Meet Norwegian athlete Lundehund

Today’s featured breed for the “Breeds 101” series is the Norwegian Lundehund. The Norwegian Lundehund is a very athletic and true breed originally prized for its specialized anatomy allowing it to easily hunt puffins, today they are often found as companions.

Hailing from Værøy, which is a remote, rocky island off the coast of Norway, the Norwegian Lundehund is a Spitz-type dog that was used to hunt puffins. They have many specialized anatomical features unique to their breed that allow them to climb and skid along the cliff, sneak into nesting places, and capture birds. Puffins have been used as a primary source of nutrition during the freezing Arctic winters and the Lundehund has long been the only way to capture them. Once nets became a viable option and dog taxes increased, their use declined until puffins were declared an endangered species, leaving them out of work.

According to the American Kennel Club’s breed standard, the Norwegian Lundehund is “a small, rectangular, agile breed of Spitz with unique characteristics not found in any other breed…a minimum of six toes on each foot and extended rear pads; an elastic neck that allows the head to lean back to touch the spine… and shoulders flexible enough to allow the front legs to lay flat… This shoulder structure produces a particular rotational movement. Finally, the ears close and fold forwards or backwards to protect against debris.

The standard colors seen in Lundehunds are: black, gray, white, yellow, reddish brown or sable and white. The standard markings seen there are: black tips, black markings, white markings or gray markings.

Originally bred to hunt puffins in the remote islands of Norway, the Norwegian Lundehund finds itself today as a companion dog that retains the unique anatomical features that made it such a skilled hunter.

These little pups are 13-15 inches (male), 12-14 inches (female) and weigh 20-30 pounds. The average life expectancy is 12 to 15 years. According to the list of most popular breeds published by the American Kennel Club, these puppies finish the list in last place at 195 out of 195.

Grooming the Norwegian Lundehund requires very little maintenance. They have a double coat that benefits from regular brushing to help remove loose hair and keep the coat healthy and shiny. As with all breeds, their ears and teeth should be regularly cleaned and their nails trimmed.

Although no breed is free from health issues, the Norwegian Lundehund is generally a very hardy breed. The main concern noted by the Norwegian Lundehund Association of America is gastrointestinal (GI) issues. Some believe Lundehunds carry a gene that makes them more prone to gastrointestinal issues. The four known gastrointestinal problems of the breed are: Protein Losing Enteropathy (PLE), Intestinal Lymphangiectasia (IL), Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), and Intestinal Intestinal Disease (IBD).

Having been bred to work, the Lundehund requires daily exercise, but this need can be met with a long walk or a few play sessions. These intelligent puppies are eager to please their owners but can be wary of strangers.

Nearing extinction after the puffins were declared endangered, this ancient breed was brought back by English Setter breeder Eleanor Christie. His kennel houses about 60 Lundehunds. After a second close encounter with extinction around the time of World War II, Monrad Mikalsen joined efforts to bring the breed back again. Today, the breed continues to push back the population thanks to a breeding plan created by Christen Lang.

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