The Norwegian Elkhound is one of the ancient Northern Spitz-type breed of dog and is the National Dog of Norway. The Elkhound has served as a hunter, guardian, herder, and defender. It is known for its courage in tracking and hunting moose (or elk) and other large game, such as bear or wolf. The Norwegian Elkhound was first presented at a dog exhibition in Norway in 1877. It is one of the oldest dog breeds, and Elkhounds have been found buried in Viking burial grounds.
The Norwegian Elkhound originated in Scandinavia and is one of the most ancient breeds; it is thousands of years old and has been around since the Stone Age. A skeleton similar to today’s Norwegian Elkhound dating from 4000 to 5000 BC has been found. To put some perspective on it, these dogs have been around since man hunted with slingshots and lived in caves. They worked as a hunting and guard dog for the Vikings. The dogs were used as big and small game hunters tracking animals such as moose, elk, bear, mountain lion, badger, lynx, wolf, reindeer and rabbit. The dogs would track the quarry and alert the hunter by barking, holding the animal at bay until the hunter arrived.
Norwegian Elkhounds can smell game from over a mile away. The dogs tended to work better at night than in the daytime. The breed is also highly prized as a sled dog. In case of war, the Norwegian Defense Minister has the power to mobilize all privately owned Elkhounds. In more recent times, the friendly and reliable character of the Elkhound has helped win a place in many homes as a cherished family pet. The name “Elkhound” is a direct translation from its original Norwegian name “Elghund,” meaning “moose dog.” In Norwegian, “elg” means “moose” and “hund” means “dog.” The breed was first exhibited in 1877 when the Norwegian Hunters Association began holding shows. The AKC first recognized the breed in 1913.
The Norwegian Elkhound is a sturdy, medium-sized Spitz-type dog. The body is short and squarely built. The back is straight and strong. The wedge-shaped head is broad at the ears. The muzzle is thicker at the base, tapering but not to a point, with a clearly defined stop. The teeth should meet in a scissors bite. The medium-sized, oval-shaped eyes are dark brown. The ears are set high on the head, firm but very mobile. The chest is deep and relatively wide. The legs appear straight from the front. The oval paws are small and tight with thick pads. The tail is set high, tightly curled over the back. There are usually dewclaws on the front legs but not on the back. The weather-resistant, double coat is thick and hard. The coat is gray with black tips and a lighter undercoat and undersides with a black muzzle, ears, and tip of the tail. Norwegian Elkhound puppies are born black and turn gray when they are about a week old as their coat develops.
The Norwegian Elkhound is alert, bold, loyal and friendly. Although some may be somewhat reserved with strangers, it will greet family and friends it knows with enthusiasm. Docile, trustworthy and energetic, they are good child companions. Like other Arctic dogs, the Norwegian Elkhound has a mind of its own and is fairly independent, however it is affectionate with its family. They have an outstanding character, and are relatively clean compared to some other breeds. Can be somewhat difficult to obedience train. It is important to be firm with this dog, showing good pack leadership. They need firm, but gentle discipline. A natural watch and guard dog. This breed likes to roam and bark. They were bred to be hunters who hold their prey at bay, barking at it constantly until the hunter arrives.
Elkhounds are hunters and should not be trusted alone with small non-canine pets such as hamsters, pet rats, mice or guinea pigs, however some have been known to get along with them when the owners worked at communicating to the dog that the small pet was alpha over them. They can get along with cats of the family.
The Norwegian Elkhound is a very energetic dog that thrives on strenuous activity. They need to be taken on a daily, long, brisk walk or jog. While out on the walk the dog must be made to heel beside or behind the person holding the lead, as in a dog’s mind the leader leads the way, and that leader needs to be the human. It should have at least an hour of exercise a day. It will enjoy a running beside your bike or a really good run in the woods, but remember that these dogs like to roam. If they pick up an interesting scent, they may ignore you, or not even hear you when you call them.
The Norwegian Elkhound will be okay in an apartment if it is sufficiently exercised. It is fairly active indoors and does best with at least a large yard. Elkhounds prefer cool climates.
That said, Norwegian Elkhounds are affectionate dogs who make devoted, wonderful family members. They’re excellent with children and are terrific watch dogs, treating strangers with natural suspicion. They thrive on attention, and it’s hard to find a more loyal companion.