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The Norwegian Puffin Dog

Article #240 • Written by Cynthia Wood

The Lundehund
The Lundehund

In order to run down and kill wolves, the people of Ireland bred the powerful and long-legged Irish Wolfhound. When they needed something to chase ill-tempered badgers into their holes to exterminate them, Europeans bred the feisty, short-legged dachshund. But five hundred or more years ago, the people on the northern coast of Norway had a different kind of prey to contend with: humble puffins.

Puffins are small sea-birds. They look rather like small, flying penguins with big colorful beaks, and they like to nest in the narrow, twisting caves which honeycomb the local rocky sea-cliffs. The sheer inaccessibility of those cliffs helps to keep the predators away, while the caves add yet another layer of difficulty to anything trying to get at the puffins. Yet in northern Norway, puffins used to be a major source of winter food, and catching them in enough quantity to make it through the long winters was absolutely necessary.

In order to fill this unique niche, the Norwegians bred a unique dog. The resulting Lundehund was an extraordinary animal with some unparalleled gifts. For all its uniqueness, the Lundehund is vanishingly rare. It has been so close to extinction that at one point there were only five of them in existence.

Atlantic Puffin
Atlantic Puffin

Due to their inaccessible nesting locations, the elusive puffins are difficult to catch in any quantity. A human being would give themselves away long before they reached the birds, and even if their prey were still around when they reached the caves, a human would be unable to navigate the tiny, twisting tunnels. The fox-sized Lundehund, however, was able to scrabble up cliffs and crawl into caves, hauling out the puffins for their owners. Many of the Lundehund's most unusual features relate directly to the demands of their job.

To enhance traction on slippery rocks, and gripping in tight places, the Lundehund is a polydactyl (multi-toed) dog. Instead of the normal four toes a foot, the Lundehund has six toes, all fully formed, jointed and muscled. Polydactyl dogs are not terribly uncommon, but in most breeds the extra toes are dew-claws - non-functional vestigial toes, not the fully formed variety of the Lundehund. The dog uses these extra toes to gain purchase and haul itself along in positions where only the sides of its legs are touching the rock, a fairly common occurrence while wiggling through tight spots. They also help the dog gain additional traction while scrambling around on steep, often slippery cliffs.

Also helpful when getting into and out of small caves is the Lundehund's extraordinary flexibility. The Lundehund's forelegs can bend outwards far enough for the dog to lay flat on its chest, with the legs in an approximation of the human arm position. This kind leg flexibility is unheard of, not just in dogs, but in quadrupeds. The only other four-footed mammal that can match it is the reindeer.

The Lundehund's extraordinary flexibility is not limited to the forelegs. The dog's neck and spine are so flexible that it can lay its head back along its own spine, a position most humans couldn't get into under any circumstances short of a broken neck, let alone most dogs. What exactly is going on with the Lundehund's joints isn't certain, but it seems clear that something unique is happening to allow for such unusual joint mobility.

It's easy to see how this kind of flexibility would be helpful in a career in unassisted spelunking. Whether the dog needs to back out of a cave or turn itself around where there is little room to spare, the Lundehund is limber enough to manage, even with a mouthful of puffin.

The last of the Lundehund's cave-diving adaptions is a unique ear structure. Normally held upright and pricked, the Lundehund can seal its own ears shut by bending them either forward or backward. Even more astonishing, the tip of the ear can be pricked separately, allowing the dog to use its ears effectively, while still only exposing a tiny, mostly covered space. This ability saves the dog from getting rock dust and water into its ears as it wedges itself through the caves.

Other oddities seem to stem from the Lundehund's ancient heritage and from its near brush with extinction. The Lundehund has a jaw identical to the Varranger dog - a 5000 year old fossilized dog found in northern Lapland - with two fewer teeth than other modern dogs. A less benign difference is Lundehund syndrome. Lundehund syndrome is a set of digestive disorders that can lead to an overgrowth of digestive bacteria, intestinal cancer, and a loss of ability to absorb nutrients from food. In extreme cases the dog can starve simply because it's unable to get the nutrients and protein it needs no matter how much it eats. Not every Lundehund is so severely afflicted, some are pretty much symptom free, but every Lundehund has the syndrome. There is no cure, though the disease can be managed.

Despite its oddities, the Lundehund was virtually forgotten outside of its native land until very recently. In 1925, a man named Sigurd Skuan encountered Lundehunds on Værøy Island, and was fascinated by them. By that time the puffin-hunting farmers of the northern islands had started hunting with nets, so the breed was dying out, with only about fifty remaining. Skuan wrote about the animal, but there was little interest in saving the dogs from extinction. The Norwegian Kennel Club originally thought the Lundehund was merely a variant on an existing breed, and even once convinced differently, did not pursue the matter beyond recognizing it as a breed.

Fortunately for the future of the Lundehund, a woman named Eleanor Christie in southern Norway ran across Mr. Skuan's article. In 1937, she began trying to obtain some Lundehunds for breeding. Finding the dogs proved difficult, but eventually she located a farmer named Monrad Mikalson on Værøy who was willing to send her four puppies: three females and a male. Mrs. Christie received her dogs in 1939.

Her timing was fortunate. In 1942, while the vaccine was unobtainable due to WWII, canine distemper struck Værøy and the surrounding islands, wiping out all but one of the known Lundehunds. The farmer who had sent Mrs. Christie the puppies now called to her for help. She responded by sending two pregnant bitches and two puppies. Once again, the timing was fortunate. Had she not done so, it is likely the Lundehund would not exist today, for in 1944 distemper struck Mrs. Christie's own dogs, wiping out all but her one original male. The farmer and Mrs. Christie struck up a lifetime friendship, and sent each other dogs several more times in their efforts to save the Lundehund. Despite all their work, it was well into the 1960's before the number of Lundehunds passed the double digits.

Today the Lundehund is no longer on the brink of extinction. From that tiny remnant of five dogs (Mrs. Christie's four, and the one Værøy dog), the Norwegians managed to rebuild their breed. It remains, however, one of the rarest of dogs, with fewer than 1000 individuals worldwide. Had Mr. Mikalson and Mrs. Christie been less dedicated to its continuation, or had their timing been less fortuitous, the breed would not have survived, and the world would have lost a dog like no other.

Article written by Cynthia Wood, published on 07 December 2006. Cynthia is a contributing editor for DamnInteresting.com.

Edited by Alan Bellows.

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72 Comments
Phill
Posted 07 December 2006 at 04:11 pm

I've always wanted a nice pup! Now if I could only get one of these fine, rare breads.
I have a sense you can turn it into a pick up line... "Hey... I am as flexible as my dog?"


me09
Posted 07 December 2006 at 04:12 pm

FIRST!


me09
Posted 07 December 2006 at 04:12 pm

wait no...


Cori
Posted 07 December 2006 at 04:18 pm

Aww. Besides being so unique, they're also just plain cute.


Sparky
Posted 07 December 2006 at 04:57 pm

Does anyone know where all the genetic variability comes from in dogs? There seem to be a huge number of recessive traits which can be brought out by inbreeding. To any casual observer it would seem like most dogs are different species. I can’t think of another animal with this much variation that can still interbreed. I wonder how many critters that we think are different species are really variations of the same animal. How does a biologist decide that he really has a new species?

I also wonder how many generations of breeding it take to select for a hidden trait, like multiple toes. It would clearly depends on what the original breeding stock was. Does adding more initial stock animals make the problem easier or more difficult?

Some bacterial respond to stress by turning off the “error checking” when they replicate DNA causing many mutations. As a result new traits pop up in the bacteria that was not present in the original bacteria. This is different than expressing a recessive gene. Does lots of inbreeding cause a similar situation where mutation is more likely to occur?


Shade
Posted 07 December 2006 at 05:24 pm

haha I havent seen the word "Bitch" be used correctly for a long long time, so naturaly I chuckled a little.


SparkyTWP
Posted 07 December 2006 at 05:33 pm

A species is usually defined as a reproductively isolated population. The inability to reproduce with other groups could be from genetic or behavioral differences. There is not a clear definition

So this could probably reproduce with a typical dog if forced to, but they might be behaviorally different enough that they don't interact with each other in that way.

I'm not a biologist or anything though.


just_dave
Posted 07 December 2006 at 06:25 pm

Very interesting read on a very interesting breed. Amazing how well "adapted" the Lundehund is for Puffin hunting; you'd almost think it was designed for the task. ;o)


agooga
Posted 07 December 2006 at 06:43 pm

I know nothing about breeding-- but was curious: How do you breed for six toes? Do you wait for a mutant male and a mutant female with six toes each and breed them together? Do you wait for a tiny bump of a toe and try to breed that up?


Prince
Posted 07 December 2006 at 07:08 pm

500 years is an extraordinarily short time to breed such a fascinating breed. Amazing, and yes, how do you breed for six toes?


Cynthia Wood
Posted 07 December 2006 at 07:39 pm

How long it took to breed the Lundehund is unknown. We know they existed 500 years ago from texts of that time that describe the dog in detail. So it could have taken much longer to specifically breed the Lundehund.

As to the polydactilism - there are a number of dog breeds with multiple toes; it's apparently a relatively common trait. In fact in some breeds it's common (or at least used to be) to clip off extra toes on puppies as a defect. What's unusual is having those toes be fully jointed and muscled, actively used for helping the dog get around.


SparkyTWP
Posted 07 December 2006 at 07:50 pm

My girlfriend's cat is polydactil. It's pretty cool. It has 7 toes on one foot with 6 on the others. We call it bigfoot.


another viewpoint
Posted 07 December 2006 at 08:29 pm

...wasn't anyone concerned for all those poor little puffins?

After all, didn't Peter, Paul and Mary write a song about a fire breathing bird...Puffin the Magic Dragon?


Dr. Evil
Posted 07 December 2006 at 08:30 pm

I thought i knew some good party tricks... I cant believe i got beaten by a dog. Does anyone know where i could buy one?


davida
Posted 07 December 2006 at 09:51 pm

My only comment...Damn! that is one cool dog.


Drakvil
Posted 08 December 2006 at 12:31 am

Cool! I'm 16th!

I would imagine that if you wanted to start breeding a dog with that many toes, you would start with as many dogs as you could obtain that had multiple toes (regardless of breed) and breed them with each other and as many as you could "borrow the services of". When you have a large population going of dogs with multiple toes, you would have to start refining the breeding selections to the ones that showed higher degrees of flexiblity and articulation (by minute amounts at first). Then move on to the other traits that you wanted to specify in there.

The dog is a separate species now, but it started off as a domesticated wolf many thousands of years ago. All the specific breeds you see are the result of different environments and man breeding them for specific traits they needed.


Cherubrokker
Posted 08 December 2006 at 01:05 am

Did the dog get the digestive disorders as a direct result of inbreeding? Also will the continuation of inbreeding cause more problems in the breed? Even if there were 50 dogs left, the probability that the dogs were closely related is very high.

That said I still want one of these dogs!!


hualin1988la
Posted 08 December 2006 at 01:06 am

(Comment deleted as SPAM)


Cherubrokker
Posted 08 December 2006 at 02:35 am

A World of Warcraft Ad???

WTF!!!

Why is that here??


HarleyHetz
Posted 08 December 2006 at 06:14 am

Cool dog...seems to me like those folks would have starved to death breeding dogs until they came up with one that could ferrett out puffins though...I'm not sure that I wouldn't have eaten some of the dogs!! Maybe they did...


Merciless
Posted 08 December 2006 at 07:49 am

This is my first post after reading D.I. for about a year now. Not sure why I waited until now. Anyways, that is one cool breed of dog. Cynthia, I did see a word left out in a paragraph. "This kind leg flexibility is unheard of, not just in dogs, but in quadrupeds." I think there should be "of" after kind and before leg to read correctly. Damn Interesting article about a Damn Interesting dog.


Ironclaw
Posted 08 December 2006 at 08:02 am

another viewpoint said: "…wasn't anyone concerned for all those poor little puffins?

After all, didn't Peter, Paul and Mary write a song about a fire breathing bird…Puffin the Magic Dragon?"

No no.. while Puffin... Peter Paul and Mary saw a "Magic Dragon"

Not the same at all..


smilespray
Posted 08 December 2006 at 08:21 am

another viewpoint said: "…wasn't anyone concerned for all those poor little puffins?"

Unless you're a vegetarian, why would you treat them any differently to any other game bird? :-)

I'm from the area, and can testify that Puffins taste great.


misanthrope
Posted 08 December 2006 at 08:22 am

Cherubrokker said: "Did the dog get the digestive disorders as a direct result of inbreeding? Also will the continuation of inbreeding cause more problems in the breed? Even if there were 50 dogs left, the probability that the dogs were closely related is very high.

That said I still want one of these dogs!!"

Is 5 even a viable number to start from? I thought it needed to be around 200 or so in most species, and only then if you were very deliberate or lucky about who bred with who?


Radiatidon
Posted 08 December 2006 at 09:03 am

Sparky said: "Does anyone know where all the genetic variability comes from in dogs? "

In a well-designed breeding program, outside stock (not of the same breed) will be introduced to “improve” or “freshen” the line. Unfortunately with the canine purebreds, such is considered taboo. So the various canine breeds continue to suffer as no outside stock is introduced to overcome unwanted/unhealthily traits. As in the German Shepard’s tendency to have Hip Dysplasia -- http://www.ida.net/users/tonyd/Collie_Health.htm#Hip -- or Collies too small blood barrier in their brains which makes some of them "ivermectin sensitive". Ivermectin is a common and well-recommended heartworm medication that causes seizures and death in those collies. -- http://www.ida.net/users/tonyd/Collie_Health.htm#HW --

In order to create a new “strain”, a breeder will select various animals that display the desired traits. He then will cull out of the program any animals that either do not have the desired traits or display undesirable traits. This strain is tightly interbred until a desired finished product is obtained. Sometimes new blood will have to be reintroduced into the breeding program to curtail a tendency to continually produce undesired traits.

Once the final breed is created it is only re-bred back into its own line without new blood being introduced. For instance all US collies can be traced back to one male introduced in the early 1900s.


smokefoot
Posted 08 December 2006 at 10:01 am

"Is 5 even a viable number to start from? I thought it needed to be around 200 or so in most species, and only then if you were very deliberate or lucky about who bred with who?"

The usual rule of thumb is 50/500 - 50 individuals is considered the minimum for the species to survive, and 500 for it to thrive (resist new diseases and such). But I believe that that is in the wild - a dog breed in captivity can survive problems that would wipe out a wild species.


cerebulon
Posted 08 December 2006 at 10:37 am

I have a friend who professionally shows and breeds English Bulldogs. According to her, most dog breeds can be traced back to the mastiffs. Because of this, when breeders want to cause a dog to inherit older traits they cross-breed them with pure mastiffs. She mentioned that breeders are trying to re-create the Old English Bulldog, which is now extict and known only from paintings, using this method. I would guess that these dog breeders used a method like this to breed the Puffin Dog back from extinction.

I can't believe that a viable population could start from only 5 animals. I would think their combined genetic disorders would be life-threatening.

Does the term species really apply to dogs within different breeds? I've always thought that true dogs were all of the same species of canine, while wolves, foxes, dingos and African wild dogs were actually different species. Am I wrong here?


cerebulon
Posted 08 December 2006 at 10:45 am

P.S. Speaking of weird mutant doggies, our family had a Chihuahua at one point who had two complete rows of teeth. Not a one of his puppy-teeth ever fell out - from the incisors to his molars. He never seemed to have any trouble eating so we never had it corrected. He had one hell of a bite. Ow.


ChickenHead
Posted 08 December 2006 at 11:12 am


cerebulon said: I can't believe that a viable population could start from only 5 animals. I would think their combined genetic disorders would be life-threatening.

A life-threatening genetic disorder? Like the mentioned Lundehund syndrome? Yeah, that's how those things (and the defects Radiatidon described) come about - massive inbreeding, often with too low of a breeding stock.


cerebulon said: Does the term species really apply to dogs within different breeds? I've always thought that true dogs were all of the same species of canine, while wolves, foxes, dingos and African wild dogs were actually different species. Am I wrong here?"

The word you are looking for is "subspecies".


ChickenHead
Posted 08 December 2006 at 11:19 am

just_dave said: "Very interesting read on a very interesting breed. Amazing how well "adapted" the Lundehund is for Puffin hunting; you'd almost think it was designed for the task. ;o)"

Tongue-In-Cheek comment aside, they *were* designed, by their breeders. As with any specific breed of dog (or other domesticated animal), their selective breeding was casued by a directed goal of their human owners. Wether that can be classified as being part of nature as a whole, or beyond/aside/etc, becomes semantics.


James
Posted 08 December 2006 at 11:25 am

Genetically speaking domestic dogs and wolves and other “wild” dogs are not different enough to be different species. They can interbreed and produce perfectly viable offspring (and do).

The whole idea of breading dogs to create specific physical traits or have “purebred” (other wise known as inbred mutant dogs with multiplied genetic problems) dogs is ridiculous to me. If you want a good dog get a mutt. They tend to be much more stable and healthy. In the search to build designer dogs we have twisted and mutated these poor animals to the point they can’t breath or they have nervous disorders and mental problems or hip problems or any number of other problems we have built into them. I can assure you that dogs like this were not made they evolved. We helped them along but I can’t imagine farmers 1000 years ago thinking “you know if only these dogs had 6 toes … how do we breed for that” If you think they did you are applying modern ideas out of context. They simply chose the best dogs to breed. If one dog was better at its job it would have more opportunity to pass one it’s genes. Nobody went around deliberately breading these traits into dogs you are thinking of the Sadistic selfish mad scientists we know as Dog breeders, not farmers and hunters trying to squeak out a living in harsh conditions.
Rather than trying to preserve these dogs why have they not placed more importance on riding them of the genetic disease that basically staves them to death. I mean who do these people think they are helping certainly not the dogs.


honglien123
Posted 08 December 2006 at 11:45 am

My first reaction was to gush about the cuuuute dog, and then I read the article and gushed about the cuuuute and very cool dog. Definitely DI! Although, a bit freaky with the picture of dog with it's front legs stretched out. Almost cartoonish and anthropomorphic.


honglien123
Posted 08 December 2006 at 11:46 am

hmm...its not it's. Apparantly, I need to go back to fourth grade.


James
Posted 08 December 2006 at 12:27 pm

ChickenHead said: "Tongue-In-Cheek comment aside, they *were* designed, by their breeders. As with any specific breed of dog (or other domesticated animal), their selective breeding was casued by a directed goal of their human owners. Wether that can be classified as being part of nature as a whole, or beyond/aside/etc, becomes semantics."

One other possibility would be that a feral population of dogs was already hunting puffins and Humans simply adopted them and integrated then into there own domestic dog population . Just a thought.


1c3d0g
Posted 08 December 2006 at 04:38 pm

Awesome article. Dogs rule! :-D


ti83
Posted 08 December 2006 at 06:05 pm

Man, that is the coolest dog ever! Though, it would be alot cooler if they could breed it to breathe fire...


Prince
Posted 08 December 2006 at 07:07 pm

Yea, because then it could catch and roast the puffins.


Drakvil
Posted 08 December 2006 at 07:17 pm

The problem with fire-breathing dogs, though, would be that the pilot light would keep going out at first...

James had a good point about people 1000 years ago breeding dogs... they wouldn't have known much about genetics, just the generality that animals and people tend to "get that from their father or mother". So they probably observed which dogs were best at getting puffins, and paired them. When they saw a neighbor that had a dog that was really good at getting at puffins, they would ask if they could get one of the pups... since the puppies would be a form of currency, the ones best at getting puffins would be worth the most. And males would be hired out for stud if they were really good, especially since that could be done much more often and in much less time than producing puppies to deliver to someone.


brienhopkins
Posted 08 December 2006 at 10:14 pm

So the words "bitch" and "stud" both come from dog breeding.


Silverhill
Posted 09 December 2006 at 12:29 am

Well, 'bitch' certainly pertains only to dogs and their close kin, but 'stud' applies to male dogs, horses, cattle, and some other animals (possibly only mammals) kept for breeding purposes. (An exception is a male breeding cat--a 'tom', he's called.) This usage of 'stud' antedates A.D. 1000.


brienhopkins
Posted 09 December 2006 at 01:58 am

Well, look who's Mr. Smarty-Pants.


ti83
Posted 09 December 2006 at 01:01 pm

Why aren't I highly valued, I have 12 toes?


Misfit
Posted 09 December 2006 at 01:35 pm

Wow!! Okay first of all, one of the most unusual things I've seen here thus far is in the comments section. hualin1988la, you are the first that I have ever seen in my history with the DI comment section, and all of the extremely various things said there, to have a comment be erased.

I was beginning to think DI just didn't do that sort of thing.

Second of all, yeah I'm sure they're rare and all, but...

1. Where can I get one?
and
2. How much?

Norway is really cool. I'm half Norwegian myself. I've never been to Norway, but my uncle travels the world, and he believes that Norway is the most beautiful place he's been to yet. So, naturally... I want one.


Alan Bellows
Posted 09 December 2006 at 02:32 pm

Misfit said: "Wow!! Okay first of all, one of the most unusual things I've seen here thus far is in the comments section. hualin1988la, you are the first that I have ever seen in my history with the DI comment section, and all of the extremely various things said there, to have a comment be erased.

I was beginning to think DI just didn't do that sort of thing."

The only comments we erase are the ones such as that one, which was SPAM (links posted by automated bots trying to sell crap that has nothing to do with the article). We're pretty uncomfortable with the idea of deleting comments made by real people.


Silverhill
Posted 09 December 2006 at 08:31 pm

brienhopkins, if you have a serious objection to broadening the scope of your knowledge, then what are you doing here?!


brienhopkins
Posted 09 December 2006 at 09:40 pm

Silverhill,

I'm just joking with you. Broadening my scope of knowledge rocks.


Silverhill
Posted 09 December 2006 at 11:42 pm

Glad to know it! (Sorry I took you seriously...but I have seen some others here who seem to be genuinely opposed to learning. "A firmly closed mind", and all that. :-(


mestebanez
Posted 10 December 2006 at 05:02 am

Very good article. Congratulations.


Random5
Posted 10 December 2006 at 10:05 am

50th! Wow. Maybe if everyone makes a note of what number their post is all these people who claim 'first' will realise how silly they are. After all, I'm obviously 50 times as cool.

ti83 said: "Why aren't I highly valued, I have 12 toes?"

Only if you'll agree to breed with another 12 toed person to bring the trait out.

Very interesting to see a description of how this breed came about. When you think about it breeding is like evolution cranked to the next level... instead of an environment selecting which members will reproduce by chance, we've been doing it more directly and created astonishing diversity in such a short time period comparative to unassisted evolution.


AntEconomist
Posted 10 December 2006 at 11:40 am

Random5 said: "When you think about it breeding is like evolution cranked to the next level… instead of an environment selecting which members will reproduce by chance, we've been doing it more directly and created astonishing diversity in such a short time period comparative to unassisted evolution."

It's interesting how we tend to think of humans as being "external" to the environment. The environment *is* selecting which members will produce because humans are part of the environment. It's no different than lions selecting for faster antelope by eating the slow ones.


brienhopkins
Posted 10 December 2006 at 01:57 pm

But, unlike the faster antelope, the Puffin Dogs are not selected for survival, rather ability to hunt puffin.


AntEconomist
Posted 10 December 2006 at 03:57 pm

brienhopkins said: "But, unlike the faster antelope, the Puffin Dogs are not selected for survival, rather ability to hunt puffin."

That's the interesting thing. Effectively, the dogs are selected for survival. The humans' survival depended on bagging the Puffins, therefore the humans bred the dog to catch the Puffins. Ergo, the dogs were selected for survival.


ti83
Posted 10 December 2006 at 04:48 pm

AntEconomist, that is interesting. I never thought about our survival as a species being dependent on another species' "evolutionary path." Perhaps, then, evolution says a bit more than I've ever thought. Like, that evolution is a global evolution, a complete entity, not the evolution of a fish or a dog, but the evolution of all these cohabitating organisms.


brienhopkins
Posted 10 December 2006 at 06:32 pm

AntEconomist said: "That's the interesting thing. Effectively, the dogs are selected for survival. The humans' survival depended on bagging the Puffins, therefore the humans bred the dog to catch the Puffins. Ergo, the dogs were selected for survival."

Good point, but unlike the antelope, the dogs were selected for survival of another species, rather than itself.


robo
Posted 10 December 2006 at 09:48 pm

brienhopkins said: "Good point, but unlike the antelope, the dogs were selected for survival of another species, rather than itself."

Except that if the humans couldn't get puffin maybe they'd start eating the dogs.


etonalife
Posted 11 December 2006 at 12:32 am

robo said: "Except that if the humans couldn't get puffin maybe they'd start eating the dogs."

Right. It was the dogs who chose the humans for breeding. Look we've (almost) entirely stopped eating them, put them in astounding numbers all over the globe, a growing number do less and less work in conjunction with being more intesely groomed and scratched. Dolphins would be jealous...

On another note, to go back to what James said:

"Rather than trying to preserve these dogs why have they not placed more importance on riding them of the genetic disease that basically staves them to death. I mean who do these people think they are helping certainly not the dogs."

I used to agree with that, until very recently I read an article in "Scientific American" about how various breeds of dogs seem to have the same ailments as people, particularly cancer. The Boxer is susceptible to brain cancer, the Chow Chow to stomach cancer, the Golden to lymphoma, etc... Apparently medications developed through rat-testing often don't work nearly as well in humans, and the breed-specific ailments in dogs may drastically improve our methods of perfecting treatments. Especially since the canine cancers look and act like the human forms under microscope.

So perhaps we've ceased to need the origins of most breeds, but now each breed has a new task of helping us.


James
Posted 11 December 2006 at 09:19 am

etonalife said:


I used to agree with that, until very recently I read an article in "Scientific American" about how various breeds of dogs seem to have the same ailments as people, particularly cancer. The Boxer is susceptible to brain cancer, the Chow Chow to stomach cancer, the Golden to lymphoma, etc… Apparently medications developed through rat-testing often don't work nearly as well in humans, and the breed-specific ailments in dogs may drastically improve our methods of perfecting treatments. Especially since the canine cancers look and act like the human forms under microscope.

So perhaps we've ceased to need the origins of most breeds, but now each breed has a new task of helping us."

I’m sorry but when it comes to over breeding and inbreeding of particular breeds of dog that is a very thin argument. You know unless you’re a fool that these dogs are not being bred for research into Human disease. The Animal rights people would be flipping a giant wig if we were breeding genetic dieses in to dogs for research!!! They are being bred because they look cute or look tuff or they fulfill some other vanity that the prospective owner needs to fill. Not unlike buying a Hummer or a Prius. They are bred to make a statement about the owner, regardless whether the dogs are bred to be healthy or if the dog needs fit the owner’s life style. So please don’t insult mine and everybody here’s intelligence with cockamamie arguments that you and I know are ridiculous. I don’t mean to be dismissive of your logic but you know we don’t need to continue to breed a dog that has and genetic intestinal disease that more or lease starve the dog to death regardless of how much they eat because they are afraid to water down the “Pure Bred” credentials.

And to those who want one. You should know that they are very high maintenance
Dogs. They need constant medical and special care. They are very high energy and will drive you crazy if you don’t give them an outlet for it. Or worse you will think that the dog has a behavioral problem when really it is the owner. Most Dog “behavioral problems are because the owner wants a cool looking dog that will walk around with them occasionally or ride in there handbag but will be perfectly happy sitting around all day and night will the owner is at work or while their ass is glued to the couch watching TV. So they go out and buy a high energy working or hunting dog (a terrier or a lab) and wonder why it tears up there house exhibits behavior that bred into them that we in our modern lives will not tolerate and will not give an outlet for. Do you and a potential pet a favor when deciding on a dog pick one that matches your life style not you shoes.


ballaerina
Posted 11 December 2006 at 10:25 am

http://www.lundehund.com/ has some more information (and more cute pictures).


Ryly
Posted 11 December 2006 at 10:36 am

Wow, James, that seems to be a real hot-button for you!

Breeds are not always for show. Many responsible breeders and owners choose a particular breed for the traits and personality bred into that breed. Some breeds are even still used for the reasons they were bred. I certainly agree that some breeds have been bred to extremes which are absurd and even harmful, but don't condemn all pure breds!

Humans have been breeding dogs for centuries; Salukis are one of the oldest breeds; from akc.org: The Saluki, royal dog of Egypt, is perhaps the oldest known breed of domesticated dog. They are identified by some historians as "a distinct breed and type as long ago as 329 B.C. when Alexander the Great invaded India."

The Lundehund is a fascinating breed! I wonder what the personality traits are? As far as some of the highly unusual physical traits, I think one poster may have pegged it when they suggested that the Lundehund may have been bred from a dog that already was hunting puffins on its own.

If you are interested in adding a dog to your family, though, do NOT choose it because it "looks cool" or it "fits on your handbag" or it "looks mean" or any reasoning that isn't fair to the life of the dog, and to your family. Research breeds and dogs (here's a fantastic author: http://www.stanleycoren.com/library.htm ) and look into rescue groups. NEVER buy from a pet shop or backyard breeder.

Although I still think it'd be cool to have a polydactilic dog!


sulkykid
Posted 11 December 2006 at 01:46 pm

All dogs are "polydactyl", these dogs are "extra-polydactyl".

smilespray said: "Unless you're a vegetarian, why would you treat them any differently to any other game bird? :-)

I'm from the area, and can testify that Puffins taste great."

I would think that puffins, being fish-eaters, would taste horrible! My father used to cook coots once in a while and I could not even go into the kitchen for the smell.


James
Posted 11 December 2006 at 02:33 pm

Ryly said: "


The Lundehund is a fascinating breed! I wonder what the personality traits are? As far as some of the highly unusual physical traits, I think one poster may have pegged it when they suggested that the Lundehund may have been bred from a dog that already was hunting puffins on its own.
"

That was me by the way.

From What I understand Kind of hyper with lots of energy. Definitely not an apartment dog or for a couch potato owner or for people that don’t like Huge vet bills (the attentive being a dead every expensive dog)

Yes there are a few very few dog breeder breeding dogs for there original purpose. As for ancient breeds, yes people have been selecting traits in dogs for thousands of years. But not like most of the breeders today. They selected for heath and effectiveness not a flat noise so it looks like a puppy all it’s life (don’t worry that the dog can’t breath) or micro mini size or to meet the physical standers of a “Breed”. Pure Breed dogs for the sake of pure breed dogs is a silly and often destructive pursue but if you want to defend the master race dog breeders go a head.

Your right this is a hot button for me. I have owned a few pure bred dogs and in every case with the exception of my cocker spaniel they have had problems that were the result of genetic problems (found out later to me) that is just common of this type of breed or that breed. So yes I have had to watch dogs of mine struggle with problems that were caused by “reputable” dog breeders. It is the attitude associated with a pure breed dog that leads to all of this. Why not instead of breeding size and shape bred for tolerance loyalty and health I think there would be a lot less dogs in the pound from owners who thought a Jack Russell was a great apartment dog (after all Jim Carry had one) than found out they need tons of exercise to and will chew your stuff up if they don’t get it. So they end up euthanized or in the pound. It’s just all vanity


etonalife
Posted 11 December 2006 at 05:38 pm

I think you misuderstood my intentions James. I was not advocating breeding the diseases into the dogs, I was making a (if futile) brief case about dog breeds and their natural afflictions and how their problems are our problems. So if we can figure out how to more easily prevent brain cancer in a Boxer, we will probably have created a better method to use on humans. We have a very symbiotic relationship with these animals, and it is perhaps just our luck that individual breeds are more susceptible to individual cancers. I agree with you that this is not the primary reason for modern breeding techniques, but I disagree that these pure-breds are functionless and serve no purpose to humans other than vanity. I agree with you that more pure-breds ought to have mutt offspring. Sure maybe we can breed out the Boxer's affinity for brain cancer, but we cannot dare breed it out of humans. So while you're trying to eradicate pure-breds, why don't you also try to use what pure-breds are here for something other than this vile vanity which by we are all consumed.


James
Posted 11 December 2006 at 05:58 pm

Well said. I am not advocating getting rid of breeding but do think that we need to consider the dog’s health before we consider their form. It’s the idea of ignoring or even tolerating those genetic problems to achieve a physical bred standard that is so offensive to me. And I see far to much of that in the Breeding world. I think that many people are beginning to change that however I have seen no mention in my searching that in the case of the Lundehund they have tried to do this.


ashade
Posted 12 December 2006 at 10:02 am

To the question of extra toes on animals - it is my understanding that any animal with more than the regular number of toes is considered "polydactyl." In dogs - extra toes on the rear paws are known as dewclaws and tend to be floppy and connected only by skin. These are the ones that are removed. Certain breeds, such as the Great Pyrenees, have dewclaws that are connected to the bone and I believe it is a requirement for the breed. Most dogs have five toes on the front and four on the back. The front ones are commonly connected to the bone enabling the dogs to use them to hold things for chewing or climbing. I have seen dogs that are not Lundehunds climb trees using these toes. I find the flexibility of the Lundehund to be far more interesting than the number of toes. Great post!


Ryly
Posted 13 December 2006 at 04:21 pm

James said: ...Pure Breed dogs for the sake of pure breed dogs is a silly and often destructive pursue but if you want to defend the master race dog breeders go a head.

Again, wow, you take quite an extreme view! "master race"?!?! LOL

James said: ...I have owned a few pure bred dogs and in every case with the exception of my cocker spaniel they have had problems that were the result of genetic problems (found out later to me) that is just common of this type of breed or that breed. So yes I have had to watch dogs of mine struggle with problems that were caused by “reputable” dog breeders.

"Reputable" dog owners, which are also similarly rare, will research a breed before they buy one so they know about its temperament, size, activity and grooming requirements, as well as any health-related issues.


ArtistJeannie
Posted 13 December 2006 at 06:59 pm

Hello, all. This is my first online comment ever! Wow!

Great site. I can see a lot of wasted time online in my future...well, not really wasted.

About the dog: it's possible the extra toes showed up in one dog, who was then used to breed more by the observant humans around him. Animal husbandry has been going on a long, long time now, and in ancient times was surprisingly (to us moderns) sophisticated.

For anyone interested in reading about genetics, evolution etc. I can HIGHLY recommend Stephen Jay Gould's works. The late professor at Harvard had a real touch for explaining science in an interesting way. He wrote a monthly column for Natural History magazine for many years, and collections of these are readily available. He also proposed, with a colleague, the concept of Punctuated Equilibrium in evolution. It is quite fascinating.

On breeders: it is not only some dog breeders who are breeding for traits that can harm the animal; cat breeders and horse breeders are doing it too. Persian cats with their noses so smushed in that they have respiratory and jaw problems; Siamese that are so anorexic-looking it seems their spines should collapse; race horses with small hooves and thin hocks and legs who suffer from shattered hooves and legs.....

The people who engage in this are not altruistic animal lovers; they like power over other living things, and they like to make money from animals. Yes, I've heard them protest that they love the dogs or the cats or the horses, but really, actions do speak louder than words. If they continue to breed animals to conform to standards of appearance and performance rather than good health, then I cannot agree they love or respect their animals as individual inhabitants who share the planet with us.

That's my two cents worth! Was it worth two cents?

Alan Bellows: keep up the great work! Love this site!!


James
Posted 15 December 2006 at 02:34 pm

Ryly said: "Again, wow, you take quite an extreme view! "master race"?!?! LOL

"Reputable" dog owners, which are also similarly rare, will research a breed before they buy one so they know about its temperament, size, activity and grooming requirements, as well as any health-related issues."

The Master Race Comment was a bit tongue and cheek. But the attitudes I have encountered with some people and there “Pure Breeds” is similar.

As far as Dog owners, that is my point part of my point that many do not. As far and genetic diseases that are common to certain pure breeds. Take a look at this link they all have long lists.

http://www.petdoc.ws/BreedPre.htm

And this site about interbreeding very common in the Pure bred world in order to keep them pure and meet physical standers no matter what the cost

http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/vet00/vet00056.htm


Bryan Lowder
Posted 16 December 2006 at 08:34 pm

Sparky said: "Does anyone know where all the genetic variability comes from in dogs?

It's more than just appearances; I heard a guest lecturer at the U of Utah talk about their remarkable genetic plasticity, far more than that of cats. Apparently, a lot of the variability comes from a tendency to form a lot of repeat sequences in regulatory genes; these repeat sequences affect development more than had previously been suspected. The reason for the tendency to repeat tendency wasn't known when the guy came by a year ago or so-- thus no, I don't think anybody knows where it comes from. I can't track down the lecturer's name, but he sure was excited about pigeons. Apparently they are also putty in breeder's hands.

A few other points, sorry, I'm not going to bother quoting:

-Bacteria reproduce asexually. They mutate quickly. A clonal population will soon diverge-- you can literally watch evolution in a test tube.

-I have heard that Chihuahuas and Great Danes, although labeled the same "species", cannot interbreed, and not just for mechanical reasons. Sperm and egg in a dish won't create a viable embryo.

-"Subspecies " does not yet have a formal definition. For bacteria, it's "serovar"; for plants, it's "cultivar". I have no idea what it is for dogs.

-I lived in Norway for two years (Mormon mission) and I seem to recall meeting one of these dogs. It had the cute helical tail. The owner didn't tell me all the stuff in this article, but he said that they were part fox-- which is pure balderdash.

-BJL


beatroks
Posted 04 February 2007 at 05:17 am

I've finally found your website accidently while looking for information on Puffins :P They really taste good huh?

Anyway just wanted to say what a Damn Interesting :P article this sure is and just as interesting if not more so reading your comments.
I look forward to hopefully having a valueable contribution one day.

-Scott

oh and i think im number 69 :S


bill dunn
Posted 03 April 2007 at 09:29 am

Well, Pufffins are no big deal to me but that Lundehund ... now that is a very interesting Dog. I was interested I reseached more and found photos , descriptions more information about these Dogs. I finally made a report at the site .. Find a purebred dog at http://www.findapurebred.com Check it out.


Jospec5Star
Posted 15 January 2009 at 06:49 pm

Now it says that there are texts that describe the dog but are there texts that describe how they bred this dog. Is it not possible that this is a unique dog not because of selective breeding but because it was originally designed for this task? Maybe I missed something but I saw no definite indication that this was bred rather than natural. I'm sure you could genetically test these dogs to find out their heritage though. DI nonetheless.


comamoto
Posted 29 January 2009 at 11:39 am

YAY! First time I've ever posted!
I'm offically obsessed with this website...if I lose my job, you'll know why...

Anyhoo, the subject of in-breeding dogs made me remember a NYTimes article my friend told me about a couple years ago. It's a (if I do say so myself) damn interesting article about the huge number of genetic defects in the dog population brought about by unscrupulous in-breeding of dogs to bring out recessive traits such as blue-tinged fur or extremely small size (basically wanting dogs which resemble anime characters). It's rather awful, particularly this paragraph:

"The breeder told Mr. Sasaki that he had bred a dog with three generations of offspring — in human terms, first with its daughter, then a granddaughter and then a great-granddaughter — until Keika was born. The other four puppies in the litter were so hideously deformed that they were killed right after birth."

Here's the link to the article in full:
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/28/business/28dogs.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

Had mutts all my life. Love 'em!

YAY!! First post ever!


END OF COMMENTS
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