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The Norwegian Elkhound is one of the ancient Northern Spitz-type breed of dog and is the National Dog of Norwaymarker. The Elkhound has served as a hunter, guardian, herder, and defender. In a land of subzero temperatures, deep snow, thick forests, and rugged mountains, only the hardiest of the breeds could evolve to perform the variety of jobs at which the Elkhound excels. Its Spitz courage is probably a by-product or residue of the fact that a significant number of them were used to track and hunt moose and other large game, like bear or wolf. The Norwegian Elkhound was first presented at a dog exhibition in Norway in 1877.

The AKC breed name "Norwegian Elkhound" is a direct translation from its original Norwegian name "Norsk Elghund," meaning "Norwegian moose dog." (European settlers mistakenly called the North American cousin of the red deer an elk, when in fact in the Norwegian language the term elk or elg means moose.) Despite its name in America, it is not a hound dog; the Elkhound does not hunt like a hound dog nor is it directly related to hounds, however in Britain it is classed as a hound and in shows is grouped in the Hound group. The breed's goal in the hunt is to independently track down and hold the moose at bay — jumping in and out toward the moose, while signaling to the hunters by barking very loud — until the hunter who follows the sound can arrive to shoot it. Another way of hunting with the dog is to let one of the hunters follow the dog, then chase the moose towards a row of hunters, so they can shoot it.

Description

Appearance

Norwegian Elkhound appearance

Build: medium, sturdy and squarely built
Weight: 45-60 pounds (18-27 kg.)
Height: 18-21 inches (46-53 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: 12-16 years


Norsk elghund, Norwegian Elkhound


The dog stands about 45-52 cm (20.5") high and weighs up to 24 kg (52 lbs). 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 along its back. 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.

Temperament

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 watchdog.

Norwegian Elkhounds are loyal to their "pack" and make excellent family dogs if given proper attention. It is 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. This is a dog ready for adventure and is happiest if that adventure takes place outdoors in cold weather. It needs daily exercise, lest it become frustrated or even destructive. It is an exceptionally friendly breed. If untrained, it tends to pull when on leash. This dog needs attention for it to understand its place within the family (or the pack), else it may develop social problems and feel neglected. This is a very proud and noble breed that can easily have its feelings hurt if its owner deserts his or her allegiance or duty. An inevitable bond will develop between the dog's family, master, or pack, and if there is disloyalty, the dog will definitely feel it and be hurt. Although each dog is an individual, they generally are very gentle and get along great with children. They are happiest when they feel that they are part of the family. This, combined with their very loud bark, makes them a good watchdog.

Norwegian Elkhounds can be challenging to train because of their intelligence and deep independent streak, but they are acceptable obedience dogs, good-natured, and very understanble in their learning and training. For example, if they fail to "come" because there is something of greater interest in the other direction, they can be quick to learn the importance of the command if taught correctly but they are a willful breed and may never "come" on command. They can be wonderful in agility and are particularly good tracking dogs.

Care

Grooming

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


Norwegian Elkhound's thick coats are well suited to Norwegian weather, and provide protection from the elements in two main ways. Their outer coats shed rain, snow, and sleet easily, while their under coats keep them warm in low temperatures. Because their coat is so thick, they moult twice a year, producing copious amounts of fur indoors.

Elkhounds tend to remain clean because their coat sheds most dirt and because they seem to keep themselves clean instinctively. However, Elkhounds require regular everyday brushing especially when they moult to avoid their oil glands becoming plugged and to help them stay cool in summer.However, this can prove problematic for owners in warmer climates, for Elkhounds shed profusely in the summer, leaving soft white down-like hair everywhere.

Some owners save the hair from brushes and combs, spin the cleaned hair into yarn, and crochet or knit with it. The resulting fabric is soft and warm.

Walking

Elkhounds are very powerful animals, bred to hunt all day in cold climates, so they require plenty of exercise to feel satisfied and stay healthy. A minimum of 20–30 minute walk twice a day is absolutely necessary and recommended by many breeders. But for an Elkhound to feel really satisfied and healthy, daily walks up to two or three hours would be ideal.

Elkhounds are truly an outside dog at heart and need to have an owner with confidence who has the ability to establish clear dominance in the owner–pet relationship. An owner who does not establish this dominance will find that an Elkhound may be prone to running off when walking or when the door is open and ignoring any calls or commands.

Health

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.

History and Evolution

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 . Archaeological excavations in Scandinavia suggest this breed existed and was domesticated in the Stone age . At the end of the 19th century the breed came to Englandmarker, and in 1901 the 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 NorwegianElkhound, believed to be of ancient Scandinavian origin" ([85346]). 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.

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 Italymarker, Francemarker, Romaniamarker, and Greecemarker, and is also related to a wolf haplotype found in western Russiamarker (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 dyrehound or dyrehund and was highly prized as a hunting dog but rarely seen or bred outside of Norway.

Famous Norwegian Elkhounds



In Literature



References

  • 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. [85347]


  • 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. [85348]


  • 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. [85349]


  • Vila, Caries, et al. 1997. ”Multiple and Ancient Origins of the Domestic Dog.” Science, vol. 276. [85350]


See also



Similar Breeds

As the Spitz are a very ancient dog type, many smaller types of Spitz resemble each other. Medium to small sized breeds similar in appearance from various places in the world include the Wolfsspitz (Keeshond), Großspitz, Mittelspitz, Kleinspitz, Zwergspitz (Pomeranian), Samoyed (dog), Schipperke, Norwegian Elkhound, Volpino Italiano (Italian Spitz), Laika (Russian Spitz), Finnish Spitz, Indian Spitz and Japanese Spitz.

Types of German Spitz

Related breeds

Resources

  • Books
    • Norwegian Elkhound (Comprehensive Owner's Guide), 2005.
    • Norwegian Elkhounds by Anna Katherine Nicholas. TFH, 1997.
    • The Norwegian Elkhound (Pure Bred) by Nina P. Ross, PhD. Doral, 1995.
    • The Elkhound in the British Isles by Anne Roslin-Williams. Witherby & Co., 1993.
    • 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.

External links




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