All along Norway's 1110-mile length, fingers of ocean wind inland between steep mountains. Three-fourths of the land is rocky slope, bleak plateau, or lake or glacial ice. Forests cloak nearly a fourth in conifers and birch; scarcely four per cent is flat and fertile. Thus with its face to the sea, its rugged interior hostile to the plow, the fjord country in Norway saw the flowering of the Viking Era.
As rugged as the land from which he sprang, the Norwegian Elkhound was a cherished possession of his Viking masters, and he appears in many of the old sagas. Although he is known as the "Dog of the Vikings," the Elkhounds earliest association with man dates from much earlier. In the famous Viste Cave at Jaeren in western Norway, archeological investigations brought to light a number of stone implements and bones dating from 5000 to 4000 BC. Included among these remains of an even earlier civilization were four skeletons of dogs, two of which were identified by Professor Brinchmann of the Bergen Museum as of definite Elkhound type. Thus even before the Viking Era, with primitive man the Elkhound had begun that long and staunch companionship with mankind. What his earliest duties were we can only surmise, but it is safe to say they involved the chase and the guardianship of his master's crude belongings and primitive hearth.
From the present back through the centuries of recorded time, Elkhounds have been kept in Norwegian rural districts by farmers, herdsmen, and hunters to serve as watchdogs, guardians of flocks, and as trackers of big game: moose, reindeer, and bear. Outdoor jobs, all of them, in a rugged country and in a rigorous sub-arctic climate.
In 1877 the Norwegian Hunters Association held its first dog show, and that year perhaps marks the beginning of interest in the Elkhound as a show dog. In ensuing years, records and stud books were established, a standard formulated, and as an increasing number of experienced breeders in Norway focused their attention on the breed, the Elkhound gradually came into his own as a show dog. Interest in the breed spread to England, and the British Elkhound Society was formed in 1923 about seven years before a similar organization to sponsor the breed appeared in this country. The Norwegian Elkhound Association of America was organized in an informal way about 1930.