Meet the Breed: Age-Old Instinct

The Norwegian Elkhound hails from the frigid lands of Scandinavia, where it continues to hunt big game today.


Although the Norwegian Elkhound hails from Norway, as its name indicates, it doesn’t hunt elk and it isn’t a hound. In its home country, the Norwegian Elkhound is a much-valued hunting dog. Tom Slattery of Afton, Minn., an American Kennel Club agility judge and long-time Elkhound owner, says that for U.S. owners, “the Elkhound is more or less a pet, but in Norway, it’s an essential working dog.”

In Scandinavian countries, several spitz-type dogs – characterized by pricked ears, dense coats and curled tails – hunt big game, such as moose and bear. In Norway, the Norwegian Elkhound is called Norsk Elghund, Grå, which translates to Norwegian Moosedog, Gray (elg means “moose,” and hund means “dog”). The English name is a mistranslation. Norway also has the Norsk Elghund, Sort (Norwegian Moosedog, Black), which is slightly smaller than the gray version and much rarer.

Dog of the vikings
The Elkhound is an ancient breed. Remains of dogs similar to the modern breed were found in viking grave sites that dated 6,000 to 7,000 years ago. This type of dog was known as the Dog of the Vikings, and some think it was used as a hunter and a guard of its master’s possessions.

In more recent centuries, the Elkhound worked on farms not only guarding and hunting, but also herding livestock and pulling sleds. The breed excels at tracking big game, including moose, bear and reindeer. In the harsh climate of its native land, it developed into a rugged and sturdy outdoor dog.

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