The Lundehunds or 'puffin dogs' are one of Norway’s best-kept secrets. This is a rare (there are about 1500 in the world) and unique breed of dog. They are not only among the cutest dogs you’ll ever meet, they have personalities to match.
They are a primitive breed, which means people didn’t mix and match traits to develop them, but rather they developed specialized characteristics to meet the demands of the climate and terrain of the Lofoten islands, which is the only location they were found.
The most noticeable trait that differs from most dogs is while most dogs have 4 toes; the Lundehund has 6 toes on each foot, sometimes 7 or even 8. These are functioning toes rather than dewclaws. Most of these toes have an extra joint so they can curl their toes much like people do their fingers.
Their specialized feet gave them better traction on snow and ice and were better for climbing the steep fjords to catch the puffin birds, which are their namesake. The local farmers domesticated the dogs when they realized the dogs were much better at catching the birds than they were. They depended on the birds for food and the warmth the down and feathers provided for their homes and for trade.
These dogs have had many tragedies which has brought their numbers down significantly sometimes to the single digits on three separate known occasions, 1) when Germany invaded and brought distemper to the islands; 2) when the puffin birds were added to the endangered species list and a bounty was put on the head of each wild dog – they didn’t realize at the time the dogs were more endangered than the birds and; 3) when distemper hit again in the 60’s the numbers fell down to 6 known surviving.
The specialized feet is only one of many unique features of the Lundehund, we learned more about their many other abilities like putting their heads back onto their backs or stretching their arms out to their sides; and why they needed these traits for survival.
Sif & Loki