A typical northern spitz-like breed, the Norwegian Elkhound is a square-proportioned, close-coupled dog, with substantial bone, broad head, pricked ears, and a tightly curled tail. This dog is constructed for agility and endurance rather than speed. The Elkhound has a thick, smooth-lying coat consisting of straight outer hairs and a wooly undercoat. This combination presents the best protection against cold and snow.
The Elkhound is an unusual hound because its roots lie in the spitz breeds, which the breed still closely resembles. The placement in the Hound Group reflects partly the misinterpretation of the original “hund” name as “hound,” but mostly because the breed is functionally a scenthound. Historically this dog used tracking abilities to hunt moose and other large game. The Elkhound has served as a hunter, guardian, herder, and defender at least since the time of the Vikings. In a land of subzero temperatures, deep snow, thick forests, and rugged mountains, only the hardiest of breeds could evolve to perform the variety of jobs at which the Elkhound excels. Although the breed had been carefully bred for centuries, only since the late 1800s were pedigrees kept. The breed has been exhibited in Scandinavian dog shows since that time and was brought to England and America shortly thereafter. The breed gained the American public’s attention when President Hoover was given an Elkhound as a gift from Norway in appreciation for his help in World War I. The AKC recognized the breed around 1930, and the Elkhound has enjoyed moderate popularity since then.
The Norwegian Elkhound combines traits of hounds and spitz-like dogs, resulting in a breed that is bold, playful, independent, alert, and boisterous. This is a dog ready for adventure and is happiest if that adventure takes place outdoors in cold weather. Daily exercise is needed to prevent frustration or destructive behavior. Friendly with strangers, this dog may still quarrel with unfamiliar dogs. Families thinking of adding an Elkhound to their household should expect to train this playful dog not to pull on a leash, and be tolerant of barking.
The Elkhound was developed to hunt all day under grueling conditions and therefore needs daily exertion in order to feel satisfied. This can be in the form of a good jog, a very long walk, or invigorating play session. The double coat needs brushing twice a week, and daily during main shedding season.