by Doris Donnerman
(last updated April 3, 2009)
The Norwegian Elkhound is one of the oldest inhabitants of Scandinavia. Long before he became the companion of the Vikings in both sport and conquest, the Elkhound, in much the same form as we find him today, roamed the saeters of Norway.
From these early days the Norwegian Elkhound has come down with its original traits unimpaired, a game, fearless hunter and a devoted companion. Four skeletons were discovered in Norway some years ago in a stratum belonging to the Stone Age. Experts pronounced them to be of dogs almost identical with the Norwegian Elkhound of today. Another skeleton was discovered in the Viste Cave at Jaeren, in western Norway, in a stratum which dated from 4,000 to 5,000 B.C. This skeleton was declared that of a dog closely resembling today's Norwegian Elkhound.
The Norwegian Elkhound was apparently no happenstance. He was bred for a particular job in a certain section of the world, and the fact that he has remained essentially the same throughout the years is proof that he did that job well. He was especially proficient in hunting elk, from which he gets his name. It is said that through his extraordinary scenting powers, the Norwegian Elkhound could wind an elk for a distance of three miles. After bringing his quarry to bay, the courageous dog held the animal for his master's arrival, or, with high intelligence, worked the elk in the direction of his master. He was also used in hunting bears, and later as a gun-dog and retriever on upland game birds, notably the black cock.
In Britain, the Norwegian Elkhound was used with success on small ground game, but has been known to kill otter. In this country, it could hardly be classed as a sporting dog, being used mostly as a companion, yet frequently as a farm dog, where he readily takes to working with livestock.
This breed of dog has been kept remarkably pure. This is shown in its high prepotency, for the offspring of any cross-mating will show a strong inheritance of this particular breed's characteristics. He is alert and compact, showing strength and endurance in every line. Such conformation was undoubtedly necessary for the breed to have survived in its original form of the passing centuries.
The breed is not an old one in this country, nor even in England, for among the first specimens to be imported into England from Norway were brought back in 1878. Elkhounds were soon imported into England from both Norway and Sweden, and many crosses were made. The variance in type was at first somewhat confusing, but the breed settled into uniformity and has so remained. In general appearance the Norwegian Elkhound is a dog fully capable of doing just what he has often been called upon to do, hunt day in and day out in rugged country where strength rather than excessive speed is demanded.
The general description of the Norwegian Elkhound is a typical northern dog. He is of medium size, with a compact, proportionately short body. He has a thick and rich, but not bristling, grey coat, with prick ears, and with a tail that is curled and carried over the back. His temperament is bold and energetic.
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