Wednesday 8th February 2006

See Judging the Elkhound > > >

The Elkhound is a Spitz type – that is, he has:

He is a compact, square, strong, friendly and intelligent. dog.

The Elkhound has existed in Scandinavia for centuries. Well preserved bodies of this type of dog have been found throughout the Baltic region – some estimated to be 5000 years old. They were buried with Viking leaders, along with other possessions.

The name of this dog is ELGHUND in Norwegian – translation – Moose Dog. There are no Elk in Nordic countries, and it is thought that the similarity of sound “Elg”, meaning Moose, probably accounts for the translation error, Elkhound.

He is not a hound. He doesn’t look like a hound, doesn’t hunt like a hound, and doesn’t run like a hound. He should, by rights, be judged in a special Spitz Group, as he is in Europe.

The hunting season starts in Norway late September and lasts only 5 to 10 days. The dogs must be in top condition, capable of working from sunrise to sunset. There are two methods of hunting – “los-hund” (loose dog), or “band-hund” (lead dog). In los-hund hunting, the dog quarters back and forth, scenting ground and air. When he gets near moose, he moves quietly more and more slowly so as not to startle it into flight. Then he lets himself be seen. The huge Moose is not disturbed by such a small dog. The dog then gives a low “woof”, gradually increasing in volume and tone to let the hunter know he has found the quarry. He slowly moves closer to the moose, barking louder and louder and making little rushes. The moose tries to rid himself of this nuisance by striking with his powerful forefeet or sweeping with the antlers. Here, the dog’s build and courage comes into play as he easily avoids the moose’s movements, while continuing to bark until the hunter can shoot. Therefore, only a compact and shortbacked dog can avoid the striking hooves and sweeping antlers. He should be able to bounce in and out of range almost like a rubber ball.

The “band-hund” is attached to his master’s belt by a long cord and tracks in the same way. When the Elk is sighted, he lies down or is tied to a tree while his master finishes the job.


GENERAL APPEARANCE – Powerful; compact body; square outline and proud carriage; coat close and abundant but not open; upstanding pointed ears; tail tightly curled over back.

CHARACTERISTICS – A hardy hunting Spitz with a bold energetic disposition.

TEMPERAMENT – Friendly, intelligent and independent without any sign of nervousness.

The above gives a general outline of what to look for in this breed. He is a dog of 20½ inches at the shoulder (19½” for bitches) and weighs approximately 50 lbs and 43 lbs respectively. He must give the impression of power. He is bold and energetic with a natural look. He is a very independent dog and very loyal to his master. The Elkhound is leggier than other arctic breeds – he has a square profile with approximately 50% in leg length. He should look as though he could stand a 400 kilo moose. A big clumsy dog would tire too easily on the hunt and will lack quickness and agility. A dog with a broad chest and bulging all over with muscles may look impressive, but the same bulging muscles are, to a great extent, just useless weight to be transported around.

HEAD AND SKULL – Wedge shaped, comparatively broad between ears; stop, not large; forehead and back of head slightly arched; foreface broad at root (not pinched in), evenly tapering whether seen from above or side, never pointed; bridge of nose straight and approximately the length of forehead; tight fitting skin on head, no wrinkle.

The Elkhound must have a powerful head. The typical wedge shape must not be broken by narrowness at the base. Seen from above the line from point of nose to ear must be as straight as possible and seen from the side, the top lines of the skull and muzzle should be parallel. The skull is comparatively broad between the ears, and flat – definitely not domed. The slight arch of the skull, seen from the side, appears almost straight, because of the eyebrows which make a clearly marked, but not large, stop. The foreface is strong, broad at the root – not snipey, weak or pointed – and evenly tapering to the nose. The foreface must have depth and strength. The bridge of the nose is straight, not roman nosed or dish-faced. The muzzle terminates in nicely finished nostrils which are wide open, moist and dark. Never flesh coloured. The length of muzzle and the skull are approximately the same.

EYES – Not prominent, slightly oval, medium size, dark brown, giving frank, fearless and friendly expression.

One of the most cherished characteristics of a dog is his eyes, for they determine the expression, which in this case should be dark brown, sparkling, frank, and fearless. They are slightly oval shaped, not round or protruding. If anything, rather deep-set to protect them from injury, about two inches apart, not on the edges of the skull, and with tight dark-rimmed lids. No haw showing. Because the Elkhound uses eye contact when holding a moose at bay to anticipate threatening actions by their prey, when evaluating expression it is not advisable to “stare” at a dog for any prolonged length of time.

EARS – Set high, small, firm and erect, pointed and very mobile; slightly taller than width at base; when alert, outer edge should be vertical.

The temperament of an Elkhound is reflected by his ears which are very mobile and quick to respond his feelings. The ears must not be too large – not much higher than the base. They are firm and erect and set high. They should not be too close together, and must not “go outside” the head, i.e. they must be within the continuation of the lines of the skull. They should be carried slightly forward when pricked, and the outer edge should be vertical. Do not expect him to be alert all the time, but do endeavour to alert him at least once to see the effect.

MOUTH – Jaws strong with perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. the upper teeth closely overlapping the lower teeth and set square to the jaws.

Teeth are scissors bite, and strong and white. One seldom finds an overshot or an undershot mouth in this breed.

NECK – Medium length, powerful, carrying the head high; a rich ruff on close fitting skin but no dewlap.

A neck of medium length, muscular, flexible, arched, clean in outline and with no dewlap is desirable. An upright neck, known in Norway as “good rising”, is required – not one that is carried in a horizontal line with the back. An important characteristic of the neck is the ruff or collar, which is a profuse, stand-off coat. The appearance of power is magnified by this collar.

FOREQUARTERS – Legs straight with good, not coarse, bone and strong pasterns; shoulders sloping; elbows closely set in.

Shoulder blades should be of wide bone, close together at the withers and laid back, but not as sloping as many other breeds. Loose shoulders are a bad fault – they make the dog appear over-built and give bad action. The forelegs are straight with good, not coarse, bone. They must not be slender or thin, but must be in keeping with the build of the dog. When viewed from the front, the legs must be straight from shoulder to ground. From the side, the legs are also straight with just a very slight bend at the pastern.

BODY – Powerful; short, strong back; loin short and wide with very little tuck-up; chest deep and broad; well curved ribs; topline straight and level; distance from brisket to ground not less than half the height at withers.

This paragraph is quite descriptive. The body should be short, wide and compact and show strength. The chest has good depth and width, but not so wide as to cause a waddling gait. The breastbone should carry well through between the forearms to contribute to a pleasing front line from the chin to the toes when viewed in profile. The back ribs are of good length so as not to make the line of the stomach appear drawn up. As mentioned earlier, we want a dog with plenty of leg and the depth of body equals length of leg.

HINDQUARTERS – Legs firm, strong and powerful; little but definite bend at stifle and hock; straight when viewed from behind.

Legs must stand well apart and straight when seen from behind. If they are too close together, it is because the pelvis is too narrow or the stance is crooked. From the side the rear legs should have a little but distinct angulation in hocks and knee, in order that the dog can react with lightning movement. The lower leg stands approximately vertical, but not farther back than the root of the tail. The distance from hock to foot can be too short as well as excessively long; its proportion should be pleasing and efficient mechanically for the work that is to be done. No dewclaws on the hind legs.

FEET – Comparatively small, slightly oval; tightly closed, well arched toes with protective hair between thick pads; turning neither in nor out. Nails firm and strong.

It is important that the toes are not spreading, as they will soon go sore-footed during the hunt, over frosty and stiffly frozen moss. The nails should be firm and strong to enable the dog to grip the ground when in motion and for quick starts.

TAIL – Strong, set on high; thickly coated without plume; tightly curled, preferably over the centre line of back.

The tail, when tightly curled and correctly carried, is one of the Elkhound’s typical qualities and adds greatly to the whole character of the dog. It shows the dog’s temperament. A good tight tail goes forward from the root, making the dog appear short and full of fire. The tail should preferably lie over the centre line of the back, sometimes so firmly that the hair of the back is parted. It is not a fault if the tail lies to either side. The tail should not be fan shaped or loosely curled, but thickly and closely coated.

GAIT/MOVEMENT – Demonstrates agility and endurance; stride at the trot even and effortless, back remaining level; as speed of trot increased, front and rear legs converge equally in straight lines towards a centre line beneath body.

The Elkhound’s front and hind quarters are not designed for great speed or fully-extended reach. It is endurance, rather than speed, that counts. In full stride, he uses the power gallop, not only with full thrust by his hind legs, but also with power from his front legs. On the hunt he often uses a shorter stride, somewhat like a rocking gallop, which seems to be the easiest locomotion for the Elkhound and a gait that he can continue for hours. At a walk or a slow trot his legs move in four straight lines. Viewed from the front, the legs should move in straight lines with good (but not maximum) forward reach, should not weave in or out, and there should be no “paddling”. As speed increases, the legs converge towards the centre of the body. It should be a light, smooth, springy movement – free and easy with lots of spirit.

COAT – Close, abundant, weather resistant; soft, dense, woolly undercoat and coarse, straight outer coat; short and smooth on head and front of legs, slightly longer on back of front legs, longest on neck, back of thighs and tail; not trimmed.

The coat is very important as it has to furnish insulation against heat and cold. It must be close, abundant, coarse and weather resisting. He has a coarse, straight outer coat and a soft, dense, woolly undercoat. It is not a stand off coat, but profuse, straight and dense without curl. When in good coat, it can be parted and it is very difficult to see the skin.

COLOUR – Grey of various shades, with black tips to outer coat; lighter on chest, stomach, legs, underside of tail, buttocks and in a harness mark; ears and foreface dark; a dark line from eye to ear desirable; undercoat pure pale grey. Any pronounced variation from the grey colour, sooty colour on lower legs, spectacles or white markings undesirable.

The most desirable colour is silver grey, but not lighter than cream. It should not be platinum or bluish white, neither too dark nor excessively light. Although light fawn is permissible, especially in young dogs, brown, rust or yellow tints should not be tolerated. There should be even colouring, beautifully blended with long, grey, dark-tipped covering hairs and a somewhat lighter woolly undercoat. The harness mark is a vertical stripe approximately 2 inches wide from withers to elbow points, and that consists of a light cover coat without dark points on the hairs. From the rear part of the neck at the withers, another light colour band slopes to the shoulder joints, situated slightly ahead of where a harness would be.

SIZE – Ideal height: Dogs 52 cm (20½ ins) at shoulder

Bitches 49 cm (19½ ins) at shoulder

Weight: Dogs approx. 23 kg (50 lbs)

Bitches approx. 20 kg (43 lbs)

FAULTS – Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree.

NOTE – Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.