The Norwegian Lundehund is an ancient dog breed that was used to hunt seabirds along most of the Norwegian coast. The breed name is a combination of the Norwegian words ”lunde” (puffin, Fratercula arctica) and ”hund”, dog.
Photographer: Vibeke Brath
Although the breed’s exact age is not known, there are descriptions of the use of dogs for puffin hunting that are more than 400 years old.
The Lundehund was an important part of the livelihood of Norway’s coastal communities. The dogs were able to enter narrow passageways on the steep cliffs and screes and retrieve the birds alive. Puffin meat was used as food, while the bird’s feathers and down were used in pillows and blankets or exported.
In the 1850s, the use of nets to catch puf¬fins was introduced. In addition, many fishing communities along the northern Norwegian coast were generally depopulated. As a result of these developments there was no longer much nee or the Lundehund, and the breed’s numbers dwindled. However, in Måstad on the isolated island of Værøy, the local population of Lundehund and the hunting traditions linked to these dogs had been maintained.
In the years between the two World Wars, a few dogs were sent from Måstad to Mr. and Mrs. Christie in south-eastern Norway. The couple bred the dogs and the breed’s numbers increased. During the Second World War, canine distemper nearly wiped out the entire Lundehund population on Værøy, but the breed was rescued by dogs sent north by the Christie’s. Thereafter, canine distemper also hit the south-eastern part of Norway, and by the late 1950s the population of Lundehund in the region was almost wiped out. But Eleanor Christie did not give up, and in 1960 she received five dogs from the Måstad population. This time she involved additional breeders, and the Norwegian Lundehund was again saved from extinction.
Appearance and size
The Norwegian Lundehund is a small spitz-type dog, standing 32 – 38 cm at the withers. Males are clearly heavier than bitches. Their body shape is rectangular, the dog thus being slightly longer than it is tall. The coat is usually brown with white markings. The hairs are of medium length, with a dark, smooth overcoat.
Unusual anatomical characteristics
Due to a series of unusual anatomical characteristics, the Norwegian Lundehund is of specific interest for breed conservation work. One of its anatomical peculiarities is that it has six toes on all feet. The front paws have five triple-jointed toes and one double-jointed toe. The extra toes all have well-developed muscles and are thus fully functional. The ears can be sealed by folding them forwards or backwards to protect the inner ear against dirt when the dog is crawling inside of narrow passageways. The dog’s extraordinary agility is enabled by its unique shoulder and neck joints: whereas the forelegs can be moved sideways at a 90 degree angle, the head can be bent backwards along the dog’s own spine. (Source: Den norske hundeboka, Ulvund tekst & forlag).
Breed registration statistics
Below you can find the registration statistics for the Norwegian Lundehund in the Nordic countries from 1990 onwards.