Where to start?
It seems a handful of Lundehund owners and puppy peddlers are terribly upset that I posted on the fact that Lundehunds are a genetic mess due to inbreeding, and that the famed six toes (preserved by inbreeding) of these dogs is actually not necessary for catching puffins.
Someone by the name of Pia Suopanki tells me, for starters, that I am using the wrong term for the illness plaguing Lunderhund which she says is "IL /PLE." She sniffs that "I (unlike you) used correct accurate terms when discussing the illnesses."
Might I suggest she try using "the Google"? I even provided a link to a simple Google search for Lundehund gastroenteropathy, the term I used in the blog post.
She came back immediately, of course, not bothering to click on anything:
I have lost 3 dogs to said illness, so one could say I know quite a bit about it. Of course I read / heard / discussed it before any unfortunate personal experience of it, as well. IN LAYMAN'S TERMS it is referred to as Lundehund gastroenteropathy, but that is not the proper scientific term for the illnesses. And yes, it does matter. Also for someone who claims to have researched it thoroughly, you seem to have a very poor understanding of it.
She is an expert by dint of repeatedly failing to acquire a healthy pet. God save us from this kind of "expert"! And she read up on the disease before acquiring this breed? And she sniffs about "layman's terms" preferring the gibberish of an alphabet soup? Oh Lord, save us from Finnish puppy peddlers!
I went to the first link on the first article in the Google search I provided to her; an article from VetFolio entitled "Gastroenteropathy in Norwegian Lundehunds" and quoted it back to her:
In the past, this disease has been referred to merely as protein-losing enteropathy (PLE), although it is now well established that gastric abnormalities are present as well. Lundehund syndrome, as described in this article, may include components of gastritis, PLE, intestinal lymphangiectasia, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and malabsorption and has been described in the Lundehund populations of Europe and North America.
In short, Lundehund gastroenteropathy is the correct term, and it is a collection of serious issues, with dogs presenting with diarrhea (76.7%), vomiting (72.1%), ascites (46.5%), edema (44.2%), weight loss (32.6%), and lethargy (20.9%).
To be clear, this was not a new article; it came out in 2007 and so the terms have been quite well defined for over a decade.
Read the article and you will also see that the history of the breed is pretty well documented, and it is not too complicated.
I am not sure how having three dogs that died from this disease makes Ms. Suopanki an expert. It might make her a slow learner or a lunatic. It certainly makes her a strange person with a diminished sense of empathy.
Who would knowingly encourage the breeding of defective dogs that, in effect, starve to death? This is the kind of psychopathic behavior that is driving the embrace of laws against Torture Breeding.
So what's going on here? What's the kerfuffle all about?
It's a very simple and common thing. People love stories and they love freaks. If you are selling dogs, it pays to combine the two. If you do that, you might end up with a "very special dog for very special people," and never mind if the dog is actually broken and defective, has serious congenital issues, or if the story itself is a near-complete fabrication.
Remember you are NOT selling dogs to people who are actually going to be using them to hunt Puffins! Good Lord, no! You think Kennel Club Rhodesian Ridgebacks are sold to hunt lions or Irish Wolf Hounds are used to hunt wolves? You think Kennel Club German Shepherds are used to herd sheep? No, no, and nope!
The business of selling dogs does not have much to do with functional dogs at all.
It's about selling story to people who are as common as turnip tops but who want to feel special about themselves, and who want to present themselves as interesting and unusual.
And so the all-breed books slather on the icing.
Did you know that this particular dog has a direct connection to Kings, Vikings, Gypsies, and the battle of whatever?
Did you know this toy poodle was bred to hunt wild boar and crocodiles in Africa?
And so it goes, with one fanciful tale after another told and copied from book to book.
Once folks have chosen a storied breed, it now becomes THEIR breed and their story, with their personal identity too often wrapped up in the dog.
And how does it end? Too often it's that their first [insert name of breed] died early of [insert disease name].
"No problem," say the puppy peddlers; they have another dog just like the last one to sell you.
Not sure you want to do that again? Well, they patiently go, this breed really does need rescuing. How about you RESCUE THE BREED? Please buy another dog to help "rescue the breed"!
And so people plop down their credit cards, again and again, buying a noble story, an identity, and perhaps a cause too.
I have mocked the phenomenon in the past with the creation of the Kill Devil Terrier, the Management Shepherd, the North American Pocket Lurcher, and about a dozen other breeds that I have knitted up with "Just So" stories.
So what's the truth about the Lundehund?
It's certainly true it is a genetic and inbred mess, descended from less than a half dozen dogs, and plagued with a serious and too often life-threatening disease called Lundehund gastroenteropathy.
It is also true that you do not need Lundehunds to hunt Puffins, as you can see from the video of Gordon Ramsey doing it old school at the top.
It is also true that Puffins exist in large colonies across the North Atlantic, and are typically hunted with long-poled nets and long-poles with nooses.
The total Atlantic Puffin population is somewhere between 9.5 and 12 MILLION birds. Vast nesting colonies of these birds exist and nowhere does anyone use Lundehunds to hunt them.
Did they ever use Lundehunds to hunt Puffins?
Hard to say.
All we know for certain is that while we have a lot of video tape and pictures of the Lochness Monster and Big Foot, there is a strange paucity of film or pictures of anyone hunting Puffins with Lundehunds. I am not saying it never occurred. What I am saying is that dogs were never necessary, and still aren't, as the film at top makes clear. The film below illuminates why:
The business of catching Puffins then is about catching adult birds to eat, and that's best done with nets and nooses at crowded communal nesting sites. You do not have to run around too much if you are in the right place; the birds will simply fly into you. And, for the record, the biggest threat to Puffins is not hunting, but non-native rats; a fact true for nesting island birds the world over.
The Lundehund breeders are quite comical in their insistence that I have it ALL wrong, but they are somewhat at a loss as to how I have it all wrong. They offer no links and no pictures or video tape of Lundehunds hunting puffins.
One Jason Leach sent me an email saying "Please remove your article about the Norwegian Lundehund. It is filled with errors, false hoods, mis-interpretations of the truth," and then he goes on to say he will graciously help me "rewrite the article so it is factual."
Right. Mr Leach is from Delaware and apparently a rug merchant. He does not use his dogs to hunt anything, I assure you.
Mr. Leach goes on to NOT name a single error, falsehood, or mis-representation of the truth! Instead, he says "DNA tests confirm that the Lundehund is likely the oldest purebred dog, though there may be an argument for Dingos and New Guinea Singing Dogs. If you respond, I can provide data from a DNA study done by the canine genetics lab at UC Davis for your information."
Um... no? I really have no interest in conversing with people who cannot read.
I do not talk about the putative age of the genetic stock of the Lundehund at all.
Spitz dogs (the Lundehund is simply a not-too attractive spitz-type) are among the ancient types.
But so what? It doesn't make the Lundehund healthy, and it doesn't make the dog necessary for catching Puffins. And as for that extra dew claw (see picture here) it really is not much help in climbing.
Mr. Leach then tells me, in another missive on Facebook, that the Puffins were collected for their down, not their meat, and that the dogs on these remote islands were heavily taxed because the down collectors were so rich.
Nope. Taxes on small islands are almost never collected on anything. That's true today, and was more true in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Norwegians on islands and on the mainland dress in wool which keeps you dry when wet, and they did that in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, and they still do that today. Is there a Puffin down business anywhere in the world where they still hunt Puffins? If not, then that might tell you something about the non-existence of this trade, as tools generally do not go extinct.
Whats funny here is that the very word PUFFIN refers to the cured meat of the bird. It has an an Anglo-Norman origin and the Middle English word is pophyn or poffin which refers to the cured carcasses. It's not a deeply hidden bit of information!
I could go on and give other fantastic stories told by Lundehund folks: that the dogs came to the islands before the last Ice Age, that the dogs are actually a more recent creation that came after the Vikings, that the Vikings sent the dogs to England where they became Corgis, that the Vikings never left southern Norway and Sweden and Denmark and never hunted Puffins or had Lundehunds at all...
The fables and counter-fables go on and on.
In truth, the dog dealers have no idea when six toes showed up in their very common-looking spitz dogs, or how those six toes are actually beneficial to hunting Puffins since not one of them actually hunts Puffins.
The dogs dealers are at a loss to explain why six-toed dogs are not seen elsewhere where Puffins are hunted, or even (it appears) why Puffins were and are hunted.
They would like folks to think that a sea-faring people with a great product never managed to export that product to any other location in the world where Puffins were, and are, being actively hunted
But doesn't that seems odd?
Every other working dog has traveled the world.
We have Mongolian running dogs chasing hares in Montana, English terriers going to ground in Virginia, and Scottish sheep dogs moving flocks in New Zealand.
We have German dachshunds cornering badger in France, Australian sheep dogs gathering wool in California, and Alaskan sled dogs pulling carts in Yorkshire.
We have French dogs used to gather truffles in Italy, American dogs used to bring down feral pigs in Australia, and all kinds of pointers, setters, and retrievers working from one corner of the world to the other.
But despite the fact that there are 12 million Puffins in the world, no one seems to be using Lundehunds anywhere for anything. They are not even used to ferret out other birds that nest underground (such as the Kea in New Zealand).
Instead, all we've got are dog dealer stories that circle again and again around inbreeding which results in deformity and crippling defect.
So how to end this?
Let me close with advice I wrote some years back for an article in Dogs Today:
Avoid any breed with a disease named after it. If the breed under consideration has a disease named after it, consider that fair warning! Almost all breeds carry a genetic load of some kind, but some loads are much heavier than others. The last thing you want to discover is that your breed is "really prone" to cancer, hip dysplasia, heart problems, "eye anomaly," epilepsy, or congenital skin conditions.
Bingo. I could not say it better today.