Swedish Moose Hunting Dog

The Swedish elk hunting dog, also called the Elkhound or Jamthund, is a large spitz-type dog found in northern Europe. One characteristic that describes him is that he has a wolf-like appearance. And indeed it is easy to confuse him if we find him in a snowy forest . However, its stable character makes it a feasible dog to have in a common home. Of course, better in cold areas.

Within Sweden, the Jämthund is legendary for its apparent ability to face bears with great courage. They are often referred to as a “bear dog” for this reason. Present today in countries known for their extreme winter conditions, such as Canada and Russia, the Jämthund has now spread far beyond Scandinavia . Despite their migration, they have only left their homeland in small numbers and it is still rare to find them outside of Sweden. While they are often kept as working dogs, they are also seen as family pets.

Characteristics of the Swedish moose hunting dog

The Swedish elk hunting dog is a splendid animal with a wolf cub appearance and the strength to attack a bear. Jämthunds, as they are also known, have great potential and show wanderlust, which means that this breed has a strong desire to explore the world. It is safest to carry them on a leash unless you teach them how to communicate with you when ordered.

Physical appearance

Undoubtedly closely related to the wolf, the Jämthund or Swedish moose hunting dog could easily be mistaken for one when viewed from a distance. Their bodies are rectangular in shape and they should be longer than they are tall. The general shape of its body is very similar to that of the wolf and it must be robust and athletic. Its head should be long and broad, with a wide muzzle and erect triangular ears that are widely spaced on the skull. They have expressive dark brown eyes. Males are between 57 and 65 cm, while females are smaller, between 52 and 60 cm. The male will weigh between 30 and 35 kg and the female usually between 25 and 30 kg.

Their double coat of fur is incredibly thick and weather resistant, a must in deep snow. The outer coat is rougher and more resistant than its soft cream-colored wool undercoat. Their coat colors include white, cream, black, and various shades of gray , although their overall coat should be predominantly dark. Its characteristic tail should curve naturally over its body and have a thick feather.


Unsurprisingly for a dog widely known for its ability to hunt wolves and bears, the Jämthund is brave and daring. Despite their indisputable strength, they are not usually aggressive towards humans and are generally very affectionate towards those they trust. But they are also very good watchdogs, as they are alert and protect their loved ones.

They are less sensitive than other dog breeds. They are not receptive to the emotions of their owners and handle mild punishments quite well but not the harshest ones. They don’t mind a constantly changing daily routine , a hectic home, young children, a noisy or office environment, and frequent guest visits as they adapt to everything.

Furthermore, the Jämthund is a very vocal breed. Definitely not the best option if you prefer a quiet breed . They often enjoy barking and howling loudly and may change their barking based on their emotional level and what they are trying to say. The main reasons for barking are: protection, alarm, fear, boredom, attention seeking, greeting, separation anxiety, compulsive barking.

They are extremely protective watchdogs. This breed does not hesitate to protect its territory, so the Jämthund can be a good option if you want an excellent watchdog. You keep calm and the Swedish elk hunting dog will take care of unwanted people or animals.

The Swedish moose hunting dog with children and other animals

They are known to be particularly calm and kind to children , which together with their stable character makes them good for them. But, like other hunting dogs, we must always be careful with very young children, since they are fast and strong animals and can cause an accident in their game.

With dogs and other animals

It is widely accepted that other animals should not be entrusted to them and that they should be introduced to other family pets from an early age if disputes over territory and authority are to be avoided. Similarly, they have been known to chase and hunt small animals, so they must be on a leash when in public places.

Basic information

  • Height at the withers: 57 to 65 cm
  • Weight: 30 to 35 kg
  • Coat: gray, dark gray and light gray
  • Average lifespan: 11 to 14 years
  • Character: loyal, independent, active, stable and courageous
  • Relationship with children: good
  • Relationship with other dogs: can be aggressive
  • Skills: hunting, guard
  • Space needs : needs exercise
  • Diet: you must control your diet to avoid being overweight
  • Arrangement: low
  • Maintenance cost: moderate / high


RSCE Classification:  Group 5: Spitz Type and Primitive Type Dogs. Section 2 Nordic Hunting Dogs


The Jämthund, or Swedish Elkhound, is widely believed to be one of the oldest breeds of all. As their name suggests, they are originally from Sweden, from a central region called ‘Jamtland’ . The Jamtland is famous for having particularly severe weather conditions, which is why only the hardiest dogs would have survived in ancient times. They are believed to have existed since the dawn of civilization, making their exact origin virtually impossible to trace.

The original purpose of the Jämthund was to be a hunting dog. They were used to hunt bears, wolves, and of course moose . To successfully hunt down these physically intimidating creatures, this breed has evolved to be incredibly powerful and fearless. While primarily used as hunters, local people also kept them as pets, watchdogs, and even sled dogs. Its versatility and ability to survive in such an unforgiving climate is undoubtedly what led to its local popularity.

Son of the wolf

DNA tests have shown that the Jämthund originated from the crossing of a she-wolf and a male dog . They are described as a “Spitz-type dog” and are the tallest of the Spitz family. A Spitz dog will have a dense, thick coat, pointed ears, a long muzzle, and a curly tail. These dogs are generally described as “wolf-like.” Other Spitz breeds include Akita, Keeshond, and Samoyed.

There are a variety of closely related dog breeds in Scandinavia, which, until recently, had been classified alongside the Jämthund. These include the Finnish Lapphund and the Swedish Lapphund and the Norwegian Elkhound. In fact, the Jämthund is so similar in appearance to the Norwegian Elkhound, that for many years it was thought to be a larger variant. It wasn’t until 1946 that the Jämthund was recognized as a breed in its own right . This recognition was mainly due to the efforts of a man named Aksel Lindstrom.

Salvation of the race

Mr. Lindstrom had a passion for sledding and was disappointed to discover that the Jämthund, an accomplished sled dog, was becoming rare in his own homeland of Sweden. He wrote an article for a newspaper and through this article got in touch with Count Bjorn Van Rosen. Their activism led to the recognition of the breed by the Swedish Kennel Club, and quite possibly saved them from eventual extinction.

Today it is still a strange dog, but it has already left the Swedish borders and can be found in other places with cold weather, and adapted to other tasks. In this way, the breed has ensured its continuity although it remains a very minority and unknown breed.

International recognition

The breed has not yet been recognized by the AKC but it has been recognized by the UKC, which included it in their files as an official breed in 2006. The FCI, for its part, did so in 1951 and approved its final standard (in English) in 2010.

Education and training

They are often called “stubborn,” although their independence served them well in the past, they can be difficult to train. Your ideal trainer should be very firm and dominant and use consistent training techniques so you won’t let the dog get away with it. They are irrefutably intelligent and can accomplish new tasks quickly . Their intellect has ensured them access to a variety of different disciplines, including herding, hunting, sledding, and even military work.


While the Jämthund or Swedish Moose Hunting Dog is recognized for having good general health, it may be more willing to develop certain health problems than other breeds. These conditions include:

Hip dysplasia

The hip dysplasia is a condition that affects the hip joints of the hind limbs and commonly observed in the canine population. The hip joint does not form as it should as the dog develops, leading to a ball and socket joint, which does not fit as it should. Over time, this will lead to degeneration and the development of painful osteoarthritis, that is, arthritis . Unfortunately, this condition worsens over time.

Elbow dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is actually a general term that includes a handful of recognized diseases of the elbow . These include osteochondrosis, fragmentation of the coronoid process, ununited anconeal process, and medial compartment disease. If your dog is affected, you will notice that he will limp, he may walk or jog with a “head shake” and he will not be as eager to exercise as before. Diagnosis is made by advanced imaging of the elbows. Surgery can be beneficial for some dogs. It has several levels of severity and in the highest levels it can stop walking.

Skin allergies

Often cited as the number one reason dogs visit the vet, the Jämthund isn’t the only one suffering from skin conditions. Dogs can be allergic to a wide variety of things in their environment , including everyday foods, house dust mites, and fungal spores.

Signs of skin allergies are varied, but can include red skin, itching (itching), and puffy eyes. An affected dog can be seen licking its paws, scratching itself all over, or rubbing its face against the ground. Notoriously difficult to manage affected animals will often require lifelong trips to the vet and medication to keep their symptoms in check.


An overweight dog is more likely to develop certain diseases throughout his life, such as diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. Obese animals will also more commonly suffer from osteoarthritis . Sensible eating and exercise can easily prevent this problem from occurring. While a thick layer of fat protects in cold conditions, it does not benefit a dog that is protected from the elements year-round in a heated home.

Progressive retinal atrophy

A study carried out in 2010 highlighted the appearance of this disease within the breed. While the Swedish elk hunting dog was known to be prone to blindness, exactly why had not been determined. Progressive retinal atrophy is a degenerative eye disorder that must be detected in breeding animals.

Basic care

A lively, high-energy dog, who benefits from access to wide open spaces and the ability to roam freely . It would be unfair to confine these animals to a small house or apartment. They enjoy long walks and runs every day and have impressive stamina when away from home. Unsurprisingly, when proper exercise is not provided, the Jämthund will use its energy elsewhere, often developing unwanted behaviors.

As with most breeds developed for hunting, the Swedish Elkhound requires a lot of regular exercise to stay in shape, both physically and mentally. It gets bored quickly if kept indoors for too long and can become destructive. To avoid this, you can use games that encourage the physical and mental activity of our dog.

Hygiene and brushing

The Jämthund requires a medium grooming effort. Cutting the dog’s hair by a professional groomer is not essential but brushing the dog’s coat is helpful in reducing shedding . The ears and eyes should be cleaned regularly to avoid infection. Do not skip the treatment against seasonal fleas as this dog is prone to allergies and these types of mites can cause them. Sometimes it can be helpful to trim a dog’s nails and bathe him.


It is a very energetic and large dog, so it needs a diet with a high fat content and specific for dogs with high physical activity. You can choose a feed or a barf diet prepared at home but always with the consent of your veterinarian since he is prone to allergies and being overweight.

How to get a Dog

To this day he is still a strange dog outside of his native Sweden, so you may have a hard time getting one. But if you do find a breeder or a litter, you should bear in mind that it is not a dog suitable for all climates , so if you live in the south of the country or in areas with warm climates, it is best to look for an alternative.

Other similar dogs

If you are looking for another similar dog, you may find it among the following:

  • Karelian bear dog
  • Finnish spitz
  • Gray norwegian moose hunter
  • Black norwegian moose hunter
  • Norwegian Lundehund
  • West Siberian Laika
  • East Siberian Laika
  • Russian-European Laika
  • Norrbotten Spitz

Divyesh Patel