The Norwegian Lundehund dog is a very unique breed of dog that originates from Vaerog and Rost in northern Norway (although some scientists now believe it may be possible that the Lundehund is actually the original Ur Hund dog survived from the last ice age).
This unusual canine is one of the most rare dog breeds in the world with only somewhere between 1500 and 2000 remaining (only about 350 of which are in the United States, the rest remaining in their homeland of Norway).
Norwegian Lundehund picture by Benoni.
A Brief Norwegian Lundehund History
Norwegian Lundehunds were used for several hundred years by farmers and hunters to hunt for puffin (a bird which nests in caves out on cliffs that humans typically can’t get to) until the 1800’s when the country of Norway deemed the bird protected and therefore illegal to hunt. While they could hunt for the well hidden bird, the Norwegian Lundehund breed was a very useful type of dog given its unusual and unique physical talents.
Once hunting of the bird ceased, however, hunters and farmers found little to no use for the dog, and it’s numbers rapidly declined. By 1963, there were only 6 surviving Lundehunds in the world, 5 of which were from the same liter. A couple of friends who were concerned enthusiasts proceeded to breed the final remaining dogs very carefully, and were luckily able to save the species.
The Norwegian Lundehund’s Unique Body
The Lundehund, at 13 to 20 pounds and being between 12 and 16 inches tall, is a fantastic hunter due to certain anomalies it has that can be found in no other dog breed in existence.
The first unusual feature of this dog breed is its paws. All four paws have six toes. All other dog breeds have only four toes and a dewclaw. Also, whereas other dog breeds have only the shape of the toe and the musculature for them, Lundehunds have joints in every toe including three joints in each of its four front toes and two joints in each dewclaw. These extra toes allow the animal to have much better balance and able to easily traverse rocky cliffs and even propel itself sideways through narrow cave passages to go after it’s prey, the puffin.
Their feet also have extra pads to walk on with 8 on each of the two front paws and 7 on each of the back. Another very unusual trait these dogs possess that no other dog has is the ability to stretch its front limbs out to the sides like a human extending their arms. This looseness of the shoulder joints is a useful trick the dog uses while climbing out onto the rocks to travel out to the nesting area of the puffin, and makes it appear as if the dog is able to run in a straight line across uneven ground with ease.
One trait the dog has that is unique to its breed has an unknown purpose. It has the ability to either fold its ears forward, completely closing off the auditory canals, or bend them backward so they don’t get in the way of low ceiling passage ways and can move their cartilage separately to pick up sounds.
And the final unusual talent possessed by the Norwegian Lundehund is one that only the Lundehund and the Reindeer are capable of doing. It has extra joints in its neck, which allow the dog to bend its head all the way backward over its own spine, touching its forehead to its back. Doing this effortlessly, the canine is able to maneuver through tight spaces when going after the puffin bird much easier.