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Broholmer – An Old Danish Dog

From the archives of The Canine Chronicle, February, 2010

text and illustrations by Ria Hörter

“Danmarks Have”

Fyn is a small Danish island situated between Jutland and Sjælland. The western coast is separated from the mainland by the Lille Bælt (Little Belt) and the eastern coast by the Store Bælt (Great Belt). The capital is Odense, hometown of famous writer Hans Christian Andersen. Fyn has a charming landscape, green fields and grasslands, farmhouses with thatched roofs, and wooded hills. In between are little villages, old towns on the seaside, country houses, and castles -one of the reasons Fyn is called Danmarks Have (Garden of Denmark).

The small village of Gudme is situated between the city of Svendborg in the south and Nyborg in the east. There we can find a castle – maybe manor-house is a better description – dating from the Renaissance and situated on the very small island of Broholm.

Danish and Norwegian Vikings

In 1982, the breed was officially recognized by the FCI, which used the description from 1886, the only difference being acceptance of the color black. (Photographer unknown)

“Butcher’s dog”

The descendants of the Viking dogs were crossbred with Great Danes and English Mastiffs, the latter presented to the Danish Court by King James I (1566-1625) of England.

In those times, the Danish Mastiff-like dogs were used for herding and guarding cattle – on farms and at the cattle markets in the cities – and protecting hearth and home. A Danish dog book, published around 1800, states that the Broholmer was a very ordinary breed, not rare at all, especially in Copenhagen. His nickname was ‘butcher’s dog’, probably because one could see this type of dog lying on the doorsteps of butchers shop.

Sehested and King Frederik VII

During the 17th century, this Danish Mastiff-like dog was also a pack hound, especially used on royal hunting grounds. After the ban on parforce hunting, their numbers dropped rapidly. Niels Frederik Bernhard Sehested (1813-1882), game-keeper of the Danish King, archaeologist and living at Broholm Castle, started a breeding program to save the breed. During his travels throughout the country, he tried to find as many good examples of Broholmer dogs as possible, and gave a number of people a dog for free, providing they would breed a litter. The name of the breed, Broholmeren, in Danish – a tribute to the man who saved this dog from extinction – dates from the end of the 19th century.

King Frederik VII (1808-1863) and his wife, Countess Danner, were great fan-ciers of the Broholmer. The royal couple owned these dogs for years; in the personal coat of arms of Countess Danner was a Broholmer! Those belonging to the king were always named ‘Tyrk’; Countess Danner’s were always ‘Holger’, whether it was a dog or a bitch. In the Copenhagen Zoological Museum one still can see one of the King’s ‘Tyrks’, a stuffed male. There are several portraits of the royal couple with a Broholmer at their feet.

Because the king’s castle was named “Jägerpris”, the dogs were known as ‘The King’s dogs’ or ‘Jägerpris dogs’.

Breeding Broholmers in the Zoo

The first dog show in Denmark was organized in 1886, in the garden of Rosenborg Castle. Family members of Sehested, still living at Broholm, met there, to write a breed standard. Broholmers have been recorded in the Danish stud books since 1887; in 1982, the breed was officially recognized by the FCI, which used the description from 1886, the only difference being acceptance of the color black.

Between 1859 and 1929, Broholmers could be seen in the Copenhagen Zoo as part of a breeding program; about 200 puppies were born there, all yellow colored. Manager of the Zoo was A. von Klein, who was the royal gamekeeper. During this period, black Broholmers were used as guard dogs in the Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen’s famous amusement park.

Still it was not possible to save the Broholmer. Its numbers dropped dramatically because of inbreeding, distemper and viral infections. There were some registrations in 1910, and Broholmers were entered at a dog show around 1939, but at the outbreak of World War II, the breed was finished. In 1940, the last Broholmer was entered in the stud book.

“Following the track of the Broholmer”

In 1974, the Danish Kennel Club published “Following the track of the Broholmer” in its paper; the piece was written by J. Weiss. Somebody from Helsinge, Sjælland, who owned an 11-year-old male without a pedigree, responded. Weiss travelled to Helsinge to see this dog. The height of the dog was 31 inches, its color dark-yellow and had no pedigree. The owner was given permission to enter the dog at a show under the name Gamle Bjørn Fra Helsinge (Old Bjørn from Helsinge). The judges were in complete agreement: this dog was a real Broholmer! Thanks to a great deal of publicity, more representatives of the breed were traced, descendants of the dogs bred in the zoo some 50 years before. In 1983 there were 35 purebred Broholmers with 50 percent black coats and 50 percent yellow coats. They possessed six generation pedigrees showing purebred Broholmers.

The Broholmerselskabet (the breed club) celebrated their 25th anniversary in 1999 with a show at which more than 100 Broholmers were entered. Today there are less than 800 Broholmers, most of them living in Denmark. Breeding is done according to strict rules and only since January 1998 has the breed been exported in very small numbers. The present breed standard dates from 2000.

Origin: 12th–century Denmark.

Original purpose: Cattle dog, guard dog and pack hound. Today also a family companion.

Description: A big, powerful dog of Mastiff type. The Broholmer is reposed, observant and friendly, absolutely not aggressive and the breed must show great self-confidence. Its appearance is dominated by the powerful forequarters. The head is massive and wide; the neck is sturdy with some loose skin. The top line of the skull should be parallel to the top line of the muzzle.  The muzzle is massive, looking rather short due to the heavy head. The stop is not too pronounced and the lips are pendulous. The medium-sized eyes are round and light to dark amber. The ears are medium-sized and rather high set; they hang close to the cheeks. The Broholmer’s body should be rectangular, with a powerful and deep chest, a straight back, and strong, muscular forequarters and hindquarters. Front feet and hind feet are tight and rounded. The length and angulation of the fore- and hindquarters should produce a free movement with good reach when walking or trotting. The coat is short with a coarse texture and a thick undercoat. Its coloring may vary from yellow with a black mask, golden red and black. White markings on chest, feet and the end of the tail are optional. Some faults are rose ears, cow hocks, too big or too small ears, and light and elegant in head and body. Eliminating faults are eyes of different color, a curly tail and an overshot or undershot mouth.

Height/weight: approximately 29.5 inches for dogs and approximately 27.5 inches for bitches. Weight:  90 to 150 pounds.

Information: (Danish breed club, in Danish) and (Danish Kennel Club, in Danish and English).

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Posted by on Jul 10 2020. Filed under Dog Show History, Featured, Remembering Our Past?. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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