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Category: dogs (hundinn)

Fyrir Hundana

Fyrir Hundana

This post is a slightly edited version of the most recent post on my language learning blog.

I’ve posted about my dogs before, and just in case it wasn’t evident, I am a big dog geek.  If you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ve already met Ása, who is a 1 year old Norwegian Elkhound.  Then not even a month ago, we were joined by Þórný the Icelandic Sheepdog puppy, and now you know that yes, I am that much of a nerd that I even got dogs that would be appropriate for my persona.  It doesn’t hurt that both breeds fall right in line with the type of dog my husband and I like. Before these two, we had an Akita, and all three of these breeds are in the spitz/northern category.  We likes our pointy ears, curly tails and double coats, that’s for sure.

Anyways, there’s definitely some information out there about the dogs in Iceland during the Viking period, and I’m working on some documentation on that.  I can tell you that Icelandic sheepdogs were absolutely around during the Viking period in Iceland, and they were very likely veeeeery similar in appearance to how they are today, but I don’t have the documentation to prove it… yet.  That is absolutely coming in the future.  There’s many references to dogs in the Sagas, though, and there’s actually also a reference to an “Iceland dog” in one of Shakespeare’s plays!  It may actually be Macbeth, but I can’t quite remember.  I’ll have to look that up again. Of course, having studied a few of Shakespeare’s plays in school, he may be using that as a euphemism for something else.  And Shakespeare is way past the Viking era… but it’s still very period for the SCA in general.

Despite knowing that there WERE dogs in Iceland during the Viking period, I have serious doubts that I’d be able to find any info on whether they were trained, how they were trained, etc. I’ve heard that there’s been evidence of leather strips being used to collar and leash them, but need to dig up that info for myself still.  But I decided that regardless of what evidence is out there, I’m going to train MY dogs in both English AND Icelandic just for fun and geekery.  So with that in mind, I set about researching the right words for the Icelandic commands.  I’ve been studying the Icelandic language for almost two months now, and I know enough to know that very little is an exact translation of the English version of something, because Icelandic grammar is quite different, I didn’t want to just use Google Translate to help me with the commands.  I first posted on the Icelandic Sheepdog group on Facebook, since there’s plenty of Icelandic folks on there, and got a bit of advice, but I also got the suggestion to reach out to Galleri Voff – Hundaskóli (I haven’t translated that last word, but how much do you want to bet that it means “dog school”? ) so I went over to their Facebook page and sent Ásta a message.  She was super fast with responding and super helpful.  Major thanks to her for her help!

Anyhow, on to the language lesson!  First off, the word for dog is “hund”. If you want to say THE dog, it’s “hundurinn”.  Dogs plural is “hundar”.  Puppy is “hvolpur”, the puppy is “hvolpurinn”, and puppies is “hvolpar”.  Icelandic Sheepdog is “Íslenskur Fjarhundur”, and Norwegian Elkhound, well… in Norwegian, it’s “norsk elghund”, and I suspect it’s probably the same in Icelandic.  It might be Norsku Elghund… I need to check with my friends and I’ll update this when I do.

Here’s what I’m going to be using in terms of Icelandic commands.  The pronunciations are in the parentheses after the word.

Come – koma (pronounced like the english Coma)
Sit – sestu (sesstu)
Stay – bíddu (beethu)  (this is literally “wait”, so it’ll be the same command for both)
Lie down – leggstu niður (leg-stew neethur)
Up – upp (the U is pronounced like a German ü.  I don’t know how to represent this in text other than maybe “eupp”)
No – nei (nay)
In the car – inn í bíl (In ee beel)

A few others that Auður, the breeder that Þórný came from, helped me with (since she is Icelandic herself):

Leave it – ekki snerta (literally “do not touch”)
Drop it – sleppa

There will eventually be a part 2 to this entry, as Thorny’s education progresses, but for the time being, as she’s only just under 12 weeks old, this is a good start!

Velkomin Þórný! Íslenskur Fjarhundur

Velkomin Þórný! Íslenskur Fjarhundur

I don’t have a cute story for you this time, but it is definitely time for me to introduce to you the newest member of my family, and piece of my persona development puzzle. Please welcome Audurs Sumarsól (Audurs is the kennel name, Sumarsól is Icelandic for Summer Sun), known around here as Þórný.  Her name, just like Ása’s, is a documentable female name from the Viking era in Iceland.  The anglicization and pronunciation of that is “Thorny”.  That character at the start of her name is the Icelandic Thorn, which makes a hard Th sound, like in Thor, Thorn, and Thunder.  She came to us from Biggs Ranch, a farm in central Alberta that raises not only Icelandic Sheepdogs, but also Icelandic Sheep, Icelandic Horses and Icelandic Chickens.  (And Angus cattle, but those aren’t Icelandic.)  As you might guess, one of the owners of the ranch is Icelandic.  They’re both lovely people who raise amazing dogs.

Icelandic Sheepdogs are another northern/Spitz breed, just like the Norwegian Elkhound.  This means they will have pointy ears, a curly tail, and a double coat.  They’re also smart as a whip, and have a bit of attitude, though Icies are supposed to be a bit more eager to please than Elkhounds are. They’re known for being very happy, smiley dogs, and that’s definitely Thorny.   As you may guess from the name of the breed, they were bred to herd sheep in Iceland – and they have been in Iceland since it was settled in the 800s. Most of the Icies (a nickname for the breed, just like Elkhounds are nicknamed Elkies) you will see have a long-haired coat, but Thorny is going to be a short coat – though it’s still not super short like you would see in a smooth coated breed like a Boxer or Bulldog.  She’s still got plenty of snuggly fluff.  She’s what is called a “black tri” – they’re born looking black and white but a third colour starts coming in pretty quickly, and in Thorny’s case, that third colour is tan.  It’s hard to see in the pictures I’ve taken so far, but she has tan eyebrows and patches on her cheeks, and on her hind legs.  She’s got one double dewclaw on a hind foot – double dewclaws are a thing that is common on Icies – and desirable.  There’s even a name for a dog with a double dewclaw on all four feet – alspori.  These are pretty rare though.  Icelandic sheepdogs aren’t the only breed that can have double dewclaws, but in the case of this breed, it’s actually right in the breed standard that they have them, and they shouldn’t be removed.  Iceland is a very rocky, mountainous island and I’m sure the extra digit came in handy when the dogs were climbing hills to go after sheep, or walking on snow.  I’ve read that the extra toe can even help the dogs walk on snow better, acting somewhat like a snowshoe.


No pictures of her with me in my Viking-era clothing yet, but her first event is coming up next weekend, so hopefully I’ll get some then!