Norwegian Elkhound: “The Moosedog”

The Norwegian Elkhound can be traced as far back as the stone ages. Through the study of the fossils from that time it can be determined that there existed the same basic dog that we know of today as the Elkhound.

This breed has such purity of ancestry that it can be considered to be one of the most ancient of all the dogs. The Norwegian word for the dog”, elghund” actually means “moosedog” however, Elkhound is the translation which stuck. Hound is probably not an appropriate term for the dog does not have any hound in its genetic makeup. However despite this the dog was brought into the American Kennel club in the Hound group. Devotees of the breed find that having the dog in this class or group can be a disadvantage since it bears very little resemblance to the dogs typically entered as “hounds”.

There are three varieties of the Norwegian Elkhound, all three are close cousins and have remained unchanged through the centuries. The Gray Elkhound is the one most familiar, then there is the Black (which is a slightly smaller variety) and the Swedish or the Jamthound.

Today the Elkhound still is used in the Northern countries to track and follow wild game, including moose, elk, deer, lynx and wolf. Many of the pet owners of this breed have no idea that indeed it is a hunting dog with unique versatility for it will bay on the track, or creep in silence behind the animal, or attack with dodging and feinting to bring the animal down. Those who do hunt with this dog will insist that he can pick up the scent of the elk or moose as far away as three miles. He also is used on smaller game because moose and elk are not as plentiful as they once were and of course now there are established hunting seasons for these animals. The Norwegian Elkhound is generally a versatile farm dog, going after all kinds of marauding predators and also making himself useful as a herding dog for the livestock. The Norwegian Elkhound is a medium sized dog with a densely furred coat. The color is solid gray in varying shades, with black tips on the ends of the hairs. Usually there is a typical whiter band of hair across the shoulders and around the eyes in a spectacle appearance. Also the breeches of the hind legs and the underside of the tightly curled tail are in lighter shades. Actually, the markings of the breed are similar to those of the Keeshond. However the Keeshond has a coat which is much longer. The Norwegian Elkhounds of today are popular as a family pet in most parts of the world and of course are shown in the dog shows.

One of the most well known judges and breeders, Patricia Hastings, made the Norwegian Elkhound famous in the show rings of the United States and also at Crufts. She bred and raised this breed for many years and took several of her dogs to the coveted wins of Best of Breed and even Best in show at Westminster, later going on to become a judge of great skill. Her positive influence on the breed has no doubt increased the numbers of these dogs that are now found as family pets. However the dog is not a dog which is for everyone. It is a dog that must have a purpose and simply lying about the house is not part of its nature. Any dog that has solid working or hunting instincts can quickly become bored and quite destructive if the working nature of the breed is not channeled and encouraged.