The Norwegian Elkhound's name in English derives from the dog's original name, Elghund; "Elg", however, actually means "Moose", while "Hund" actually means "Dog"; the Elkhound, therefore, is a Moosedog and was originally bred to hunt these enormous animals in its native Norway. Thankfully, the dog also gained popularity in the show ring and was introduced to the rest of the world. This ascension into the limelight, though, did not lead to a decline in the breed's hunting characteristics in favor of its show qualities. In Northern countries, especially Norway, the dog is still used to do what it was bred to do: hunt moose.
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Indeed, in Norway, Elkhounds must take part in field trials and moose hunting in order to be considered true champions; if they are simply show dogs, they are not used in breeding programs to further the breed. Technically, Norwegian show champions must have at least one first place prize in a hunting field trial, besides three winner's certificates at dog shows; in order to be allowed into the conformation ring in the first place, in fact, an Elkhound must have placed within the top three in a hunting trial.
There are essentially two ways in which Elkhounds are used in Norwegian moose hunting, and the way in which a dog is used depends on the lay of the land. The first is as what is called a "loshund", or a free-running dog; in this type of hunting, the dog is allowed to free-range, or pinpoint the location of a moose on his own without being on a leash. The dog will roam a bit around the area, trying to catch a scent and once he does, he heads back to the hunter to communicate that the chase is on. He makes sure the hunter is able to see the direction in which he is heading before he sprints off after the moose. The Elkhound is not a hound that bays while he chases his prey; on the contrary, he silently tracks and stalks his animal, every once in a while doubling back to make sure the hunter is right behind him. The dog remains silent until he is sure he is able to corner the moose and keep it at bay; only at this moment does he begin his loud, piercing and consistent bark. While holding the moose at bay, waiting for the hunter, the agile Elkhound hops back and forth, towards and away from the animal, often nipping at its legs.
The second way in which an Elkhound is used is as a "bandhund." In this case, the dog is on a leash that usually measures anywhere from between 8 to 10 feet. The dog will scent track the moose, always making sure to keep himself and his hunter upwind. A bandhund will inform the hunter of the closeness of a moose by uncurling his tail, standing up on his hind legs and sniffing, or raising his hackles. When the hunter is ready to dispatch of the moose, he orders his dog to sit or lie down and when the moose has been killed, the dog is released to go to the animal.
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