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How did the House Elves become so skilled at magic? Was there a training program, or....?

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    No canon info. They were just born this way - genetics – DVK-on-Ahch-To May 1 '12 at 16:34
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    And it's not that they're especially skilled, there are numerous references to House-Elf magic being different from human. The most obvious is that they can Apparate w/in Hogwart's. – Ward May 1 '12 at 20:11
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    I believe @DVK is correct - without it's kinda like asking, "Why do centaurs walk on four legs?". There's a fair chance they have to learn how to use their magic, but it's almost certainly an inborn ability like it is for the humans in the HP universe. – Izkata May 1 '12 at 23:17
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House Elf powers aren't ever explained directly in books or JKR material.

But since no magic user can apparate in/out of Hogwarts (or Voldemort's cave) and elves can, it can be inferred that their power is NOT taught by wizards originally.

JK Rowling replies -> He's a house-elf, they've got powers wizards haven't got (but wizards have also got powers that house-elves haven't). (source: JK Rowling's World Book Day Chat, March 4, 2004)

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Q: You say that people cannot Apparate or Disapparate within Hogwarts and yet Dobby manages it, why is this?
A: House-elves are different from wizards; they have their own brand of magic, and the ability to appear and disappear within the castle is necessary to them if they are to go about their work unseen, as house-elves traditionally do (Source: http://www.jkrowling.com/textonly/en/faq_view.cfm?id=73 )

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Dumbledore talks about house elves (especially Kreacher) in OOTP chapter 37.

[Kreacher] was bound by the enchantments of his kind,

‘Kreacher is what he has been made by wizards, Harry,’

I believe this hints that the wizards have had their part in what the house elves are like. They've bred them and trained them and magically transformed them until they've reached their current state.

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    I don't think that's what he meant; I believe he was talking psychologically -- Kreacher was nasty and offensive and hateful because that's what he had experienced at the hands of Wizards. When he was treated better (HP:DH), he totally changed. – K-H-W May 1 '12 at 18:41
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    Although I agree with @KHW about the meaning of Dumbledore's quote, I don't think the answer deserves this many downvotes, because it is possible that wizards may have performed experimental magic and breeding among house-elves, given their overtly submissive nature, especially towards human wizards. There are other sentient beings in the Harry Potter universe, but house-elves are submissive o this level only towards wizards. Moreover, we may find kreacher nasty, offensive and hateful, but we only get to view him from the wizards' perspective, and that too, only from the antagonist party...... – user13267 Mar 16 '14 at 13:54
  • ...He is obviously more cooperative towards his own family and their relatives, which is (at least according to the house-elf code and etiquette) how he should have behaved, so from his perspective, he's not doing anything wrong. Also, Dobby wanted to be freed from his family, and even went as far as to attack Lucious Malfoy after he was freed, something that wizard's and house-elves would both find shocking (it would probably be even more shocking for the house-elves, based on their view about Winky in Goblet of Fire. And those house-elves were owned by an Institution instead an individual... – user13267 Mar 16 '14 at 13:58
  • ...or a family, so, in a way, they were probably more 'free' than some one like Dobby or Winky. – user13267 Mar 16 '14 at 13:59

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