World’s Rarest Dog Breed – Has Six Toes

They don’t look that much different than any other dog. Four legs and a tail. Four paws. Six toes. What? Six toes. On each foot. Those extra toes are the first indication that the Lundehund is not like every other breed. They’re most likely the rarest dogs on Earth — yet, they are hardly known.

The Norwegian Lundehund is a small, rectangular Spitz type dog. The Lundehund has a great range of motion in its joints, allowing it to fit into and extricate itself from narrow passages. Dogs of this breed are able to bend their head backwards along their own spine and turn their forelegs to the side at a 90-degree horizontal angle to their body, much like human arms. Their pricked, upright ears can be folded shut to form a near-tight seal by folding forward or backward.

The Norwegian Lundehund is a polydactyl: instead of the normal four toes per foot, the Lundehund normally has six toes, all fully formed, jointed and muscled. Some specimens may have more, or fewer, than six toes per foot; although having fewer than six toes is frowned upon and will lose the dog points in a show ring. The outercoat is dense and rough with a soft undercoat. The Lundehund is adapted to climb narrow cliff paths in Røst where it originally would have hunted puffins. The number of Lundehunds around the world are at around 1500.

As their name implies, the Lundehund hunted puffins on the rocky cliffs and in the caves along the coast of Norway. The breed remained unchanged for hundreds of years until they were almost wiped out by distemper during World War II. Sixty years ago there were only six Lundehunds left.

he Lundehund is slowly coming back, thanks to a group of dedicated owners and breeders.

Apart from the six toes, the Lundehund is extremely limber. They can turn their heads a full 180 degrees, rotate their legs over their heads, and even lie completely flat, with all four legs sticking straight out to the sides.

The toes on the back, although they don’t touch the ground when the dog is standing, when they’re on the rocks, the toes hold them down like suction cups so they would not slide off the wet, slippery rocks.

The Lundehund is also able to clamp its ears shut to protect them from wind and rain. That kind of ability helped them in often adverse weather conditions. But their extreme flexibility turning their heads, and moving their legs and joints at strange angles helped them squeeze in and out of tight spots while on the hunt for puffins.

As the breed is beginning to make a come back, breeders are careful to avoid inbreeding with so few blood lines to mix with. The challenge is compounded by Lundehunds averaging only two to fours puppies a litter, a fact that also contributed to the breed’s endangered numbers.

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2 Responses to “World’s Rarest Dog Breed – Has Six Toes”

  1. Good to hear they are doing something to save this species from facing extinction


  1. === === popular today - October 21, 2010

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    yeah! this story has entered the popular today section on…