Posts Tagged ‘Norwegian elkhound’

One looks like a jaemthund, and the other looks like a Norwegian gray:

The Norwegian gray elkhound is commonly used in West Virginia as a general squirrel and varmint dog.

One of the oldest ways to hunt game with dogs– perhaps the oldest— is to have the dogs harass large quarry, providing just enough distraction to allow a person to shoot it from a distance with a gun, arrow, or spear.

These are the dogs that most commonly fall victim to wolf attacks in Scandinavia. It makes some sense. In most areas where these dogs are used, the dogs travel quite a distance from their handlers, and when they catch up to the moose they start barking. Barking is an attractant to any wolves in the area, and wolves don’t tolerate other “wolves” on their turf.

I will always love Norwegian elkhounds. I spent a lot of my childhood around one that was quite good-natured but also quite stubborn and mischievous. I remember he would let me put kibble in his ears, which he would flick out as a game. And he adopted a Muscovy duckling, which unfortunately met its demise when he tried to discipline it as if it were a puppy.

But he was a serious hunter who took out his fair share of raccoons. One of his ears was permanently flopped over from a battle he had with a raccoon under an outbuilding.

He was my grandfather’s last elkhound, and he was the only one I got to know really well. My grandpa loved this breed because it requires almost no training to hunt squirrels and varmints. Most are fine natural treeing dogs, and they can balance their instincts with a desire to please man.

I wonder what Frito would have done if he had been used moose. He used to chase my grandpa’s horse every evening. It was one of their rituals. My grandpa would go out to feed the horse, and Frito would bay up and circle the horse, who though it was fun enough game to allow himself to be herded in this fashion.

So he may not have ever seen a moose, but he knew what to do with a horse.

So maybe he would have known what to do had he encountered a giant deer-horse.









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My dad is holding Huddles (dachshund), my uncle is holding Willy (beagle), and Fonzi (Norwegian elkhound) is barking at the gray fox they are holding on the table.



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I am about 3 years old in this photo. I’m on my grandparents’ back deck. Frito was my grandpa’s Norwegian elkhound, who was of mixed black and gray lines.

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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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(Source for image)

The gråwachtel is a purpose-bred crossbreed.

It is a mixture of elkhound, usually Norwegian gray, and the German spaniel, which is called the wachtelhund (“quail dog.”)

Now, what would you suppose this dog was bred to hunt?

Well, they were bred to hunt wild boar.


The can also be used to hunt moose.

These dogs look a lot like golden retriever/Norwegian elkhound crosses that I’ve seen.

German spaniels are close to golden retrievers in size, and I saw a red-colored German spaniel in Munich that looked a lot like a golden retriever.

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This dog’s image comes from a site that says it is 40 percent “Timberwolf” and 60 percent “Norwegian elkhound.”

I don’t know if those percentages are accurate or if this dog has any recent wolf ancestry at all.

But it is said to howl. Norwegian elkhounds really don’t howl. They are know for their barks. I remember my grandpa’s elkhound would rake his back on the lower rung of a split-rail fence in the front yard, and he would bark each time he raked his back against the rail.

I don’t know why anyone would puff an elkhound as being part wolf.

All Norwegian and Swedish elkhounds can have relatively recent wolf ancestry. 

I am skeptical that this particular dog is of recent wolf ancestry.  It might be. It looks more like a wolf than the F1 poodle/wolf crosses that Erik Zimen bred.

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This photo comes from Hutchinson’s Dog Encyclopedia.

I don’t know what these Norwegian elkhounds are hunting. My guess is this photo was taken in England, but I have no idea exactly what the prey is. My guess is it is either otter or mink.

As you can tell from the photo, Norwegian elkhounds have a particular behavior whenever they corner prey– bark as if there is no tomorrow. These dogs have been selected for their clear, harsh barks.

If you don’t like a dog that loves to bark, don’t get a Norwegian elkhound of either breed or any of the two Swedish elkhounds.

I happen to have very fond memories of these dogs, but I can tell you that this breed isn’t exactly what most people want. In addition to their barking, they are very smart, but they are not always biddable. Yes, many of these dogs are very easy to train, but they all have at least a slight naughty streak.

I can’t imagine the British having much use for them, but when these dogs appeared in West Virginia, they became the ultimate hunting dog. They could do all the things that curs and feists do, and they very intelligent.

My grandpa liked to call his dogs “combination dogs,” which meant they could be used to run rabbits in the morning and then tree squirrels and flush grouse in the afternoon. If the raccoons and groundhogs were causing trouble, send that “ol’ Norwegian” over to take care of them.

As a very young child, I though Norwegian elkhounds were wolves, and I often confused them in my picture books. Little did I know that Norwegian and Swedish elkhounds actually do have some relatively recent wolf ancestry. I just thought it was cool that elkhounds looked like wolves.

I remember these dogs as very good sports. They are plucky and impish but also very gentle and comradely. I remember that my grandpa’s dog liked me better than the supposed “great kid dogs” that were my parents’ beagle and farm collie.

This is one breed I’m going to have to try again.

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Muscovy hen and ducklings:

Muscovy ducks can lay as many as 16 eggs, and even the domestic varieties, as this hen clearly is, will hatch their own offspring.

I had a two pet Muscovies as a kid.  A very predatory Norwegian elkhound decided to adopt the first one. I never thought of how strange it was for a dog that regularly caught and killed all sorts of small animals to take such responsibility.

If humans can be guilty of extreme anthropomorphism, then dogs can also be guilty of projecting their behavioral characteristics onto other animals. One day the duckling, who had imprinted very strongly on the elkhound, tried to eat out of his bowl. The elkhound snarled as if trying to warn a naughty puppy to shape up. The duckling continued to eat. The elkhound then did what he would have done to any naughty puppy. He firmly mouthed the duckling, but in doing so, he accidentally killed it.


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A study suggests that some Norwegian elkhounds and other Scandinavian and Finnish spitz-type dogs have recent wolf ancestry.

A reader named Margaret sent me a link to this study.

The study came out in May 2010, but I missed it.

This is an mtDNA study, which found that a particular haplogroup called d1 was most common in a certain group of dogs– the reindeer herding spitzes and the hunting spitz breeds of Scandinavia and Finland.

It can be found in all Scandinavian and Finnish spitz breeds, but in the elkhounds and the reindeer herding spitzes, it is very common. In the breeds sampled, 60 to 100 percent of these dogs had this haplogroup.

The origin of that haplogroup was traced to wolf and dog hybridization that happened 480 to 3,000 years ago.

Peter Savolainen was involved in the study, and Savolainen is best known for his findings that suggest all dogs were derived from southern Chinese wolves that were domesticated 16,000 years ago. (This finding has been challenged recently. I have a short piece in The Bark about it.)

The original purpose of the study was to see whether Scandinavia could be a potential area of wolf domestication.  Of course, one must be willing to accept Savolainen’s methodolgy and general acceptance that domestication happened only once.

But it is an interesting find, for it suggests that there always was a gene flow between domestic and wild C. lupus. We are finding more and more evidence of this as time goes on. The fact that there isn’t much of one right now doesn’t mean that this has always been the case.

What is also of interest that hybridization between wolves and dog gave these particular animals some selective advantage over other dogs in the population. One wonders what that advantage might have been. Perhaps it was simply heterosis. Maybe it made it easier for them to survive harsh weather conditions. Perhaps it made it easier for these hybrids to compete with other dogs for mates.

Now, one must be careful reading too much into this study, for one of the reasons why our understanding of the exact time and place of dog domestication is that it happened a very long time ago. It is further complicated with the influx of wild wolf genes.

And that is further complicated with the influx of dog genes into the wolf population. (See the recent finding on black wolves for the most notorious example. Also see the sudden appearance of dewclaws on the hind legs of some Italian wolves for another.).

It is because of findings like this one about Scandinavian and Finnish spitzes that I am very cautious about thinking of dogs and wolves as separate species.

I think it is far wiser to think of them as part of an unusually diverse species.

This diversity has allowed C. lupus to survive and even thrive with the success of our species. I know of no other large carnivore that has so benefited from this thing we call civilization.

Think of all the other large carnivores, and every single one of them exists at only a small fraction of their former glory.

Domestic C. lupus has been successful where others have vanished.

And that is something remarkable.


The best analysis of how this process may have happened is found in this essay by Mark Derr.

I have always had skepticism about the view that dogs are nothing more than degenerate wolves that evolved to live off of our waste.

It’s a popular view. It is easy to explain, and it even makes for a compelling narrative for a television documentary.

However, the real process that happened is far more complex than can be explained in a forty-five minute documentary.


So are we now going to call Norwegian elkhounds wolf hybrids?

I doubt it.

But it something to keep in mind.

I’m never going to look at a Norsk elghund in the same way again.

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