Dog Show Judging in the Land of Volcanoes
Armchair Tour of Iceland: History, people, economy,
I have lectured and judged in some 30 countries, this was my
first trip to judge dogs in Iceland.
The occasion was the
semi-annual national dog show of the kennel club known as
Hundaræktunarfélagið íshundar. Ishundar is affiliated
with Federación Canina Internacional (the FCI that is
headquartered in Spain) and International Kennel Union (IKU).
The two recently cooperated to form an association, the
“Cyno OneWorld Alliance” of more than 50 countries and still
growing. As far as I know, I am the only American licensed
by this alliance thus far.
To say that it was a pleasure to judge for this friendly
group of fanciers last October would be an
understatement. They were very hospitable and everyone had a good
time enjoying the friendly competition.
The total entry of the show was down from what
was expected, but still enough to keep the sole
busy for the two day event. It made economic sense to do it
this way rather than have a one-day show with multiple
judges. And, since Iceland is a country smaller than Ohio,
with about 300,000 people (most living in the
Reykjavik-Keflavik corner), it makes good sense to bring in
foreign judges. Last spring’s show was judged by a Canadian.
This fall’s show had a preponderance of smaller breeds,
which may also reflect the economy.
Although Iceland has ethnic derivation first from the
Norwegian Vikings who discovered the island, and then from
the Danes and other Scandinavians, the population also shows
some influence from red-haired Irish (some brought as
slaves, others arriving as explorers, but all becoming
assimilated), a few
tall Hollanders, and some from other
northern-European areas. Listening to their different
language, I hear some words that are nearly the same as
The climate belies the name of the country, as there are
great sections of pasture, and the remnant of the Gulf
Stream keeps it moist and moderate most of the year. It
would have made sense for Greenland and Iceland to have
exchanged names centuries ago. Both had been colonies of
tiny Denmark, but Iceland became independent in 1944, which
is surprising, due to Denmark still being under Nazi control
at the time.
One of the highlights for me was the entry of a number of
Icelandic Sheepdogs, their “national breed” - a breed of
which I had previously seen only a couple examples. It was a
honor, privilege, and pleasure to do this breed in its
country of origin. Somewhat related to several other Nordic
and Arctic breeds, this is a herding dog that is a little
shorter than most Border Collies and Australian Shepherds,
but with compact sturdy bodies and good bone. Very suitable
for working sheep in this climate. Since there are no
predators, the dogs need not be like the Great Pyrenees or
German Shepherd Dog, but strong enough to convince stubborn
In spite of a severe depression (the worst in Europe and
possibly the world at this time) caused by a careless banking industry and lack
of government safeguards, the tiny Arctic country is slowly recovering.
Iceland’s reviving economy is evidenced by most
obvious sign- the numerous tourist buses, vans, and
oversize-wheel Jeep-type vehicles that line up at hotel
doors to load folks going on excursions. But signs of
the continuing recession continue, such as the many
unemployed and the many unfinished buildings guarded by idle
construction cranes. One notable giant is the civic and
conference center building, started in 2006, with work just
now resuming. Plans are to complete it in 2011.
The country is unique in many ways. Icelanders do not burn
coal or oil or nuclear fuel for heat, but rely on the
abundance of volcanic and geyser activity. Electricity comes
from waterfalls, this source of energy coming from ice
thawing and descending from glacial mountains. If the
country were to switch their automobile use to electric
vehicles, there would be nearly zero pollution (already so
low that it is not noticed). There is such an abundance of
geothermal and waterfall/dam energy,
that they don’t feel
the need for windmills, despite constant strong wind. Too
bad they can’t export that!
I noticed a high percentage of
smokers (something I see in China, France, and a few other
countries) but I also noticed quite a few joggers in this
land of contrasts, this land of cold air and hot springs.
The principal economies of Iceland are aluminum mining,
fishing (including whaling) and tourism.
The show is run at a slightly more leisurely pace than in
many countries or clubs, partly because we judges have to
dictate a written, detailed (point by point) critique on
each dog, and the scribe apparently does not use shorthand.
Some of the items seem unnecessary, especially if there is
nothing remarkable about the specific physical
characteristic on the checklist.
The only large predators, by the way, ever to have been on
this isolated island have been occasional polar bears that
rode in on drifting icebergs. Although these have been very
rare, and quickly dispatched, Icelanders have a fascination
with these fierce visitors, and many shops sport statues and
pictures of the great white beasts.
There is a quarantine, as to be expected in an island
country that has no endemic rabies. Dogs coming from other
rabies-free countries have an easier time getting in.
Otherwise, there is a waiting period and a minimum age
requirement. Importation is allowed only once a month.
(Ref #1 & #2)
Reference Information for Importation into Iceland:
Ref #2 http://www.lbs.is/Uploads/document/eydubl_ensk/ChecklistImportDogsCats.pdf