6 Norwegian Dog Breeds


Half of the Norwegian breeds are spitz-type breeds. These are dogs that have been developed to live and work in harsh, cold weather conditions common in the Arctic Circle. They commonly have thick, weather-proof coats. The other half of the dogs from Norway are hare hunting scenthounds. Apart from the elkhound and the buhund, it would be unusual to find these breeds anywhere other than their native country. And, even in Norway, they are hard to find.

When considering a dog that’s right for you, think about whether a specific breed is suited to your home climate. Heavy-coated dogs can acclimate to life in the tropics but require air conditioning breaks, ample water, and shade. You can expect heavy shedding, too. Likewise, a thin-coated, small dog can live in cold climates, but you will need to make allowances for cold-weather gear and shorter outdoor walks.

Breed Characteristics

Spitzes are dogs acclimated to the cooler temps of the Arctic region. They have double-coated fur and pointed ears and muzzles. They are said to look wolf or fox-like. Their tail often curls or droops. They usually shed twice per year, often in clumps. Scent hounds are hunting dogs that follow a scent rather than hunting by sight. These breeds are generally regarded as having some of the most sensitive noses among dogs. Most have pendulous ears, which are said to droop low to the ground to sweep scents to the nose.

Here are the top dogs from the Scandinavian country of Norway.

  • 01 of 06

    Norwegian Lundehund

    Norwegian Lundehund standing o grass
    CaptureLight / Getty Images

    You will rarely find a Norwegian lundehund outside of its native country or the dog show circuit. Even in Norway, a lundehund is hard to come by. This unique, little spitz-type dog hunted puffins (“lunde” in Norwegian) and their eggs on the remote Islands off Norway’s coast. They are high-energy, prolific diggers with a keen hunting sense and prey drive.

    The lunde has two fewer teeth than your average dog, meaning it likely has an ancient heritage. It is similar to the 5,000-year-old fossil of the primitive Russian Varanger dog found with the same dental structure. The breed is incredibly flexible; its neck can tip back to touch its back, helping it squeeze into small spaces to find puffins and their nests on rugged cliffs. Lundes can also manipulate their shoulder joints to a ninety-degree angle. This flexibility helps them get traction on slippery and steep surfaces.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Non-sporting (AKC)

    Height: 12 to 15 inches

    Weight: 20 to 30 pounds

    Coat and Color: Harsh, short topcoat and a dense, soft undercoat; colors range from fallow, tan, and reddish-brown; black hair tips that darken with age and can also have white, white with red, or dark markings

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

  • 02 of 06

    Norwegian Elkhound

    Tiffany Kelly Noble Soul Photography / Getty Images

    Of the Norwegian breeds, the elkhound is the most well-known and familiar. The breed has an ancient history and can even be found referenced in Norse history and mythology. They traveled on Viking ships and acted as herders and protectors of livestock on remote farms in rural, harsh-climate Norway, protected by their thick double-coat.

    Elkhounds are best-suited for an active home environment where they can expend significant amounts of energy. An elkhound isn’t a velcro dog. They’re steadfastly loyal to their family but are independent and aloof with strangers. Early and appropriate socialization is essential to prevent them from becoming too reserved. This breed is a big-time shedder, dropping its winter coat (everywhere) twice a year.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Hound (AKC)

    Height: around 20 inches

    Weight: 48 to 55 pounds

    Coat and Color: Thick, smooth double coat that comes in shades of silver and black

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

  • 03 of 06

    Hygen Hound

    Bjørn Konestabo / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons License Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)

    The Hygen hound was developed in the 1930s by Hans Fredrik Hygen as a high-energy hunting dog that could withstand a harsh arctic terrain’s rigors without tiring too quickly. Because of their hunting background, tracking skills, and a strong sense of smell, this breed likes to roam and may require a lot of work to get a reliable recall. Sporting a high prey drive, this breed may not live well alongside small furry pets. Hygens tend to be amiable and friendly with their family but can sometimes exhibit territorial guarding traits. Nip early signs of resource guarding in the bud with positive training methods.

    Even in Norway, the breed is scarce, so it would be unusual to find one of these dogs in North America. If you’re attracted to the breed’s characteristics, it mirrors other hounds like foxhounds with similar traits.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Scenthound (UKC), not an AKC-recognized breed

    Height: 18 to 22 inches

    Weight: 45 to 55 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short, straight, glossy coat; comes in a red-brown or a yellow-red with black shading and sometimes with white markings; can also come in black and tan, white with red-brown, and yellow-red markings

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

  • 04 of 06

    Norwegian Buhund

    Jon-Eric Melsæter / Flckr / Creative Commons License Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

    The Norwegian buhund looks a little like a slightly smaller lundehund, but they have a denser coat and a curly tail that gives them a more traditional spitz appearance. They are also a little more common than lundehunds and may be available by North American breeders.

    Like the elkhound, the buhund traveled on Viking ships and developed into small, adaptable farm dogs that guarded and herded livestock. These intelligent, high-energy, high-stamina dogs need more than a stroll around a park for daily exercise and mental stimulation. Buhunds can be strong-minded and independent. They are loyal, friendly, and playful but are head-strong and sometimes stubborn.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Herding (AKC)

    Height: 16 to 18 inches

    Weight: 25 to 40 pounds

    Coat and Color: Thick, short, coarse topcoat; comes in black or wheaten coloring

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.

  • 05 of 06

    Halden Hound


    The Halden hound is another Norwegian scent dog similar to the Hygen hound. They are similar in size and appearance and known for being even-tempered, confident, and eager to please. Like other scent hounds, you may have to work hard on achieving a reliable recall. Haldens have a strong hunting instinct, a keen sense of smell, and often wander off. Unlike spitz-type Norwegian dogs, the Halden’s short, smooth coat does not require much grooming.

    The Halden is the rarest of all the Norwegian breeds and is named for a southeastern Norway town. Even in Norway, their numbers are incredibly low, making them a vulnerable breed at risk of extinction.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Scenthound (UKC), not an AKC-recognized breed

    Height: 19.5 to 23.5 inches

    Weight: 40 to 55 pounds

    Coat and Color: Coarse, dense, straight, and short double-coated dog; comes in white with black patches; tan shadings on head and legs, and sometimes between the white and the black patches

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

  • 06 of 06

    Dunker (Norwegian Hound)

    Marten Bjork / Unsplash

    A Dunker, or simply the Norwegian hound, is a medium-sized scenthound bred by Wilhelm Dunker at the beginning of the 19th century for rabbit hunting. It was developed as a scenthound by crossing a Russian harlequin hound with dependable Norwegian scent hounds. It is an uncommon breed outside of Norway.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Scenthound (UKC); not an AKC-recognized breed

    Height: 18.5 to 21.5 inches

    Weight: 25 to 39 pounds

    Coat and Color: Straight, hard, dense, and not too short, commonly black or blue marbled with pale fawn and white markings

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Breeds to Avoid

Climate is the most significant consideration for dogs suited for life in Norway. The average temperature in the winter is below freezing, and during the summer, it’s about 65 F. If you want a Norwegian-type of dog, you’re looking at a spitz or scenthound. Both types of dogs are hunting, working dogs. Breeds that are not native to Norway include companion lap warmers like Maltese or pugs, thin-coated or hairless hot-weather dogs like Chihuahuas or Xolos, and low-energy breeds like French bulldogs or greyhounds.

10 Scandinavian Dog Breeds for Cool Climate Living

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