Puffin Dog: A Very Unique Dog Breed

The Puffin dog is a very unique dog with several unusual characteristics. The breed is famous in history for having been a great hunter of puffin birds.

The Norwegian Lundehund (Lunde meaning puffin and hund meaning dog) was bred to hunt and retrieve the puffin bird, a meat and feather crop for the people living on the northern coast of Norway. It is uncertain when the breed first appeared but written references and drawings date them back to as early as the 1500s.

The Lundehund had to climb steep vertical cliffs and maneuver in tight crevices to get to the birds. Overtime, the following characteristics evolved, allowing the puffin dog to perform his job like a pro:

They have six toes on each foot (all fully formed, jointed and muscled) and elongated foot pads - this helped them to climb, descend and brake on steep cliffs and slippery rocks. The innermost toes also helped the dog get a good foothold when lying on his side, squeezing through a tight tunnel.

They have a flexible neck that allows the head to bend backward to touch the spine - this helped them to turn around in tight spaces.

They have flexible shoulder joints that allow the dog to "throw out his arms" - this helped them to hang on to rocks, especially if they lost their footing.

They have ears that close both forward and backward at will - this helped them to keep their ears free of dirt and water, and allowed them to flatten their ears against their head while going through narrow spaces.

These special characteristics attest to the ancient history of the breed, as these are primitive qualities that have been lost in the evolution of most other dog breeds.

The puffin dog population began to decline when government taxes were levied on each dog and nets were used as an alternative to catching the birds. In the 1800s, the puffin bird became a protected species and the Lundehund was no longer useful. This caused their numbers to greatly decrease. In the 1940s, some dedicated Norwegians saved the breed from becoming extinct. The Norwegian Lundehund came to the US in the late 1980s, and was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2011. The puffin dog is a rare breed, with the majority of them living in Norway.