Classified by the Kennel Club as part of the 'hound' breed group, the Norwegian Elkhound is an ancient tracking dog, widely utilised in native Norway in hunting moose, elk, bear, reindeer, mountain lion and rabbit. Trained to track the quarry and alert the hunter to its location, the Elkhound was highly prized for it game spirit and efficiency, capable of working both land and water. The skeletal remains of a Norwegian Elkhound, or a breed strongly aligning with our modern perception of one, were recently discovered, dating back to 4,000 BC. This Scandinavian Spitz worked alongside the Vikings, both as a faithful companion dog and willing hunter, helping to secure its master's next meal. Also employed in guarding duty about the homestead, serving to oversee livestock from predators and rustlers, whilst herding flocks throughout the day. First recognised by the AKC in 1913, despite its ancient heritage.
A Spitz of medium-size, the Elkhound is robust and defined, with strong legs, a deep chest for enhanced lung capacity, a tapering muzzle, high-set, triangular ears, and a thick, plumed tail held high over the back. The coat is profuse and sheds seasonally, being commonly seen in colour variations of black, grey and white, usually darkening through the tips. This dense, weatherproof coat would have offered sufficient insulation against the harsh Scandinavian climate, as well as protecting the dog from predator bites. Easy to groom, the coat is relatively low maintenance, requiring infrequent bathing. Characteristic to the breed is its acute sense of smell.
Whilst not known for its intelligence, the breed is instinctive and will follow its eyes and nose when led. As with most Spitz, the Norwegian Elkhound has a high energy level and benefits from wide, outdoor spaces in which to exercise and play. Affectionate and tactile, the breed craves human attention and contact and is devoted and loyal to its master. The ideal breed choice for the active family or dedicated sole owner, providing its exercise needs are met. The average Norwegian Elkhound will weigh 18-27 kg, with a life expectancy of 10-12 years when shown the appropriate care, although it is not uncommon for the breed to outlive this expectancy.
Various breed-specific diseases and health complaints are identified in the Norwegian Elkhound, ranging from mild to more serious. These include several optical disorders and orthopedic problems, prevalent across breeds, as well as thyroid inactivity, skin cysts and Fanconi Syndrome, a rare kidney disease. Additionally, the Elkhound gains weight easily, so feeding human foods is not encouraged for this reason.