I am sure most you have heard about Iceland in one way or another. It received global media attention in 2010 when an Icelandic volcano that joins the glacier Eyjafjallajˆkull erupted and not only did it disturb many international flights in Europe & North America but it was also a terrible time for the
farmers who lost many sheep in that area because of the toxic ash that covered the grass. All the local villages were covered in thick grey ash so they could not see out of their windows! But at least now we have some indication for when the next volcano might start…. probably sooner rather than later, as we are expecting a big eruption in the volcano in the Southeast of Iceland at the glacier Vatnajˆkull. So far itís active with smallish eruptions and all Icelanders are praying that there will not be a huge eruption as this can cause again serious problems for the airlines but most importnatly for the devastation and havoc it can cause for the people, animals and wildlife! Still Icelandic people think that the Volcano that erupted in Eyjafjallajˆkull in 2010 was one of best advertisements ever for Iceland as tourism has sky rocketed to record levels since tourists want to discover our very unique landscape! The main income now for Iceland comes from tourism which has taken over the number one spot from the fishing industry which has always been the main source of income before.
This might sound very strange to people but dogs were literally banned in the capital city of Reykjavik between 1924 and 1984. In the end the government needed to change this regulation due to the pressure from the public in Reykjavik who were against that law but a few people have already had dog/s but kept them very undercover. But itís only been a couple of years since dogs were allowed to walk around the cities main shopping street, Laugarvegur. The Icelandic society is still very far behind the other Nordic countries when it comes to dogs being accepted as part of the culture and community but slowly this is moving in the right direction. The problem is that so many people in Iceland used to think that dogs only belonged on farms and in the country side but not in the capital city Reykjavik.
I am sure not so many of you know how active the Icelandic Kennel Club is here having usually around 800 dogs entered at shows in a country with a population of approximately 300.000. The Icelandic KC has 4 All Breed shows per year 3x CACIB / 1 CAC plus one Specialty for breed clubs, but Iím glad to say that the show committee is working on having our future summer shows always as a double show! Our latest summer show was a double show and was held outdoors for the first time as in Iceland we can get the fours seasons weather in one day but despite a little rain the show went on really well which is not surprising as Icelanders are not spoilt for hot sunny days! I personally think one of the biggest reasons for this progress is thanks to our new KC manager, Ms. Fridur Ester Petursdottir, who I think has done a splendid job bringing the KC in line with other countries regarding winner titles etc. The President of the Kennel Club is Ms. JÛna Th. ViarsdÛttir, who is a true Irish Setter lady and has been the President of the Icelandic KC since I was a young boy. She is well known for her hard work and how she is the perfect hostess to foreign judges. Having experienced showing in Scandinavia and Thailand I feel I can easily say that Icelandic dog shows are very different as they are relaxed, everyone knows everyone, they are always well organized and the atmosphere is more or less very friendly. Our most popular breeds here at the shows are definitely the Icelandic Sheepdogs, Siberian Huskies and Labrador Retrievers with entries usually between 40 to 60 dogs, other breeds with very good entries are the Australian Shepherds, German Shepherds, Miniature Schnauzers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Papillons and Tibet Spaniels with entries usually between 20 to 30 dogs. With only 5 shows a year and such big entries in many breeds it is often very difficult to make up a Champion and the competition can be very tough especially in Icelandic Sheepdogs and Siberian Huskies. With so few shows a year we do not have the luxury of being able to show under the judges we prefer and cannot always wait for when the dog is in best coat! In Iceland it can take a couple of years to show a beautiful dog to its champion title, but in breeds where we only have 1 to 10 dogs per show itís easier of course to gain the title which is the same anywhere. The overall quality of most breeds is improving all the time and I often feel proud when I read what judges have to say after a show, when they write that they more and less are very surprised over the quality of the dogs here and the enthusiasm of the young people who play a very big part at our shows. The Icelandic Kennel club works very hard in supporting our enthusiastic young people. The Junior Handlers have a very active committee that is active with different types of meetings/training and to get professional handlers from Europe or the US to give handling courses. The Junior Handling competitions are of high international class. The Icelandic government still make it very difficult for breeders to introduce new lines or dogs because although quarantine was reduced to 28 days from originally being 4 months, it is very expensive like most things in Iceland. Despite these difficulties we now have over 80 breeds and new breeds are arriving each year with Lhasa Apsos, Tibetan Terriers and Norwegian Lundehunds being the latest.
The Icelandic Kennel Club was founded on September 4th, 1969 by Mrs. Sigridur Petursdottir. This wonderful lady who celebrated her 80th birthday on October 4th this year is the one who played the biggest part in saving the Icelandic Sheepdog from dying out in mid 1990ís and she thought it was important to have a Kennel Club to keep together registrations and records etc. Sigridur was also Icelandís first judge, she obtained her license in 1982 with permission to judge group 5. Being a close friend to her she is one of my main mentors and we have had many long and interesting talks and I remember like It was yesterday when I asked her to explain to me why she was not the first president of the Icelandic Kennel club? ìSigga Pî – as she is affectionately known to her friends – was the brains behind the creation of the KC and she gave me a very clear and simple answer, she said that at that time everything was still so ìold fashionedî that the men were the ones controlling all official duties and women were more or less working at home. She wanted the Icelandic Kennel Club to earn respect and have good standing in the public eye, thatís why she asked a good friend of hers, veterinary surgeon Gunnlaugur Skulason, to be the first Chairman of the Icelandic KC. Then after this explanation she said, ìbut we both know who controlled everything behind the curtainsî, and we had a good laugh! ìSigga Pî is the greatest dog woman I know, the passion she has for and all the hard work she has put into the Icelandic Sheepdogs is something I will always admire and be grateful for. I will always do my best to ìwalk in her footstepsî and to stick with the type and what she has taught me. Like she says, ì The Icelandic Sheepdog is a working dog who should be able to work all day long , with his alert ears that help him to respond quickly to unexpected noises, his beautiful balance and construction make it possible to be able to work effortlessly on the rough hilly terrain and through water, his coat must be weatherproof with thick short undercoat and either short-coated (about 4-5 cm) or long coated with a bushier coat and more ìfringes.î I know it worries ìSigga Pî that the breed is getting too tall, heavy and too heavy boned, another worry is too long and elegant necks, in what should be a strong moderate breed. Short and flat ribcage is another trend she does not approve of and an ìIcyî must always be well muscled!
The first dog show in Iceland was hosted in a small town called Hveragerdi on the August 25th, 1973. At that time the Icelandic Kennel Club was not a member of FCI, so British judge Mrs. Jean Lanning a very famous Great Dane breeder needed special permission from the KC to be allowed to judge. There were a total of 60 dogs entered and 23 of them were Icelandic Sheepdogs. Here comes an interesting point which I am sure very few of you know or could believe, but Mrs Jean Lanning actually co-bred Icelandic Sheepdogs in the 50ís with an Englishman called Mark Watson who was the author of one of the few books we have of the Icelandic Sheepdog. I want to share with you a text that my friend got when he interviewed Mrs Jean Lanning for the 40th anniversary of our KC.
ìMark Watson came to see us one day. He had just returned from Iceland, and was concerned that the breed might become extinct in your country. At that time Sigridur Petursdottir bred them on her farm, but needed new blood. Mark asked us to breed from Kim and another bitch he had bred living in Southampton. The breeding was very close, but Mark was able to present two dogs to Sigridur. He purchased also from her 2 dogs, which he gave to me as a present. We did breed them on for a while, but I was not too pleased with the soft coats the ones from Iceland produced, Mark Watson had the harsh weather resisting coats I prefer. However, I know the Standard of the Iceland Dog permits two types of coats. When I have judged them in Iceland I have been very pleased with the standard. The breed has much to thank Mark Watson and Sigridur Petursdottir for.
This wonderful story of the breedís history fascinates me as the breed was growing back then in England and could even qualify to be shown at Crufts. Unfortunately when Mark Watson lost interest in dog breeding and moved to London the breed started to fade out in England. On a happier note the breed is now being established in the US and Canada.
The year 1979 has to be date the Icelandic KC had its breakthrough by being accepted as an associate member of the FCI and invited to join the Nordic Kennel Union with Sweden, Norway, Finland & Denmark and also the year that the Icelandic Sheepdog Club was formed. In 2011 the Icelandic KC proudly became a full member of the FCI.
The Icelandic KC celebrated its 45th anniversary at our last show held in September this year with many nice and interesting events during the show week. In Reykjavik the dog show went on from the 6th to the 7th of September. The judges were Paolo Dondina, Saija Juutilainen, Jussi Liimatainen, Laurent Heinesche, Yolanda Nagler and Jo Schepers. There were 695 dogs entered of 80 breeds, I was not at the show as I was in Sweden but from what I have heard everything went really well! Best In Show went to a beautiful Black Miniature Schnauzer bred in Iceland, ìSwartwalds For Those About To Rockî, breeder and owner Maria Bjˆrg Tamini, handled by one of Icelandís top handlers, ¡sta MarÌa KarlsdÛttir and judged by BIS judge Mr.Paolo Dondina
Finally I want to say that for those who want to know more about the Icelandic Kennel Club please visit the Icelandic KC homepage www.hrfi.is
If you want to learn more about the Icelandic Sheepdog you can visit the Icelandic Sheepdog club homepage www.dif.is
by Sigurdur Edgar Andersen Stanton