Norwegian Elkhound

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Norwegian Elkhound
Norwegian Elkhound.jpg
A Norwegian Elkhound, showing the standard tightly curled tail – photographed on 29 August 2003.
Other names Norsk Elghund
Grå Norsk Elghund
Gray Norwegian Elkhound
Small Grey Elk Dog
Norwegian Moose Dog
Harmaa norjanhirvikoira
Country of origin Norway
Notes The FCI divides this into two breeds,
Grey (242) and Black (268).
Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)

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.[citation needed] 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. They make excellent family pets.

The AKC breed name "Norwegian Elkhound" is a direct translation from its original Norwegian name Norsk Elghund, meaning "Norwegian moose dog." The breed's object in the hunt is to independently track down and hold the moose at bay—jumping in and out toward the moose, distracting its attention, while signaling to the hunters by barking very loudly—until the hunter who follows the sound can arrive to shoot it. The dog will only bark while the moose is stationary, but it can also slowly drive the moose towards shooters lying in wait. The Norwegian Elkhound is also used on a leash. In this mode of hunting, the dog leads the hunter in the direction of the moose while keeping quiet.



Norwegian Elkhound appearance

Build: medium, sturdy and squarely built
Weight: 44-51 lbs (20–23 kg)
Height: 19.5–20.5 inches (50–52 cm)
Coat: Coarse, straight, with soft undercoat
Color: Black and white coloring, often noted as grey or silver
Head: Broad and wedge-shaped with a defined stop
Teeth: Scissors bite
Eyes: Dark brown with a keen, friendly expression
Ears: Pointed, erect
Tail: Rolled tightly over back
Limbs: Straight and parallel
Life span: 14–16 years
Norsk elghund, Norwegian Elkhound

According to The Kennel Club breed standard ideally the dog stands about 19.5–20.5 inches (50–52 cm) high and weighs up to 23 kilograms (51 lb).[1] Its grey, white, and black coat is made up of two layers: an underlying dense smooth coat ranging from black at the muzzle, ears, and tip of its tail; to silvery grey on its legs, tail, and underbody; and an overlying black-tipped protective guard coat. An ideal Elkhound has a tightly curled tail, as the dog shown in the photograph on this page. The Elkhound is a medium-sized dog and extremely hardy.


Adult Norwegian Elkhound displaying characteristic friendly expression.

Norwegian Elkhounds are bred for hunting large game, such as wolf, bear and moose. Although the breed is strong and hardy, the dogs typically have an inseparable bond with their masters and are quite loyal. All Elkhounds have a sharp loud bark which makes them suitable as watchdogs.

Norwegian Elkhounds are loyal to their "pack" and make excellent family dogs given proper attention. They are bold, playful, independent, alert, extremely intelligent, and, at times, a bit boisterous. They rank 36th in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs, being of above average working/obedience intelligence.

A Norwegian Elkhound being shown off at the Scandinavian Festival hosted by California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, CA


Norwegian Elkhounds sometimes carry a genetic predisposition to suffer from progressive retinal atrophy, or, like many medium and large breeds, hip dysplasia, renal problems, and cysts, particularly in later life; they are also prone to thyroid problems. Overall, however, they are a hardy breed with few health problems.

Elkhounds are prone to rapid weight gain and must not be overfed.

They have a lifespan of 12–16 years. There have been reports of elkhounds living to be 18 years old and older.

History and Evolution[edit]

The Norwegian Elkhound is an ancient breed, having been developed over 6,000 years ago to help early Scandinavians hunt big game such as moose and bear. Remains of dogs remarkably similar to the modern Elkhound have been found in grave sites such as the Viste Cave in Jæren, Norway, where they were dated as far back as 4000–5000 BC[citation needed]. Archaeological excavations in Scandinavia suggest this breed existed and was domesticated in the Stone age[citation needed]. At the end of the 19th century the breed came to England, and in 1901 The Kennel Club officially recognized it.

For many years, the Norwegian Elkhound was considered the oldest of all dog breeds, going back further than 6,000 years. Recent DNA analysis suggests, however, that several "ancient" breeds have been "recreated in more recent times from combinations of other breeds" (Ostrander et al., 2004). The researchers found "genetic evidence for a recent origin of the Norwegian Elkhound, believed to be of ancient Scandinavian origin".[2] But this study only includes 85 of the world's more than 400 dog breeds, omits many primitive lineages, and clusters the breeds together into just four major groups called clades. Nevertheless, some researchers say that the Norwegian Elkhound is a descendant of the ancient "primitive" Pariah Dog that existed 4,000–7,000 years ago.[who?]

Of the four major clades that Ostrander et al. clusters together, Clade II includes dogs with the genetic haplotype D8 from two Scandinavian dog breeds: the Norwegian Elkhound and the Jämthund. This genetic sequence haplotype is closely related to two wolf haplotypes found in Italy, France, Romania, and Greece, and is also related to a wolf haplotype found in western Russia (Vila et al., 1997). Clade II appears to be only seen in Norwegian breeds and exhibits a vast amount of divergences. It is suggested that this clade illustrates an ancient and independent origin from wolves that are now extinct (Raisor, 2004). The Norwegian Elkhound evolved, at least partially, from ancestral grey wolf subspecies now found in south central Europe and western Russia and may very well be one of the most ancient of all dog breeds.

In Medieval times it was known as a dyrehund, meaning "animal-dog" in Norwegian, and was highly prized as a hunting dog but rarely seen or bred outside of Norway.[citation needed]

Famous Norwegian Elkhounds[edit]

Cultural references[edit]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Breed standard". The Kennel Club. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  2. ^
  • Lynch, Deborah and Jenny Madeoy. 2004 "Man's best research guide: Breeds hold key to shared ailments." presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science by Deborah Lynch of the Canine Studies Institute in Aurora, Ohio and Jenny Madeoy of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Centre in Seattle. [1]
  • Lynch, Deborah and Jenny Madeoy. 2004a “How top dogs took lead 7,000 years ago.” presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Seattle by Deborah Lynch of the Canine Studies Institute in Aurora, Ohio and Jenny Madeoy of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Centre in Seattle. [2]
  • Ostrander et al. 2004. ”Genetic Structure of the Purebred Domestic Dog.” Science, vol. 304, pp. 1160–1164.
  • Raisor, Michelle Jeanette. 2004. ”Determining the Antiquity of Dog Origins: Canine Domestication as a Model for the Consilience Between Molecular Genetics and Archaeology.” Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Texas A&M University. [3]
  • Vila, Caries, et al. 1997. ”Multiple and Ancient Origins of the Domestic Dog.” Science, vol. 276. [4]

Further reading[edit]

  • Books
    • Norwegian Elkhound (Comprehensive Owner's Guide), 2005. ISBN 978-1-59378-306-8
    • Norwegian Elkhounds by Anna Katherine Nicholas. TFH, 1997. ISBN 978-0-7938-2319-2
    • The Norwegian Elkhound (Pure Bred) by Nina P. Ross, PhD. Doral, 1995. ISBN 978-0-944875-39-1
    • The Elkhound in the British Isles by Anne Roslin-Williams. Witherby & Co., 1993. ISBN 1-85609-050-7
    • My 60 Years with Norwegian Elkhounds by Olav P. Campbell, 1988.
    • The New Complete Norwegian Elkhound, revised edition, by Olav Wallo. Howell, 1987.
    • Norwegian Elkhounds by Anna Katherine Nicholas. TFH, 1983.
    • Great Gray Dogs: The Norwegian Elkhound Factbook, 2nd edition. Great Gray Dogs, 1980.
    • Your Norwegian Elkhound by Helen E. Franciose and Nancy C. Swanson. Denlinger, 1974.
    • How to Raise and Train a Norwegian Elkhound by Glenna Clark Crafts. TFH, 1973. Reprint of the 1964 book with a different cover.
  • Magazine Articles
    • Dearth, Kim D.R. "The Norwegian Elkhound" Dog World September 1999, Vol. 84 Issue 9, p12-17.
    • "Dog of the Vikings" Dog Fancy. April 1998.
    • "Norwegian Elkhound". Dog World. July 1997, Vol. 82 Issue 7. p86.
    • "Regional occurrence, high frequency but low diversity of mitochondrial DNA haplogroup d1 suggests a recent dog-wolf hybridization in Scandinavia". Klütsch CFC, Seppälä EH, Lohi H, Fall T, Hedhammar Å, Uhlén M, Savolainen P 2010 Animal Genetics, online early.

External links[edit]