The Norwegian lundehund is a unique dog with unusual characteristics. Always energetic, agile, and alert, the Norwegian lundehund is not for the novice pet owner. They are best suited to an experienced dog owner who lives in a home with a safely fenced yard. Learn more about the Norwegian lundehund’s rare traits and interesting history below.
The Norwegian Lundehund’s Unusual Facts
They have six toes on each paw!
The Norwegian lundehund has six fully developed toes on each foot. Four of them point forward, and two points inward like a human thumb. These extra toes provide them more traction and grip when they are navigating the steep or slippery rocks and peaks of Norway.
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Their head can bend so far back.
The Norwegian lundehund can bend in ways that most dogs cannot. They are capable of touching the top of their head to their back, which enables them to turn around while inside a narrow underground passageway. Aside from this, the Norwegian lundehund also has an extremely flexible shoulder joint, allowing them to spread their forelegs out to the sides. This would come in handy if they slipped on the rocks and needed to stop themselves from falling.
Their ears can close and fold.
The Norwegian lundehund can actually close their ears to protect their ear canal. This enables them to keep dirt and water out of their ears when they enter a deep burrow. It also has something to do with their need to orient themselves in a narrow passageway.
They are expert excavators.
In a matter of minutes, the lundehund can dig a hole large enough for them to climb into. So if you’re thinking of getting one for yourself, make sure they can’t dig beneath your fence. Most importantly, we hope you don’t have electric fences!
They are in constant need to satisfy their exercise needs.
This breed tends to be athletic and agile. The lundehund’s energy and flexibility make them suitable for dog sports. However, they may be rather hard to house-train because of this. For them to less likely get into trouble in the house from all their daily pent-up energy, they will need long walks or other forms of active play to satisfy their exercise needs. Give them a minimum of two half-hour walks, one-on-one play times, or other activities daily.
Lundehunds are hoarders.
The Norwegian lundehund is a pack rat. Much like some birds, they collect shiny objects and hide them They are also known to stash food for snacking later.
They were discovered on a Norwegian archipelago.
This unique and acrobatic canine was discovered on an archipelago in Norway. The breed originated in the Lofoten Islands, an archipelago north of the Arctic Circle. Considered to be more valuable than cows, lundehunds were a popular choice for Norwegian townspeople, who often had up to a dozen of these dogs at any one time.
They’re an ancient breed.
The Norwegian lundehund has the same jaw as the Varanger dog, a fossilized canine discovered in Russia that lived about 5,000 years ago. Both the Varanger dog and the Norwegian lundehund have two fewer teeth than all other dog breeds—one fewer tooth on each side of the jaw. Lundehunds were developed in the 1500s on remote islands off the northern and western coasts of Norway.
They were bred to rob puffin eggs or chicks from nests.
The term lunde is the Norwegian word for puffin, a type of sea parrot. If you’re wondering why they evolved into a species with peculiar traits and features, the Norwegian lundehund was bred to hunt puffins, which live on the islands off the west coast of Norway. Puffins were an important source of food for the farmers who lived on those islands. The lundehunds’ energy, flexibility, and agility were highly required for this purpose. The toes came in handy when the Norwegian lundehund burrowed into a narrow passage to find a puffin’s nest.
Early Norwegian hunters understood the puffins’ breeding cycle and sent their lundehunds to find and fetch fledglings during this window of opportunity in the cycle. The dogs instinctively brought the birds back alive, relatively unharmed, to their owners. Each lundehund might retrieve twenty or more fledglings during a single night’s hunt.
Puffins were valuable to the Islanders. Feathers were used to stuff pillows and bedding, meat was eaten fresh or salted and cured for later consumption, and the rest of the birds were fed to the dogs. It provided a welcome addition to the meager income they brought in from fishing and farming.
They nearly went extinct.
The puffin-hunting cycle was repeated annually in Norway from the 1500s through the 1800s. However, in the mid-19th century, men began using nets to capture these birds. As the popularity of hunting puffins declined, so did the popularity of the Norwegian lundehund, and the breed suffered a severe decline in numbers. The government also started imposing taxes on keeping lundehunds. Many residents couldn’t afford to keep them anymore by then. By the early 20th century, lundehund numbers had dwindled to almost zero.
The remaining purebred lundehunds were found in the fishing village of Mastad on the island of Værøy. The purebreds survived on the island because it was so isolated from the rest of the world. When an experienced English setter breeder named Eleanor Christie read an article about lundehunds, she decided to breed them by procuring the remaining dogs from Mastad. Christie’s efforts managed to save the breed. Waves of canine distemper threatened the species as well in the 1930s and 1960s. But by way of a careful breeding program and strict guidelines, there are now an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 Norwegian lundehunds in the world.
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