Border Collie versus Norwegian Elkhound Breeds Comparison

The world of dog breeds is vast and varied, and each breed comes with its own set of unique characteristics, histories, and purposes. Among the hundreds of dog breeds recognized globally, the Border Collie and the Norwegian Elkhound stand out for their respective histories and traits.

When comparing these two breeds, it’s essential to understand their origins, physical and mental characteristics, and historical purposes, to appreciate the uniqueness each breed brings to the canine community. This article delves into a comprehensive comparison of the Border Collie and the Norwegian Elkhound, guiding prospective dog owners or enthusiasts in their journey of understanding these two distinguished breeds.

Characteristics of Comparison between Norwegian Elkhound and Border Collie

The Norwegian Elkhound and the Border Collie, both remarkable breeds, present distinct characteristics that set them apart. At first glance, the Norwegian Elkhound, a spitz-type breed hailing from Norway, is robust and medium-sized, boasting a thick, double coat that’s primarily grey, ensuring protection against the biting Scandinavian cold.

Historically, they were bred for hunting moose and other large game, which has endowed them with a keen sense of smell, exceptional stamina, and a fearless nature. They are fiercely loyal, making them excellent companions and diligent watchdogs, though their independent streak requires consistent training.

In contrast, the Border Collie originates from the borderlands of Scotland and England and is world-renowned for its intelligence and agility. This breed is often recognized by its sleek and athletic appearance, accompanied by a coat that varies in length and color.

Unlike the hunting-focused Elkhound, Border Collies were primarily designed for herding sheep, and this lineage has ingrained in them an unparalleled work ethic and a need for regular mental and physical stimulation. Their intelligent gaze is a testament to their quick learning capabilities, which makes them popular choices in various canine sports and as service dogs.

While both breeds are loyal and make for great companions, Border Collies often require more interactive engagement due to their high energy and intelligence.

History of Breeds

Border Collie originated from the borderlands between Scotland and England, their history traces back to Roman times. They were bred specifically for intelligence and obedience, making them exceptional herding dogs. Over the years, their prowess in controlling and herding livestock, particularly sheep, led to their fame and further refined their breed characteristics.

With a history that dates back thousands of years, the Norwegian Elkhound’s roots lie deep within Scandinavian history. They were bred as hunting dogs, particularly for big games like elk and bears. Their name, “Elkhound”, literally means “elk dog” in Norwegian, highlighting their primary purpose. Aside from hunting, they’ve also been companions and protectors, playing significant roles in Norse expeditions and voyages.

norwegian elkhound dog

Appearance Difference and Similarities of a Border Collie versus Norwegian Elkhound

Border Collies are often recognized by their alert gaze, which mirrors their sharp intellect and working nature. They possess a moderately proportionate body, a flat skull, and ears that stand erect (although they can slightly fold at the tip). Their eyes are one of their most captivating features, coming in a range of colors including brown, blue, or one of each.

On the other hand, the Norwegian Elkhound is a sturdy, medium-sized dog with a wolf-like appearance. They boast a broad, wedge-shaped head, erect ears, and dark, oval-shaped eyes. Their body is compact, a feature that has been fine-tuned over centuries for endurance and strength during hunts.

The main similarity between the two breeds in terms of appearance is their alert expression, indicating their high levels of intelligence and their attentive nature. However, the overall body structure and facial characteristics are notably different, with the Border Collie being leaner and the Norwegian Elkhound showcasing a more robust build.


Size is another differentiating factor between the two breeds. Border Collies typically stand between 18 to 22 inches tall. Their weight can range from 27 to 45 pounds, with females being slightly lighter than males.

Norwegian Elkhounds, in contrast, are a bit bulkier. Males usually stand between 19 to 20 inches. Their weight ranges from 48 to 55 pounds for males and 45 to 57 pounds for females.

Thus, while both breeds are medium-sized dogs, the Norwegian Elkhound is generally stockier and heavier than the Border Collie.

Coats & Colors

The coat is perhaps where the most striking contrast lies between these breeds. Border Collies have a double coat that can be either smooth or rough.

The outer coat can be wavy or straight and is more coarse, while the undercoat is soft and dense. They come in a variety of colors and patterns, including black and white, blue merle, brindle, and even tricolor.

Norwegian Elkhounds, on the other hand, possess a thick, double coat that’s designed to protect them from the harsh Scandinavian climate. Their outer coat is straight and harsh, while the undercoat is soft, dense, and wooly.

In terms of color, they are usually gray, with darker hair on the back, sides, and upper parts of the body, and lighter shades on the chest, belly, legs, and underside of the tail.

Comparing Personality & Temperament

The Border Collie stands out not only in the world of sheep herding but also in the realm of canine intelligence. Their reputation for sharp intellect isn’t unwarranted. Their agile minds, coupled with their unmatched agility, are a marvel to witness, especially in activities like dog sports.

They’re characterized by an alert demeanor, and their keenness to please their owners makes training sessions a joy. This means they pick up on commands quickly, but it also indicates a need for continuous engagement. Without regular mental and physical activities, their high intelligence can lead to boredom, which can manifest in undesirable behaviors.

The Norwegian Elkhound has a history that takes us back to the rugged terrains of Norway where they evolved as formidable hunting companions. Their personality is marked by a sense of independence and self-assurance. Their past roles required them to be fearless hunters, loyal herders, and guardians of their Viking owners.

This multifaceted background gives them a blend of characteristics. They’re not as perpetually on the go as the Border Collies, but they’re far from being couch potatoes. Their energy levels demand consistent exercise and activities that challenge them mentally.


The affectionate and adaptive nature of the Border Collie makes it a worthy candidate for family living. They weave themselves effortlessly into the fabric of family life, offering not just companionship but also unyielding loyalty.

Their enthusiastic nature means they’re always up for a game of fetch or a long walk. However, this enthusiasm makes them more suitable for inherently active families or those willing to incorporate regular activities to cater to Collie’s needs.

Norwegian Elkhounds mirror the warmth of a family setting quite well. Their profound sense of loyalty and innate protective instincts make them excellent guardians of the home. Physically, they’re built sturdy, and their playful nature ensures there’s never a dull moment around them.

Their independent nature can sometimes be mistaken for stubbornness, making it essential for families to invest in early and consistent training to ensure harmony in the household.


When it comes to kids, Border Collies come with a mixed bag of traits. Their intelligence and playful nature can make them a child’s best friend, especially with older kids who understand the nuances of handling pets.

They can engage in extended play sessions, learn tricks, or even participate in agility training. However, their herding instincts are strong. This means they might occasionally nudge or “herd” toddlers, which could be daunting for little ones.

Norwegian Elkhounds exude a more patient demeanor with children. Their historical background as family protectors in Nordic terrains makes them inherently tolerant.

Their sturdy build is an added advantage, making them resilient to the playful roughhousing kids often engage in. That said, irrespective of the breed, adult supervision during interactions between dogs and children is paramount.

Other People

In terms of social interactions outside the family, Border Collies tend to be a bit reserved. Their initial hesitation with strangers is not a sign of aggression but more of an assessment.

Once they gauge the situation and find no threat, their friendly side emerges. Their agility and intelligence make them stars in social spaces like dog parks.

Conversely, the Norwegian Elkhounds’ historical role as protectors gives them a natural wariness of unknown people. Their aloofness, however, shouldn’t be confused with aggression. It’s more a protective instinct, making it imperative for owners to focus on early socialization to help them differentiate between genuine threats and harmless strangers.

Dogs & Other Animals

When we introduce other animals into the mix, Border Collies generally display a friendly demeanor towards other dogs, especially if they’ve been socialized from a young age. However, their intense herding instincts might sometimes kick in, leading them to herd other animals, including cats, which could lead to conflicts.

Norwegian Elkhounds have hunting ingrained in their DNA. This might make them perceive smaller animals as potential prey. While not every Elkhound will chase after every squirrel, caution is advisable, especially in homes with smaller pets.

When it comes to interactions with other dogs, they’re usually congenial, but early introductions and continuous socialization play a crucial role in ensuring peaceful coexistence.

Behaviour Issues

Deprivation of mental and physical stimulation can lead to behavioral issues in both breeds. Border Collies, with their astute minds, can easily fall into patterns of destructive behavior, excessive vocalization, or even display obsessive tendencies if their needs aren’t met.

The Border Collie’s sharp mind requires regular mental stimulation, or they may resort to unwanted behaviors like chewing, barking, or digging. Often, behavioral issues arise from boredom or insufficient exercise.

Regular training, combined with rigorous physical activity, can mitigate many of these problems. Without these outlets, a Border Collie can become restless and potentially destructive.

Norwegian Elkhounds respond differently. A lack of engagement or leadership can lead them down a path of stubbornness. They might also resort to barking, especially if they’re left isolated for long durations.

They are also known for their independence and strong prey drive. These dogs can be stubborn and may not always listen to commands, especially if something more interesting catches their attention.

Their vocal nature can also be a challenge, as they tend to bark more than other breeds. Proper socialization from a young age and consistent training can help in curbing excessive barking and ensuring obedience.

border collie lying on the grass

Training & Exercise of a Border Collie versus Norwegian Elkhound

Revered for their intelligence and aptitude, Border Collies are a breed that truly stands out. They were built not just for stamina but also for strategic thinking.

These attributes make them swift learners. However, this intelligence comes with its own set of challenges. They are easily prone to boredom, which can lead to destructive behavior if not addressed.

The training regimen for a Border Collie should, therefore, be dynamic and multifaceted. It’s not just about teaching them basic commands; it’s about engaging their minds and bodies. Activities such as puzzle toys, agility courses, and even advanced obedience training can prove beneficial.

Moreover, their herding instincts are so profound that many owners participate in herding events, giving the dog an authentic experience. In terms of exercise, long runs, fetch sessions, and even Frisbee can keep them physically satiated.

Steeped in ancient Viking traditions, the Norwegian Elkhounds are hunters at heart. This hunting background makes them more independent, often assessing situations and making decisions autonomously. This independence can sometimes be mistaken for stubbornness during training sessions.

Unlike the Border Collie, which thrives on structured training, the Elkhound needs a balance of firmness and freedom. Early socialization is pivotal, introducing them to various environments, people, and animals.

Training should focus on positive reinforcements, employing treats, praises, and toys. As for exercise, while they might not need the agility courses of a Border Collie, they still require robust exercise routines. Long walks, hiking, and even play sessions in a securely fenced yard can channel their energy effectively.

Taking Care & Maintenance Difference

Border Collies: A powerhouse of energy, the diet of a Border Collie should be reflective of its activity levels. High-quality dog food, enriched with proteins, is recommended. Fresh water should always be accessible.

Their active lifestyle also means potential wear and tear; hence, joint supplements and regular veterinary check-ups become essential. Moreover, given their high intelligence, mental health is just as crucial. Toys, interaction, and regular play sessions can keep anxiety and depression at bay.

Norwegian Elkhounds: Built for the harsh Scandinavian climates, these dogs have natural insulation in the form of their thick coats. This can be a double-edged sword, though, as they can overheat in warmer climates.

Owners should be cautious about exercise routines during hot days and ensure they always have a shaded spot. Hydration is another key aspect. Their diet should be a balanced mix of proteins and other nutrients, taking care not to overfeed as they can be prone to obesity.

Grooming a Border Collie versus Norwegian Elkhound

Whether it’s the sleek smooth coat or the lush rough coat, Border Collies are undoubtedly eye-catching. While their coats are relatively manageable, regular brushing ensures they remain mat-free and gleaming.

Their active outdoor lifestyle might mean more frequent baths, especially if they roll in something undesirable. Regular ear checks and nail trims should also be part of the grooming routine.

Their majestic silver-grey coat is one of the defining features of this breed. This dense coat, however, requires more attention. Regular brushing, almost every other day, can keep it in prime condition.

During the shedding seasons, this frequency might need to increase. Their erect ears, although less prone to infections than droopy ones, still need regular inspections and cleaning.


Their double coat ensures they shed throughout the year. This shedding might increase during seasonal transitions. A good grooming regimen, as mentioned earlier, can keep this in check and even reduce the amount of hair around your home.

Shedding is a significant aspect of owning an Elkhound. Their undercoat is shed, or ‘blown’, twice a year, and during these periods, they can shed copiously. Regular and even daily brushing during these times can help manage the shedding, ensuring the coat remains healthy and the house is relatively fur-free.

Health Comparison of Border Collie versus Norwegian Elkhound

Border Collies are often recognized for their agility, intelligence, and herding abilities. As a result of selective breeding for these traits, they generally exhibit a robust health profile.

In contrast, Norwegian Elkhounds, with their lineage as hunting dogs in the rugged terrains of Norway, are equally hardy but have been bred for different traits and challenges. Both breeds boast a history that suggests good health, but like all breeds, they aren’t without their potential health concerns.

Life Span

In terms of life span, Border Collies typically live between 11-15 years, given proper care. Their longevity can be attributed to their active lifestyles and general good health.

On the other hand, Norwegian Elkhounds have a slightly shorter lifespan, averaging between 10-12 years. Factors influencing this slight difference may range from genetic predispositions to the varied physical demands historically placed on each breed.

However, it’s worth noting that with proper care, regular check-ups, and a healthy lifestyle, many dogs can live to the upper limit of their breed’s average lifespan or even exceed it.

Diet & Nutrition

When considering diet and nutrition, it’s essential to understand the unique needs of each breed. Border Collies, with their high energy and agility levels, require a diet rich in protein and fat. Their meals should fuel their active lifestyles and support muscle development and repair.

On the other hand, Norwegian Elkhounds, originally bred to hunt large game-like moose, also have high energy needs but might require a slightly different nutritional balance. Elkhounds often benefit from a diet that mimics what their ancestors might have consumed – a mix of high-quality meats with some grains and vegetables.

For both breeds, it’s essential to monitor their weight and adjust their diet accordingly. Obesity can exacerbate potential health issues and decrease overall life expectancy.

Health Issues

While both breeds are generally healthy, they are predisposed to certain health issues. Border Collies, for example, may experience hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, and certain types of collie eye anomalies. Regular check-ups can catch these early, and responsible breeding can help reduce the risk of these conditions.

Border Collie:

  • Hip Dysplasia: This is a genetic condition where the hip joint doesn’t fit into the hip socket properly, leading to pain and potential mobility issues.
  • Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA): A genetic disorder that can cause abnormalities in the eye, possibly leading to blindness if not addressed.
  • Epilepsy: This neurological condition can cause seizures in Border Collies, ranging from mild to severe.

Norwegian Elkhounds, meanwhile, are prone to hip dysplasia as well. They might also experience progressive retinal atrophy, and hypothyroidism.

Norwegian Elkhound:

  • Hip Dysplasia: Much like the Border Collie, Norwegian Elkhounds can also suffer from this painful joint condition.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): A condition that gradually diminishes vision and can result in blindness if unchecked.
  • Hypothyroidism: This affects the dog’s metabolism, leading to issues such as weight gain, hair loss, and lethargy

Again, early detection and intervention can make all the difference, and responsible breeding practices play a crucial role in ensuring the healthiest possible puppies.

In essence, while both breeds have their unique health concerns, being well-informed and proactive in their care can mitigate many of these challenges. Regular veterinary visits, a balanced diet, and understanding breed-specific issues are vital steps toward ensuring a healthy and fulfilling life for these dogs.

Cost of getting a Border Collie versus Norwegian Elkhound

Generally, Border Collie puppies can range from $800 to $1,500, depending on factors like lineage, coat colors, and breeder reputation.

Routine expenses such as food, grooming, and healthcare can be relatively moderate as the Border Collie has a medium-length coat and fewer genetic health issues when compared to some other breeds.

Purchasing a Norwegian Elkhound can be pricier, with prices ranging from $1,200 to $6,000 for puppies, especially if they come from a lineage of show dogs. They also require more in terms of grooming due to their dense fur and are predisposed to certain health issues, which can lead to additional costs.


The number of puppies a dog can produce varies depending on factors such as health, age, and breed. Typically, a Border Collie will have a litter size of 4-8 puppies. Some litters may be smaller or larger, but this is the general range for this breed.

The Norwegian Elkhound, being a slightly larger breed, often has larger litters. A typical litter size for the Norwegian Elkhound can range from 6-10 puppies. As with the Border Collie, there are occasional exceptions, but this is the standard range for the breed.

Breeders & Centers

When considering purchasing a Border Collie or Norwegian Elkhound, it is essential to research and find a reputable breeder or adoption center. For Border Collies, breeders who are members of the Border Collie Society of America or equivalent bodies in other countries are a good starting point. They often follow strict ethical and health guidelines, ensuring that the puppies are of good health and temperament.

Norwegian Elkhounds also have dedicated breed organizations, such as the Norwegian Elkhound Association of America. It’s crucial to ensure that the breeder you choose conducts appropriate health tests and offers a safe, nurturing environment for their dogs.

Adoption is another wonderful option. Numerous rescues and shelters have both Border Collies and Norwegian Elkhounds looking for forever homes. Adopting can be cost-effective and provides a loving home to a dog in need.

Conclusion: Which Is Better, Border Collie or Norwegian Elkhound?

The answer to which breed is “better” depends entirely on what a potential owner is looking for in a dog. For those looking for a high-energy, intelligent companion that thrives on mental and physical stimulation, the Border Collie is an excellent choice. They’re perfect for active families, agility enthusiasts, or those who enjoy teaching their dogs tricks and commands.

However, for those who prefer a loyal, steadfast, and independent companion, the Norwegian Elkhound may be more suitable. Their rich history as hunters and guardians gives them a unique combination of independence and loyalty. They’re great for families and can also be fantastic watchdogs.

In conclusion, both breeds offer different yet equally endearing qualities. Your choice should reflect your lifestyle, living environment, and personal preferences. No matter which you choose, both breeds can offer a lifetime of love and companionship.

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