With her foxy face and big curling tail, Baya the Norwegian Buhund cuts a striking little figure. Although her Spitz-type body does look familiar, she’s not quite like any dog most people have ever seen before.
That’s because her breed is so rare in the United States that she’s one of only around 500 Buhunds in the country.
The breed name means “farm dog” and Baya, like her ancestors, has sharp herding instincts and a working dog personality. Unlike her intense and hyper counterparts in the herding dog world, Baya is broadly affectionate, a real people pleaser, and just a little bit wiggly. But at age 1, she has plenty of time to mellow.
For OSU assistant professor of sociology Roger Hammer, Baya is a way to connect with his Norwegian ancestry. One of his farming cousins in Norway used to share stories of the amazing skills of his own Buhund.
“He said a good Buhund would hear the hum of the milking machine turning on and would go get the cows and line them up by the barn,” Hammer said.
So when Hammer decided to fulfill a promise to his young daughter Rowan and pick out the family’s first dog, he decided a Buhund would be the way to go.
At first, he figured he’d acquire a dog from Norway, but that turned out to be harder than he expected, as the breed is not nearly as popular as it used to be. Eventually, he discovered there was a breeder in southern Oregon, and Baya was welcomed into the family.
In January, the AKC accepted the Norwegian Buhund into the herding group. On Jan. 17, Baya became one of the first Buhunds to compete in the class as she and Hammer participated in the Rose City Classic AKC competition in Portland.
Hammer’s 9-year-old daughter is a member of the local 4-Paws 4-H group, and has been learning dog showmanship with Baya. Hammer has been learning along with her, and the Rose City Classic was an opportunity for he and Baya to flex their new skills. However, an unexpected bit of celebrity added to the pressure of competition.
It turns out, an Animal Planet film crew was looking to highlight the Buhund’s inclusion into the herding group, and wanted a young dog, and a relatively new dog handler, to feature on the program. Hammer ended up being the perfect match, and he gave the crew permission to film as he showed Baya.
“I thought, ‘This will be interesting,’” he said. They even brought a top handler to give Hammer some pointers before he and Baya competed.
“I went into the ring and did the exact opposite,” he said with a laugh. It wasn’t that he meant to be contrary, but Baya simply wouldn’t do what he wanted her to.
“It made me much more nervous,” to compete while being filmed, he said. “You’re out in the ring with cameras on you.”
Baya wasn’t nervous, but she wasn’t calm either. Instead of staying still when the judges came to inspect her, she became a wiggling puppy, excited at the attention. And during the walk around the ring, she would start to lope instead of walk at a brisk pace.
As a result, Baya didn’t come out on top. But considering the only other Buhunds competing in Portland were her brother and parents, the wins stayed in the family.
While she’s young, Hammer said he won’t be showing Baya much, but as she matures, he hopes they’ll both improve their skills in the ring. And watching himself on Animal Planet might prove embarrassing, but it will be a great way to learn.
(The Animal Planet Dog Championships Portland show repeats this month).
~ Theresa Hogue