Dog breed with webbed feet may sound like an odd combination. Yet, your dog’s feet are an amazing piece of anatomy. If you think about it, dogs are capable of walking and running on their feet over a vast array of surfaces without any problems through a lifetime while we have gone through hundreds of pairs of shoes. On top of this, dog feet are fascinating because they come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. What is even more fascinating is that dog feet are often crafted to suit the many specific tasks that dogs may have been selectively bred for. You may be therefore curious to learn more about dogs who have webbed feet. Here are some interesting facts about webbed feet in dogs that will quench your thirst for some new knowledge.
Webbed Feet in Dogs
What exactly are webbed feet in dogs? What do they look like and most of all, what breeds are known for having webbed feet? These are all great questions.
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 mostly 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.
"If It Waddles Like a Duck"
Water and land creatures such as ducks, frogs, geese, swans and otters are known for having very distinctive 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.
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Even humans have a certain extent of "webbing" with some skin found between one finger and another. And even wolves, a dog’s ancestors, have some level of webbing between one toe and another if we ever would have a chance to take a look. This slight webbing is there though for a particular reason: it creates ‘snow shoes’ which allow movement through deep snow but in such a way that their movement is lighter and quicker than that of their prey, explains Toni Shelbourne in the book:” The truth about wolves and dogs.”
This "webbing" though is quite a far cry from the webbing we see in animals described above 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.
Dogs Breeds With Webbed Feet List
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
Following are some dog breeds that are known for having more webbing in between their toes compared to others. Discovering why these dogs have such webbing is certainly interesting!
- Portuguese water dogs were bred and trained to help fisherman gather fish into their nets. They also were sent to recover broken nets and any lost equipment floating around.
- Poodles, despite this breed’s fancy looks, were initially used for duck hunting. Their name actually derives from the German word, Pudeln, which means, “to splash.
- Otterhounds, as the name implies, were selectively bred for hunting otters.
- Newfoundland were bred to help Newfoundland fishermen work in the cold waters of Canada.
- German Wire-haired Pointers were bred to retrieve waterfowl.
- Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers were bred to attract ducks or waterfowl for their owners to hunt.
- Weimaraner were bred for retrieving both on land and in the water.
- Chesapeake Bay Retrievers were bred to retrieve downed fowl from the cold icy waters of the Chesapeake Bay.
- Wirehaired Pointing Griffon were bred for hunting in thick undergrowth and around water particularly waterfowl.
- American Water Spaniels were bred to work in the icy waters and marshy banks of the Great Lakes region.
- Labrador retriever were selectively bred to retrieve ducks and fish that had floated free of nets from the cold and icy waters of Newfoundland, in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, a northern region of Canada.
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 is 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 Nelson R. Cabej, Elsevier; 1 edition (December 5, 2011)