Finnish Spitz – Suomen pystykorva

Finnish Spitz are one of the group of small hunting Spitz breeds and as the name implies was first bred selectively in Finland. In that country, trapped among 60,000 lakes, the Finnish Spitz developed in its own way, as other varieties of the Spitz breeds developed in their particular isolated corners of the Northern Hemisphere.

Really A Gun Dog

In Finland the breed is called Suomen-pystykorva – which is something of a mouthful and which actually means ’Finnish prick-eared dog’. This was modified to ’Finsk Spets’ when the breed was first introduced to this country, and then later anglicised to ’Finnish Spitz’.

Although placed in the Hound Group in Britain, the Finnish Spitz is really a gun dog combining the specialised attributes of Setter, Pointer and Retriever and the Finns have used the Finnish Spitz for centuries for hunting. They are kept as guard dogs too as they can be very vocal if encouraged.

Today few Finnish Spitz are seen in the towns but plenty live in villages and isolated hamlets and farms. The working nature of the breed is emphasised by the fact that, like many breeds in Scandinavia, Finnish Spitz may not qualify for the title of Champion without a working or trials certificate.

Even clearer evidence is obtained if registrations are examined. Finnish Spitz are used primarily to hunt a large game-bird called the capercaillie, the numbers of which fluctuate over a period of years, so sometimes there are fewer available for hunting: during these lean years the number of registrations of Finnish Spitz drops quite sharply.

Follow Until the Bird Settles

The nature of the hunt with Finnish Spitz is distinctive. The dog is trained to range ahead of the hunter until it finds its quarry, which it will follow until the bird settles in a tree. The dog then attracts the bird’s attention by running backwards and forwards, swaying its tail.

The bird is lulled into a false sense of security by the movements of the dog which then begins to draw the hunter’s attention by barking, softly at first, but gradually getting louder, until it is a clear, ringing tone which carries an enormous distance.

The hunter approaches, any sound being drowned by the noise of the dog, until he is in a position to take an accurate shot at the bird. Should the bird move off before the hunter is in position, the dog will stop barking and begin to track again until the bird settles.

The method is similar to that used with the Elkhound and several similar Spitz breeds. In fact there are official barking competitions held in Scandinavia for the King of the Barkers.

Finnish Spitz have not only been used for hunting birds; they have also tackled elk and even bears – remarkable feats for dogs of this size.

Diluted With Blood From Other Breeds

As transport improved and people and dogs were able to move from one place to another more easily, the original Finnish Spitz type began to be diluted with blood from other breeds, simply because there was no one who saw any reason to prevent misalliances.

By 1880 they were practically extinct, but two Finnish foresters – Hugo Sandberg and Hugo Roos – realised the seriousness of the position and set about saving the breed. In 1890 – Hugo Sandberg wrote an article in a magazine called Sporten which drew attention to the particular and practical qualities of the Finnish Spitz as a hunting dog.

He wrote a carefully worded description on which the Breed Standard was eventually based, and urged the Finnish Kennel Club to take steps to preserve and encourage the national breed.

In 1892 the Finnish Kennel Club accepted the Suomenpystykorva for registration. Hugo Roos actively bred for thirty years and showed and judged for longer than that. He was largely responsible for gathering together the foundation dogs.

He pioneered the breed until the 1920’s. Finnish Spitz are now very well established in Finland so that nearly 2,000 are registered annually with the Finnish Kennel Club compared with a total of 637 between 1890 and 1930.

In 1920 Sir Edward Chichester visited Finland on a shooting and hunting expedition and was so attracted by the breed that he imported a brace to England followed later by an unrelated stud dog. I understand that there may have been one or two brought to Britain prior to this date but, as far as I am aware, they were neither shown nor bred from.

Enthusiastic Supporter

toveri finnish spitz

Lady Kitty Ritson, of the Tulchan affix, had also seen the breed in its homeland and was already enthusiastic.

With Mrs de la Poer Beresford (Whiteway), Lionel Taylor (Hello), Mrs & Miss Pink, later to become Mrs Pips (Sarumcote), and Mrs Moulton (Boydon), she organised the Finnish Spitz Club which was first registered with the Kennel Club in 1934 and also imported a number of dogs.

Incidentally, the aforementioned Lionel Taylor was the father of Mrs June Minns who still judges the breed and exhibited them until recently. Sir Edward himself was an enthusiastic supporter of the breed although circumstances did not allow him to become as deeply involved as he would have liked.

The dogs imported during the first few years established the breed, but the Second World War proved disastrous.

The quality of the dogs shown in 1946 and 1947 was very poor but with the importation of Mountjay Peter (later owned by Dorothy Rose of the Wildings affix) and Kiho Seivi by William Blackden (Mountjay), and the Swedish Friedstahills Saila by Miss Matthews (Timberland) and Dorothy Rose, the breed improved dramatically.

They were followed in 1959 by Tophunter Tommi and Tophunter Turre, imported by Shirley Simons and which were born in quarantine and later owned by Mrs Price, and Kiho Tipsa who was imported by Mrs Price.

With Una of Snowland (bred by Mrs A Westcott, by Friedstahill Saila out of Kingmak Japonica and later owned by Mrs Price), Tommi and Turre appeared in almost every pedigree of our top winning dogs until the early 1970’s.

Lähde: History of the Breed

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