The Black Norwegian Elkhound is very similar to the Norwegian Elkhound but is considered to be a separate breed by major canine organizations. The Black Norwegian Elkhound is distinguished primarily by its black coat and slightly smaller size. The Black Norwegian Elkhound is also known as the Norsk Elghund Sort, Norsk Elghund (Sort), Norsk Elghund Black, Black Elkhound, Black Norwegian Elkhound, Black Norwegian Moose Dog, and the Norwegian Moose Dog (Black).
The History of the Black Norwegian Elkhound was identical to that of the Norwegian Elkhound until the early 1800’s. In the early 1800’s, a group of Norwegian Elkhound breeders began producing lines of solid black dogs. It is unclear whether there had always been black Norwegian Elkhounds or whether the color first appeared in the breed at that time. These breeders continued to breed their lines, probably regularly crossing them with the more common grey-colored dogs until the late 1900’s. Although the grey Norwegian Elkhound was common throughout Scandinavia, the Black Norwegian Elkhound was largely limited to interior regions on either side of the Norwegian-Swedish border. However, when the Norwegian Elkhound was being standardized and pedigreed from 1877 onwards, most fanciers rejected the black color. In 1901, the first official Norwegian Elkhound standard was published, which excluded non-grey dogs.
Despite being excluded from the official Norwegian Elkhound registries, breeders of Black Norwegian Elkhounds continued to develop their lines. Because their breed was not initially eligible in the show ring, breeders of these dogs focused much more heavily on working ability than was the case with the standard Norwegian Elkhound. Breeders began to focus on the dog’s scent tracking ability, and the dog earned a reputation for being the most skilled and devoted scent tracker of all the Scandinavian Spitz-type dogs. Eventually, the Black Norwegian Elkhound came to be recognized as a breed in its own right. Despite its many talents, the Black Norwegian Elkhound continued to fall out of favor as its better known grey cousin continued to rise in popularity. By the 1950’s, there were very few breeders of this dog still active, and the breed was on the verge of extinction.
Luckily for the Black Norwegian Elkhound, a number of dedicated breeders began working together in the mid-1950’s to preserve and perpetuate the best examples of the breed. Although their efforts have been slow going, the Black Norwegian Elkhound now has a stable population in Norway and each year sees between 90 and 150 puppies registered with the Norwegian Kennel Club (NKK) and the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI). A few additional litters are also sometimes born in other Scandinavian countries. Despite its recovery, the Black Norwegian Elkhound remains almost unknown outside of Scandinavia, and only maintains a sizable population in Norway.
The Black Norwegian Elkhound is nearly identical in appearance to its Grey Cousin, with three primary differences. Of greatest importance is the breed’s coloration which should be solid and shining black. A small white patch on the chest and on the feet is acceptable. This breed also tends to have a slightly shorter coat than the grey Norwegian Elkhound, although that is more of a general trend than a rule. The Black Norwegian Elkhound is also somewhat smaller than its more famous cousin. Males typically stand between 18 and 19½ inches tall at the shoulder, and females typically stand between 16½ and 18 inches. Not only is this breed shorter but it is also generally more lightly built than the Norwegian Elkhound. The average breed member weighs between 35 and 50 pounds.
The temperament of the Black Norwegian Elkhound is virtually identical to that of the Norwegian Elkhound, but with two key differences. The first is that this breed is a much more dedicated scent tracker. The Black Norwegian Elkhound is both more willing to follow a trail and more determined to follow it to the end. The other major difference is that this breed has even more developed prey and working drives and is therefore more likely to exhibit animal aggression and demand a job to perform.
The Black Norwegian Elkhound has a surprisingly low-maintenance coat. This breed rarely if ever requires professional grooming. Owners just need to give the dog a regular, thorough brushing. When the dog is shedding a rubber glove or comb should be used to remove the dead hair from the new hair. Shedding is a problem that Black Norwegian Elkhound owners must deal with. These dogs shed a great deal. You will regularly have dog hair all over your clothes, carpet, and furniture. As is the case with most arctic breeds, the Black Norwegian Elkhound heavily sheds at least twice a year when the seasons change. During these periods, the shedding is so heavy that you can occasionally see large patches of fur fall off the dog as it walks. If you or a family member have allergies or cannot stand the thought of cleaning up dog hair, this is definitely not the breed for you. Black Norwegian Elkhound coats do however lack the “doggie odor” that is found in most breeds and many find disagreeable.
The Black Norwegian Elkhound is a generally hardy and healthy breed. Their life expectancy is between 12 and 15 years, which is quite long for a breed of this size. These dogs survived in the freezing conditions of Scandinavia for thousands of years. Unhealthy dogs cannot and did not survive in such an environment. However, the breed has genetic predispositions to several conditions common to large pure-bred dogs, especially progressive retinal atrophy and hip dysplasia. Breeders are working to identify dogs which are carriers and to eliminate these problems from the gene pool.
The Black Norwegian Elkhound is known for being particularly susceptible to weight gain. These dogs will often overeat, and are skilled at finding any food which is around the house. Owners must take special care to watch the diets of their Norwegian Elkhounds, and to carefully store anything which is potentially edible. Overweight Black Norwegian Elkhounds are less healthy than dogs which are of proper weight, and are also more likely to develop a number of conditions such as cardiac problems.
It is always advisable to get your pets tested by either the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and/or the Canine Eye Registration Foundation, particularly if you intend to breed. The OFA and CERF test for various genetically inherited disorders such as blindness and hip dysplasia that may impact either your dog or its descendants.
The following congenital or inherited health defects have been reported in the breed: