Showsight Presents the Norwegian Elkhound

DOG OF THE VIKINGS

By Randi L. Johnson

T

he Norwegian Elkhound is a hardy, gray dog that has remained relatively unchanged for plus or minus 6000 years. Th e essence of his beau-

ty is that he is not “man-made.” He is a medium-sized dog, compact, square, well- muscled, exceedingly intelligent, coura- geous, bold and energetic. Th is is a natural requirement for a big game hunter, on the chase, day after day, in the rugged country from which he originated, Norway. It is surmised that in the Viking Era, the Norwegian Elkhound had many duties. He was a companion and watchdog for his people. He protected his owner’s farm from wild animals, such as wolves and bears. He was a guardian of fl ocks. Also, the Vikings took some of their dogs on voyages to sea. Pre-dating the Viking Era, archeological fi ndings revealed a number of stone implements and bones inside Viste Cave at Jaeren in Norway, including two skeletons of dogs, identi fi ed as de fi nite Elkhound type by Professor Brinchmann of the Bergen Museum. Th ese fi ndings date back from 5000 to 4000 BC. It is in the last several centuries that the Norwegian Elkhound has been bred primarily for his superior hunting capabili- ties. In America, the name “elkhound,” has been misinterpreted to mean, “elk hunter.” Th is is a mistranslation of the Norwegian word, “elghund,” which means “moose dog.” Th e Elkhound is an independent hunter, using his keen air scenting ability to track the moose through rugged terrain. His impressive bark alerts the owner to his whereabouts. Upon locating the moose, the Elkhound barks incessantly, skillfully darting in and out and bouncing from side to side to avoid deadly racks and hooves. Th is distracts the moose from the hunter, while holding the moose at bay. Th us, stamina and agility are more important

than speed for this breed. Elkhounds are also used to hunt bear and deer in Norway. In the United States, game laws prohibit the use of the Elkhound for hunting moose and other kinds of big game. However, the Norwegian Elkhound makes a great fam- ily dog for those that appreciate that keen hunting instincts in fl uence his personality. He is loving and devoted yet independent, highly intelligent, curious and energetic, and with a great deal of selective hearing. For instance, if he takes o ff running, and you call him, he often stops, looks around, and if there are no better options, he will come trotting happily back to you side. Th is is a good example of the need for a 5 to 6 foot fence to keep your dog safe and secure. It also shows that basic, consistent obedience training is a necessity, as there is a continuing con fl ict between his loving devotion to you and his deep instinct to be “on the hunt” combined with a never- ending intellectual curiosity. Many Elk- hounds have become quite accomplished

in obedience, rally, agility, tracking (the Elkhound is both a sight and scent hound) and/or therapy. Also, it has been recently noticed that some Elkhounds have the ability to alert owners to impending sei- zures, some cancers and more. Due to the Elkhound’s independent nature, any one of these endeavors takes skill, great e ff ort and persistence, but success is very reward- ing for those owners that partake. Most Norwegian Elkhounds have a zest for life and are, well, just plain fun. Th ey cherish the outdoors and love to interact with people. Th ey relish long walks. Some even love to retrieve a ball or toy, but usually only up to a point. Many love to play “keep away” with you and/or other dogs in your family. Th ey can be a joy to watch with all their energy and gusto, remembering what you’ve learned of their skillful, agile moves utilized by their relatives and ancestors in dealing with the moose. Th ere are small hazards to watch out for within the Elk- hound’s outdoor territory. Tripping on a

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