The Lundehund, which takes its name from the lunde, puffin, (Fratercula arctica) is one of the world’s rarest breed of dog not only because of its modest numbers, but also because in one and the same breed we find a whole series of unusual anatomical characteristics. Some of these characteristics are found, but only sporadically, in other breeds. The lundehund is rare but is also remarkable–what other breed of dog is marked by so many unusual characteristics? The lundehund has at least 6 toes on each foot; can close its ears so that the ear-canal is protected against dirt and moisture; has neck-joints which enable it to bend the head backwards over the shoulders, so that the forehead touches the back–this is useful when the dog has to turn in a narrow passage. Furthermore, this dog has extremely mobile fore shoulder-joints, so that both front legs can stretch straight out to the sides.
Specialized for Hunting
The lundehunds’ unusual characteristics were very useful in a particular kind of hunt. The many toes gave the dog a good foothold when it had to balance on steep cliffs or slippery rocks, and they were a great help when the dog had to crawl through difficult passageways. The dog used this extra toe as support, also to brake himself on slippery or uneven terrain, so that on the whole the dog was equipped to go where the man could not. The characteristic fore shoulder-joints enabled the dog to “throw out his arms” if he lost his footing on slippery rock and was, as we have noted, useful when he had to turn or shift in cramped passages. The mobility of the dog’s neck was undoubtedly of great usefulness when he had to reverse himself in order to come out from the passages to the birds’ nests.
The Lundehund’s foot has five fully developed three-jointed toes and one two-jointed—the latter resembles man’s thumb. This can be clearly seen in an x-ray. There are muscles for flexing and stretching trotting these toes which resemble the muscles in man’s thumb. All other breeds of dog normally have only four toes and the musculature for them.
Extraordinary Suppleness and Mobility
Those who see a lundehund out on the scree (the old Norse word is uren – the landscape is that of north Norway, Northern England, Iceland — rocky, steep, slippery cliffs or slopes from the mountains down towards the sea) or up on the mountains are greatly struck by its agility: the dog is completely adapted to the terrain. In addition to their foot’s natural part in their particular movements, their unusual neck- and shoulder-joints are astonishing. The way a lundehund can arch its head up and backwards over its spine is a characteristic we can not explain with any certainty. Among mammals, only a reindeer has the same flexibility. If one takes a lundehund up by the front legs and swings them out to the right and the left, the lundehund shows no discomfort. To understand why this is so one needs to imagine oneself right out in the lundefugl (puffin) screes. When one sees a lundehund in action–up, down, slantwise over the rocks and unevenly over the cliffs — one sees a lightning-swift, sure-footed dog. If one has seen the lundehund here, one can better understand the unusual development of its body: nothing could have been at all different in its body, otherwise he could not have functioned so well.
Source: The Norwegian Lundehund Club of America