Icelandic Sheepdog

icelandic sheepdog

The Icelandic Sheepdog is – as the name suggests – used to herd sheep in Iceland.

History of Icelandic Sheepdog

With its ancestors brought to Iceland by the Vikings, the Icelandic Sheepdog (Íslenskur fjárhundur) is of similar type liker the Norwegian Buhund and the Welsh Corgi. It is Iceland’s only native breed.

Thanks to Sir Thomas Browne we known that the Icelandic Sheepdogs were being exported to Great Britain in 1650 and that they were quite popular by the English shepherds.

Also in its homeland the dogs were (and still are) indispensable livestock herders.

The breed faced near extinction in the 19th century due to the canine distemper and the plague. In late 20th century the breed was facing another decline despite the fact that the Icelandic Dog Breeder Association has been trying to preserve it since 1969.

Appearance, Temperament and Health

Appearance of Icelandic Sheepdog

Height: 46 cm/18 in (dogs), 42 cm/17 in (bitches)

Weight: 11-14 kg/25-30 lb

Sir Thomas Browne described the Icelandic Sheepdog as “a type of dog resembling a fox”. They are Nordic Spitz, sturdy, with triangular muzzle and erect ears. The rectangular body is robust but not excessively heavy with high-set and curled tail and typical dewclaws on the hind legs.

The length of the body from point of shoulder to point of buttock is greater than the height at withers.

The coat can be long or short, in both cases thick and weather-resistant. The color varieties include fawn, red, cream, brown, grey, black, with white as a required prominent color.

The dog’s gait should display the agility and endurance typical for this breed.

icelandic sheepdog


The Icelandic Sheepdog is energetic, agile and tough. The breed’s temperament was shaped by the hard conditions of Iceland which made it a true survivor. These dogs are not just excellent herders but also finders of lost sheep. They are also alert, friendly and playful. Typically, they are unafraid and inquisitive but never aggressive. They like children and get on well with other pets.

The Icelandic Sheepdogs need lots of activity, running is great for them. They also enjoy agility and obedience training and thanks to their playfulness they are great showmen. Of course, herding training is ideal for the Icelandic Sheepdog.


The average life expectancy of the breed is 12 – 16 years. The Icelandic Sheepdog is a very healthy breed and the dogs are not prone to any specific health conditions excessively.