The Norwegian Elkhound, also known as the Norsk Elghund (Gra), the Grahund, the Graa Dyrehund, the Dyrehund, the Grey Elkhound, the Grey Norwegian Elkhound, the Grey Elk Dog, the Swedish Grey Dog and the Elkhound, is one of the oldest and most natural of all canine breeds. It is Norway's grand contribution to dogdom. Everything about this dog – from his compact size, muscular body, robust squareness and dense coat to his fearless temperament, keen intelligence, versatility and adaptability to any tasks or conditions – developed without a preconceived human mold. The Norwegian Elkhound was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1913. and became eligible for full registration in 1930, as a member of the Hound Group.
The mature male Elkhound stands 20½ inches at the withers and weighs about 55 pounds; adult bitches stand 19½ inches in height and typically weigh about 48 pounds. Their thick, hard, weather-resistant coat has a soft, wooly undercoat and a coarse, smooth-lying overcoat that requires regular brushing to loosen and remove dead hair. No alteration by trimming, clipping or other artificial treatment is permitted in the show ring. The breed sheds its coat seasonally in great volume. Coat color is preferred in a medium gray, with black tips on the overcoat and a light, clear silver undercoat. The muzzle, ears and tip of the tail are black. Red, brown, solid black, white or any solid color other than described above disqualifies the dog from show competition. Like other Spitz breeds, the Norwegian Elkhound carries its tightly curled tail high over its back.
The Norwegian Elkhound dates back thousands of years to the wild rocky slopes, bleak plateaus and glacial ice of primitive Norway. Fossilized skeletons of these dogs were uncovered among stone implements in the Viste Cave at Jaeren in western Norway, in a stratum dating back to 5000 to 4000 B.C. The Elkhound developed in type and temperament strictly through natural expression of physical and temperamental needs. He hunted all day with his guardians in rugged country with a bone-chilling sub-arctic climate, where stamina counted more than speed. He was a fearless hunter of the largest and most dangerous wild game, particularly the bear, which was common in the forests of Norway many years ago.
Over time, as bear dwindled, the Norwegian Elkhound was transitioned to hunt the true elk – Alces alces, which Americans call the "moose." The so-called elk in America is actually the "wapiti," Cervus canadensis. In Norwegian, "elg" means "moose." The Elkhound has uncanny and highly-developed senses that make him unusually adept at elk hunting. He can catch a scent or hear an elk from miles away. A slight whimper will indicate to his master that the elk has become alarmed and is on the move. Once the dog approaches the elk (especially a bull elk), his instincts and intuition take over. He barks just enough to engage the bull, knowing full well that it can outrun him if it bolts. Still, the elk may retreat while the hunter is approaching, despite the dog's efforts. If that happens, the Elkhound will stop barking. Then, slowly and silently, it will creep upwind and re-engage its quarry. Inevitably, the bull elk will tire of the annoyance and will attack with great antlers and deadly forefeet. Once again, the Norwegian Elkhound is prepared for this both mentally and physically. Its short back enables it to "bounce like a rubber ball," avoiding the elk's attack. It will at the same time bark furiously to guide its master to the site.
This breed also is well-adapted to hunt other game, including reindeer, wolf, lynx, mountain lion, badger, fox, rabbit and raccoon, as well as any variety of ground-dwelling birds. Scent, sight, vision and hearing are all keenly refined senses in the Norwegian Elkhound, contributing to its tremendous versatility as man's hunting companion in the pursuit of wild game. The Norwegian Hunters' Association held its first formal dog show in 1877. Shortly thereafter, pedigrees which had been handed down for these dogs were traced as far back as possible, and an official studbook - Norsk Hundestambak – was published. A breed club was formed and a standard was prepared to solidify the breed type, using a grand dog named Gamle Bamse Gram as a representation of the ideal specimen. The Norwegian Kennel Club (Norsk Kennelklub) held its first annual dog show in Oslo. The breed skyrocketed from that point on, with exports to a multitude of countries.
As game became increasingly scarce, the Norwegian Elkhound became one of the most common of all breeds at dogs shows throughout Scandinavia. During the 1900s, the breed steadily gained in popularity outside of Scandinavia as well. The American Kennel Club recognized the Norwegian Elkhound in its Stud Book in 1913. The British Elhound Society was founded in 1923, the same year that The Kennel Club (England) recognized the Norwegian Elkhound as a distinct breed. The American Kennel Club followed suit in 1930, moving the breed into its Working Group with full registration eligibility. The Norwegian Elkhound Association of America was loosely formed in 1930 and became a parent club member of the AKC in 1935. Today's Norwegian Elkhound continues to excel at hunting, but more commonly is a competitive show dog and an ideal companion. It is an excellent watchdog and family guardian, as well as a competent herder, flock guard, sled dog and pack dog. This is the National Dog of Norway.
The average life span of the Norwegian Elkhound is 13 to 15 years. Breed health concerns may include chondrodysplasia, entropion (usually lower lids), primary glaucoma, lens luxation, cataracts, familial renal disease, Fanconi syndrome, hypothyroidism, infundibular keratinizing acanthoma (keratocanthoma) and progressive retinal atrophy.
Norwegian Elkhounds are friendly, energetic dogs who make excellent companions for active families. Elkhounds love to be outdoors, and look like they are having the time of their lives when they do anything that involves running. They are sensitive animals, in tune with how their owners are feeling and instinctively know when to clown around for a laugh, or when to stay quiet and lay their head in the lap of a friend who needs some comforting. Elkhounds are outgoing and greet everyone as if they are an old friend, but instinctively know the difference between a welcome guest and an intruder and can be trusted as a reliable watchdog. Elkhounds are good with kids and make an excellent choice for active, experienced dog owners.
Norwegian Elkhounds are bundles of energy and need a lot of vigorous activity in order to maintain health and an even temperament. Several walks a day are great, but that is just a start for this breed. They need time to run every single day, and should be exercised for one to two hours. If your Elkhound is not getting enough physical activity, he will become hyperactive and resort to destructive chewing when left alone.
Norwegian Elkhounds are best suited for those who already have an active lifestyle. People who walk, jog, bike, hike and camp will find that an Elkhound fits seamlessly into these activities. Couch potatoes, or those who want a docile family dog should look to another breed.
Elkhounds are intelligent dogs and have minds of their own, making them challenge to train. This breed needs firm leadership and absolute consistency or they will take over the household. Calm-assertive leadership is required, and many trainers suggest exercising your Elkhound before training sessions to ensure they are in the right frame of mind to accept leadership.
Once leadership has been established and basic obedience has been mastered, Norwegian Elkhounds should graduate on to agility training. The obstacle course gives them an outlet to burn off physical energy, while keeping their minds sharp and active.
Norwegian Elkhounds are naturally noisy and rambunctious, even when exercised properly. They have a tendency to jump on people, so it is imperative to teach them "down" and "stay" commands as early as possible. It is also important to teach them commands to stop barking. They love to hear themselves bark, and though they are not aggressive, will bark to let you know someone is approaching.
Separation Anxiety can often develop in this breed. Elkhounds love to be with their families and when left alone too long can bark excessively and become destructive. Proper exercise can help stave off anxiety, but this breed shouldn't be left alone for long periods of time.
The Norwegian Elkhound is a hardy gray hunting dog. In appearance, a typical northern dog of medium size and substance, square in profile, close coupled and balanced in proportions. The head is broad with prick ears, and the tail is tightly curled and carried over the back. The distinctive gray coat is dense and smooth lying. As a hunter, the Norwegian Elkhound has the courage, agility and stamina to hold moose and other big game at bay by barking and dodging attack, and the endurance to track for long hours in all weather over rough and varied terrain.
Size, Proportion, Substance
Height at the withers for dogs is 20½ inches, for bitches 19½ inches. Weight for dogs about 55 pounds, for bitches about 48 pounds.
Square in profile and close coupled. Distance from brisket to ground appears to be half the height at the withers. Distance from forechest to rump equals the height at the withers. Bone is substantial, without being coarse.
Head broad at the ears, wedge shaped, strong and dry (without loose skin). Expression keen, alert, indicating a dog with great courage. Eyes very dark brown, medium in size, oval, not protruding. Ears set high, firm and erect, yet very mobile. Comparatively small; slightly taller than their width at the base with pointed (not rounded) tips. When the dog is alert, the orifices turn forward and the outer edges are vertical. When relaxed or showing affection, the ears go back, and the dog should not be penalized for doing this during the judge's examination.
Viewed from the side, the forehead and back of the skull are only slightly arched; the stop not large, yet clearly defined. The muzzle is thickest at the base and, seen from above or from the side, tapers evenly without being pointed. The bridge of the nose is straight, parallel to and about the same length as the skull. Lips are tightly closed and teeth meet in a scissors bite.
Neck, Topline, Body
Neck of medium length, muscular, well set up with a slight arch and with no loose skin on the throat. Topline--The back is straight and strong from its high point at the withers to the root of the tail. The body is short and close-coupled with the rib cage accounting for most of its length. Chest deep and moderately broad; brisket level with points of elbows; and ribs well sprung. Loin short and wide with very little tuck-up. Tail set high, tightly curled, and carried over the centerline of the back. It is thickly and closely haired, without brush. natural and untrimmed.
Shoulders sloping with elbows closely set on. Legs well under body and medium in length; substantial, but not coarse, in bone. Seen from the front, the legs appear straight and parallel. Single dewclaws are normally present. Feet--Paws comparatively small, slightly oval with tightly closed toes and thick pads. Pasterns are strong and only slightly bent. Feet turn neither in nor out.
Moderate angulation at stifle and hock. Thighs are broad and well muscled. Seen from behind, legs are straight, strong and without dewclaws. Feet as in front.
Thick, hard, weather resisting and smooth lying; made up of soft, dense, woolly undercoat and coarse, straight covering hairs. Short and even on head, ears, and front of legs; longest on back of neck, buttocks and underside of tail. The coat is not altered by trimming, clipping or artificial treatment. Trimming of whiskers is optional. In the show ring, presentation in a natural, unaltered condition is essential.
Gray, medium preferred, variations in shade determined by the length of black tips and quantity of guard hairs. Undercoat is clear light silver as are legs, stomach, buttocks, and underside of tail. The gray body color is darkest on the saddle, lighter on the chest, mane and distinctive harness mark (a band of longer guard hairs from shoulder to elbow). The muzzle, ears and tail tip are black. The black of the muzzle shades to lighter gray over the forehead and skull.
Yellow or brown shading, white patches, indistinct or irregular markings, "sooty" coloring on the lower legs and light circles around the eyes are undesirable. Any overall color other than gray as described above, such as red, brown, solid black, white or other solid color, disqualifies.
Normal for an active dog constructed for agility and endurance. At a trot the stride is even and effortless; the back remains level. As the speed of the trot increases, front and rear legs converge equally in straight lines toward a center line beneath the body, so that the pads appear to follow in the same tracks (single track). Front and rear quarters are well balanced in angulation and muscular development.
In temperament, the Norwegian Elkhound is bold and energetic, an effective guardian yet normally friendly, with great dignity and independence of character.
The Norwegian Elkhound is a square and athletic member of the northern dog family. His unique coloring, weather resistant coat and stable disposition make him an ideal multipurpose dog at work or at play.
An overall color other than gray.
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Sources: American Kennel Club