8 Unique Facts About the Swedish Lapphund

You probably haven’t heard of the rare Swedish Lapphund, but you’ll be glad to get acquainted. With pointed ears and a fox-like face, it’s hard not to fall in love. But be warned—these dogs are hard to come by. 


Like most other breeds with geographical names, the Swedish Lapphund’s name gives some indication of its origin. Lappies come from northern Norway, Sweden, and Finland in an area called Lapland. Lapphunds are dogs that hail from that region; the Swedish Lapphund is very similar to the Finnish Lapphund, and is even considered by some to be the same breed. (The American Kennel Club disagrees with this classification, and recognizes them as two separate breeds.) Regardless, both are fluffy, fox-like herders from Lapland.


The Sami people, indigenous to northern Scandinavia, were the first to breed Swedish Lapphunds. They used the dogs to herd reindeer, which were their primary food source. The semi-nomadic people would follow the reindeer on foot or wooden skis as the animals searched for grass to graze on. Lappies were used to corral the animals and keep them safe from harm. Today, some Sami people still herd reindeer, although the process has been thoroughly modernized. Herders are assigned specific pieces of territory at certain times of the year, and fences and ATVs have been incorporated. Lappies are still sometimes used to help with herding efforts, but they've largely been phased out in favor of Border collies and Lapponian herders.


Lappies have been bred to have an unusually high-pitched bark. They achieve this noise by rapidly pushing air through their diaphragms while restricting their vocal cords. The result is a squeakier bark that’s loud, but unthreatening, which actually helps them be more effective at their jobs. The high bark lets reindeer know it’s time to move, but doesn’t scare them into thinking there's a predator around. Lapphund pups are often raised alongside reindeer calves, so the species are accustomed to working together from an early age.  


As you might have guessed from their pointy ears and furry coats, these canines are closely related to wolves. Lappies are a spitz breed, or a type of dog that has several wolf-like characteristics (such as a long snout, pointed ears, and, on some dogs, curled tails). A wide variety of other dogs fall under the spitz umbrella, including the shiba inu, the Alaskan malamute, and the Pomeranian. 


Like most spitz breeds, the Swedish Lapphund has an impressive history. Scientists recently uncovered a dog skeleton resembling the Lappie, which dates back more than 7000 years


The Lapphund's thick, furry coats means it's well-equipped to handle frigid temperatures. Its coat generally comes in two colors: black and liver. The dark coat has the added benefit of helping the dog stand out in the snow, which is, of course, pretty common in northern Scandinavia. 


Swedish Lapphunds are hard to come by. They’re not a registered AKC breed, although in 2009, they were granted the ability to compete in companion events. It’s believed there are only 1200 of the dogs in the world, most of which are in Sweden. Their cousin the Finnish Lapphund is significantly more popular—in 2000, the dog was the eighth most common breed in Finland. 


Today, the Swedish Lapphund is making a reappearance in the dog world thanks to its good looks and charming disposition. While it’s not likely you’ll come across one of these rare dogs in the United States, one woman did find one sitting on the side of the road in Connecticut in 1999. The rescued dog didn't know a lick of English, but did respond to Swedish commands. 

Whale Sharks Can Live for More Than a Century, Study Finds

Some whale sharks alive today have been swimming around since the Gilded Age. The animals—the largest fish in the ocean—can live as long as 130 years, according to a new study in the journal Marine and Freshwater Research. To give you an idea of how long that is, in 1888, Grover Cleveland was finishing up his first presidential term, Thomas Edison had just started selling his first light bulbs, and the U.S. only had 38 states.

To determine whale sharks' longevity, researchers from the Nova Southeastern University in Florida and the Maldives Whale Shark Research Program tracked male sharks around South Ari Atoll in the Maldives over the course of 10 years, calculating their sizes as they came back to the area over and over again. The scientists identified sharks that returned to the atoll every few years by their distinctive spot patterns, estimating their body lengths with lasers, tape, and visually to try to get the most accurate idea of their sizes.

Using these measurements and data on whale shark growth patterns, the researchers were able to determine that male whale sharks tend to reach maturity around 25 years old and live until they’re about 130 years old. During those decades, they reach an average length of 61.7 feet—about as long as a bowling lane.

While whale sharks are known as gentle giants, they’re difficult to study, and scientists still don’t know a ton about them. They’re considered endangered, making any information we can gather about them important. And this is the first time scientists have been able to accurately measure live, swimming whale sharks.

“Up to now, such aging and growth research has required obtaining vertebrae from dead whale sharks and counting growth rings, analogous to counting tree rings, to determine age,” first author Cameron Perry said in a press statement. ”Our work shows that we can obtain age and growth information without relying on dead sharks captured in fisheries. That is a big deal.”

Though whale sharks appear to be quite long-lived, their lifespan is short compared to the Greenland shark's—in 2016, researchers reported they may live for 400 years. 

Animal Welfare Groups Are Building a Database of Every Cat in Washington, D.C.

There are a lot of cats in Washington, D.C. They live in parks, backyards, side streets, and people's homes. Exactly how many there are is the question a new conservation project wants to answer. DC Cat Count, a collaboration between Humane Rescue Alliance, the Humane Society, PetSmart Charities, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, aims to tally every cat in the city—even house pets, The New York Times reports.

Cities tend to support thriving feral cat populations, and that's a problem for animal conservationists. If a feline is born and grows up without human contact, it will never be a suitable house cat. The only options animal control officials have are to euthanize strays or trap and sterilize them, and release them back where they were found. If neither action is taken, it's the smaller animals that belong in the wild who suffer. Cats are invasive predators, and each year they kill billions of birds in the U.S. alone.

Before animal welfare experts and wildlife scientists can tackle this problem, they need to understand how big it is. Over the next three years, DC Cat Count will use various methods to track D.C.'s cats and build a feline database for the city. Sixty outdoor camera traps will capture images of passing cats, relying on infrared technology to sense them most of the time.

Citizens are being asked to help as well. An app is currently being developed that will allow users to snap photos of any cats they see, including their own pets. The team also plans to study the different ways these cats interact with their environments, like how much time pets spend indoors versus outdoors, for example. The initiative has a $1.5 million budget to spend on collecting data.

By the end of the project, the team hopes to have the tools both conservationists and animal welfare groups need to better control the local cat population.

Lisa LaFontaine, president and CEO of the Humane Rescue Alliance, said in a statement, “The reality is that those in the fields of welfare, ecology, conservation, and sheltering have a common long-term goal of fewer free-roaming cats on the landscape. This joint effort will provide scientific management programs to help achieve that goal, locally and nationally."

[h/t The New York Times]


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