Showsight Presents the Norwegian Elkhound

JUDGING THE NORWEGIAN ELKHOUND by BONNIE TURNER, Roundel Norwegian Elkhounds

Nor. Ch. Bamse

T he Norwegian Elkhound Associ- ation of America holds a nation- al specialty only once every two years. On the o ff or odd year a member regional club will host a NEAA sponsored specialty in conjunction with their own specialty. I just returned several days ago from judging NEAA’s show. Th is was such a huge honor. I had the pleasure of evaluating a number of good dogs. Our entries may be down but there were a num- ber of quality dogs and bitches from which to find the “one I wanted to take home”. I would like to describe for you the process used to make my choices. “Only a properly conditioned dog, square in pro fi le and balanced in proportion can perform e ff ortlessly as he was bred to do thou- sands of years ago.” – Author unknown I keep these words in my head with every dog I evaluate. Article after article has been written going piece by piece with the standard. My aim here is to provide a di ff erent concept about how to judge this breed. Th e following quote, also author unknown, may help you when you study our standard and try to apply it to live dogs. “ Th e Norwegian Elkhound is not a cook- ie-cutter dog. Th e standard uses inconclusive words (substantial, medium, comparatively and slightly) to describe the breed, giving ample opportunity for interpretation. How- ever, if one or more of the breed characteristics are out of balance, the dog is undesirable for showing or breeding.” Skeletons found in caves dating back to 4000-5000 B.C. give this breed the right to claim the title of oldest domesticated dog in western Europe. Living in Viking vil- lages, Elkhounds protected the people and their farm animals from theft and wolves. Th eir battles with wolves are legendary and can be found in numerous writings. Th e breed is a descendent of Canis lupus —the wolf, which explains his independence. One article describes him in this way “for all his loyalty and a ff ection he will never be su ffi ciently submissive for everyone’s taste.” It is this independence which gives him his

hunting prowess. Los-hund (Norwegian for hunting free), the dog must have an ability to make his own decisions, while knowing he will need to vocally summon the hunter to finish the hunt. Imagine the bravery of a 50-pound dog cornering and holding captive a 2500-pound kicking and goring machine, sometimes for hours and after giving chase for most of the day. Th e terrain of Norway is mountainous, covered with underbrush and densely forested. Th e ability to pick up a trail and follow it at a trot for hours is paramount. Now that I have laid out the physical requirements of this breed let us find the best dog in the ring—the dog that could do the hunting job. Viewed from the side, look for a short coupled, balanced dog. Check for good leg length-leg, this length helps them over fallen trees and to wade through streams without getting completely soaked. Looking at the dogs from the side as they gait, a level topline should be maintained while front toes reach the tip of the nose with good push o ff from the rear. Th ey tend to move with their heads lowered. Approach- ing the dog you should see courage in the dog’s eyes. Th ese eyes should be dark brown and oval with “mascara lines” coming from the outer corners. Th ere should be a scis- sors bite. Ears should be slightly smaller than their base’s width and black in color. Th e dog will lay them back when relaxed or showing a ff ection however judges must be able to see them erect at least once. Mov- ing to the side of the head you should see two equal and parallel planes with slight stop. Muzzle should be black and on occa- sion dogs will have spectacles under the eyes which are an undesirable marking. Fill under the eyes is most desirable. A muscular neck of good length leads you to a pair of great shoulders. Scapulas that lay on good muscling and are matched by long upper arms lead your hands to substantial bone in the leg and on to paws which are oval and tightly closed. Elbows should be well set on deep, well sprung ribs. We are now at the all- important ribcage for the correct Elkhound.

Th e dog must have a comparatively long ribcage and a short coupling to be correct. Th e distance between the withers and tail may appear to be short but it is the correct proportions that are essential. Th ere must be great heart and lung capacity for miles of ground covering and short coupling to aid in agility when avoiding the antlers and hooves that can kill. (NOTE: approxi- mately 3-4 fingers width should comprise the length of the coupling.) Th e dog should possess moderate rear angulation, well-let down hocks and muscled thighs. Th e tail is high set and tightly curled lying on the center of the back. Checking the coat, it must be harsh and flat lying for weather resistance, brushing it the other way should expose a woolly undercoat as the dog carries a double coat. Th e only disqualification is for a dog that is not overall gray in color. Th e darkness of the coat is determined by the length of the guard hairs. A dark dog of good quality should be rewarded as these dog will maintain the black markings in the gene pool. Th ere should be a black saddle, black ears, tip of tail and muzzle. Under- neath the dog, underside of tail and legs are light silver. Harness marks (longer, lighter colored hair) are distinct lines running from shoulder to elbow. In temperament he is bold and energetic, friendly but dignified. ABOVE ALL ELSE HE MUST BE AN ATHLETE IN ORDER TO GET THE HUNTING JOB DONE. As I quoted at the beginning of this article, the wording “the Elkhound is not a cookie-cutter dog” is very true. In your judging experiences you may encounter dogs that do not very closely resemble the type you were shown the week before. Judges must study materials and develop a picture in their mind of what the dog should look like then judge to that picture. I would suggest Elkhound breed type is: A hearty, grey Nordic hunting dog of great stamina and courage, good leg length, short coupling, moderate angulation, erect ears and tightly curled tail. He is truly the hound that hunts alone.

172 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , M AY 2015

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