Showsight July 2020


US the Norwegian Elkhound is classified within the Hound Group. Elghund-like dogs have existed in the Nordic countries since before the time of Christ and a number of Spitz breeds are used there for hunting or herding. The Elkhound must be a wily and agile dog in order to track and hold at bay moose, elk, deer, bear, or other large game encountered in the Scandinavian forests. The breed has been likened in agility to a Quarter Horse cutting cattle. It is determined and steady on the search and approach—sometimes over steep and rocky mountainsides—and being super nimble on the move in order to dodge an irate moose. The thick protective and smooth lying outercoat and softer undercoat on the body serve as insulation from the cold in its native Scandinavian hunting regions. This breed is subject to a working trial in order to gain a bench championship in Norway, Sweden, and Finland. It is still used there, as well as in the US to a lesser extent, in the hunt for moose, elk, and deer. The dog works alone or as part of a pair, silently scenting to find the game, then barking while keeping it at bay for the hunter to arrive, then tracking the wounded game if needed. As hunts are hours long, the Elkhound must also be capable of great endurance. Morphologically, the breed does not exhibit differences between those used for strictly hunting and those used for show. However, sty- listically, there is a difference in coat presentation between that seen in the US, outside the US, and with the hunting dog. As one would expect, the hunter’s dog is rugged and grooming is limited to maybe a few brushings to assist in the shedding of coat. In the US, grooming for the show ring has expanded to bathing and blowing out the coat so that it stands away from the body. This presentation demonstrates a coat that is highly unprotective, as it would allow melting snow to penetrate and hasten the loss of body warmth provided by a cor- rect coat. Of note, this grooming technique is not generally employed when the parent club brings over a Norwegian judge to adjudicate the National Specialty! The Norrbottenspets/Norrbottenspitz (Spitz from the area of North Bothnia) probably originates from small Laika-type Spitz dog. In addition to being an all-around farm dog, hunting for food and fur (sustenance and protection) in the harsh areas of the northernmost adjoining parts of Sweden and Finland was a necessity for the survival of its masters. Ermine, sable, and marten were considered valid cur- rency for hundreds of years and their meat, along with that of hunted grouse, did not go unused. Drastic drops in fur prices following World War II coincided with the drop in interest for the Norrbottenspets. Not having registrations and thinking the breed had vanished, the Swedish Kennel Club (SKK) declared it extinct in 1948. Fortunately, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, some true-to-type specimens were The Elkhound must be a wily and agile dog in order track and hold at bay moose, elk, deer, bear, or other large game encountered in the Scandinavian forests. The breed has been likened in agility to a Quarter Horse cutting cattle.

found living as pets and watch dogs on small homesteads in the inland North Bothnia. The exceptionally dedicated work of a few persons allowed this old type hunting Spitz to be saved. In 1967, the Norrbottenspets was re-introduced to the Swedish registry and a new standard was drawn up. The Finnish registry is still open to true-to-type dogs. The Swedish registry, however, is now closed. The breed is subject to a working trial in Sweden, Finland, and Norway in order to attain a show championship. This keen little breed that hunts by scent, hearing, and sight is a fairly recent arrival to the AKC Miscellaneous Group and will head to the Hound Group once eligible. Norrbottenspets are released to hunt by scent-finding the game. Once game is found, the dog trees, corners, or holds it at bay while barking continu- ously until the hunter arrives to dispatch it. The dog captivates the game’s attention and distracts it from any noise the oncoming hunter may make. Since there are so few numbers in the US and globally, it is difficult to detect if there has been any drift in morphology, style or type from the dogs used strictly for hunting. The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a breed indigenous to the south- eastern areas of Southern Africa, particularly Zimbabwe (for- merly Rhodesia). Its ancestors were the native ridge-backed dogs of the Hottentots and various Portuguese, Dutch and German Sporting and Working breeds brought to the Cape by early Boer settlers. The first written standard of the breed was in 1922 by the country of origin parent club which is an affiliate of what is now called the Zimbabwe Kennel Club. The original function of the Ridgeback was to track game, especially lions, by hunting in pairs or trios. It’s strength, agility, courage, endurance, barking, and instinct keep the game at bay until the arrival of the hunter; therefore, allowing a shot at closer range. It has worked as a hunting dog, retriever, and property guardian and is still used in various parts of the world to track and hunt game. It can also put up and retrieve birds as well. The breed competes in ASFA and AKC lure coursing field tri- als and, to a much lesser degree, in NOTRA and LGRA races. Photographs of Ridgebacks from the 1920s, 30s, and early 40s depict a breed with a more pronounced forechest and greater sub- stance, as well as truly moderate rear end angulation with depth through the upper and second thighs. There is a definite departure seen between Ridgebacks used almost exclusively for lure coursing and racing, and those that are shown. The coursing/racing dogs display a racier appearance, exhibiting a greater tuck up of abdomen and flank and less over- all substance. They are a far cry from the sturdy game hunters developed in southern Africa. That being said, there are a number of show dogs, including champions, that also hold lure coursing field trial championships. Within that group there are those that tend toward the more substantial side of the bell curve and those that tend toward the racier side. Somewhere in the mid-section of that bell curve is the strong, agile, endurance hunter. Are we paying attention to the original intent of the breed when observing it? How conscious are we of these real and per- ceived differences when we make our judging decisions, be they in the show ring, field trial, hunt test, or in breeding? Is there a divergence in type or morphology? What are we doing, as breed- ers and judges, to close the gap? I’ll look forward to your commentary and questions on this article, as well as the ones that follow in this series. Feel free to send your comments to or to me at


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