The Icelandic Sheepdog: an Overview

A Historical Overview

The Icelandic Sheepdog, a symbol of Iceland’s pastoral heritage, boasts a rich history that intertwines closely with the nation’s culture and landscape. This breed, not just a mere pet, represents a living link to Iceland’s storied past, embodying resilience, loyalty, and an unwavering spirit.

Origins: Viking Companions

The Icelandic Sheepdog’s journey began over a thousand years ago, descending from dogs brought to Iceland by Viking settlers around the 9th century. These Nordic explorers, seeking new lands, brought with them their most trusted companions – sturdy, dependable dogs adept at herding and guarding livestock in harsh climates. These canine voyagers were crucial for the survival of early Icelandic settlements, where agriculture and sheep herding were pivotal.

Role in Icelandic Society

In Iceland’s rugged terrain and challenging weather, the Icelandic Sheepdog emerged as more than just a herder. It adapted to a variety of tasks, from rounding up sheep and horses to guarding homes. Their keen senses and agility made them invaluable in navigating Iceland’s diverse landscapes, from volcanic fields to icy tundras.

Physical and Behavioral Traits

Characterized by a dense coat, expressive eyes, and a curled tail, the Icelandic Sheepdog is medium-sized but robust, built to withstand Iceland’s extreme climate. Its double coat provides insulation against cold and moisture. Behaviorally, these dogs are known for their intelligence, energy, and friendly disposition, making them excellent working dogs as well as family companions.

Preservation Efforts

The 20th century saw a decline in the breed, nearly leading to its extinction due to disease and changing farming practices. Recognizing the breed’s cultural significance, preservation efforts began in the 1960s, leading to the establishment of the Icelandic Dog Breeder Association in 1969. These efforts have been instrumental in reviving the breed, ensuring that the Icelandic Sheepdog continues to be a cherished part of Iceland’s heritage.


The Icelandic Sheepdog, more than a mere breed, is a testament to Iceland’s history and resilience. As a loyal guardian of flocks and homes, this breed has navigated the challenges of Iceland’s environment for centuries, securing its place in the heart of Icelandic culture. Today, it stands not only as a beloved companion but as a living emblem of Iceland’s enduring spirit.

Scroll to Top