Norwegian Elkhound

PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial on Jul. 9, 2009

With unparalleled stamina, even in rough terrain, the Norwegian Elkhound remains a dignified, independent, and generally friendly hunting dog with beautiful silver-grey hair. Interestingly, Scandinavian hunters still use the breed during long, arduous moose hunts.

Physical Characteristics

The Norwegian Elkhound resembles a typical spitz-like breed of the north: close-coupled and square-proportioned body, with a tightly-curled tail, raised ears, and broad head. This build is well-suited for endurance and agility more than pace. Its gait is effortless, capable of trailing large prey and dodging attacks.

The dog’s thick and smooth coat, meanwhile, comprises of a woolly undercoat and straight outer hairs, offering it excellent protection against snow and cold weather.

Personality and Temperament

The independent, alert, bold, playful, and boisterous Norwegian Elkhound dog combines qualities of spitz-like dogs and hounds. Always in search of an adventure, it is happiest playing outdoors in cold climates.

Although it barks a lot, it is amicable with strangers. Some Norwegian Elkhound dogs may fight with strange dogs; to prevent the dog from getting destructive or frustrated, provide it with a daily exercise routine. Untrained Elkhounds may also pull when put on a leash.


The Elkhound can withstand cool and temperate climates and live outdoors, but it prefers to stay with its family. As the dog is bred to hunt throughout the day, even in difficult conditions, it should be given regular exercise. A long walk or a good jog and energetic game keep the dog satisfied completely. The double coat requires brushing every day in the shedding season and twice a week otherwise.


This Norwegian Elkhound dog, which has an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years, occasional suffers from intracutaneous cornifying epithelioma, patellar luxation, Fanconi Syndrome and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA).

The most serious aliment affecting it is canine hip dysplasia (CHD), while minor health problems such as renal dysplasia, hot spots, and sebaceous cysts are common. Hip, eye, and urine tests are good for this breed of dog.

History and Background

Originally, the Norwegian Elkhound was a scenthound that made use of its tracking powers to hunt large game and moose. A strange hound that closely resembles the spitz breeds of old, it also functioned as a guardian, defender, hunter, and herder since the age of the Vikings.

There are two types of Elkhounds: the bandhund, which tracks the scent and is attached to the hunter by a long line, and the loshund, which moves ahead of the hunter and attacks the quarry. The loshund also holds the elk while baying, and even steathily seeks out the prey if it escapes. If the elk should stop, the loshund alerts the hunter by barking furiously. However, neither Elkhound kills the elk; they are used only to locate the game.

The Norwegian Elkhound, being a hardy breed, excels in hunting in places with dense snow, sub-zero temperatures, rugged mountains, and thick forests. It has been bred for centuries to hunt moose or elk, but it was only in the late 19th century that pedigrees were kept. Since then, the Norwegian Elkhound has been exhibited in many dog shows throughout Scandinavia, England, and the United States.

The American Kennel Club began to recognize the Norwegian Elkhound as a standard in the 1930s. In Scandinavia, it is still common to conduct tiring moose hunts with an Elkhound.

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