The Breed History
Six thousand years ago is the estimated timeline given for the origins of this ancient breed, also termed the "Dog of the Vikings". Archeological records show skeletal remains that match the breed in size and constitution dating from between 4000-5000 BC alongside stone weapon remnants. The first breed standard was drawn up in 1877. This is one of the Scandinavian elkhounds (Swedish Elkhound, Norwegian Buhund are others) included in the Spitz dog family. AKC recognition occurred in1913.
Breeding for Function
Working as a chicken and duck herder, a guard dog, hunter for moose, elk, lynx, raccoon, fox and bear and as a sled dog, this was truly a versatile dog. Courageous enough to defend against bear and wolf, but gentle enough to be a companion. Stamina is a hallmark of the breed rather than extreme speed. Their short-coupled stature allows them the agility to hold quarry at bay; avoiding harm while sounding a strong voice for the hunter.
Height at Withers: female 19.5" (49.5 cm), male 20.5" (cm)
Weight: females 48 lb (22 kg), males 55 lb (25 kg)
Coat: They have a distinctive double gray coat. Hairs are straight, and the coat lies smoothly. The overcoat hairs are black-tipped. The undercoat is wooly and dense and silvery shaded as is the underside and legs of the dog. There is a black tip on the tail; ears and muzzle are also black. They undergo twice-yearly shedding and have moderate grooming needs and no doggy odor.
Longevity: 12-13 years
Points of Conformation: These dogs possess heavy bone and well-developed musculature and a compact conformation. The wedge-shaped head is broad and ears are held pricked up. The high-set tail is carried curled over the back. Eyes are medium-sized, oval, and dark brown in color. The stop is clearly defined, skull is broad, and the muzzle tapers. The neck is muscular, of medium length and slightly arched, without throatiness. The thorax is large and deep, and the ribs well sprung. The topline gradually slopes down to the rear. The legs are straight boned, dewclaws are usually left on, and paws are small with a compact oval shape. The gait is smooth and ground covering.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed attributes include: Intelligent, reliable, enjoys close human companionship, loyal, friendly, good alarm barker and watchdog, and will capably protect home and family. These dogs are eager to please. They have very high exercise needs. Noted to be sensitive, independent and headstrong, this type of dog needs mental stimulation to prevent boredom vices. Though needing human companionship, they are aloof with strangers. They are good with older, mature children, and may see small pets as prey. If off leash, they must be in a fenced enclosure because they are prone to roaming.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Tendency to become obese without dietary restriction.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 19.5% affected. Reported at a frequency of 23% in the NEAA Health Survey 2007 Summary.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Too few Norwegian Elkhounds have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. Too few Norwegian Elkhounds have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Early Retinal Degeneration (ERD): An autosomal recessive early onset form of progressive retinal atropy. Affected dogs are nightblind by 6 weeks of age, and become totally blind between 12- and 18 months. No genetic test is available. CERF does not recommend breeding affected dogs.
Rod Dysplasia (RD): An autosomal recessive form of PRA manifested by night blindness by 6 months of age, and total blindness at 3-5 years. No genetic test is available. CERF does not recommend breeding affected dogs.
Chondrodysplasia: Autosomal recessive dwarfism in the Norwegian Elkhound occurrs due to a generalized disturbance in endochondral ossification. Radiographic changes included flaring and increased width of the distal metaphyses of the radius and ulna, delayed ossification of the cuboid bones of the carpus, and reduction in length of the vertebral bodies. A direct genetic test is available.
Sry Negative XX Sex-Reversal: Autosomal recessive disorder of sexual differentiation. Affected dogs can appear to be female with enlarged clitori, or male with bilateral aspermatogenic testes. All have a 78 XX karyotype. Gonads can be ovotestes, but lack Sry, the testis-determining gene. No genetic test is available.
Sebaceous Cysts: Benign accumulation of sebum within plugged hair follicles. Reported at a frequency of 20.8% in the NEAA Health Survey 2007 Summary.
Allergies: Inhalant or food allergy. Presents with pruritis (itching) and pyotraumatic dermatitis (hot spots). Reported at a frequency of 5.2% in the NEAA Health Survey 2007 Summary.
Cataracts: Posterior and equatorial cortex intermediate cataracts predominate in the breed. Age of onset 1-3 years. Identified in 3.87% of Norwegian Elkhounds CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. Reported at a frequency of 12.3% in the NEAA Health Survey 2007 Summary. CERF does not recommend breeding any Norwegian Elkhound with a cataract.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 3.1% positive for thyroid auto-antibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%). Reported at a frequency of 2.4% in the NEAA Health Survey 2007 Summary.
Primary (Narrow Angle) Glaucoma: Ocular condition causing increased pressure within the eyeball, and secondary blindness due to damage to the retina. The breed can have primary goniodysgenesis with pectinate ligament dysplasia and/or trabecular meshwork dysplasia. Many affected dogs have cystic degeneration of the iridociliary epithelial and/or peripheral retina. Age of onset of 4-7 years. Classified as an open-angle, closed-cleft glaucoma. Diagnose with tonometry and gonioscopy. Dorn reports a 3.48x odds ratio for glaucoma versus other breeds. Incidence in the Norwegian Elkhound is estimated at 1.98%.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 1.83% of Norwegian Elkhounds CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Idiopathic Epilepsy: Inherited seizures. Control with anticonvulsant medication. Seizures are reported at a frequency of 1.8% in the NEAA Health Survey 2007 Summary.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 1.63% of Norwegian Elkhounds CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Mast Cell Tumor (MCT): Skin tumors that produce histamine, causing inflammation and ulceration. They can reoccur locally or with distant metastasis. Reported at a frequency of 1.6% in the NEAA Health Survey 2007 Summary.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Causes chronic bouts of diarrhea. Control with diet and/or medications. Reported at a frequency of 1.4% in the NEAA Health Survey 2007 Summary.2 Juvenile Renal Disease: A kidney basement membrane disorder causing an impaired ability to concentrate urine, and progressive azotemia. Periglomerular and interstitial fibrosis are the earliest renal lesions. Results of glomerular counts, kidney size, and dissection of the nephron indicated that nephron numbers and size are adequate early in the disease, but that numbers decrease as the disease progresses. Dorn reports a 9.41x odds ratio for kidney disease versus other breeds. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Renal Glucosuria/Fanconi Syndrome: Causes glucosuria, hyposthenuria, metabolic acidosis, hyperchloremia, and reduction in glomerular filtration rate. May be part of Norwegian Elkhound juvenile renal disease, or a separate inherited disorder. In a study of Norwegian Elkhounds at dog show in Norway, 27.3% had glucosuria. Dorn reports a 9.41x odds ratio for kidney disease versus other breeds. Unknown mode of inheritance. Diagnose by finding glucosuria with normal blood glucose levels, and urine amino acids. A phenotypic test is available.
Diabetes Mellitus: Sugar diabetes caused by a lack of insulin production by the pancreas. Controlled by insulin injections, diet, and glucose monitoring. Reported at an increased frequency versus other breeds, with a female predominance. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Intracutaneous Cornifying Epithelioma: Benign skin tumors consisting of keratin-filled crypts in the dermis and subcutis that open to the skin surface. Most of these tumors occur on the back, neck, sides of the thorax, and the shoulders. Usually occur prior to 5 years of age, with a male predominance. Etretinate treatment is successful in 50% of affected dogs.
Brachygnathism, Ciliary Dyskenesia, Entropion, Oligodontia, Osteochondrodysplasia, Osteogenesis Imperfecta, and Prognathism are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for chondrodysplasia is available from Genoscoper: www.genoscoper.com.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes hip radiograph, CERF eye examination (minimum 5 years of age), thyroid profile including autoantibodies (minimum 5 years of age), and kidney disease screening with urine protein:creatinine ratio (minimum of 5 years of age). Optional recommended tests include elbow radiographs, patella examination, and urine amino acid test for Fanconi syndrome from PennGen. (See CHIC website; www. caninehealthinfo.org). Recommend cardiac examination. Urine amino acid test for Fanconi syndrome is available from PennGen.
- Breed name synonyms: Elkhound, Norsk Elghund, Grahund, Gray Norwegian Elkhound, Norsk Elghund (Gra).
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club)
- AKC rank (year 2008): 100 (544 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Norwegian Elkhound Association of America: www.neaa.net
Norwegian Elkhound Club of Canada: www.elkhounds.net/necc/
Norwegian Elkhound Club of Great Britain: www.necgb.co.uk/
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