The Norwegian Elkhound- Dog of the Viking

One of the oldest known breeds of dogs is the Norwegian Elkhound… Long hailed as the “Dog of the Vikings”.   As the name implies, this dog originated in Norway and was used for hunting elg (moose) as well as other large game.  A very rugged and robust dog built for endurance, they have been bred and trained as hunters as well as trackers.  They display a keen and very acute sense of smell and hearing.  As rugged as the land from which he sprang, the Norwegian Elkhound was a cherished companion of his Viking masters and he appears in many of the old sagas.  Archeological investigations in Norway have brought to light a number of bones dating from 5000 to 4000 BC of definite Elkhound type.  Thus even before the Viking  Era, with primitive man, the Norwegian Elkhound had begun that long and staunch companionship with mankind.

A medium-sized dog, basically gray in color with shades of black and silver, the ideal height of an adult Norwegian Elkhound male is 20 ½ inches with a weight between 50-55 pounds.   The adult female is somewhat smaller – 191/2 inches and weighing 35-40 pounds.  The head of the Norwegian Elkhound resembles a black bear with a short prick ears and dark brown eyes that give a lively and fearless expression.  The ears are usually erect and very mobile.  When the dog is alert, the ears move with the sound.  The Norwegian Elkhound’s tail is short, thickly and closely haired without brush.  The tail is tightly curled, set high and carried over the centerline for the dog’s back.

As is common with most northern spitz dog’s, the coat is double…long coarse outer hair to shed rain, sleet and snow with a soft wooly undercoat for insulation against the elements of nature.  A most unusual physical characteristic of the Norwegian Elkhound is the absence of “doggy odor”.  The Coat sheds most foreign substances with ease and the dog seems by instinct to keep himself clean.  The undercoat is shed (blown) twice a year, usually at six month intervals.

One of the most outstanding virtues of the Norwegian Elkhound is his temperament.  They are not usually vicious in nature.   Of course, the breed will vary from one individual to another, but as a breed, their temperament is congenial.  Normally friendly, even with strangers, his bear-like look, deep bark and a jaw full of teeth can discourage unwanted visitors. If angered and pushed too far, he can become a very intimidating animal.  It does take VERY extreme provocation to anger a Norwegian Elkhound.

The Norwegian Elkhound has been found to be a great family pet.  Considered to be reliable with man, woman or child, he adapts himself quickly to a household.  They are good-natured, loving, at times mischievous, & adventuresome, intelligent – as if he knows what you are thinking before you say it – eager to please, very alert and a good watch dog.  He is a much-loved dog and in return, a very loving dog.

Remembering that for centuries the Norwegian Elkhound was used primarily as a hunter and a family guardian, one must recognize that such a dog exhibits an independence which comes from being more than just a companion.  While the Norwegian Elkhound is easy going, reliable, intelligent and eager for praise, he is also staunch, dignified and independent.

The Norwegian Elkhound is a Northern Spitz type canine.  Having the common features of double coat, prick ears, squared and muscled body.  The Norwegian Elkhound was bred as an independent hunting dog partnering with the hunter.   During the hunt, the Elkhound will independently track the moose and may be miles ahead of the hunter.   Occasionally circling back to pick up the hunter.  Upon finding the moose, he will keep the moose’s attention while constantly barking.  The Elkhounds bark can carry for miles.  The hunter homes in on the bark and the moose, which may take hours.   Today the Elkhound is also hunts with a long leash.  The Elkhound, when not hunting was an all-around dog, utilized for sled pulling, pulling people on skis (skijoring), herding (reindeer) and protection.   Elkhounds are very good bird dogs as well.  Some will “chortle” to lure the birds closer and others go on point.

A Norwegian Elkhound puppy should not be an impulse purchase.  Buying an Elkhound is a commitment for the life of the dog which may be 15 years or more.  You owe it to yourself to shop carefully and make sure that you are getting a quality family member who has been bred and raised to ensure a sound body and mind.  Take time to discuss the characteristics of the Norwegian Elkhound with different owners and breeders and to see adult Elkhounds.  Make sure that a Elkhound is the right pet for you, your family and your neighbors.

Elkhound temperament is sound.  They are easy going, alert, intelligent, independent and proud.  An Elkhound retains a puppy’s exuberance for approximately two years.  While not high strung, early education will teach do’s and don’ts of house etiquette.  A regular program and/or a large paddock will keep him in shape and happy.
All children should be supervised when any dog is present for the care of both the dog and the child.  Elkhounds do well with children, however as with any new environment, care must be taken.

Norwegian Elkhounds bark.  Most Elkhounds will bark an alarm when strangers approach, when squirrels, deer and other animals are around, when they want attention, at dinner time, when they are playing and when girls are in season.  They will howl at sirens, whistles and the like.  In short they bark.

An ideal situation would have the Elkhound fenced in a large paddock with room for exploration, exercise, playing and sun-bathing.  They will explore if not fenced or on a leash.  Elkhounds will chase squirrels, rabbits, deer, etc. and become deaf to your commands while doing so.  They need to be taught not to jump up on people and not to be leash pullers.

The Elkhound is not a “high-maintenance” breed.  As the coat sheds off dirt and they do not have a ‘doggy’ odor, bathing can be as infrequent as twice a year.  But twice a year Elkhounds ‘BLOW COAT’.  During this time ALL their soft insulating and white undercoat is shed.  This usually occurs over one to two weeks.  It will amaze you exactly how much of this white cottony fur comes off the dog.  While there are ways to reduce the impact during this time, this is a major maintenance item in regards to Elkhounds.  Other than this, the Elkhound is shown in its natural condition, no hair trimming, bathing and grooming are necessary except for his nails.

Many people have found that the care and effort that must be devoted to an Elkhound is a small price to pay for a companion who is sensitive to its owner’s moods and personality, is a constant source of interest and fun and has the knack of charming everyone that meets him.  The Elkhounds intelligence, devotion, easy maintenance and unending love may make him the right dog for you.