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Norwegian Elkhound: History & Breed-Specific Care Guide

by Dan Turner

I’ve always been fascinated by the rich history of dog breeds, and the Norwegian Elkhound is no exception. With roots tracing back over a thousand years in Norway, these dogs were prized hunters and loyal companions and protectors. Their ability to track and hunt moose and other large game in the rugged Scandinavian terrain is legendary.

Caring for an Elkhound, but, comes with its own set of challenges and rewards. Their thick, weather-resistant coat requires regular grooming to keep them looking their best and to prevent matting. Plus, their high energy levels mean they need plenty of exercise to stay happy and healthy. Let’s jump into the world of the Norwegian Elkhound, exploring their fascinating history and what it takes to care for these magnificent animals.

The History of the Norwegian Elkhound

Diving into the history of the Norwegian Elkhound, I’m always amazed by how deeply their roots are embedded in Norse culture. These dogs aren’t just pets; they’re a bridge to a past where Vikings roamed the seas and the wilds of Scandinavia were untamed and mysterious.

Imagine, over a thousand years ago, these robust dogs trotting alongside Viking warriors. It’s documented that Elkhounds were not only esteemed hunters but also revered companions. They had the courage and skill to track down moose and bears in dense forests, a testament to their remarkable hunting abilities. This breed’s contribution wasn’t limited to hunting, though. In fact, they were integral to everyday life in ancient Norway, serving as watchdogs and protectors of homes and farms.

Here’s a bit of fascinating trivia: Norwegian Elkhounds were so valued that they even made appearances in Norse mythology and sagas. They were considered noble creatures, with stories highlighting their bravery, loyalty, and supernatural abilities to track hidden creatures.

But it wasn’t just their hunting prowess that caught the attention of their owners; their loyalty and companionship were equally cherished. The bond between a Viking and their Elkhound was profound, rooted in mutual respect and affection. 

Fast forward to today, and the admiration for Norwegian Elkhounds hasn’t waned. They’re still beloved for their versatile skills, but also for their playful and friendly nature. Caring for an Elkhound comes with its own set of challenges and rewards. Their thick, weather-resistant coat, for instance, requires regular grooming to stay in tip-top shape. And let’s not forget their high energy levels; these dogs need plenty of exercise to keep happy and healthy. It’s a commitment, but one that’s met with unconditional love and loyalty from these majestic animals.

So, when I think about what makes the Norwegian Elkhound so special, it’s not just their impressive history or their versatility as both a hunter and a companion.

The Norwegian Elkhound as a Hunting Dog

Exploring the roots of the Norwegian Elkhound, it’s evident that not only have they been steadfast companions through centuries, but their prowess as hunting dogs is remarkable. Originating in the rugged landscapes of Norway, these dogs were crafted by nature and nurtured by humans to become adept hunters, particularly in challenging terrains and climates.

Tracking abilities and resilience are hallmarks of the Norwegian Elkhound. They were not only used for hunting smaller game but were also fearless when facing larger prey such as moose and bear. This adaptability made them indispensable to hunters.

  • Stamina and Agility: Able to navigate harsh Norwegian landscapes.
  • Loud Bark: Served as a means to communicate with hunters across distances.
  • Keen Sense of Smell: Essential for tracking game.

Even though their size, Norwegian Elkhounds pack a punch of energy and resilience, traits that have been honed over generations. Their intelligence and independence mean they can make quick decisions during hunts, yet they’re known for their loyalty and cooperative spirit when working alongside humans.

The training of a Norwegian Elkhound for hunting is rooted in leveraging their natural instincts. Encouraging their tracking and barking enables them to express their inherent skills while strengthening the bond between dog and owner. But, it’s their playful nature and joy in the task that truly make them exceptional hunting companions.

In the modern world, while fewer Elkhounds may find themselves in traditional hunting roles, the skills and characteristics that made them valuable hunters are still evident in the breed today. They thrive on exercise and outdoor activities which mimic the challenges of hunting, such as tracking games or hiking. Ensuring they receive sufficient mental and physical stimulation is key to their care, reflecting their historical significance as hunters.

Whether in the forests of ancient Norway or the homes of modern-day families, these dogs carry with them a rich history and a knack for adventure. Engaging with them in activities that tap into their innate abilities brings joy and fulfillment not only to the Elkhound but also to those who have the pleasure of their company.

The Norwegian Elkhound as a Companion and Protector

In diving deeper into the area of the Norwegian Elkhound, I’ve discovered this breed isn’t just a historical artifact; they’re vibrant, living symbols of companionship and protection. Their story weaves through countless generations, standing by as loyal friends and vigilant guardians. It’s fascinating how they balance these roles with such grace.

Firstly, let’s talk about their nature as companions. Norwegian Elkhounds thrive on close bonds with their owners. They seek to be part of every family activity, whether it’s a quiet evening by the fire or an adventurous hike in the mountains. Their joyful demeanor and empathetic nature make them perfect for families, singles, and especially those who love the great outdoors. It’s like they have an internal compass that always points them toward being involved and loving with their human pack.

  • Joyful and empathetic nature
  • Thirst for involvement in family activities
  • Ideal for all types of owners who embrace outdoor activities

As protectors, these dogs take their job seriously but without the overzealousness you might find in other breeds. They possess a calm but alert demeanor, always keeping an ear out for anything unusual. Their loud bark serves as a first line of defense, often deterring would-be troublemakers. Living with an Elkhound means feeling a sense of security, knowing they’re always on the lookout. They don’t just protect because they were trained to; they protect because they love.

  • Calm but alert demeanor
  • Loud bark as a natural deterrent
  • Protective out of love, not just training

Combining these traits, the Norwegian Elkhound emerges as a multifaceted companion, capable of bringing joy and safety into their owners’ lives. Their ability to adapt, whether it’s curling up quietly inside or leading the charge on a trek, highlights their versatile nature. They’re not only relics of a Viking past but vibrant examples of how dogs continue to enrich our lives today. With their storied history and enduring characteristics, Elkhounds serve as a testament to the deep bond between dogs and humans.

Grooming the Thick Coat of the Norwegian Elkhound

Grooming my Norwegian Elkhound is no small feat, given their thick, weather-resistant double coat. It’s a task I’ve learned to embrace, considering it’s essential for their health and happiness. Let’s jump into the specifics of keeping that majestic fur in tip-top shape.

The Basics of Brushing

First things first, brushing is the cornerstone of Elkhound grooming. I’ve found that a routine brushing session three times a week does wonders. But, during shedding season, which happens twice a year, daily brushing is a must to manage the fur frenzy. The tools I rely on include:

  • A metal comb
  • A slicker brush
  • An undercoat rake

These are invaluable for detangling, removing loose fur, and ensuring their coat remains glossy and healthy.

Bathing Do’s and Don’ts

When it comes to bathing my Elkhound, less is more. Due to their natural coat oils, bathing too frequently can strip them of essential protection. I aim for a bath every three months or so, unless they’ve rolled into something particularly creative. Then, it’s spa day! Choosing the right shampoo is crucial; I always opt for a mild dog-specific formula to keep their skin and coat hydrated.

Trimming Nails and Cleaning Ears

Beyond the fur, there are two grooming essentials not to be overlooked:

  • Nail Trimming: Keeping nails short is not only about aesthetics but also about preventing discomfort and health issues. I check their nails monthly, trimming as needed with a dog nail clipper.
  • Ear Cleaning: Their ears need regular checks to prevent wax buildup and infections. A gentle wipe with a damp cloth or an ear cleaner made specifically for dogs does the trick.

Seasonal Considerations

The changing seasons bring about different grooming needs. In winter, I pay extra attention to their paws, protecting them from cold and de-icing chemicals. Summer demands more frequent checks for ticks and fleas, especially after outdoor adventures.

Exercise and Activity Requirements for the Norwegian Elkhound

The Norwegian Elkhound isn’t just a dog with a pretty face and an illustrious past; this breed’s need for daily exercise is as boundless as their history. They thrive on vigorous activities that challenge both their mind and body, making them perfect companions for the adventurous and active.

Here’s the thing: Elkhounds were born to run, track, and frolic in the Norwegian wilderness. Imagine dense forests and rugged terrains — that was their original playground. So, a simple stroll around the block might not cut it for these energetic furballs. Here are some of the best activities for an Elkhound:

  • Hiking: Their robust build and stamina make them excellent hiking companions. Rough terrains? Not a problem.
  • Agility training: It engages both their body and mind. Plus, it’s a blast watching them maneuver through obstacles.
  • Fetch and Frisbee: Great for quick, intense bursts of exercise. Also, who doesn’t love a good game of fetch?
  • Tracking exercises: Tapping into their innate tracking skills can be a fun and rewarding experience.

But it’s not just about physical exercise. Mental stimulation is equally important for the Norwegian Elkhound. They’re smart and easily bored, so games and training that challenge their intellect are crucial. Puzzle toys, hide and seek with treats, or learning new tricks can keep their minds sharp.

Finally, even though their love for activity, it’s vital to pay attention to their limits — especially during extreme weather. In hot climates, early morning or late evening exercise can prevent overheating. In cold weather, their thick coat provides ample protection, making them quite resilient to lower temperatures. Yet, vigilance is key to ensuring they’re comfortable and safe during any activity.

In essence, the Norwegian Elkhound is a dynamic and versatile companion, eager for adventures that satisfy their physical and mental needs. Meeting these requirements not only fosters a healthier lifestyle but deepens the bond between pet and owner, crafting a fulfilling life together filled with joy, exploration, and countless wagging tails.


Diving into the world of the Norwegian Elkhound has been an enlightening journey. From their storied past as hunters and protectors in Norse culture to their present-day roles as loyal companions, these dogs have shown they’re more than just beautiful animals—they’re a testament to the enduring bond between humans and dogs. Their care, involving regular grooming and a commitment to keeping them physically and mentally stimulated, is a small price to pay for the joy and security they bring into our lives. Whether it’s through brushing their thick coats or exploring the great outdoors together, every moment spent with an Elkhound strengthens the connection that has been celebrated for centuries. I’m left with a deep appreciation for this breed’s versatility, resilience, and the sheer joy they bring to their human companions.


Dan Turner

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