Is This Photograph of a Swedish Vallhund Real?

Meet västgötaspets — the Vizigothic spitz, or Swedish vallhund.

  • Published
Dog, Mammal, Animal
Image via TS Eriksson/Wikimedia Commons

Claim

A photograph shared widely in July 2021 was an authentic picture of a real Swedish vallhund.

Origin

In the summer of 2021, social media users enthusiastically shared a long-running meme which claimed to introduce readers to the “Swedish vallhund,” a breed of dog described as “basically wolf-corgis.”

The similarity of the dog’s face to that of a wolf, combined with a low body and stocky limbs, would naturally cause some observers to wonder whether the photo was the result of digital editing. Over the past decade, this particular picture has enjoyed several waves of popularity online, including in 2013

Not only is it authentic and not digitally edited, but we know the exact origins of this picture, which does indeed show a Swedish vallhund. As a result, we are issuing a rating of “True.”

The dog shown in the photo is Misty, or Missy, who might just have been, unwittingly, the world’s most famous Swedish vallhund. She was owned and raised by Cindy Kingsley, who formerly operated Osafin, a Swedish vallhund kennel in Austin, Texas. 

A page from the Osafin website, archived in March 2015, shows the photograph in question, along with several others of Misty, noting that she was born on May 29, 2006, and even outlining two generations of her lineage. The caption under the picture reads: “This is Misty’s first day in Texas after living in British Columbia where she needed this coat for the cold weather. She is now a Texas Swedish Vallhund with a lighter coat.”


(An archived version of the same page, from November 2007, establishes definitively that Kingsley’s website was the original source of the famous photograph, years before it cropped up in internet memes). 

The Swedish vallhund (known as västgötaspets in Swedish) is a relatively rare breed, first recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 2007. The AKC’s website describes it as follows:

The long and low Swedish Vallhund, Viking Dog of ancient legend, is a smart and sociable herder of dense coat and boundless energy. These rugged cattle dogs are known for their zest for life, unique vocalizations, and cheerful demeanor.

With their thick sable coat, sturdy construction, and overall no-frills look, Vallhunds are a timeless breed, as comfortable in a suburban backyard as they were on the prow of Viking longships 1,200 years ago. These lively herders are built long and low the ground’in not quite as exaggerated a fashion as their distant cousins the corgis, but the idea is the same: Their build makes it easier to nip at the heels of cattle and avoid kicks to the head. Balance, power, and smooth movement are breed hallmarks.

According to the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI, a Belgium-based association of various national kennel clubs), the exact historical development of the Swedish Vallhund remains an intriguing mystery:

The Swedish Vallhund is considered to be an authentic Swedish breed although uncertainty still exists as to the relationship with the type like the Welsh Corgi. Whether or not the Vikings brought Corgi-type dogs back from the British Isles to Sweden or Västgötaspets-like dogs from Sweden to Britain will never be solved. But modern research believes that the Västgötaspets is of Swedish origin.

According to the FCI, their ideal height is just over one foot at the withers (between the shoulder blades). 

Misty died in January 2021, at the age of 14. In a Facebook post, Kingsley wrote:

“She was a wonderful companion, mother and grandmother. She always brought her dish to me after meals and would check the other crates just in case there was another dish to be picked up for a small treat. Rest in peace my sweet Misty.”