Icelandic Sheepdog

This breed has also been called the the Iceland Spitz, the Friaar Dog, or the Fiaarhundur. In addition to its main task of controlling the flocks of sheep, it has also been used for rounding up ponies.

This spitz-related breed once faced extinction, but was bred back to life by enthusiastic breeders and is now popular as a sheepdog and household pet.


Assumed that the Icelandic Sheepdog is a relative of the slightly larger Norwegian Buhund, which it closely resembles.

This ancient, northern dog was referred to in the Icelandic Sagas many years ago, and has been mentioned in the canine literature since the 16th century. Even Shakespeare makes a specific reference to the breed in Henry V. In 1744 visitors to the island remarked of these dogs that ‘they carry the tail upright and they have a small pointed muzzle’. Ten years later, Buffon provides the first image of the breed, his engraving showing a ordinary spitz dog with a thick black-and-white coat. So the type of this dog has clearly been fixed for centuries.

In the 19th century two adversities befell this breed. One was a heavy infestation of tapeworm, acquired from the sheep, that was passed on to the human population. The situation was so bad that at one time it was estimated that over two per cent of Icelanders were infected.

The working life of these dogs involved some heavy labour. In the autumn of each year they were especially active, because it was then that the sheep had to be brought down from the hills to the lower ground for the winter. Each dog knew every sheep in its flock individually and would travel for miles over rough ground to locate each one and bring it back to the shepherd.


The Icelandic Sheepdog has well-muscled limbs; a long tapering muzzle; a black nose. Its medium-length overcoat and profuse undercoat lying flat on the body are colored chestnut, fawn, gray, black mixed with some white, or all white. All colors are permissible — a golden-red with white markings is quite common.

The height at its withers is about 15-19 inches/38-48 cm. The breed has typical spitz features and a rectangular body, with either a long or short coat.


Intelligent, energetic, and gentle, it is a ravenous eater, favoring fish. An excellent sheepdog, guard dog, and companion, this breed gets along with all animals.

Care and Exercise

While the dense undercoat needs strong brushing, the long overcoat should be brushed and combed frequently to keep their thick fur under control.

The Icelandic Sheepdog is an athletic and energetic breed that requires vigorous exercise to keep him physically and mentally fit.


An eager learner and enthusiastic participant, the Icelandic Sheepdog responds well to training— especially if it challenges and exercises him.


Breed health concerns may include cataracts. Average life span is 11 to 14 years.


Delivery of the litters of three to six puppies is easy, and the strong puppies are calm, gentle, and no problem to raise. Their ears stand up at around six to eight weeks after birth. It is claimed, however, that this breed's character takes about 1 1/2 years to form, something to consider in order to avoid creating a nervous adult.

Gallery of Icelandic Sheepdog