Showsight Presents the Norwegian Elkhound

History ~ Gray Elkhound of Norway By Dr. Nina P. Ross Norwegian Elkhound

The Norwegian Elkhound of the United States is the same breed as the Gray Elkhound of Norway, its mother country. The Norwegian Elkhound of Norway, on the other hand, is the Black Elkhound, a small- er breed with a lighter build. In fact, there are other Elkhound breeds, in addition to the Gray Elkhound and the Black Elkhound, used for moose hunting in Scandinavia, including the Jamthund, Karelsk, Karelian Bear Dog, and several Laika breeds from Russia.

Torvmosehund. The Viking Period, ca. 793 A.D., followed. The Vikings were fearless

credited with helping rid the country of the wolves by its ingenuity and fearless f ighting. The wolves killed off most of the game in the woods in Norway, leaving one small herd of moose in Osterdalen and Hedmarken. Very few Elkhounds survived the ordeal. Breeders and hunters searched the country for the best of the survivors for breeding and, over a period of years, were able to re-estab- lish the bloodlines. A puppy whelped in 1865 became the model for today’s Norwegian Elkhound. He was named Gamle Bamse Gram. He is included in many

Viking Ship: Oseberg

Norsemen who traveled the seas in large, skillfully designed pirate ships made of oak, and requiring as many as sixty oarsmen. The Danes and Swedes sometimes joined with the Norwegians in their raids. Bold, rugged dogs were prized possessions of the Vikings, serving as comrades, guardians, and hunters. Traces of the dogs indicate physical features simi- lar to the Gray Elkhound of today. Viking ships were often used as burial ships, carrying the dead, their earthly possessions, food, horses, oxen, and dogs. They were loaded with rocks and a blue clay that kept them preserved for centuries. Osteologists and archaeologists inferred that the dog bones found at burial sites have a strong resem- blance to an elkhound-type breed of dog that still exists in Scandinavia. Artifacts unearthed from a grave at Valloby leave little doubt as to the existence of Elkhound-like dogs in Norway before the time of Christ. The Viking Age came to a close around 1066. A more recent period in Norse his- tory was the twenty-year stretch from 1825 to 1845, known as the ‘wolf’ period. Thousands of hungry wolves swarmed through Scandinavia, killing farm stock. The Elkhound is

Far-seeing eyes

of recorded pedigrees.The Gray Elkhound was f irst shown in conformation shows in Norway in 1877 where the f irst benched show was held. Breeders believed then, as they do now, that an Elkhound must be proven as a hunting dog before it can be shown in a conformation show. Of the 124 hunting dogs entered in the f irst show in Norway, f ifteen were Elkhounds. There were 180 hunting dogs entered in the second show in 1880, including twenty-eight Elkhounds. the earliest Gamle Bamse Gram was whelped in Norway in 1865. He was the model for the breed.

The documented history of the Gray Norwegian Elkhound dates back more than six thousand years. They roamed the woods tucked between the fjords and cliffs of Norway in competition with prehis- toric man in search of the moose or elg for which the dog was named. Elghund translates as elk dog. Later, man and dog worked together as a team in their quest for food. Archaeologists have uncovered traces of an early migratory people referred to as Veidefolket or gypsies who roamed the area in search of food. They were accompanied by wild dogs thought to be the forerunners of the Norwegian Elkhound, referred to as

184 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE • J UNE 2011

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