Webbed feet consist of toes connected by a membrane and are characteristic of animals with a history of spending time in aquatic environments. Just like flippers, the main function of webbed feet is to help animals effectively paddle through water. On top of helping water creatures propel themselves through water, webbed feet also help them walk over muddy surfaces. Animals with webbed feet therefore have a history of leading an amphibious life (able to live both on land and in water). While dogs are terrestrial animals, some dog breeds are known for having webbed feet, however, there is a substantial difference between their feet and the webbed feet of animals who spend time in the water.
Water and land creatures such as ducks, frogs, geese, swans and otters are known for having webbed feet.
Because these animals spend a good amount of their life in water, their feet are heavily webbed, and when they walk on land, they may not be very “dexterous” walking over land as terrestrial animals (think ducks, swans and geese waddling).
Dogs, on the other hand, being terrestrial animals, tend to have minimal webbing between their toes.
As cursorial animals that walk on their toes, their feet have been crafted in such a way as to allow them to effectively walk and run over land.
A Touch of Webbing
If you carefully take a peak at the feet of dogs, you’ll likely notice how they all have a bit of “webbing” in between one toe and another. This is normal.
Even humans have a certain extent of “webbing” with some skin found between one finger and another.
This “webbing” though is quite a far cry from the webbing we see in animals who spend more time in the water.
However, interestingly, there are some dogs breeds who have more webbing compared to others. Let’s therefore focus on several dogs breeds with webbed feet.
Dog breeds who have more webbing compared to other dogs are those that have been selectively bred to work in water. This is something that has been noticed for quite some time and is even mentioned by Charles Darwin in the book ” The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication.”
In the book, Darwin mentions how Isidore Geoffrey noticed that in Newfoundlands the webbing reached the third phalanges, while in other dog breeds it extended just up to the second.
According to the American Kennel Club those webbed toes therefore play an important role for water-retrieving dog breeds, helping them swim.
What dog breeds have webbed feet? Following are several dog breeds with a history of working in water and known for having webbed feet:
List of Dog Breeds With Webbed Feet
- Portuguese water dog:
- German Wire-haired Pointer
- Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever
- Wirehaired Pointing Griffon
- American Water Spaniel
- Labrador retriever
Did you know? All the embryos of terrestrial vertebrates have webbed feet, but later on, as they develop and form, through a process known as apoptosi (a process of programmed cell death) the webbing it then eliminated, explains Nelson Çabej in the book “Epigenetic Principles of Evolution.”
- The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication, Volume 2. Voorkant · Charles Darwin. J. Murray, 1868.
- American Kennel Club, Glossary, retrieved from the web on June 9th, 2016
- Epigenetic Principles of Evolution (Elsevier Insights) 1st Edition by