By Langley Cornwell
Many years ago I adopted a dog from the shelter that looked to be partly yellow Labrador; the other parts were anybody’s guess. I always thought she had some type of Spitz breed in her because of her fluffy, high-set tail that arched over her back. She also had what I thought was a Spitz-like personality. One of the things that set her apart was her expressive ears, they could move in every possible direction. Friends and family loved this dog as much as I did… almost. I remember we were at a big outdoor, dog-friendly gathering once and the conversation drifted to favorite dog breeds. More than one person said they wished my dog was a specific breed because they wanted a dog just like her. She was my constant and cherished companion for 17 years.
During the time that precious pup was part of my life, I hadn’t heard of Norwegian Lundehund dogs. Since then, however, I’ve learned that the Lundehund is a small and active Spitz breed that has upright, triangular ears that move in every direction. Their ears can fold forward, backward, or shut at will, just like my dog’s ears. Furthermore, online images of the Norwegian Lundehund look very similar to the way she looked. There’s no way to confirm it (and it certainly doesn’t matter) but I’ve come to believe that my dog was part Lab, part Lundehund.
The Norwegian Lundehund has a distinctive combination of traits not found in any other dogs. The ear acrobatics are one of the special qualities. Another is that this dog breed has six toes on each foot. Additionally, they’re able to lift their head up and tip it backwards so far that it can touch their back bone. That’s a unique set of characteristics for this one-time Puffin hunting dog.
As the name denotes, the Lundehund is from Norway, where their job was to locate and retrieve live Puffin birds from the fissures of sheer upright Norwegian cliffs. At that time, Puffins were a meat and feather crop for the farmers of Norway so the Lundehunds had an important role in the local economy. But in the 1800’s, Puffins became a protected species and Norwegian Lundehunds were no longer needed. The breed numbers sharply decreased and the Norwegian Lundehund dwindled down until the breed was close to extinction. Several concerned Norwegians joined together and established a plan to save the breed, and the plan is working, albeit slowly. There still are not many of these dogs in existence.
One thing that may help the growth of the breed is the fact that the American Kennel Club recently recognized the Norwegian Lundehund.