of May 1891 in Helsinki. That event gave prizes to five dogs four males
and one female. The second show, which was also called an International Show,
was held the next year on 13
of May 1892 also in Helsinki. This time there were classes for males, females,
pups and litters. The enthusiasm was big and a Specialty Show was held on the
same year of 1892 on 16
of December, this time in Oulu North Finland, a total of 93 dogs were
shown, but the jury of five gentlemen was not impressed. Only 14 were awarded.
In those first events dogs of various quality were introduced as
Finnish Barking Bird Dogs, but we can only find 17 males and females that
actually were taken to the studbook at that time.
The Finnish Kennel Club Studbook was opened in 1892 and rightly so the Finnish
Barking Bird Dogs received the first numbers in alphabetical order males
first and females second. All of the dogs included in the registry had been
shown and awarded.
Mostly the dogs were reddish, but there were also a few grey or even black dogs
taken to the studbook. And many of them had white on chest and legs, some up to
the elbows and of course a white tail tip. Hugo Richard Sandberg writes
in his article of the Finnish Bird Dog (Sporten 15.12.1890): When barking
the dog is a little way from the tree wagging his tail, which usually has a
white tail tip, and which together with the reddish colour of the dog interests
the bird very much. He also writes the first description standard
you could say of the dog already then. There he writes about the colour:
The best colour for the bird dog is yellowish red or reddish brown, which
colours are usual in several places. There are also black, wolfgrey and grey
specimens. The belly and under side of the tail is usually a little lighter and
the tail tip is generally white.
The first standard was verified already before the SKK's second show on 24
of March 1892. There the darker colours are not favored. The colour is
fox red. Belly and under side of the tail are a little lighter, tail tip
usually white, white chest and white feet are not considered a fault, black,
wolfgrey and other colours are not preferred.
The first dogs were of course of various conformations too. From the documents
one can find that Sandberg, also called Big-Sandberg/Iso-Samperi as
he was nearly 2 meters (6ft 8inc) tall, had probably seen good specimens that
had a longish body and maybe he himself preferred them. That type was called
foxy. One of the first registered
had a longish body and so did
Of course females are a bit longer in body than males. There was some
discussion about the body length during the first years, some were in favor of
the longer and some in favor for the shorter body.
Whom can we blame or thank for the fact that the
shorter coupled type won, when the standard was revised in 1897? That must have
been the younger of the Hugos Hugo Jonathan Roos. He had seen good dogs
on peasant Penna Tampio's farm 1892, and they were short coupled. Roos had
bought his first dog in 1890, Pilkka who was mated to
Virkku. He kept a female called Hilli, but he sold it
afterwards. There are no pics of these available. He waited two years to get a
dog from Penna Tampio. The pup was born in January of 1894 and was named
Halli of Tampio 690.
He was a prototype of a short-coupled type. Roos was very fond of Halli, and
it is only human to think that what I like best must be the best. Maybe Halli
was the reason why he preferred the shorter body type. The photo shows clearly
that Halli was not a very well angulated dog either, he was robust and deep
chested. His colour was quite light - reddish yellow, but we cannot distinguish
from the photo how much white he had. But he seems to have had a white tail
tip. He also had dewclaws on his back legs. But he was a good hunting dog and
sired some good pups too.
Besides Halli, Roos had bought a good bitch from Kuusamo named
which was born in 1892. There are no records concerning how many times Aili
was used in her early youth, but the most influental breeding took place in
1905. Some doubt from my behalf is Aili's age at that time 13 yrs
is it really possible that this was the same dog Roos had found and, which was
born in 1892? Or could there have been a youger Aili perhaps her
daughter, and the records have ignored that fact?
In December of 1904 (Oulu Dog Show) Roos had seen Kaarlo Castren's
(also known as Weikko, born probably 1901 and
full brother), who was Halli of Tampio's greatgrandson and he was fascinated
with his bright red colour. Roos mated his Aili with Veikko and chose two pups:
Lalli Veikonpoika 1307
Alli Veikontytär 1309
for future breeding. Both Veikko and Aili had white on chest and feet, Aili had
even a white muzzle and the pups Lalli and Alli were coloured as their parents.
The unfortunate thing was that Veikko had cow hocks, and he passed that fault
to his progeny.
Because available dogs for breeding were few, that unfortunate
fact was just what one had to live with. Roos's next step was that he mated
Ola 943, who was out of
and Kilmu 955 (Halli of Tampio's daughter) with Alli
Veikontytär and Siiri of Tampio 7/VIII was born. Siiri was then bred with
Lalli Veikonpoika and the pups had a COI of 13% contributed by Aili, Veikko and
Halli of Tampio. Thus Roos became the first breeder who used inbreeding to
accomplish faster results. Hugo Roos can be called the first influental breeder
of the Finnish Barking Bird Dog. His breedings made a core of todays breed that
we call the Finnish Spitz.
The problem of the breed was the hindquarters. It is written in various
comments from shows that many of them had weak and/or thin back legs. Strange
comment in one of the early show reports was: The back legs are weak and
too much bent at the knee. Why was the straighter knee preferred to the
more bent one? As I see it it could have been because of horses. The
stifle of the horse is not very prominent and it is situated quite high up as
the horse has a short thighbone (femur) and a longer shinbone (fibula/tibia)
and most men at that time were used to seeing horses, so they compared the
horse conformation to the dog conformation. The big struggle toward straight
knees, as the standard of 1897 says: Legs in proportion to the body, mid
length, strong and straight, stifle straight, dense and longhaired on back of
thighs, nearly ruined the dog. Curious thing is that the 1925 standard
does not mention legs or feet at all! Already in 1937 it was obvious that
breeding for straight legs had gone too far. S.E. Multamäki, a known
breeder (Hammon-kennel) and judge uses his wordly whip and writes:
Somehow we have gone forward. We have accomplished some refinement, but
the tools have worsened. Look at the back legs of our dogs. They
have become like sticks or canes, the hockjoints are simply unsound, also with
those dogs that have been awarded.
Let us return to the early years of 1900s. Veikko unfortunately had cow hocks.
To correct this fault Hugo Roos mated
a stud dog bought by the Finnish Kennel Club's Spitz Division
and Alli Veikontytär in 1911, to correct the back legs and
tail set. This was a successful breeding at it was repeated next year. One of
the progeny from this mating is
Siekki Lallinpoika 324 VIII (00324/0X),
who is behind many of todays Finnish Spitz, maybe most of them.
Nätti 1714/VII was born on 24
of March 1906, he was also light red but as one can see from the photo,
he wasn't very well angulated either. He stands with his legs under him, but
one can assume that he was not cow hocked.He seems to have quite long and flat
coat. In some aspects he resembles Halli of Tampio. Nätti had a very good
tail set, so all these could have been the reasons why Roos liked him. It could
not have been Nätti's bird hunting merits he had not shown very
good results in that respect as he had a passion to hunt squirrels. The
Spitz Division had placed Nätti first to Haapamäki, then to Nabbas,
and so forth. As his owners or keepers had not cared so much of
the dog he did not know what was expected of him. In 1912 Nätti
changed owners again. Now he at last at the age of 6yrs found
someone who cared for him. The new and fifth owner was Antti Tanttu. He taught
Nätti away from barking squirrels and he became a very good hunting dog in
his later years. Nätti was also shown and he was the first Finnish Spitz
ever to gain Championship in 1914.
Next time we will look into the history of hunting trials.
-Suomenpystykorva 100 vuotta - Tiististä kansalliskoiraksi (Finnish Spitz
100 years) - Suomenpystykorvajärjestö/Finnish Spitz Club
-Suomenpystykorva - Yrjö Ritvola