Hygen Hound

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
 
Photo of adult Hygen Hound
Bjørn Konestabo / Wikipedia.org

A breed that was deliberately created less than 200 years ago to meet the hunting demands of the Norwegian population, the Hygen Hound is considered to be a very rare breed of dog today. This scent hound continues to work in small numbers within its native land, though some dogs are kept purely as pets. This breed needs a knowledgeable owner who has the time and patience to deal with its personality quirks, which can include hyperactivity and hostility.

A handsome dog of medium size, the Hygen Hound has the typical eyes and ears of a hound, as well as the short, low-maintenance coat. Their droopy ears can present a challenge, as they tend to trap water and debris inside and are prone to developing infections.

About & History

A breed that was designed by man in the mid 1800s, the Hygen Hound was created by a Norwegian breeder called (surprise, surprise!) Mr. Hans Hygen. Mr. Hygen’s aim was to develop the ideal hunting dog that could withstand the freezing climate of Scandinavia in the winter. German Holsteiner Hounds were bred with a number of different Scandinavian Hounds, including the Norwegian Hound in the pursuit of the ‘perfect hunter’. It has been said that Mr. Hygen was incredibly pleased with the breed of dog produced – a hound that had the stamina and fortitude to endure the harshest of weather conditions.

As a hunting dog, the Hygen Hound will both track and retrieve its prey. It is a scent hound that capitalises on its superior sense of smell to find game that has hidden itself away in the snowy landscape. While a versatile hunter, it usually tends to pursue rabbits, hares and foxes.

Used primarily for hunting, the Hygen Hound also makes for a decent companion animal. However, in recent years, they have fallen a little from grace and have gained themselves a reputation for being territorial and possessive; characteristics that turn young families off. While the Hygen Hound has a small presence within Norway, they are rarely, if ever, spotted internationally. A handful of breed members were registered in Sweden 15 years ago. Despite the rarity of the breed, they were recognised by the UKC within their scent hound group in 2006.

Appearance

Hygen Hound Large Photo
Bjørn Konestabo / Wikipedia.org

It is important to note that this breed very closely resembles the Norwegian Hound, though is shorter. A dog designed to work, the Hygen Hound is a medium-sized, robustly built dog that has a rectangular-shaped body and a straight back. They have a wide, wedge-shaped head with a relatively small, rounded muzzle and a black nose. This breed has pendulous ears, which hang at a distance from their face and dark brown eyes that give the dog a serious yet peaceful expression. The shoulders and pasterns of the Hygen Hound are both sloping and their hind limbs are well muscled, ending in compact feet. These dogs have wide and deep chests, a rounded croup and a solid top line. Their tail is similar to that of other hound dogs, which is of medium length and tapering.

The thick, short coat of the Hygen Hound offers it good protection in the winter months. It is harsh to the touch and should have a nice sheen to it. Accepted coat colour combinations include:

  • Red with black markings; The red colour may be a brown-red or a yellow-red; Additional white marking are acceptable
  • Black and tan; White markings are common
  • White with red, black or tan markings

Males reach heights of 53cm, while the more diminutive female stands slightly shorter at 51cm. Most breed members weigh between 20kg and 25kg.

Character & Temperament

A breed that has to be able to keep pace when travelling across vast expanses of land, the Hygen Hound is very energetic and athletic. While lively and boisterous, they can act more calmly when in the home, particularly after being exercised or when they have returned from a satisfying hunt.

Hygen Hounds often bond well with their family and are loyal towards them, regularly showing a good deal of affection. However, this friendliness does not extend to new people and this dog is particularly wary of strangers, even becoming aggressive if they feel under threat. This can make them both good watch dogs and good guard dogs, but can mean it is difficult for owners to have guests over unless they put a big effort into socialising their Hygen Hound from an early age. Equally, this dog is known to have possessive tendencies, which can be hard to train out and can be dangerous in certain situations, for example, if a child attempts to take their food or a toy away from them.

The hunting instincts of this breed mean that they should not be kept in the company of small pets, such as rabbits and guinea pigs, and will often chase unknown cats. Walking them off lead can be an issue for this reason.

Trainability

The Hygen Hound is generally thought of as a dog that is easy to train due to its willingness to learn and zest for life. They are quite intelligent and will obediently follow commands if they respect the person that is giving them. If their trainer is a trusted family member, and they use positive training methods that encourage good behaviour, the Hygen Hound will typically respond well and master new tasks quickly. Training a Hygen Hound to hunt is rarely necessary, as they will inherently know how to do so from a young age.

When working with a young Hygen Hound the key is to thoroughly socialise them and implement a consistent training routine from the outset. Problems can arise when an adult Hygen Hound has not had adequate exposure to new people and situations, as they can become defensive and hostile. It has been said that inexperienced trainers or first-time owners should perhaps consider a different breed due to the potential difficulties that can arise within this breed if not correctly trained.

Health

With a typical lifespan of 10-12 years, there are a few health conditions that have been reported in the Hygen Hound and should be monitored for. These include:

Hip Dysplasia

Malformed hips can occur for many reasons, but most cases are caused by poor genes, inappropriate exercise or a poor diet. Animals with hip dysplasia require lifelong therapy, and even those that do undergo orthopaedic surgery will often go on to develop osteoarthritis later in life.

Bloat

For unknown reasons, some dog breeds (including the Hygen Hound) can develop a life-threatening condition whereby their stomach expands and fills up with trapped air and liquid. If the stomach twists over, animals require an emergency surgery to resolve the situation.

Ear Infections

The proliferation of organisms, such as yeast and bacteria, within the ear can lead to otitis externa. Most cases will resolve with a short course of medicated drops that are applied into the ear canal.

Von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD)

When a dog’s platelets cannot stick together appropriately, their blood is unable to clot and they are prone to bleeding. A screening test can be used to assess the status of at-risk dogs.

Exercise and Activity Levels

As would be expected given their history and strong work ethic, the Hygen Hound is a breed with a high exercise requirement. It would be impossible to keep this dog content in a small home with no garden, as they require the ability to stretch their legs and roam around scenting. Giving them the opportunity to hunt is advised, as this allows them to express their natural behaviour, while burning off energy and providing them with a source of mental stimulation.

Not only does this vivacious dog need plenty of exercise, they also rely on humans to show them lots of attention. They can be demanding and may act out if they feel ignored or bored. Excessive barking or howling, destruction of items within the home and digging up the back garden are all potential bad behaviours that can develop in a discontented Hygen Hound.

Grooming

The shiny coat of the Hygen Hound is quite thick, so does require brushing once or twice a week to prevent a build-up of dead fur and to spread their natural oils along the entirety of the coat. It is advised that Hygen Hounds are only bathed if necessary, for example, if they get particularly muddy after a hunt, as their skin and coat can dry out if over-bathed.

Owners must not neglect the ears of this dog, as to do so could result in the development of ear infections. Not only should they be checked frequently for any signs of infection, they will likely need weekly cleaning to remove wax and keep the canals clear and dry.

Famous Hygen Hounds

Unsurprisingly, as the Hygen Hound is such a rare breed, there are no Hollywood stars or starlets just yet. In fact, there are even relatively few photos on Instagram when searching #hygenhound.

Cross-Breeds

While the Hygen Hound is itself a mix of a variety of European hounds, there are no popular or documented Hygen Hound crosses.

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