Norwegian Elkhound

AKC Hound Group


Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

An ancient breed—a skeleton similar to today’s Norwegian Elkhound has been found dating from 4000 to 5000 BC. Historically, the dog was used in Scandinavia as a hunter of big game, especially moose (“Elg” in Norwegian). The dog can scent game from a distance of several kilometers. He tracks the quarry and attracts its attention by barking. Then he holds the animal at bay until the hunter arrives to make the kill. Over the centuries, Elkhounds have also successfully hunted badger, lynx, mountain lion, bear, wolf, reindeer, and even rabbit. The Elkhound is particularly well-suited to badger hunting because he works better at night than in the daytime. In more recent times, the friendly and reliable character of the Elkhound has helped win him a place in many homes as a cherished family pet.


A hardy, medium-sized Spitz-type dog, sturdy, and squarely built with the stamina to hunt all day long for many days at a time. The stand-off double coat has a distinctive gray color. The tail curls tightly over the back. The head is broad and wedge-shaped, with a defined stop. The pointed prick ears are very mobile. The eyes are dark brown and friendly, with a keen expression. The teeth should meet in a scissors bite. The body is relatively short, and most of the length should be in the ribcage. The chest should be deep and relatively wide. The forelegs are straight and parallel to each other. The paws are small and tight with thick pads. The Norwegian Elkhound has no doggy odor.

Key Facts

  • Height:  Averages 20-1/2 in. (male); 19-1/2 in. (female)
  • Size:  Medium
  • Weight:  Averages 55 lbs. (male); 48 lbs. (female)
  • Availability:  May take some effort to find
  • Talents:  Hunting, tracking, herding, watchdog, guarding, sledding, and agility


The Norwegian Elkhound has a very independent temperament, and may be somewhat resistant to obedience training. Puppies need firm, but gentle discipline. Do not overfeed this dog, as the breed gains weight quickly. Because they have been bred to hold prey at bay, barking constantly until the hunter arrives, some Norwegian Elkhounds bark a great deal. The breed also has a tendency to roam. It is best to pair sled dogs in teams of one male and one female, as males have a tendency to fight if harnessed together. May also be aggressive with same-sex dogs in the household. Some sources say Elkhounds are usually good with non-canine pets, while others say they shouldn’t be trusted. Use caution.


Fearless and friendly; a reliable, energetic, and alert companion for children and a sensible guard. A clean and docile dog with an outstanding character. Affectionate and loyal, engaging and sensitive. Dignified and independent.


  • Children:  Excellent with children
  • Friendliness:  Fairly friendly with strangers
  • Trainability:  Somewhat difficult to train
  • Independence:  Fairly independent
  • Dominance:  High
  • Other Pets:  May be aggressive with dogs of the same sex; do not trust with non-canine pets
  • Combativeness:  Can be a bit dog-aggressive
  • Noise:  Likes to bark


  • Grooming:  Regular grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping:  No trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat:  Medium coat
  • Shedding:  Seasonally heavy shedder
  • Exercise:  Needs lots of exercise
  • Jogging:  An excellent jogging companion
  • Indoors:  Fairly active indoors
  • Apartments:  Will be OK in an apartment if sufficiently exercised
  • Outdoor Space:  Best with a large yard
  • Climate:  Prefers cool climates
  • Owner:  Good for novice owners
  • Longevity:  Moderately long lived (12 to 15 years)

Useful Links

AKC® Norwegian Elkhound Breed Standard

Norwegian Elkhound Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the Norwegian Elkhound

Norwegian Elkhound Gifts