On the outlook for the true type of dogs

Thorhildur Bjartmarz:

Here are some notes I found in letters from 1955:

  1. Letter:

In this letter from Mark Watson to H. Snorrason, he described the types of dog he should look for.


I want two dogs and two bitches not to be more than seven years old and not younger than one year. They are to be typical Icelandic Dogs. Small Prick Ears, a really good coat, golden colour (Gulkolottur), strong shoulders and not too long in the leg or body, must have a well curled and bushy tail which lies flat on the back.

In the following book there is a picture of an Icelandic dog which might be helpful to Mr. Arni Thorbjornsson. The book is called “Kennslubok I Dyrafraedi”.

We saw one good but rather old dog at Hoskuldsstadir and we also saw his mother who is eleven years old and were told the grandmother was very beautiful bitch. We also saw a dog at the farm of David Olafsson at Hvitarvellir which was good except for the ears which were rather large and one was not enough pricked.


  1. Letter:

From H. Snorrason to Mark Watson in August

Thing regarding the dogs have been moving even if somewhat slowly. But it will necessarily have to take some time if we are to find the right type of dog and be sure we select the right type. Since we have to look for them in isolated district, it is also a question of finding the right people to go there. I thought we would have to wait and see how Thorbjornsson fared in his search in Oraefi before deciding on the next step. We shall now know in a week or so.


  1. Letter:

Akureyri, 30th August 1955

Dear Mark

 A. Thorbjornsson returned to Reykjavík from the Oraefi-district today. He has been weather-bound there for a few days. I have just talked to him on the telephone. The result of his trip is very disappointing. He says he has visited all the likely farms in the district, but nowhere found the true type of dog. It seems that the farmers there have been anxious to have their bitches bred by foreign dogs. It is the old story. Anyway his report is in short: Only one dog he was comes anywhere near the true type. He brought back this one photograph, but has no high hope you will like it. The next step I think will be to send a trustworthy man from here to the rather remote Bardardalur in Thingeyjarsysla, and to let Thorbjornsson visit the sheep-folds now in two weeks’ time, in Skagafjord and Hunavatnssysla, when the farmers gather their sheep from the mountains. On the sheepfolds are to be seen most of the dogs from each district. Thorbjornsson has promised to go there in these two districts, and I could arrange trips from here to the eastern districts.



  1. Letter:

Translation of letter from A. Thorbjornsson to H. Snorrason, dated 25th Sept. 1955

I travelled to Raykjavik on August 20th to fly to Fagurholsmyri. I stayed four days in the Oraefi district and travelled over the whole of it, visiting every farm. It so happened that I could go along with the postman, who was going about the district during these days. I did not have to pay any fare for travelling in his car, and for one night in Skaftafell I was not charged. But I stayed three nights at Fagurholsmyri and paid kr 150,00 for the lodging.

I saw all the dogs in the district and found that they were not suitable. I took one picture, of a black bitch at Svinafell, which, however, is not satisfactory.

I am very sorry that the results are so poor.

Sincerely A. Thorbjornsson


  1. Letter:

Akureyri, Sept. 1955

As Thorbjornsson was not able to go to Jokuldalur afterwards, I decided to send my man, Davidsson, who accompanied you to Skagafjord, to Jokuldalur. He spent some time there, and talked to many farmers and had a good look at the dogs I had seen this summer. He is back with a kodacolor film which I am sending you airmail under separate cover. The result is doubtful. In a report on his trip he says:

“ In Jokuldalur the dogs seem to be mixed with other types as elsewhere and the individual dogs differ much in colour, built and general appearance. On the farm of Hvanna there are I think some dogs who come closest to the dog Mr. Watson has been describing. The accompanying photographs can be explained as follows:

Picture 1: Male Kópur, a fairly large dog, three years old, yellowish or golden colour. Tail well curled, ears not very well pricked. Mother is Nafna black in colour. Said to be a clever sheep-dog. From Hvanna Jokuldalur. Well suited for our purposes except that the ears are not quite right.

Picture 2: Female Brana is 14 monts old, yellowish rather low on the leg, ears well pricked, tail curled. Mother is Nafna, black, 9 years old, has not had whelps for some time. This mother is a pretty dog and very clever.

Picture 3: Male Mosi, 6 months old. Brown in colour, white feet. Ear well pricked, tail curled. Mother is Brana.

Picture 4: Male from Finnastadir, Eyjarfjord-district, yellowish, ears are not well pricked, but otherwise it has the right built.

Picture 6: Nafna, the black female, 9 years old, mentioned above. Mother comes from farm Hjarðarhagi in Jokuldalur, a blak female, now very old, said to be clever.

Picture 8: Dog in Jokuldalur, not of the right type, but common on the farms there.

Picture VIII:The common dog type in Jokuldalur, and neighbourhood. Yellowish, rather long on the leg, tail not quite curled. Ears well pricked. Owner: Farmer at Skjoldolfsstadir.

All the dogs described pictures 1-7 could be bought. Seem to be likely to start breeding of Iceland type sheep dog. In my view the best dogs I have seen are “Brana” the female described under picture II, and the dog Mr. Watson saw in Hoskuldsstaðir in Skagafjord when I accompanied him there.”

This is the report of Mr. Davidsson, but hopes his photographs have turned out, I do not know. I hope they are good enough to give you the necessary information as to whether we should plan to take any of the dogs from Hvanna. In a few days I trust to have the information and film from Thorbjornsson, and will then write you again.


  1. Letter:

Akureyri, October 5th 1955

Dear Mark.

As to the dogs we have not found anything better than Brana and Bosi, and so far only the two which ca be said at all to be satisfactory. I have talked on the telephone to the farmer at Hvanna owner of Brana, and he will come to terms and let us have the dog. It can be flown here from Egilsstadir at a short notice. He says Brana has had whelps twice. She is not pregnant now he states. When she last came in season he says he is not sure.

I cabled today and I had come to a satisfactory arrangement of Bosi. The farmer cane here and we had a lengthy discussion. He finally agreed to let us have the dog, and I can send form him when we are ready. He would like to have a photograph of Bosi in his new surroundings, and to know when he dies. All of which I promised we would do.


  1. Letter:

Akureyri, October 26 th 1955

I have received the following from the owner of Brana, Einar Jónsson, farmer in Jokuldalur. In a letter dated October 8th he says:

„I have been thinking what price to put on Brana. It comes to this: If one is to put a price on a dog at all, it will have to be 1000 kronur, and perhaps more. What do you think? This bitch, Brana, is in many ways a very pleasant dog, very kind and has nothing of the ferocity sometimes characteristic of dogs. And then she is fast becoming an excellent sheepdog. She was rather poor at that in the beginning, but the more often we take her along to the pasture, the better she becomes. It is of course most important that she will turn out well for this American, and it be proved that she is of a pure and old Icelandic stock. I am not in the habit cheating anybody or anything, but sincerely mean that under these circumstances I can well put this price on Brana.“

So is the farmers letter. It gives you an idea of the price situation. Probably the Bosi owner will think similarly.


This was the final results of these trips, looking for dogs in the year 1955. We do not have the picture Davidsson took in Jokuldalur

November 28th Brana and Bosi was sent from Iceland to London, San Francisco and finally to Wensum kennel California.

Des 5th Watson sent message to H. Snorrason:

Dogs arrived Saturday. Good condition, Brana is on heat. Please cable me urgent, if she was on heat when she left Reykjavik on November 28 and if so date she started heat. Is there any possible chance she could have been bred with any strange dog or that she got bred with Bosi. Reply urgent. Mark

January 31st wrote Watson:

Yesterday Brana had four fine pups and I am very pleased.


iceland_phy I have marked 3 places on this map Bósi in north, Brana in east and Oraefi in south-east


mynd Watsons frá Snæfellsnesi 1938 This photo is from Watson. He saw this dog near Olafsvik, Snaefellsnes 1938



In the summer 1956 Watson came to look for more dogs – I will write about that later.