I ABSOLUTELY loved the fascinating breed feature in DOG WORLD the other week spotlighting the Breeds from the Northern Lands… the Scandinavian Breeds. It was introduced with a piece written (and with photographs by) the very knowledgeable Paula Heikkinen-Lehkonen depicting well known and some not so well known breeds from the region.
I’d read about breeds such as the Hygen, Smaland and Schiller Hound before (they are usually given a few lines in breed encyclopaedias) but this feature’s clear photographs really brought them to life.
I’d also long known that there existed, alongside the more familiar Grey Norwegian Elkhound, the Black Norwegian Elkhound but I had no idea that there were also the Swedish White Elkhound or the yellow coloured Hallefors Elkhound!
Diana Hudson wrote a wonderful ‘warts and all’ piece on the breed, ‘the Elkhound is not for haters of dog hair… bitches moult twice and dogs once a year and it can often seem as if they will lose every hair on their bodies… its amazing where you can find Elkhound hair!’
And as she pointed out the Elkhound has had a long history in this country, ‘Elkhounds first entered the Kennel Club Stud Book in 1874 and the Elkhound Society was started in 1923.’
Indeed Hutchinsons Dog Encyclopaedia (published in the early 1930s) dedicates 19 pages to the breed, starting with a picture of Ingerid, imported by a Mr Leonard Beddome from Holland in 1897.
It goes on to state:
The Elkhound’s history in Great Britain is comparatively recent, and may well be divided into pre-war and post-war periods. Sundry specimens have been brought over for many years from time to time by sportsmen on fishing expeditions but among the earliest recorded were some brought over by Sir Alfred Strutt, when attending King Edward VII in 1878 on his visit to Norway.
Though specimens were continually benched at Cruft’s each year, no attempt was made to popularise them and the possession of Elkhounds were confined to a few families, who jealously guarded the breed.
In 1923 Lady Dorothy Wood (later Lady Halifax) with Lieut. Colonel G J S Scovell and a small band of enthusiasts, formed the British Elkhound Society, and from then onwards the cult grew slowly and surely, there being very few championship shows without 40 to 60 dogs benched.
With the advent of the Society there commenced a fresh era of importation; initiated by Colonel Scovell, Lady Irwin, Mrs G Powell, Mrs Lombe and Mr W F Holmes. The winning dogs of Norway and Sweden were gradually transferred to England.
Of these Ch Gaupa au Glitre, Ch Rugg au Glitre, Int Ch Peik au Glitre and Ch Kraus from Norway, along with Ch Ialla and Ch Carros from Sweden have all left their mark on the breed and have considerably influenced the winning types of today.
Interestingly it goes on to say:
The crossing of these new dogs with the ‘old English strain’ has of course, prevented any deterioration in stamina and bone, to which all breeds are liable when selection is limited, but like the terriers of England, the Elkhound in Scandinavia has its local variations in different parts, and as the new importations were drawn from both Norway and Sweden and varied considerably among themselves, the first results were rather confusing and puzzled judges, exhibitors and breeders. The later generations show more uniformity and it has been admitted by the Norwegian and Swedish judges, and American critics who have come over, that there are no better specimens anywhere than here.’