Norwegian Buhund breed: companion of Vikings, protector of the house

Molnár Enikő

2023. September 12 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

The Buhunds have been around for a long time and have always had fans. It's no wonder, because as well as being very good working dogs, they also make great family dogs.


The small stature and soft appearance of the Norwegian Buhund can be deceiving, because it hides a brave, bold dog. Used mainly for herding and guarding animals, his affinity for this has not changed. Its name translates loosely as shepherd dog, but if you focus on the first syllable, you get a slightly different message. The word “bu” is Norwegian, meaning farm. So this tells us that it was originally used as an all-purpose dog, who, as well as performing the duties of a shepherd dog, also guarded the house, came to the defence of his family when necessary, and was often useful to his owners even when hunting. It is a strong member of the spitz family, as is shown by its thick coat, upturned ears and backward-sloping tail.

The Norwegian Bohund is a very active breed and needs regular exercise.


The history of the Norwegian Bohund can most likely be traced back to the Vikings, around 1200 years ago, much like the Elkhund. In 1880, a burial site was discovered not far from Oslo, where, judging by the style of burial, a chieftain or a prominent warrior, who was certainly deeply respected, may have been laid to rest. This is shown by the fact that he was launched on a Viking ship bound for Valhalla, laden with treasure…and six dogs. Judging by their skeletons, 5 of the 6 were probably buhund dogs, or very similar.

There are several theories that corgis are descendants of Viking dogs.

For hundreds of years in their homelands, Buhunds have performed backyard tasks such as herding, protecting and, according to some sources, even looking after their owners’ children. Their instincts are strong and can still be observed today. They performed their duties reliably for many years, and for a long time they were not removed from their natural environment. Their numbers dwindled in the early 1900s, but thanks to well-organised breeding, the breed was saved. The first show was held in 1926, thanks to John Sæland’s determination to raise awareness of these hard-working and devoted dogs. This show was won by a dog called Flink, who was the basis for the first breed standard.

Flink had perfect breeding qualities and sired many litters up to the age of 14.

Officially recognised in Norway in 1943, the Buhund was registered with the AKC in 2009. The breed was accepted by the FCI in 1963 and a valid breed description was published in 1999.

Breed standard

A dog breed at the lower end of the mid-range, the Norwegian Buhund is about 45 cm tall at the withers and has an average body weight of 25 kg. The trunk is muscular, short, the head is tapering, with an almost flat (wedge-shaped) skull. Nose black as standard. Medium-length fur, hard, rough to the touch. The coat is usually yellowish and reddish, but it is not uncommon to see black or bluish-grey. The eyes are dark brown and the ears erect. Its short and thick tail curves backwards, giving it a distinctive spike-like appearance.

The Norwegian Buhund belongs to category 5 of the FCI, the spitz and ancestral type.


An energetic and generally friendly breed of dog. He is brave, alert and will not shy away from anything. Gentle with his family, attentive and loving, he gets on well with small children. He can be a very good companion for those who lead an active life, as he has a lot of energy that needs to be channeled in order to lead a balanced life. Typically, he is not a dog that needs two walks a day, unless combined with mentally demanding tasks and exercise, such as running. It performs well in a wide range of dog sports, be it agility or tracking. He can be very protective and will certainly voice his displeasure in a similar melodious way to a husky.

Because of his independent nature, sometimes his owner has trouble teaching his pet, but he wants to prove himself. He is usually well motivated by food, so this problem is not impossible to overcome. It is difficult to keep his attention for long periods if you are not doing something that interests him, but this can be remedied by keeping the exercise short and ending on a positive note.

Ideal environment

The Norwegian Buhund is a well-adapted breed and can be kept indoors with enough physical exercise, but it does best when there is room to run and exercise, so it is best to keep it in a house with a garden. He gets on well with children and other dogs, and even with other pets he will find a common ground, it’s mostly a matter of getting used to him.


Despite their double-layered coat, the Buhund does not require excessive grooming, at least when it comes to bathing. They are basically “self-cleaning” dogs, and dirt rolls off their coats easily. However, they leave a permanent coat of hair, so they should be brushed at least two or three times a week. This can become a daily chore during shedding season. Once or twice a year, it is a good idea to ‘vacuum’ your dog’s undercoat, which can be done at a groomer’s or with devices designed for home use. Frequent check-ups of teeth and nails are also an important part of grooming your dog.

Common health problems

It is basically a healthy breed and very resistant to disease. However, there are three diseases that can be relatively common, and responsible breeders screen for these to prevent them from spreading.

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • von Willebrand disease (VWD; a blood disorder)
  • Eye Diseases

Literature: János Szinák – István Veress: A világ kutyái II.

norwegian buhund breed description Norwegian dog breed shepherd dogs viking

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