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Posts Tagged ‘Norwegian black elkhound’

I am in the two-year-old range in this photo.  Bull is the collie lying close to the house, while Frito is the Norwegian elkhound, who was part black and part gray elkhound. Yes, my hair actually was that blond!

Sorry about the resolution of this film. I have been taking these photos of these older photos with my iPAD2, and the resolution just isn’t that great.

 

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norsk-elgund1

The Norwegian elkhound is a multi-purpose hunting spitz breed from Norway. There are actually three breeds of  elkhound: the Swedish, the Norwegian black, and the Norwegian gray. The Norwegian gray is the AKC recognized dog that we usually call an Elkhound. These breeds are actually quite closely related to a larger Northern Eurasian hunting spitz family called laikas. Russia has several breeds of laika. The Siberian husky is believed to derive from a breed similar to the East Siberian Laika that was bred around the River Anadyr.

I grew up around hunting Norwegian elkhounds of both the black and gray breeds. Yes, contrary to popular belief, the black dogs were imported to the US. These dogs are lighter in build and have less coat than the more typical gray dogs. They are also far wilder in temperament. I can remember my grandpa cursing the black ones for never listening to a word he said, while the grays usually did listen. I knew them as distinct breeds. These were not rare black elkhound of the gray breed. These were the actual black breed.

Elkhound is a bit of a poor mistranslation from the Scandinavian languages. The actual word is “elghund.” Hund in those languages means the same thing it does in German– dog. “Elg” means elk, but in US/Canadian parlance that word elk refers to the wapiti, which is either a race of red deer or a very closely related species to the red deer (depends on who is using which mitochondrial DNA evidence). Elk in British English refers to the correct species denoted by the term “Elg.” However, we North Americans call this species “Moose.” (It lives in both North America and Eurasia, as do the wapiti and red deer). So their name is actually “Norwegian moose dog.” They are indeed used for that purpose in Scandinavia, where they bay the moose with their loud barks until the hunter arrives. They are used as general purpose hunting dogs in Scandinavia, although they are best known for their use in big game hunting. My grandpa loved this breed as a hunting dog.

What did he have these dogs for? He used them to hunt small game, including ruffed grouse. The dogs are actually half-way decent as bird dogs, because they seem to have some inherent flushing ability. They also bark as they flush the birds. In fact, that’s another thing that I remember about these dogs. They barked. A lot. And loud. I suppose when you’re only a 40 pound dog and you are baying a 1,200 pound moose, you’d better have a good voice to tell the hunter where you are.

I remember my grandpa’s last elkhound, a cross between a black and a gray. He would scratch his back on the lower rail of a split rail fence in the front yard. Each time he raked his back across the rail, he would bark.

He was a very good varmint dog. He was a determined coonhound and would bark far louder than any of the long-eared dogs normally used for that purpose. He also once bayed a raccoon under a shed. As was fighting the savage beast, the raccon bit him hard on the ear. It would forever be bent forward from the raccoon bite.

I have always liked both breeds of elkhound, although I think the black ones are bit too wild for the average person to keep. My grandpa always preferred them because of their wide utility and because they required far less training than a foxhound or beagle. A foxhound, coonhound, or beagle requires some training to know what it’s supposed to do, while a Norwegian elkhound seems to be able to hunt a wide range of prey with very little encouragement.

I don’t know whether show breeding has affected this breed, because I’ve been around only working Norwegian elkhounds.  (I know some of you hoped that I had a moose hunting story in there, but I don’t have one. )

Now, I may have mentioned that goldens are heavy shedders. They are not in the same category as the gray Norwegian elkhound. They blow coat twice a year in huge clumps. I remember finding nests made by American robbins that were insulated with thick gray hairs shed from the elkhounds.

This is yet another breed of my youth. I have many memories of these spirited dogs. They aren’t really precision dogs with high levels of biddability. But they are notoriously clever animals. They are designed to be the dog of the trapline, the dog of the backwoods hunter.

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