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Icelandic sheepdog day today

18.07.2019 - 10:29
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 Mynd: Maggý R Þorvaldsdóttir Pease? - RÚV
Today is the fourth annual Dagur íslenska fjárhundsins (Day of the Icelandic Sheepdog) and will see the dogs honoured around the country, and around the world. The purpose of the day is to raise the profile of Iceland’s only dog breed and highlight its unique characteristics, high intelligence, and good personality. The Icelandic sheepdog almost completely died out in the 20th century.

British archaeologist Mark Watson, a prominent Icelandophile, is said to have had the biggest part in saving the breed and the annual celebration is therefore held on his birthday each year. He was born 113 years ago and died in 1979, aged 73. 

Other breeds, such as the Border Collie, had proven better (or easier) working dogs and there was almost no such thing as pet dogs in early 20th century Iceland. The breed nearly died out as a result of interbreeding. To this day, Icelandic/Border cross is a popular dog in Iceland.

Icelandic sheepdog owners around the world are called upon to celebrate today and everyone is welcome to a presentation on the breed that will take place at 14.00 this afternoon at Ábæjarsafn open-air museum in Reykjavík.  

The Icelandic Kennel Club, HRFÍ, is 50 this year and was initially established purely to support and promote the Icelandic sheepdog; though it has since expanded to all breeds of dog.  As a result, the theme of its annual photo competition this year is Icelandic sheepdogs with people aged 50 and over.

According to former head of HRFÍ Þórhildur Bjartmarz, Watson collected several Icelandic sheepdogs for breeding at his ranch in California to protect the purebred dogs from extinction. Only two bitches were left in Iceland at the time and they are believed to be the ancestors of all Icelandic sheepdogs alive today, she says. 

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Alexander Elliott
Project manager