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Norwegian Elkhound, history of a working dog breed, companion of vikings

Updated on October 20, 2015
Norvin Son of Storm owned by Nichola Herron. Photo by sannse at the City of Birmingham Championship Dog Show, 29th August 2003
Norvin Son of Storm owned by Nichola Herron. Photo by sannse at the City of Birmingham Championship Dog Show, 29th August 2003 | Source

The Norwegian Elkhound is an old and ancient breed of working dog. Their history indicates that they were first developed 6,000 or more years ago for the purpose of hunting both big and small game. The breed history is mixed with both folklore and legends of Norse Mythology, according to the website of the Norwegian Elkhound Club of Greater Houston. The website says it is thought they “descend from Torvmosehund (Swamp Dog).”The first appearance of the Swamp dog was i other northern breeds n Denmark where it was used for hunting. The breed is very ancient indeed. According to Wikipedia it was developed more than 6,000 years ago to help the Scandinavians to hunt. “Remains of dogs remarkably similar to the modern Elkhounds have been found in grave sites such as the Viste Cave,” according Wikipedia. The cave is in Norway and the sites are as old as 4000 to 5000 BC. Aarchaeological research in Scandinavia indicates the breed may have existed and been domesticated in the Stone Age.

Skeletons of dogs similar in structure to the elkhound were found at Viking grave sites in southwestern Norway, according to the Norwegian Elkhound Club of Greater Houston. They further note that the dogs were sacrificed to enter Valhalla, which in Norse mythology is where the souls of heroes slain in battle are received, according to Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.

The Norwegian Elkhound was considered to be the oldest of the dog breeds but recent DNA analysis indicate“ several ‘ancient’ breeds have been ‘recreated . . . from combinations of other breeds,’ according to Wikipedia. Genetic evidence was found for a more recent origin of the Norwegian Elkhound. The study was limited in scope as it only includes 85 breeds and omits “many primitive lineages. The article further indicates that regardless of this some researchers still believe that the Norwegian Elkhound descends from the ancient primitive Pariah Dog from 4000 to 7000 years ago.

Wikipedia, after mentioning a rather complex but limited genetic study states, “Norwegian elkhound evolved, at least partially, from ancestral grey wolf subspecies . . . may very well be one of the most ancient of all dog breeds.”

Elkhound as hunter

According to the website “Petwave Dog Breed Center,” the Elkhound could hunt all day long in rugged country with subarctic tempertures. A fearless hunter he helped to hunt bear with the human hunters. The bear were numerous in Norway at one tim, but. they eventually dwindled and the dog was then used to hunt what Americans call “moose” In the Norwegian language “elg means moose. This is a dog that barks, but with a purpose. The barking is a means of communication between the dog and his hunter companion. The barks are like a code between the two.. Among the animals that the dog hunted were reindeer, wolf, lynx, mountain lion, badger, fox, rabbit, and raccoon. They also hunted various ground dwelling birds. According to the Pet Wave Dog Breed Center, this dog uses scent, sight and hearing which are very refined and makes it a very versatile hunter.


Like many dogs of its type the Norwegian elkhound is both intelligent and independent. They can be trained but the owner or trainer should be aware of this characteristic

Watch dogs and guard dogs.

Elkhounds were also used to guard other animals from predators such as wolves and bear.


•Norwegian Elkhound is an ancient Spitz type dog

•it is the national dog of Norway

•they have a medium, sturdy, squarly built body type

•generally weigh about 48-55 lbs

•coat is coarse, straight with soft undercoat

•black and white color

•dark brown eyes

•tail should be rolled tightly over back

•life span is 12-13 years

•The Elkhound is a hardy, medium size dog that is devoted, bold and mischievous.

•They have a black tipped coat, tightly curled tail, small feet and ears.



•The Norwegian Elkhound was first registered in the United States in 1913

•Norwegian Elkhound Association of America was formed in 1935.

•The breed was admitted to the American Kennel Club in 1936.


The Norwegian Elkhound is a very ancient breed that was breed to be a sled dog, hunting dog and watch dog protector. It was created for a very harsh arctic climate and was a companion in survival for Vikings and others. They were bred to be loyal. They a vocal dogs that used barking as a way to communicate with their human companions. In the modern world they have become show dogs, watchdogs and pets.

Copyright 2012 Don Hoglund


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    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Hi Kalux, thanks for sharing your experience with your


    • Kalux profile image


      6 years ago from Canada

      I agree with craftycoding and highly recommend this breed. I had one as well and she was so sweet, cuddly and love able. I don't even have the words to describe how lovely she was. I've had different breeds and loved them all but she was by far the most loving and affectionate.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thank you very much Will. I appreciate it.

    • WillStarr profile image


      6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      As you know, I am really taken with these excellent Hubs about our dog buddies.

      Up and awesome!

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      goodlady, I appreciate your comment and am glad you liked the article.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids


      Thanks for adding your personal experience with the Elkhound.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids


      Thanks for reading and commenting. I'll have to look up the Rhodesian Ridgeback.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks for the article. I have a Norwegian Elkhound who is the most cuddly and loving dog I have ever seen. His previous owner kept him outside all the time, now he loves being inside with us and hates to be left alone. Dogs are pack animals and should be kept with their pack. He's friendly, mischievous and as cuddly as they come. Highly recommended breed as a pet.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Suhail and my dog,Thank you for your comment. As you say, they are cold weather dogs. I have read that some cold weather dogs do OK in warmer climates as their undercoats provide insulation against heat as well as cold. I am not sure if that is true or not.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      drbj. thanks for reading and commenting. I don't think I know anyone who has one but my wife has mentioned some people around town who might have one. The Northern breeds might be mistaken for each other and we live in Wisconsin where there are a number of dogs that are similar.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 

      6 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Loved your interesting Hub on this ancient breed . The Norwegian Elkhound. Precious creature from our distant past. Voting

    • MazioCreate profile image


      6 years ago from Brisbane Queensland Australia

      Had never heard of this breed before and found your hub very interesting. It has similar characteristics to the Rhodesian Ridgeback, in so much they were bred for hunting, but make wonderful companions and guard dogs. Voted up!

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      6 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      I have only seen one in Canada at a dog park at Jack Darling Park. Since I had my Kuvasz boy with me, his human and I immediately clicked. We had a long chat while our boys played. He told me all about the breed and inquired about Kuvaszok. I distinctly recall chatting for 2 hours in late fall of last year. I think everybody likes having uncommon breeds of dogs as pets.

      I think like Kuvasz, Elkhounds are also cold weather dogs and that means they are going to be in trouble in the hot weather of southern Ontario. My boy has just given up on long distance hiking this summer.

      Your hub is definitely informative.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      6 years ago from south Florida

      What a handsome looking dog, dahoglund. From your description, I can understand what a valuable companion this breed must be for hunters, especially in very cold climates. They have beautiful faces similar I think to German Shepherds. Thanks for your dutiful research.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids


      Thanks for reading the hub and commenting on it. Dogs inj the working group are usually good companions.

    • tammyswallow profile image


      6 years ago from North Carolina

      Gorgeous breed of dog. I didn't realize they had norse roots. Looks like a great dependable companion. Great hub!

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Hi Peggy and thanks for commenting. These dogs are much like other northern breeds. Sometimes they need patience because of the tendency to make independent decisions.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Mechester, thank you for reading and commenting on my hub.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Interesting and up votes, Don. The Norwegian Elkhound sounds like a very intelligent breed of dog. I do not personally know anyone who has one for a pet, but undoubtedly there are many people who have them and love them. They are beautiful dogs. Thanks!

    • mecheshier profile image


      6 years ago

      Great Hub. Fantastic research and info. Thank you for sharing.


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