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*The Red Elkhound Papers*

The collected research material on the
Red Elkhound

as compiled by

Martha J. Blair,
Martrick's/Copperhaven Kennel
Delaware Ohio

Forward by Susan Hamilton

With the birth of "Scarlett", the Red Elkhound has once again become a subject of discussion. I have been asked on many occasions for information about Scarlett, about reds in general, and the genetics of this rare creature. The best way I know to put the most available information into the hands of those who wish to read it is to put it here, on a webpage. In order to relay  that information I am going to undertake the monumental task of re-typing the research material done many years ago by Martha Blair, of Martrick's/Copperhaven Kennels, Delaware, Ohio.  I will be working from a copy of a very old paper written over 20 years ago and will do my best to decipher it. Along the path these articles took to get to me some pages were repeated, some were out of sequence, and I fear some may have been lost. I will attempt to recreate it as closely as possible to the way Martha wrote it.

This is a very lengthy article, and may be a little hard to wade through in places. There will be some redundancy. However, I don't want to leave out anything that may be just what a reader would need to answer a particular question. Therefore, I will try not to delete, paraphrase, shorten or condense, any more than is necessary. No one that I know of has ever gone to the time and trouble to research the genetics of the Red Elkhound so thoroughly. I make no promises as to the accuracy of the research (or to the accuracy of my typing!)

Some of the italics, underlines and other emphasis to draw attention to a passage or word may be Martha's, some may, however, be mine.)

Please remember as you read, these articles were written from the 1950's through the 1970's, and while some information may not still hold true today more of it will be timely than not.

Martha Blair has not been heard from in years, but I have fond memories of her. An internet search has turned out to be a closed door. If anyone reading this knows anything about Marty's whereabouts, I for one, would love to find her and introduce her to "Scarlett".

Marty, if you are out there....

I hope I haven't messed up your articles too much.

The Red Elkhound
Martha Blair

Lately, I have received various notes from members regarding color, specifically red elkhounds. In digging through my files, I have resurrected a series of articles written by Dr. Margaret Ascher. These were taken from her September 1957, December 1958, January 1959, and March 1959 columns in the "Gazette" during the time she was writing for the NEAA. Dr. Ascher, a veterinarian, gives us all some interesting lessons in genetics as applied to elkhounds.

Read on and enjoy!!

(From the pen of Dr. Ascher)

The material for this column is derived from the newly published "Inheritance of Coat Color in Dogs" by Clarence C. Little. The book contains the first genetic analysis of Elkhound color I have seen, and is well worth the serious breeder's attention. For the most part, I am either quoting directly or paraphrasing the book.

In dogs, even as in other animals studied, there are two major types of pigment, yellow and dark--black or brown. The color varieties are formed by genes controlling the amount, extent and distribution of these pigments both individually, in combination, and in competition with one another.
Such pigment granules can be distributed in various amounts and patterns in either or both the outside layer (cortex) or inner portion (medulla) of the hair. Variations in processes produce different optical color effects resulting in the different color varieties of the dog.

So far ten different sets of genes have been identified as being responsible for the coat color of dogs. The various forms of a gene which may occupy the same site in a chromosome, and thus affect the same character, are called alleles (a contraction of a term meaning another form of), and some sites concerning coat color may contain any one of four alleles.

In the technical language of genetics dominant genes are designated by capital letters, recessives by small letters and alleles listed in order of dominance. The formula for the Elkhound's coat is:

awBcchD Em G mP St.

(note from the typist: the tiny letters are supposed to be at the top of the larger letters...couldn't figure any other way to type them...excuse the inaccuracy.)

"A" is a pattern factor the result of a tendency to allow the spread of dark pigment, and the opposing tendency expressed by a series of alleles to restrict the spread of dark pigment.
"a", wild color or agouti, is the most recessive of all and produces a banded type of hair.
"B" is one of a pair which causes dark pigment to be black. "b", it's recessive, produces liver, chocolate, or as we describe it in Elkhounds, red.
"C" has to do with depth of pigmentation. "C" produces full color. "c ch", the one present in Elkhounds, is called chinchilla, and reduces the yellow pigment without much effect on the dark. It removes all but traces of yellow in the coat. Other members of this series go on to produce extreme dilution and finally complete albinism.
"D" has to do with the denseness of pigmentation, and dogs of the recessive "d" (dilution) are blue, as certain Great Danes and Dobermans.
The "E" has to do with the presence of the black mask. "E" is the most dominant of it's series.
The "G" pair (lightening of certain types of dark coats), "M" (merling), "P" (pink eyed dilution) and "T" (ticking) are of no importance in Elkhounds.
The "S" series (self-color) is responsible for the degree of whiteness, and in it's most dominant form produces a solid coat with no white, or just tiny spots on toes and chest. It has three alleles which produce progressively more white until the last is a white dog with a few colored spots. Other genes known as minus modifiers may increase the the amount of white in self colored dogs.
To summarize the significant genes, the Elkhound may be described as a wild-colored, black pigmented, chinchilla, intensely colored, self-colored dog.

It is possible to draw some conclusions about red Elkhounds from this analysis. For one thing, red is no more of an "albinistic" degeneration, as I have heard it called, than is the brown Poodle or Doberman. It is quite inaccurate to regard any departure from black as a tendency toward albinism. In fact, the snowy-coated Samoyed is genetically a "B" dog whose blackness is masked by the most extreme degree of white spotting. The true albino is known by it's defective pink eyes, and is a dog of quite another color.

Whether or not red is to be accepted in the show ring is a matter for the breeders to decide with a full understanding of it's cause.

Dr. Little concludes one chapter by writing that one cannot use Mendel's Law to obtain an easy solution of the problems of breeding dogs, and that many influences which affect the degree of development or expression of genes are impossible to analyze.

To my mind a working knowledge of genetics is essential for the enjoyment as well as the practical side of breeding, but there are still strong elements of art and chance in the production of good dogs.

Now, with apologies to the readers who have given the subject some study, I am going to start a series on genetics as applied to the Elkhound.

Once in a while a properly grey bitch bred to a properly grey dog whelps a litter which contains a few red puppies. They are unmistakably red with liver-colored noses and foot pads and are quite startling to behold. These puppies mature into animals with color patterns identical to their grey litter mates. Wherever the ordinary Elkhound is black they are red, and the eyes, instead of being dark brown, are amber.

If the pedigrees are looked into it is usually found that they trace back to Vindsval stock. If two reds are bred together the offspring are all red. It happens that the absence of black is a simple recessive. It must be present in
parents or it cannot appear in the offspring. It's appearance follows definate rules. If one of the red puppies is back-crossed to it's parent about half the puppies will be red and half grey. However, if the red puppy is bred to a grey not tracing back to Vindsval, the chances are that all the offspring will be grey. By inter-breeding, to each other, the red will again appear in the approximate ratio of one red to every three greys.

This is all a matter of fact. It has been demonstrated specifically in red
Elkhounds, and the general principle of dominance and recessiveness can be illustrated with examples from all forms of life that reproduce sexually.
Now this change in pigmentation has no effect on the health and well-being of the animal. As the breed Standard is set up now, a red cannot win in the show ring, but it can be registered and exhibited. Some regard it as an "albinistic degeneration" which it is definately not: others as a beautiful variation--but this a matter of taste. No one has felt keenly enought about it to work either for it's elimination or perpetuation.
Now if one were enough of an individualist to want a strain of red Elkhounds, once stock carrying the factor was uncovered, it would be easy to produce, since the genetically pure red animal is manifest to all but the totally color blind. With judicious in-breeding it would not take too many years to be famous for a kennel of Copper Elkhounds.

The great advantage in breeding for a simple recessive is that you know when you have it in the pure state.

However, supposing your feelings were violently against this color and you felt that for the good of the breed you must eliminate it forever from your kennels. You have no way of knowing whether your greys are carrying red unless you test breed them to RED animals. This means that as far as your program is concerned the first litter is a sacrifice. Even if your parent dog shows it's purity, by producing an all-grey litter, the puppies will all carry the red factor. If you bred to a known carrier and are lucky enough to get a large enough litter, (six is acceptable for test purposes), some of the pups will be pure for grey but there is no way except by test breeding them to tell which ones. To add to your difficulties, every now and then you will come on a carrier that is so excellent that it will be very hard not to breed it.

This all may seem more interesting than important, except that it demonstrates a basic principle--that a recessive is easy to perpetuate and
almost impossible to eliminate.

Over generations of dogs, the selection has been against red. When red dogs have appeared they haven't been bred. On the other hand no one has ever eliminated the known carriers of red, or made any attempt to find other carriers. The frequency of this factor cannot be very high because we see so few red puppies, but it is present in the breed as a whole and now and again it is sure to appear.

Some day a prominent sire may be recessive for red and then when people begin to inbreed to his offspring we will see much more of it than we do now.


Last month I discussed in considerable detail the behavior of two simple genetic characteristics--the dominant grey and recessive red color in Elkhounds: and showed how red can appear in dogs whose ancestry is impeccably grey.

This is something that can be verified by anyone who has access to a large number of pedigrees which include colors. It is something like what Gregor Mendel did 100 years ago on peas. He concentrated on single characteristics in the peas, such as yellow color vs. green, and round shape vs. wrinkled, bred his peas in large numbers over several generations and made a variety of crosses, and carefully recorded and tabulated his results. From this he observed dominant and recessive characters, and from their behavior he inferred the existence of a "formative element" in each sex cell capable of determining a character in the offspring.

Scientists who have been able to study the workings of animal and vegetable cells in the most minute detail have confirmed Mendel's theoretic conclusions through direct observation. Indeed, the laws which he derived from his studies of peas are of universal validity, and apply to all forms of sexually reproducing life.

The deviations and exceptions are only apparent, and with close study have been found too to be part of the grand structure of Mendelian Theory.

Techniques which make visible the inner structures and workings of the cells which make up all living organisms show that in that part of each cell called the nucleus there is a mass of coiled threadlike material. While the sex cells are forming, this matter condenses into visible threads called chromosomes. At certain stages these can be seen to be made of identical pairs, each pair being different in pattern from the others. After a complicated pattern of activity the sex cells are formed, each having half the chromosomes, one member from each pair. In fertilization the male and female cells fuse into one providing the new individual with a double set of chromosomes, one from each parent.

Each chromosome contains a great number of tiny structures, the genes. These are the actual determiners and act as catalysts. That is, they make possible the innumerable chemical processes which form the living animal. Each is responsible for some character in the complete animal. Thus the offspring is not a blend of the parents, but rather a mosaic made up of innumerable separate characteristics. Many of the visible ones have invisible partners which will, nevertheless, go to half the offspring to remain invisible until two of it's carriers reproduce.

A single gene may produce an effect which changes the entire appearance of the animal, such as Dachshund legs instead of those of normal length, or it's effect may be small such as those determining the degree of white spotting in a dark animal.

Certain genes are called "lethals" because the animal expressing them is unable to complete it's normal life. If these are dominant, they are unfortunate, but not too hard to deal with as their possessors can be eliminated on sight. The recessive sort is a great deal more troublesome because entirely normal dogs may be carriers and the gene may become widespread before it's presence is known.

Sometimes domesticity so modifies a lethal that the animal can live in a somewhat sheltered situation. Examples of this sort of thing are hairlessness, as in the Mexican Hairless, which would perish if it had to face a rigorous climate, or enlarged teats in some bitches which might be fatal to the puppies if there were no human assistance. More serious lethals are hip dysplasia, certain hereditary eye diseases, albinism, certain types of deafness, and certain abnormalities of reproductive behavior. Some of these are restricted to certain breeds, others are latent in all breeds and liable to appear when the right (or better, wrong) breeding combination is made.

These days, in the dog columns, terms such as hip dysplasia or subluxation, retinal atrophy and cryptorchidism have replaced the homelier things we used to worry about; the cow-hocks, rabbit feet, and lop ears of simpler times.

Most of these bad hereditary conditions at first seemed peculiar to one or another breed, but it now seems that most of these defects are part of the common heritage of all dogs. The older one grows as a breeder, the more unpleasant surprises there are. No breeder can guarantee his breed to be free of hereditary diseases.

Now, of course, there must be definitions. From one point of view any deviation from the presumed norm of the ancestral dog may be considered abnormal. One author even describes the Arctic-type dog tail in some such words as a deformity of the end of the spine with fusion and twisting of the coccygeal vertebrae. In one sense, all the variations which make domestic dogs different from their wild progenitors, and from each other, may be considered abnormalities.

This theory is usually held by those who hold that mongrels ultimately revert to a medium sized, prick-eared yellow dog of superb intelligence and vitality.

Perhaps the local mongrels have not evolved to this degree of perfection because those I've dealt with are as diverse as the pure-breds and are no more apt to be yellow than any other color, and as liable to need veterinary attention as anyone else. The dog most closely resembling this ideal is, perhaps, the Basenji, a pure, ancient and honorable breed whose supporters no doubt have the same troubles in maintaining type as do the rest of us.

The status of these variations is clearly a matter of philosophy rather than pathology.

For practical purposes, the characteristics that must be considered as hereditary diseases are those which interfere with the normal activity and reproduction of the animal, and not variations which are aesthetic or functional--I am personally excluding some lesser defects too, which are probably hereditary--extra dew claws, inverted eyelids, scabaceous cysts, etc., but which are corrected by minor veterinary procedures.

Of course, since mongrels breed at random, the lame, halt and blind do not have the same opportunity to perpetuate themselves as purebreds. They don't embark on careful programs of in-breeding, and bring to light their hidden and destructive recessives. When Nature is not tampered with, bad defects cannot become widespread.

But with pure-bred dogs one sire can have a terrific influence for ill as well as good. A very few generations can spread a defect far and wide and out of all proportion to it's original incidence.

Unfortunately, breeders have used studs which were carriers of hereditary diseases or were actually affected themselves. Usually this was done in all innocence, and even on veterinary advice. It simply was not realized that the conditions were inheritable. So it may be that apart from better diagnosis, the actual incidence of certain hereditary diseases has increased.

Of course, you cannot x-ray all the dogs in a pedigree, or demand health certificates of all a puppy's ancestors, but you can insist that any puppies you buy or sell for purposes of breeding are free of these defects themselves, and in their immediate ancestry that the studs you patronize are neither victims nor carriers of any of the major hereditary diseases.

(notes from the very tired typist: this was just the "preamble"...the following three articles are Martha's original work...and they are VERY long.)


Some History and Opinions of the Lever Elkhound
(Liver colored or Red Norwegian Elkhound)

Martha J. Blair

(This article is dedicated to Cocoa.)

The occurance of red/gray puppies in litters of black/gray appears to be one of the most prevalent secrets in the history of the breed. These puppies have been eliminated, or otherwise concealed, due either to complete unawareness of the existance of the variety, or for fear of defamation of the stock which is producing it. So little recognition has been given to the fact that this variety exists, and there are so many misconceptions about it, it is no wonder what apprehensions about it have prevailed.

The antiquated belief that it occurs because of crossbreeding with foxhounds (eng. harehounds) in the early eighteen hundreds is the most perpetuated fallacy of all, and is probably greatly to blame for the predicament many owners of carriers face today. It is difficult for many breeders to accept the fact that the black/gray Elkhound can be deceiving as to what color they actually carry. It has been known for several years that the liver color occurs due to a simple recessive gene which is carried in the breed as a whole.

It is time to put an end to the fallacies, and make known the truth that although this variety is not accepted by our standard, they are as purely  Norwegian Elkhound as the black/gray, and should be regarded as such.

This article is being written in the hope that with more knowledge of the history of the Red Elkhound breeders will learn to deal sensibly with their occurance in the breed today.


I wish to clarify some of the biggest misconceptions about the
Red Norwegian Elkhound.

1. Many breeders have the impression that this variety of color only occurs in
breedings of inferior stock.

The records show that some of the most prominent Elkhounds of the past and present have, and are, producing RED offspring.

2. Some have heard that this variety only occurs in mixed breedings.           

This is one of the biggest fallacies of all. The Red Elkhound is no more a mixed breed than any of the other purebred dogs which have varieties of color. Therefore the snide remark...."something must have got to mommy" shows lack of knowledge about the genetic inheritance of the color. The only thing that "got to mommy" was , in fact, another carrier like herself.

3. Some believe that these animals are poor quality; i.e., conformation,      personality and health are affected by the pigment change.

This is completely false. The Red Elkhound is not physically or mentally affected by the pigment change.

  4. One belief of the past which has been perpetuated (origin unknown) is that the Red Elkhound was inferior to the black/gray in hunting instincts and abilities. Most people have the impression that this supposed deficiency was due solely to the loss of black pigment.

There is no way of knowing when or why this belief began. It would be interesting to know: How many dogs were tested? Were those dogs purebred
Red Norwegian Elkhounds?

According to all the information available there is nothing linking the black gene to hunting instincts or abilities.

Since the Red Elkhound inherits the same stature, personality, and robust health, it seems unlikely that they would be any less adept at bringing a moose to bay than their black/gray relatives. To assume that the moose hunting instincts and abilities are not inherited without the black gene is ridiculous.

5. Many people believe that a black/gray dog with a reddish cast is a Red Norwegian Elkhound. They are most definately not. In a true Red Elkhound
no black pigment whatsoever
remains on the animal.

6. Most people think that the Red Elkhound is a solid-colored dog, thus classing them in the same catagory as the Black Elkhound of Norway.

In actuality the Black Elkhound differs from the Black/Gray in many respects such as structural size, temperament as well as being a solid-colored dog which does not carry the markings of the Black/Gray.

The Red Norwegian Elkhound, which differs in outer pigmentation only, still retains the most important virtues which separated the Norwegian Elkhound from the Black Elkhound. The Red is a variety of the Norwegian Elkhound and should not be classed with the Black Elkhound which is considered a different breed.


They are best described as being identical to the black/gray insofar as structure, markings, and personality is concerned. They conform to the standard in respects other than outer pigmentation. Instead of having black pigmentation, they instead are reddish-brown (lighter or darker). Nose and footpads are liver colored. The eyes are golden brown. The underwool remains gray or silver in color.


The most extensive article about colors in the breed was titled, "SOME NOTES ON THE COLOR OF THE NORWEGIAN ELKHOUND IN NORWAY". 1/ The author was the noted Norwegian judge Mr. Rolf Campbell. He decided to research the color of the Norwegian Elkhound in the country in which it originated after observing a Red Elkhound at a show in this country. Mr. Campbell included in his article the translated standards of Norway from the first of 1895 to 1950. I will include here those standards.

"First Standard of Norway 1895. Color: Grey with darker or lighter shadings,
grey, blackish brown, and in more rare cases, yellowish red. White chest and white front feet allowed. The underwool is light brown (compare the latter with the present day standard). Faults: large white markings, white tip on tail, brown markings.

Mr. Campbell stated that, "we may conclude that in 1895 at least there were grey, black, brown and red elkhounds."

Note: It was approximately at this time or shortly after that Elkhounds started to arrive in this country.

I have discussed the 1895 standard with many breeders and most have the same impression that:

1. What was stated under color was a description of the outer coloration, which was everything from black to yellow.

2. The only off-markings which were allowed on the dogs were white chest and white front feet.

3.The underwool was described as being light brown.

4. Faults were: Large white markings, white tip on tail, and brown markings. (Note: White chest and white front feet were allowed.) I believe that when describing faults it was referring to uncommon (randomly placed) markings, possibly spotting, in areas other than the chest and front feet.

The standard of 1903 reads: "Mainly grey, darker or lighter. Somewhat lighter on throat, chest, legs, underside of tail and around anus permitted. White paws and a small white spot may also be permitted (does not disqualify), but is regarded as a fault.

The standard of 1910 reads: "Color: grey, somewhat lighter on chest, underside of tail and around anus. The color may be lighter or darker, with slight shadings toward yellow. Strong deviation from grey disqualifies.

I feel it is worth noting that the first three standards of Norway do not mention the typical markings; i.e., harness, mask and saddle markings. In looking at the available photos of the dogs of that period we know that they did have these markings but it makes me wonder why they were not considered worthy of mentioning at that time.

The standard of 1950 reads: "Color: Darkish or lighter grey. Lighter on chest, stomach and legs, underside of tail and around anus, and 'harness markings'. The color is made up by the guard hairs having more or less long black tips, while the underwool is pure light grey. Ears and the front of the muzzle should be dark (dark mask). Colorations of yellow and brown, irregular distribution of color, 'soot coloring on legs', light circles around eyes (spectacles) and white markings are undesirable."

If you will note, the elkhounds which had yellow or brown colorations were only considered undesirable, as were those with soot, spectacles and white markings.

Mr. Campbell ended his article with the following:

"The 'red' Elkhound, however, is now history....or is it? Apart from a few in the U.S., none has been reported in Norway in the past 25 years. But how many breeders, and there are many in both Europe and America, would
that his or her bitch got a 'Red' puppy? Would it not rather be removed in such a way that nobody hears of it? The fact that such a color variation should crop up, however, is not unnatural when we take the total gene reservoir into consideration. We should not exclude the possibility of mutation, but I would like to know how many ancestors of all our lovely, grey-coated Norwegian Elkhounds has a (red) skeleton in the cupboard!"

We know today that the red gene is carried as a simple recessive to the black. If Mr. Campbell could have had access to the AKC Stud Book information, I'm sure he would have been amazed at the frequency of carriers in this country.

I feel it is fair to assume that the Norwegian dogs which our carriers decended from produced carriers which remained in Norway and perpetuated the gene there also, or do we assume that the breeders of Norway were able to do something that in America we are unable to do; i.e., eliminate all carriers or test breed and prove that the offspring of carriers were not carriers? Could this have been done without knowledge as to how the gene was genetically transmitted? I cannot believe that all carriers were eliminated in Norway or any other country any more than they have been here! The fact that no reds have been reported in Norway in the past 25 or 30 years does not discount the possibilities of their occuring.
Referring back to the standard of 1950: It is more explicit as to what was both desirable and undesirable. It specifies that the underwool is to be "Pure light grey". Today in this country we find many Elkhounds which do not conform to what is desirable. We find the occurance of large white spots, sooty feet and legs, and the most undesirable of all, underwool which can only be described as tan, beige, or yellow. Our standard is very explicit as to what color the underwool is to be-"pure light grey". Many breeders try to explain away this color, (as dead coat) and in some cases it may be possible, but it is unlikely that any dog would remain this color year round. It is more likely that dogs which carry this tan or beige underwool year round are truly this color.

The fact that the standards of the past allowed for, and referred to, the ground color as light brown or yellow makes the occurance of this color no surprise. But it is a fact that our standard requires that the underwool be "pure light grey". If Elkhounds which are black/beige, black/tan, or black/yellow are allowed in the conformation ring, why not the red/grey?


Having access to complete AKC Stud Book Registry of the breed, I have been able to trace the History of the Red Variety in this country: and after several years of research, now have an extensive file of reds and carriers. I have noted many brindles, fawns and black/browns listed. Brindle is considered black, with a ground color of either tan, brown or grey. There is no way of being certain just what color or combination of colors these actually were. I have found many questionables over the years but I will restrict this discussion to the red/grey, brown/grey and tan/grey variety.


At the time the foundation dogs started arriving in this country, the Elkhounds of Norway were evidently many varieties and combinations of colors. It appears that the first priority of the breed in Norway was in it's hunting abilities. In the first few years of registrations in this country many of the elkhounds were listed as brindles, some were brown/gray, and some had no color designated. Many were apparently carriers of the red gene. These first arrivals were obviously considered worthy stock to establish the breed in this country; many were considered to be of exceptional quality by the Norwegians themselves. It obviously was unknown at that time how the red gene was transmitted. When a red/grey was bred to a black/grey (homozygeous dominate black) all offspring would have been black/grey, but all would have carried the red gene. It is likely that the breeders of these litters felt that the black/gray had eliminated the red altogether. Since the black and grey would have been more common, wouldn't they have been considered more reliable for breeding and so most preferred? The early registrations show that reds and carriers were used for breeding, and since on an average half of the carrier's offspring were carriers, and all offspring of a red were carriers, the gene was perpetuated. If the breeders of Norway had been opposed to the red color at that time, I'm sure these dogs would not have been brought into this country.

Among the first of this variety to be registered in this country were: 2/


One of the first descriptions given for the Norwegian Elkhound in this country was originally printed in the "Book of Dogs" c1919  3/. The Elkhound color was described as "grizzled Buff and Brown, or Wolf colors." The author stated that, "The only one he ever saw as a single speciman shown at the Westminster Show of 1918 and that no dog in the whole show made him more envious of the owner." Was the description "Grizzled Buff and Brown" actually a description of a red?

We know that Red Norwegian Elkhounds were exhibited at Westminster in 1941, by Barbara Thayer, one of the most prominent breeders of that time.
Most of her breeding stock was acquired from the famous Vindsval Kennels. Her Stonewall Kennels were widely known for the exceptional Elkhounds produced there, nearly all well-established bloodlines in this country today can be traced to Stonewall or Vindsval stock. In a letter she wrote about 1942 to Mirriam Phillips of Joywood Kennels, she discussed the dogs at Stonewall including her Red one. "Then there is Bravo, Coppercoat Bravo, our brown
elkhound. He is also known as the most beautiful dog in the world and is our kennel ornament since he cannot be shown, or used for breeding. He was simply too beautiful not to keep. They are really
Red you know, and look like
illuminated elkhounds
." 4/ 

She spoke of Bravo and his relatives with love and admiration. I do not get the impression that she considered Bravo undesirable as an individual (quite the contrary), only that it would have been improper to use him for breeding. This is probably unfortunate since, if she had done so, she would have undoubtedly discovered carriers among her black/grays.

The gene was apparently common among many of the quality Elkhounds of that period. Even if the known producers had been eliminated from breeding programs, the unknown carriers would still have perpetuated the gene.

Would the quality of the breed today be as great if these producers and carriers had been eliminated? If the breeders of that era had felt that occurance of the color was so detrimental to the breed, would they have continued to breed dogs which had produced it regardless of their exceptional quality?

They had to have known by this time that the gene was hereditary!
I feel that they accepted the color for what it was and found no logic in eliminating either the producers of it or the quality black/grey offspring simply because a red had occured in the litter. They acknowledged the red puppies by registering them along with the rest of the litter. Would they have done so if they had not considered them worthy?

Some of the Red variety which were registered during this period of time were: 2/

COPPERCOAT SURT- Shd. Brown/Silver
all registered as Brown/Gray
THORNBECK KANEL & RAV--both registered as Brown
both registered as Brown/Silver
all registered as Red

In the early Fifties the AKC changed from the Stud Book Registry to the Stud Book and only listed dogs and bitches whose litters were registered. There is no way to be certain how many individual reds were being registered after this time, but the early Fifties show registered litters out of:
BING (Brown/Silver); BINJ OF SUN HAVEN (Brown/Silver); LULU BELLE II (Golden). The late fifties show JOYWOOD'S MARCIA AV LARMAR (Brown) and OLDSTREAM HILDE (Red/Buff)

The past shows that the "Lever" variety has existed and that carriers were used extensively, thereby passing the gene to subsequent generations.

The following list is some of the producers of this variety as noted in the AKC Stud Books through 1961. (Since there is no way to be certain just which parent the gene was obtained from, both parents must be considered.)

PRODUCER       (SIRE  &   DAM in parenthesis)



HEIA (B)----(FIN(Grandt x Froia) X HELLA II)




















                                                                                                av ROMSDAL)


HILDA OF STONEWALL---(CH.VIKING av GLITRE X WESTVIEW DYFRIN OF                                                                                                  STONEWALL)

                                                                               DYFRIN OF STONEWALL)



                                                                                               OF VADSTENA)















                                                                                  av ROSEWAY)

                                                                                              NORTH GATE)





The most prominent dogs which the Vindsval carriers decended from appeared to be Rugg, Ch. Binne av Glitre and Ch. Heika av Glitre. The import Ch. Heika was a brother of Ch.Skrub av Glitre (Norway). Ch. Vaaben of Vindsval appears as the sire of several carriers, but there is no way of being certain that he contributed the gene since the records do not show him
actually siring a
red. His sire was Ch.Heika av Glitre, out of Ch. Binne av Glitre.

The mentioned producers of red are just the tip of the iceburg and, since most reds would not have been registered or used for breeding, it is impossible to know just how many of them were actually whelped. When you consider all the offspring which they produced, the percentage of carriers builds; but when you consider the littermates of the carriers and the parent's littermates and so on, the percentage of possible carriers becomes enormous.

Since I started researching this variety, I have been notified of many Elkhounds which have produced the color but I have not listed them in this article since they are not listed as such in the Stud Books. What of all the unknown carriers who remained so becasue the litter was not large enough for the red to appear, or because they were bred to a Homozygous Dominant Black which prevented the color from appearing? A percentage of the offspring still would have inherited the gene.

One of the most comprehensive articles describing this variety was written by Dr. Margaret Ascher, Veterinarian & Elkhound breeder, (Ringessen Kennels.)5/

Dr. Ascher states in her article, "Once in a while a properly grey bitch bred to a properly grey dog whelps a litter which contains a few red puppies. They are unmistakably red with liver-colored noses and foot pads and are quite startling to behold. These puppies mature into animals with color patterns identical to their grey littermates. Wherever the ordinary elkhound is black, they are red and the eyes instead of being dark brown, are amber."

Dr. Ascher also stated that; ".....over generations of dogs the selection has been against red. When red dogs have appeared, they haven't been bred--on the other hand no one has ever eliminated the known carriers of the red or made any attempt to find other carriers".

She felt that,...."The frequency of this factor cannot be very high because we see so few red puppies".
I cannot find this totally convincing since, as Dr. Ascher should have known, when a carrier is bred to a carrier, on average three-fourths of the offspring will carry the trait, although only one-fourth will show it.(actually BE red), and when a carrier is bred to a Homozygous Dominate Black, only one-half of the offspring will carry it. So the frequency of the gene is considerably higher than the relatively rare appearance of the trait might lead us to believe. Dr. Ascher also stated, "But it is present in the breed as a whole and now and again it is sure to appear. Someday a prominent sire may be recessive for red and then when people begin to inbreed his offspring we will see much more of it than we do today."

Some breeders who read Dr. Ascher's article apparently got the impression that if the pedigrees of their dogs did not contain any Vindsval dogs, then their dogs would not carry the red gene. The fact is that any dogs that descended from common ancestors of Vindsval were just as likely to be carriers regardless of their name.

Dr. Ascher wrote her article in the Fifties, twenty years ago, and the number of dogs and carriers has increased immensely, and her predictions were correct, although not confined to just a prominent sire. The Stud Books of the Sixties and Seventies show how the popularity of the Elkhound has grown, how the lines have been intermingled. Since the Stud books only list reds which have actually been used for breeding and their litters registered, there is no way of knowing just how many of this variety have not been acknowledged, but I cannot feel that their appearance is rare--they are only rarely acknowledged.

I am now in the process of cataloging all carriers and their littermates that were used for breeding. It is a real book of knowledge. I have concluded that it would be virtually impossible to ever separate the carriers from the non-carriers for the following reasons:

****There are just too many elkhounds today.****
****Most breeders would not be willing to test breed.****
****What would be the purpose unless all were compelled to comply?****

If your beautiful black/gray champion produced a puppy of this variety, would you consider him or her (the parent) unfit to reproduce? What if they were very prominent dogs and had produced many exceptional offspring? What if they were grandparents or great grand-parents of many well known and desirable elkhounds? Would you notify all owners of their offspring that there is a chance that their beautiful black/gray may carry the gene?
This appears to have been the dilemma in the past, but will it continue?

Many breeders will say "I know my dogs and bitches aren't carriers since they have produced many offspring and have never produced a red." This may make some feel secure, but the fact is that unless your black/gray has been bred to a red and produced at least six offspring with no red occuring, or unless they have been bred to a known carrier and produced at least 8-10 pups with no red occuring, then your secure feelings are not supported. How many breeders today will admit that they have bred their elkhounds to a
known carrier
, let alone a red!

One breeder who has acknowledged test breeding of stock is Dr. John Craige, Vin-Melca Kennels. In a conversation with him he acknowledged the fact that in the early Seventies such dogs as Ch.Vin-Melca's Howdy Rowdy and others were test bred. He said I was most welcome to quote him as saying:

1. He considers the reds "most attractive" and feels that they have personality, stature and robust health of the black/gray.

2. In his opinion the Standard is confusing and nondescript where disqualifications are concerned, and many people do not know how to interpret it.

3. It was his opinion that "the NEAA should accept the color, and the Standard should be changed to allow for it."

4. He also stated that "If this is not done then all dogs, including imports, should be required to be test bred and proven Homozygous Dominant Black."

5. He felt that it would be possible to test breed present stock, but he felt that the majority of breeders would not comply, and if not then, in all fairness, the color should be allowed for.

6. He felt that "if more people had an opportunity to observe a true Red, that misconceptions and prejudice about them might be alleviated."

If more breeders would admit to having test bred and proven their stock dominant for black, then people who are opposed to the color would know whom to obtain this stock from. Where would people go today to find stock which is guaranteed to be dominant for black? Better yet, where would they go to find a red for test breeding that has not been spayed or neutered?

If you are truly opposed to the red color, then spaying and neutering of reds in the past has caused your dilemma today.

If the breeders in this country are to continue to fear and condemn the Red Elkhound, then they must, in all fairness, condemn all black/grey carriers, sire, dam, littermates (untested), any previous offspring produced by sire and dam, littermates of sire and dam, grandparents and their littermates, and all related stock tracing to any carriers.

Don't forget, you must also condemn all breeders, past or present, who knowingly or unknowingly perpetuated the gene!

If this is to be done, then the majority of ancestors of this grand breed, and many of the breeders which established the breed in this country, would be the object of this condemnation. First and foremost you must blame nature for creating the gene to begin with.

How can we, as true admirers of the Norwegian Elkhound, continue to say that they are the greatest breed in the world, and then deny a portion of them that nature has determined will be born this color?

How can we, in all fairness, condemn the great elkhounds of the past, present and future who, although they are black and gray, are carriers of the red gene?

*****If color is the most important characteristic of the breed, then it seems to me that the RED could be considered the PURE STRAIN, since two REDS bred together will ONLY produce RED. On the other hand, two BLACK/GRAYS can produce EITHER!******

I have tried to show in this article that the Red Norwegian Elkhound has existed in this country and has been registered with, and considered a part of, the breed for more than half a century. They have not been denied registry by the AKC, but nevertheless been denied by our standard. Spaying, neutering and disposing of the reds themselves has not eliminated the prevalence of the gene in the breed. It has only served to perpetuate it.

Some of this variety which have appeared in the Stud Books since 1960 are:

MITZI II-Brown/Silver
TRINA V-Brown/Silver
GRAY PATSY-Silver/Grey/Brown
VINDEDAL'S LADY-Gray/Brown/White
PATSY SUE-Silver/Gray/Brown


It amazes me how many people truely do not understand what grey is:

GREY---a mixture of black and white pigment
SILVER---grayish-white color
CREAM---yellowish white
FAWN---pale yellowish brown
TAN---yellowish brown color
BUFF---light brownish yellow
BEIGE---grayish tan
SABLE-varying shades from light gold to dark mahogany: black
CHOCOLATE---reddish brown
BRINDLE---black with a ground color of either tan, brown or gray
LIVER---reddish-brown or dull brown, mingled with a little yellow

Referring back to the first standard of Norway where the color description of the Elkhound was everything from Black to Yellow, you can see for yourself that over the years the color of the Norwegian Elkhound has not truly changed, the grey is still most preferred, but select breeding in this country has not eliminated the occurance of the different variations in color. If you examine the Stud Books you can see for yourself. Even our AKC Registration Applications give nine variations in gray, plus a space to specify other. If the Elkhound is just gray (a mixture of black and white pigment ) why are there so many variations in color?

Can we, as conscientious breeders, continue to condemn this variety and allow the black/gray which is unknown as to it's genetic makeup to continue to perpetuate carriers which will produce more reds, which will suffer the same unfair condemnation which they have been destined to in the past?

If you are one who will say that you cannot accept the color (first see one before passing judgement), and refuse to acknowledge it, then it is up to you to prove that your black/gray is not a carrier, contributing to the future generations.

I feel that most breeders today would like to see a true red so that they can
judge for themselves
. I feel that most, if given an honest choice, would consider giving the red elkhound it's rightful place as a variety.

They have been no more detrimental to the breed than a red-haired child could be detrimental to it's family. The belief that they are is antiquated.

Can you continue to close your mind to the fact that this variety exists, or will you look at your black/gray and want to know what is truly there?

When I started researching this variety several years ago, I had no idea that someday I would actually see a Red Norwegian Elkhound, let along acquire two. My first, a 5 month old female named Copperhaven's Liberation, best known as Cocoa. The second is Copperhaven's Mock Cinnamon, a six-week old female. Both are not only exceptional quality, but have joyous personalities.

Everyone who sees them wants them. Some want them for breeding, but most want them because they are beautiful. They are more to my family and me than just something unusual, they are a big part of the history of the Norwegian Elkhound. I am secure enough in my knowledge of the breed as a whole to understand and accept what I know to be a natural part of the breed, and I do not feel compelled to only accept what is designated as the acknowledged color.

I feel dedicated to the preservation of these Red Norwegian Elkhounds. I feel that they have a definite place in the breed and that they are the only answer to a true separation of the colors in the future.

I now have the means to start purifying the color lines in my own kennel stock. The Red Elkhound has a definate place in my breeding program and I personally welcome their appearance. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of my first red male.

In the near future I will be updating known carriers. Anyone desiring further information, interested in having their pedigrees traced, or test breeding is welcome to contact me.

(typist's note: Please read on. This is only the first article, there are two more very interesting pieces to follow.)


1/ Written by Rolf Campbell of Oslo Norway: dated January 1971
   Printed in NEAA Newsletter as a series in 1977

2/ AKC Stud Book Registry

3/ "Book of Dogs" published in 1919.
    Originally printed in "Book of Dogs" c1919-appeared in NEAA Newsletter            Sept/Oct, 1974

4/   Mrs. Thayer's article appeared in NEAA Newsletter May/June, 1974

5/  Article originally appeared as a series in the AKC Gazette and was reprinted in the NEAA Newsletter of 1974

"I know that's a secret, for it's whispered everywhere."
                                        William Congreve, English dramatist

For The Love Of Cocoa
Part 2

Dedicated to: Copperhaven's Moonfire, Bravo & Pumpkin

Martha J. Blair

Many Elkhound owners who read Part 1 of this series on the Red Elkhound
have expressed a desire to know not only more of the history of this variety, but the origin of the Foxhound Theory. Many of these people had an opportunity to observe
Cocoa while attending the National Specialty last year, others have requested a photo of her. The majority of correspondence I have received regarding my article has shown a sincere interest in the color inheritance of the breed as a whole. The following is a list of questions that have been the most frequently asked:

1. During what period of time were Elkhounds known to have been crossed with English Harehounds (of the Foxhound type)?
2. What did these Harehounds look like? Color description, as well as structural description.
3. Were these breedings done to improve the hunting instincts of the Elkhound (an already great hunter), or to incorporate the Elkhound's instincts into the English Foxhound?
4. How widespread was this practice?
5. Who, in fact, were the breeders known to be producing these mixes?
6. Do we assume that any or all of the AKC registered Elkhounds from which the red gene apparently decended were of questionable lineage?
7. When was it determined that any Elkhound that carried or showed red or
color was of mixed lineage?
8. Would Gamle Bamse Gram have been considered questionable because he had brown on his legs?
9. Is the description of color in the 1895 Standard a true picture of the pure breed as it originally existed?
10. How was it determined that the gray Elkhound and the black Elkhound were the only pure strains?

Prior to Part 1 of this article, all available information pointed to the Red Elkhound as occurring due to a liver gene acting as a Mendelian recessive. Also designated as being such in Clarence C. Little's book, "The Inheritance of Coat Color in Dogs," pages 137-138.

While attending the 1978 National Specialty Mr. Olav Wallo stated to me during a strikingly brief conversation that two reds bred together would produce gray offspring. He would only clarify by saying that it (obviously a test breeding) had been proven in a laboratory in the past.

I questioned him as to whether or not these gray offspring did in fact have black pigment (nose and footpads), and where and by whom this test breeding had been done.

The conversation ended abruptly with no answers.

Many breeders, including myself, would appreciate some answers to these questions. If in fact this is true why hasn't this information been made available?

Is there, in fact, a form of gray which can be derived from two red, liver-pointed dogs? If so, then it is questionable as to whether the red color is due to a liver recessive. On the other hand, are there two forms of red that only appear to be the same? And for that matter, just what are the greys?

The newest information on Alaskan Malamutes is that two of their
liver-pointed reds
may not breed true; while Siberian Huskys apparently do. Is there a possibility that the Northern breeds carry a form of grey that is recessive to the red? Can they be distinguished from grays that occur from black/grays? I for one intend to find out! So where does the gray dog fit in genetically?

The records of the breed in this country show that imported Ch.Heika av Glitre, Ch. Binne av Glitre or Rugg (Ch. Tass av Lifjell x Basta) one or all apparantly carried a red gene.   (Note: Heika and Binne both carried 50% of the blood of the famous Norwegian bitch Senny II. Are we to assume that the red carried and transmitted by these dogs is of questionable origin? What elkhound today is NOT decended from these individuals?)

If in fact Red carriers are decended from questionable lineage which of these ancestors of our breed would you prefer to point to?

Am.Ch.Vakker av Vindsval (red carrier)

sire:Ch.Heika av Glitre(Nor. Imp.)
dam:Vesla av Vindsval

grand parents: Dyre av Glitre, Eng. Ch. Gaupa av Glitre, Rugg and Ch. Binne av Glitre (Nor.Imp.)

great grandparents: Jack, Senny II, Bjonn, Jerva av Glitre,Ch.Tass av Lifjell and Basta.

Gjoa av Glitre (red carrier)

sire: Nor. Ch.Skrub av Glitre (Littermate to Ch.Heika av Glitre {see above}
dam: Nor. Ch.Bringe II av Glitre (Littermate to Int.Ch.Peik II av Glitre)

grandparents: Dyre av Glitre, Eng. Ch. Gaupa av Glitre, Bjonn 4993, Bringe av Glitre

great grandparents: Jack, Senny II, Bjonn, Jerva av Glitre, Bamse, Ruska,
Jack 2570, and Senny II

Trondjheim (red carrier)

sire: Ch. Vingo of Inverailort
dam: Telly of the Holm

grandparents: Eng. Ch. Finnegutten, Eng. Ch. Gunhilda, Garrowby Haakon, Kula of the Holm

Note: Eng. Ch. Finnegutten was a littermate to Rugg who is the sire of Vesla of Vindsval.

If anyone in this country or any other country prefers to paint a Red Elkhound/Foxhound picture, wouldn't it be painting the whole breed into a corner from which no Elkhound today could escape without getting Red on it's feet? I believe it is time to start opening our eyes to the truth about color variation in our breed. Facts are facts. Would you prefer to believe the Foxhound theory? It is time for the "experts" to start looking at the pedigrees of the lines which our known carriers of red decend from, and then judge them.

What elkhound today does not decend from these lines?

I prefer to believe that the first Standard (1895) was written for the breed as a family. And at that time all the variations of color existed.

It appears that a few breeders determined that this was not wanted and so determined the course that would be taken as far as color is concerned.

Quoting from the "New Complete Norwegian Elkhound", by Olav Wallo, Page 43, he salutes breeder/judge Carl Omsted as "....the creator of the modern Elkhound...." and states "....there would have been no gray elkhounds today".... if not for him.  He states further "....His 'eye' for correct type, combined with his knowledge and experience in hunting qualified him for the task of selecting the foundation stock from various parts of the country."

It appears that it was through Mr. Omsted's guidance that "....the weeds had to be pulled." It states that "....he had the satisfaction of seeing his work produce a rich and wonderful harvest. Then he was glad. His eyes would sparkle when he brought out a good, typical specimen. When Ch.Skrub av Glitre made his triumphant march, Carl Omsted was there with him."

Was Mr. Wallo correct in stating that there would be no gray Elkhounds today if not for Mr. Omsted?

If so, what would there have been?! Are we to assume that gray was a color
by him, according to his taste and opinion?

How widespread was the acceptance of his desired preference?

Somehow the idea has gotten around that the Norwegian Elkhound, (not merely canids of the Elkhound type) have existed exactly as they are today----for thousands of years. When in fact there was quite a mixture in the 1800's of type and color. As far as the gray color is concerned, was it actually
through Mr. Omsted's efforts? Today there is still controversy as to just what shade of gray is preferred and how much black pigment (extension of) our dogs should have. Are we headed for a pure silver animal with no distinguishing marks? (i.e. harness, saddle, mask). Will these animals be considered of desired type?

There has been an attempt to purify and develop the Gray Norwegian Elkhound since 1906. The Black Elkhound was separated as a variety and later given recognition as a separate breed. Would this have been done if they had not appeared in the pedigrees of the grays?

Actually the Norwegian Elkhound as a completely separate breed did not occur until 1946 when the Swedish Elkhound was separated and classified as a separate breed. Until that time there would more than likely have been a mixture of the two types.

Does this mean that any Elkhound who exhibits lighter markings on the face and throat and who might be slightly over standard is to be stamped as some questionable throwback to the Swedish Elkhound?

When you look back at the source of the red carriers it makes the question of the Foxhound Theory have a detrimental effect on the breed from the beginning.

Any gardener today will tell you that "weeds" can be pulled at the surface, but if the roots are deep enough it won't eliminate their eventual reappearance.


It is highly probable that in the early years "weeding" out was done by selecting principally for Phenotype. It is doubtful that popular knowledge of genetics was advanced enough early in the nineteen hundreds to have allowed anyone to uncover and eliminate all unwanted traits.  Are Red Elkhounds which occur today similar to some of the so-called "weeds" they were trying to eliminate then? Wouldn't the reds today be considered just as cultivated and improved over the original stock as the grays today?

After considerable study it appears that variation in Elkhound color as well as markings derives from sources similar to those that cause the variations seen in the other Spitz-type Northern Breeds; that is, it goes to the very origin and source of the breed itself.

Can it be that the red gene is not only a natural but possibly necessary variation in any Spitz-type breeds the color of our gray? Until such time as there is true genetic proof as to what the wild coat and grey color are, nothing should be discounted.

Today we see variations in color and markings not unlike those described in the 1895 standard, so it does not appear that writing down what is prefered and eliminating only those individuals which don't conform to that desired preference eliminates it from the gene pool.

It is highly unlikely that the Red Elkhound which is occuring today can be traced to a cross with a Foxhound, a Harehound, or anything else. Personally I feel that most breeders would rather not believe that a Harehound-Foxhound is at the roots of our breed but that's what the theory points to. In my opinion the weary Foxhound Theory is just a "RED HERRING".

In conclusion, I wish to say that I hope that this information will help to clarify the facts about this variety, and relieve the fears or condemnation which the owners of carriers have felt in the past and at the present. Only the future will tell if we as guardians of the Norwegian Elkhound can be concerned for all the lovely Cocoa's which are a part of this grand breed, and I hope the Breed Clubs in this country will consider them in their "Save the Elkhound" programs.

(note: added later by Martha--)

Most recent info points to the wolf gray dog as being most likely to produce
, thus a black and white dog with strong wolf grey ancestry is just as likely to produce red when bred to a wolf gray or to another black and white who is likewise carrying strong wolf ancestry.

It is probable that two liver pointed red dogs bred together could produce either red liver pointed or wolf gray black pointed.

(The following is the last article I have been able to find written by Marty.)


N.E.A.A. First Midwest Seminar
June 9, 1979

Presentation by Martha Blair
The Red Norwegian Elkhound

For the Love of Cocoa---What is Gray?

After reading my article "For the Love of Cocoa" several elkhound owners have expressed the desire to know what inspired my interest in the Red Norwegian Elkhound, as well as what my research about them has revealed.

Hopefully I can answer these questions tonight, but don't be surprised if you leave here with more questions than answers.

I had been collecting information about the Red Elkhound for years. There seemed to be so much confusion about them that I felt there was a need to make the information I had collected available to all elkhound owners, such as:

The fact that they existed in the past; the knowledge that they occured due to a simple recessive gene. But they were nevertheless stamped as occurring due to some indiscriminate breeding a hundred years ago. It amazed me that apparently rumor had prevailed over knowledge.

The fact that the reds were different due to the lack of black pigmentation in the guardhairs, and the emphasis placed on the desired color being gray due the black pigmentation of the guardhairs, made it easy to discard red
individuals when they occurred, but, obviously did not prevent others of this variation from occuring.

I was aware that several possible color variations, within the limits allowed by the standard had existed in our breed from the beginning of its registration in Norway and are still occurring. I felt that genetic cause of these variations had never been seriously investigated due to the fact that they fit into a visually acceptable color range.

I had noticed that at certain times of the year some Elkhounds exhibited an excessive amount of red in the guardhairs. The owners of these dogs generally attributed this to sun fading or "drying out" of the coat. I knew that some of these Elkhounds had been disqualified from the ring for this trait, but were later reinstated. I knew well that this color occurrence was not the lovely red color that Barbara Thayer had described her Coppercoat Bravo as being; nevertheless, the fact that these individuals showed so much red
made me curious as to whether this might be an indication that they carried the
liver gene.

It was not until January of 1978 that I actually acquired a red. She occured in a litter of five. I must admit that I was surprised in more ways than one. First of all, both parents were of desirable coloration and had never exhibited so-called sun-fading. But the biggest surprise of all was Cocoa herself. Even after reading the description of what a red would look like, she was not at all what I had pictured. I had imagined that they would be solid colored individuals not exhibiting the typical markings of our breed. What I saw instead was a typically marked, but otherwise copper and silver puppy. After close examination of her it was apparent that she differed from her littermates only in her lack of black pigmentation. Approximately one month after acquiring her I was notified that another red had been whelped in the area. This was the catalyst. Knowing, from my own experience, what misconceptions other elkound owners might have about what a red truly looked like, I decided that she should be seen by as many as possible. I thought that the best place to start was at the National Specialty. And from the reception we received, I knew it was the right decision. I returned from the Specialty knowing that I had taken the first big step towards clarifying their existence.

The next step was to study the four parents of the reds to try to determine if there was anything that could be detected visually which would give an indication that they were carrying the liver gene. I collected guardhairs from each individual and on close examination I found that there was a definite difference not only in the extent and depth of the black pigment, but also in the extent and color of the lighter bands as well. These varied in each individual.

I then studied the coloration of all the puppies which had occurred in the two litters. It was apparent that several color variants had occurred in the outer pigmentation, but they all exhibited silver underwool. The outer variations which occurred in these litters appeared to be:  4 plain black, 4 dense black, and 2 reds. I then compared the puppies to their parents. On studying the coats of the parents more closely I concluded that, although I could see differences in the coat colors of each of them, my eye was unable to determine specifically what these differences were. It was obvious that in order to pinpoint the difference I would have to use a microscope.

I first had to find out if any research had been done along these lines. In the meantime I decided to test breed the dam of the first litter to the sire of the second litter. I was totally unprepared for the results.

In a litter of five there occured what appeared to be a very silver puppy with only slight black tipping, another which appeared densely black pigmented like his dam, and three reds. It was apparent that within this litter there were three definite color variations. It became obvious to me that there was more to the genetic color inheritance in the breed than met the eye.

I finally obtained information that cross-sectioning of canine hair to determine pigmentation could be done. The technique had been developed years ago. After many phone calls I located a laboratory willing to do this for me.

Due to the fact that the Elkhound carries the agouti coat type, which shows color on some areas of a hair but not on the others, it was determined that we could get a more reliable sample by cross-sectioning hairs from the tip of the tail since they appeared to be more uniformly pigmented. We first cross-sectioned hair samples from the four parent carriers. We were surprised at what the cross-section showed. What the eye had been unable to perceive the microscope obviously could. The first cross-section was done on the hairs from the densely pigmented dam of the first and third litters. The microscope showed her pigmentation to be not only dense, but in fact blue-black in color. The second cross-section was of hairs from the sire of the first litter. This cross-section showed some hairs with black pigmentation and some hairs with brown.

The fact that he showed this pigmentation had been undetectable without the microscope. I was confronted with the realization that here was an individual genetically capable of producing brown pigment in one hair and black in another. It appeared that whatever his genetic makeup was, the black that he carried must not have been completely dominant. The third cross-section was on the sire of the second litter and it again showed brown
as well as black pigment. The fourth cross-section was done on the charcoal grayish black colored dam of the second litter. In this section the black appeared more dilute, and the
brown which she showed was not as extensive as in the other samples. Cross-section number five was the biggest surprise of all. It was from the densely pigmented puppy which had occurred in the litter with the three reds. In all visual respects he appeared to have the same pigmentation as his dam--very dense black. The cross-section, however, revealed no black pigmentation whatsoever, only densely pigmented brown.

I was stunned. What was the genetic makeup of this individual? Then I realized that the first Standard of Norway possibly held the answer. The standard defined the color of the Elkhound as being;

"Gray, darker or lighter,brownish grey, blackish brown, or yellowish red, with the underwool being light brown."

Was this densely pigmented brown puppy which appeared to be black in fact like the blackish brown described in that Standard?

Then another realization, that standard never mentioned plain black. Only blackish brown. Did a truly plain black guardcoat exist then? Does it exist now? I decided to collect hair samples on as many unrelated individuals as possible for further study. The study, while incomplete, is quite interesting; for the present I will simply say that so far the majority tested have shown some form of brown pigmentation. It is obvious to me that the genetics of the breed, as far as coat color is concerned, requires much more study.

Our breed is designated as possessing the agouti wild-type coat. There has been virtually no research with canines possessing this coat type to determine what color variations occur naturally within them. It is an acknowledged fact that virtually all other Northern Spitz-type breeds which possess a similar coat type have several color variations including brown or
. These variations are considered normal occurances within those breeds.

The history of our breed states that the Elkhound has existed virtually unchanged for approximately 5,000 years. They obviously existed in a wild state surviving on their own abilities prior to man's guidance. In virtually all other wild species which possess the agouti type of coat the most common and natural coat color is brownish-gray. This color appears to be a gift from nature; enabling them not only to be undetected by predators, but to be undetected by their prey.

It appears that over the years through selection of color mutations, as well as crosses of closely related species, man has been able to select and develop color variations. When an unusual variation occurred man was there to preserve it. All agouti-coated species from the rabbit to the wolf are capable of producing many color phases naturally. It appears that these color phases were derived originally from the wild type brownish-gray. I am convinced that this also occurred in the northern canine breeds including the Norwegian Elkhound. I am further convinced that no matter how insignificant a color variation may appear to the eye, it must be considered to be of possible genetic origin.

I know through cross-sectioning the guardhairs of our breed, as well as test breeding, that which appears to be a densely pigmented blue-black individual can produce liver-agouti offspring. I know that an individual which possesses brown as well as black pigmentation can produce liver agouti.

I know there are individuals possessing charcoal-gray guardhairs which can produce liver-agouti. With this knowledge I can no longer believe that in our breed black is simply black.

I have several test-breedings planned which hopefully will give answers as to what some of the possible genetic variants in our breed might be. It has been rumored in the past that red bred to red would recreate gray. Do they in fact reproduce red as well as densely pigmented browns which are only considered to be gray because they look black? Or do they reproduce the wild type brownish-gray? I have hopes of answering that question in the near future, since Cocoa is due to whelp her first litter soon. What will a densely pigmented black individual which carries the liver gene produce when bred to a red? With the limited information available I feel that it is unrealistic to say that any color or color phase which appears, without loss of typical coat type or markings, is abnormal, until such time as there is some evidence as to what is genetically normal.

I hope that the National members will join in my efforts to help answer these questions.I know that some will continue to say that the Elkhound is supposed to be gray. My only question to them, then, is...

What is Gray?

Merely an optical effect?

In my opinion a red which is obviously red but exhibits all the typical markings of our breed should not be considered less acceptable quality than a brown
which only looks


For anyone who has come this far, this is the extent of the research I have been privileged to obtain.

No one joined in Marty's efforts. She did her research for another 10 years or more... alone in her quest. She then disappeared. No one seems to know the whereabouts of Martha Blair or whatever happened to the kennel full of beautiful Red Elkhounds that she was able to breed. If there are any more records or research I am not aware of them.
If anyone finds this article and has any further information please contact me at:

Scarlett the Red Elkhound
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