For the assessment and breeding of Västgötaspets The N.Z.K.C. recognises and observes the official Breed Standard of Sweden, as adopted and endorsed by the FCI. The Swedish Vallhund is described as a small, powerful and fearless all-purpose farm dog whose primary function was to herd cows by rounding and nipping at hocks. The little Vallhund needed to be able to dart and dash forward, then in an instant flatten to the ground to avoid kicking hooves. He needed to be agile enough to bound back up and keenly move forward again. Founding rescuer von Rosen described the breed as being “quite similar among themselves and different to all others in the dog world.” While the initial dogs were homogenous for type, from Topsy to Mopsen Västgötaspets have always had a variety of looks. A range of type does not compromise what is correct, fits neatly inside the standard and is the richness of the breed. It must not be lost.
Like all working dogs the Swedish Vallhund that has been built well will move well. Note the skeletal diagram here displaying the correct angulation for good balance and a level topline. The bones that create the front and rear assembly are highlighted in blue. Combined with well developed muscle this Swedish Vallhund will have efficiency of movement, therefore good functionality and be pleasing to the eye. Correct anatomical structure will also create less wear and strain for the ageing body.
Photo: Ada Walder, diagram Peta Dowle.
Pat Hastings tells us in her excellent book ‘Tricks of the Trade - From Best Intentions To Best In Show’ to “...remember legs weren’t designed to hold up the head; they were designed to hold up the body”. The red vertical plumb line at the front of the dog in the diagram should be able to be visualised on any Swedish Vallhund. It drops from the base of the neck, runs down though the shoulder blade and straight down the front leg. The neck should be in front of this line, all of the head including lower jaw completely above the top line. When the angles of the bones in the hind leg are correct you should be able to visualise another plumb line at the rear which drops from the point of buttock and falls at the toes as shown.
The Swedish Vallhund Club encourages breeders to be familiar with the standard, to strive to breed dogs with a level topline, an arched neck and a dog that is not too light or heavy of bone. A dog that is over 14 kg and is not overweight may be too tall or too heavy of bone. A bitch that is under 9 kg and is not underweight may be either too short or be too light of bone. Above all a Swedish Vallhund’s character must be watchful, confident, keen, people orientated and at ease with himself.
This is needed as much for the family dog as it is for the working farm dog. Breeders should avoid breeding on with any dog that carries a predisposition to timidity, anxiousness or fearful temperament. The correct colours of a Swedish Vallhund are grey, grey-brown, grey-yellow, red-yellow and red-brown. Disqualifying colours occassionally seen in the breed are black, white, liver, brown, and blue. Some white markings are permissible on the chest, also on the fore and hind legs, as socks. White socks may not extend above the upper half of leg.
Additionally white colouring that exceeds more than 30% overall is a severe fault. Such dogs are referred to as being‘over marked’. The standard makes accommodation for a ‘narrow blaze’, ‘neck spot’ or ‘slight necklace’. A broad white collar is not a necklace, and will usually extend into a full white shirt front and full white legs. The much loved Swedish Vallhunds over have severe or disqualifying faults. These dogs are still Swedish Vallhunds in every other respect and are valued members of the Västgötaspets community.
Meet the ‘J Litter’
Cast your eyes over the ‘Oil Paintings’ above (click each thumbnail to view). All six Swedish Vallhunds are based on dogs that have existed in real life. See if you can spot the strengths and weakness in these images, and place them in order before reading the assessment observations below.
By Melanie Harris
Looks to be a top size male but this could be because he is too tall on the leg and, therefore, not correctly proportioned and balanced. That said, you don’t want Vallhunds to be too low on the leg either (like a Pembroke Corgi). Head looks to be clean cut although looks like he needs a better defined stop (difficult to tell at that angle). Has excellent mask markings which are highly desirable. Perhaps could do with a slightly deeper muzzle. Eye looks to be dark and of a good shape. Ears appear to be correct size and shape. The sternum (forechest) is visible but his shoulders are not quite at the correct 45° angle, which makes him
look slightly short in neck and he stands with his forelegs just slightly too far forward, consequently this makes his topline dip behind his withers because his forelegs are not in the correct position. Has good length of chest, which is of reasonable depth, lacking a slight tuck up. Short strong loin, with broad croup but lacks the slight slope. Reasonable width to hindquarters, which look to be well muscled. Too long in hock and lacking in hind angulation. Feet are short and oval and has strong pads. Coat is of medium length and of a good colour with well marked harness markings. Would say this is a harsh coat with soft undercoat. White markings on chest are perfectly acceptable. Obviously cannot assess movement but judging from his angulation would say that he would move close behind and would lack reach and drive.
Super example of the breed. He epitomises the overall appearance of a Vallhund which sets him apart from his cousin, the Pembroke Corgi. Small, powerfully built with a fairly long body. Long clean cut blunt wedge head. Well defined stop. Good square muzzle with strong lower jaw. Well defined mask. Well set ears, and correctly shaped, dark eye. Strong long neck in to well-placed shoulders at the correct angle. Straight legs which if viewed from front I am sure would have slight bend to fit around chest. Slightly sloping pasterns. Great forechest with good length and depth of chest, with lowest point being just behind elbows. Correct elliptical chest. Level topline with short strong loin. Strong, broad slightly sloping croup and correct tail carriage. Long chest with good spring of rib and slight tuck up. Good width of thigh, well muscled. Well angulated hindquarters with low hocks and well bent stifles. White markings acceptable and a very good example of a Vallhund, with good harness markings. Good harsh offstanding coat.
Blunt wedge shaped head with slightly flat skull and well defined stop. Square muzzle with correct underjaw. Well set ears and well placed dark eye. Well defined mask markings. Strong well muscled neck. Slightly upright in shoulder, so although she has some forechest this is slightly masked by the shoulder angulation. Reasonable bone on forelegs, which are straight from the side view. Looks to be slightly straight in pastern. Has good length of rib cage but she is slightly long in loin and has too much tuck up. She dips behind the withers, due to the extra body length and rises over the loin to compensate. Too much slope to croup and would appear to be narrow in the area too. Needs more width and strength to hindquarters. Whilst hind angulation is OK, she is too long in the hock and would lack drive on the move.
Good colour and harness markings. Looks to be rather close coated without a good undercoat.
Initial observations are that he is not masculine enough, too fine in bone. Head looks clean cut but would like more width between the ears and more depth to underjaw as he looks a little weak in this area. Too wide in front, due to poor shoulder angulation as this is too upright. Front legs too straight with no slight bend to accommodate chest. Slightly upright in pastern. Also lacks forechest due to the placement of shoulders. Lacks length of chest and not deep enough. Too much tuck up. Far too straight in hind angulation due to overall poor conformation and would be very poor on the move. Too much slope on croup. Roaches over loin to compensate for poor rear end to help himself balance. Lacks width of thigh. Has correct mask markings and white on legs acceptable. Appears to be rather closed coated with not a lot of undercoat.
As Jasper is a good representative of a male Vallhund, then Jilly is an excellent example of a bitch. Well balanced head with an almost flat skull and well defined stop. Looks to have a good shaped, dark eye. Well defined mask markings. Strong square muzzle with correct amount of underjaw. Long well muscled neck of good reach. Well angulated shoulders, with good forechest. Well boned legs and good feet. Forelegs straight when viewed from the side but have a slight bend when viewed from front.
Correct elliptical chest. Good depth and length of chest with well sprung ribs. Excellent level topline, with short strong loin. Broad strong croup, Well muscled strong hindquarters with well bent stifles and short hocks. Well shaped feet with thick pads. Lovely silver grey colour, with good harness markings and correct harsh topcoat with soft undercoat.
Overall for size, substance and balance this is not a bad example of a Vallhund. Strong clean cut blunt wedge head with well defined stop. Well placed ears but could be slightly large. Dark eye. Strong well muscled neck. Not quite the perfect shoulder placement of Jasper but not far off. His white markings are deceptive and you would need to get your hands on him to appreciate the angle of his shoulders. Forechest is visible. Well boned forelegs which are straight when viewed from side. Has good length and depth of chest with correct tuck up. Good spring of rib. Level topline with broad strong slightly sloping croup. Tail is well carried and an acceptable carriage. Strong well muscled hindquarters. Well bent stifles and good hind angulation with low well set hocks.
Note: Colour ~ as I can only see one side of this dog I have no idea if the white is a full collar or not. FCI rules are now very specific about where white is permitted i.e. narrow blaze, neck spot (these are very common) and a slight necklace. White is permitted on chest, fore and hindlegs but white socks must not extend above upper half of leg. So you could say he has too much white on him. FCI rules state this is a severe but not a disqualifying fault. If I was judging this dog, I would have to compare him with the other dogs in the class. Jimbo has many good points which I feel would outweigh the colour issue. If in competition, I would place the Litter in order ranked below.