History of the Norwegian Elkhound


Artist rendition from 1919 edition of National Geographic. Note the similarities to the Jamthund, a close relative of the Elkhound

The Norwegian Elkhound is a double coated, close coupled, balanced, hardy gray hunting dog of moderate size, whose history goes back over 5000 years to a time when dogs which closely resembled the modern Norwegian Elkhound were canines whose hunting prowess was highly valued. The Norwegian Elkhound evolved over a period of time into a type of dog which, through a combination of physical and mental endowment, was able to perform as an efficient hunter in the rugged environment of the Scandinavian peninsula. The progenitors of the Norwegian Elkhound that we know today were spitz type dogs, with prick ears, curled tail, thick double coat, bold disposition, strong agile body and wolf-like independence. It was found by mankind that this type of dog, which it is believed to have originated in the area of Denmark, and was known as the Torvemosehunden or Swamp Dog was the best hunter and they became the forerunners of the Northern breeds, which included the Norwegian Elkhound.

These Swamp Dogs migrated northward into Scandinavia, where they gradually evolved into big-game hunters and came to be known as Dyrehund, or large game dogs. The Dyrehund was capable of hunting moose, bear, elk, wolves, and large game birds. They were also defenders of the homestead against marauders. These dogs were used extensively for breeding, which allowed them to perpetuate their qualities.

In the late seventeenth century, severe famine brought about by early winter, which killed many crops before they could be harvested, forced thousands of Finns to migrate westward into Sweden and Norway. They brought with them a strain of Spitz type dog that was used for hunting large upland game birds. This ability was passed down through the generations and many of today's Elkhounds exhibit an aptitude for hunting large birds.

As time progressed, a number of different, but related Elkhound breeds developed throughout the various regions of Scandinavia. These included the Bjornhund, or "Bear Dog", similar to today's Black Elkhound; the red-coated Finnish Spitz, also called the "Barking Bird Dog", which most likely is a descendant of the bird hunting dogs owned by the Finns; the black and white Karelian Bear Dog, considered to be a true moose hunting dog and the Jamthund, a taller and rangier type of dog which evolved in dense forrests of Sweden. Some of these breeds were originally shown together as one breed when dog shows began. One by one, they became individual breeds. In 1937, the Jamthund (the Swedish version of the Gray Elkhound) was separated from the Norwegian Gray that we know today and that is recognized by the American Kennel Club.

Jamthund
Karelian Bear Dog
White Elhound
Finnish Spitz

In 1865, a dog was whelped which was to become an outstanding hunter, a prepotent sire, and a model for the modern gray Elkhound. This dog, who went by the name of Gamle Bamse Gram was owned by Consul Jens Gram of Ask, Ringerike. He stamped his type strongly on his progeny and was a well-known winner at the earliest dog shows.

In 1887, a preliminary breed standard was drawn up for Moose and Bear dogs and Gamle Bamse Gram was used as the model for the Gray Elkhound. Formal registration of purebred dogs was begun by the Norwegian Kennel Club in 1895 and in 1899 the Norsk Dyrehund Klub was established. In 1900 the "Klub" held a specialty show in Rena, Osterdalen August 11 and 12 with separate entries for the gray and black elkhounds.

Gamle Bamse Gram

The Norsk Elghund Klubb held their 100 year anniversary celebration in Rena Norway on June 19 and 20 1999. This 100 year anniversary event was well attended with 59 Jamthunds, 16 black Norwegian Elkhounds, 6 white Norwegian Elkhounds, 5 West Siberian Laikas, 4 East Siberian Laikas, 2 Karelian Bear Dogs, and 259 Gray Elkhounds.

In 1949, the name of the Norsk Dyrehund Klub was changed to Norske Elghundklubb. Since that time, specialty shows and moose hunting trials for the different elkhound-type breeds have been held annually, as well as forums for judges and symposiums on elkhound standards.

In 1901 the first separate breed Standard for the gray Norwegian Elkhound was drawn up. It was officially accepted in 1906. Final revision was not made until 1950.

Elkhounds In The United States

It is not known for sure when the first elkhounds arrived in this country. The first elkhounds of record are to be found in the 1913 American Kennel Club Stud Book. These three imports were owned by Gottlieb Lechner of Weiser, Idaho. Offspring of these dogs went to R.D. Williams of Rookwood Kennels in Lexington, Kentucky. During the following decade, only 22 Norwegian Elkhounds were registered by the American Kennel Club. In 1924, several imports arrived. The first import of record from England, Bon Bjerke, arrived in 1928.

Ronnie av Glitre was owned by President Hoover and had been a gift to the President from the people of Norway in appreciation for what he did for his friends in Norway in their hour of need during World War I.

The Norwegian Elkhound Association of America was begun around 1930. In 1935 the Association adopted the British breed Standard for the Norwegian Elkhound, which was superseded later that year by the official Standard of Norway.

The Norwegian Elkhound Association of America (NEAA) currently has 13 member clubs in various parts of the country. The NEAA holds an national specialty dog show for Norwegian Elkhounds every two years in different parts of the country. This year's national specialty will include conformation judging by Norwegian judges as well as obedience and agility competition. The NEAA 2008 Specialty will be held in Rochester, Minnesota, May 26 through 30. For more details, go the the NEAA Website.

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