An Ancient Breed from More than 6,000 Years Ago, the Norwegian Elkhound is Big-Hearted and Beautiful
The Norwegian Elkhound is a breed of dog that loves nothing better than to be a member of the family. A particularly good choice for those with children, this canine breed is good-natured, intelligent, courageous and highly alert, extremely versatile and ideal for those who farm, because of its origins living on farms as a working dog. An ancient breed that has been around for more than 6,000 years, the Norwegian Elkhound is big-hearted and beautiful.
This breed, known in Medieval times as a Dyrehund or "animal dog" in Norway, developed in ancient times more than 6,000 years ago. In fact, some researchers believe that the breed is a descendant of the Pariah Dog, a "primitive" canine that existed as long as 7,000 years ago. Originally, the breed was developed for hunting purposes, helping Scandinavians track large game such as bear and moose. Scandinavian archaeologists have excavated remains that lead them to believe the Norwegian Elkhound may have existed and become domesticated as far back as the Stone Age.
The predecessors of the breed we recognize today as the Norwegian Elkhound were spitz-type dogs, believed to have originated in the Denmark area. These hunting dogs were commonly known as the Swamp Dog or Torvemosehunden. Swamp Dogs evolved into big-game hunters after migrating north into Scandinavia, where they became well-known for their skills in hunting big game and were known as Dyrehund. Thanks to diligent breeding, such qualities were improved over the years.
Because of a severe famine in the late 1600s brought about by an early winter, many crops died prior to harvest causing thousands of Finns to be forced to migrate into Norway and Sweden. The Finns took a Spitz-type breed to use for hunting large game birds, an ability that many Elkhounds of modern day still possess. Many Elkhound breeds developed over time across different regions of Scandinavia, including the red-coated Finnish Spitz, the Karelian Bear Dog and the Bjornhund, or "Bear Dog."
The 1913 American Kennel Club Stud Book reflects the first record of elkhounds, three imports that were owned by an Idaho man, Gottlieb Lechner. It is not known if these were the first to be brought into the United States, but during the 1920s, twenty-two Norwegian Elkhounds were registered by the AKC. Records indicate that the Norwegian Elkhound Association of American was started around 1930.
Medium-sized dogs that are hardy and proportionate in appearance, Norwegian Elkhound puppies grow to typically weigh up to 50 pounds and stand just over 20 inches high. The double coat consists of an underlying dense coat which is smooth and usually black to silvery grey on various areas of the body, while the outer coat is thick, straight, and "hard," medium in length and capable of insulating the Elkhound's body to keep it warm during cold, harsh temperatures in winter months.
Dark brown eyes are oval in shape and offer a friendly expression; the nose is generally black with flared nostrils. With dense, longer hair on the tail area, the tail rolls or "curls" tightly over the back. The head of the Norwegian Elkhound dog is usually wedge-shaped and broad, with high-set ears that are carried erect and small in size. Overall, the color of the coat is generally various shades of gray from light to dark; tips of the tail, ears, and muzzle are generally black.
A strong and hardy breed, Norwegian Elkhound puppies grow to develop a very strong bond with their masters, and make excellent family dogs because of their loyalty to the "pack." This breed can be a bit boisterous and playful, but loves nothing better than to explore outdoors when the weather is cold. The Elkhound is gentle and prone to hurt feelings when he or she feels slighted by the master. The Elkhound is also an ideal pet for those who have children.
Extremely intelligent, this is one canine that responds very well to obedience training, but it can take more effort because of the breed's independent streak. Good-natured, alert, and bold, this is a breed that is agile and particularly good for tracking. Because of the dog's hunting instincts, it is advised that you use caution if you have other pets such as hamsters, rabbits, or guinea pigs. While they will be good watchdogs ready to alert you when strangers approach, they are not aggressive.
Generally speaking, the Norwegian Elkhound thrives well in cold climates and needs plenty of exercise because of its energy and preferred activity level. Apartment dwellers can own this breed as a pet, but the dog must be sufficiently exercised on a daily basis. A ranch/farm environment or larger home with a spacious yard is ideal. While your pet can live indoors, it's important that he/she gets outside frequently for exercise and stimulation to encourage good health and vitality.
Generally healthy overall, the Norwegian Elkhound, like many other breeds, is prone to hip dysplasia. Avoid over-feeding as this breed may gain weight easily. Other conditions found in this dog are PRA (progressive retinal atrophy, an inherited disease of the retina), pyotraumatic dermatitis, an infectious skin affliction, and occasionally, Fanconi syndrome. Fanconi syndrome is a condition in which the tubules of the kidneys fail to function properly, meaning that minerals, sugars, vitamins, and other nutrients "dump" into the urine and are excreted instead of being absorbed into the system.
This breed typically sheds heavily during spring and fall, and requires brushing daily during these seasons to keep its coat healthy-looking. Other than during the heaviest shedding periods, brushing two to three times per week is usually sufficient. Give your pet a bath only when necessary, and be certain to thoroughly dry him or her afterward. Check ears for infection and clean eyes and ears properly. It's also recommended that you trim the hair around paws, nails, eyes, and ears.