As well as the claws that your dog has on the toes on their feet, most dogs also have a second pair of claws too – the dewclaws, which appear partway up the inside of your dog’s front legs. These are the evolutionary equivalent of thumbs for dogs, and they may help your dog to grip things, although they don’t have mobility like our own thumbs, and don’t always serve a useful purpose.
Not all dogs have front dew claws at all – and to make things even more confusing, some dog breeds even have dewclaws on their hind legs too, again, part of the way up the inside of the dog’s leg. Some breeds even have two sets of hind dewclaws too!
If your dog has dewclaws on their hind legs, the chances are they belong to one of the breeds that are known for this trait – and the same is true for double hind dewclaws, which again, is more or less unique to certain breeds. If you aren’t sure of your dog’s breed or they are of mixed breed parentage, the presence of hind dewclaws can help you to narrow down their potential ancestry, and give you some pointers into what breeds are involved in their genetic makeup.
In this article, we will look in more detail at the main dog breeds that commonly have hind leg dewclaws – and those that have double dewclaws too. Read on to learn more.
The Pyrenean mountain dog is a large dog breed with ancient origins, which was originally descended from a number of historical European dog breeds that were widely used for guarding sheep and other livestock in the mountainous regions of their native France.
The Pyrenean mountain dog usually has one pair of hind leg dewclaws, but two sets of hind dewclaws is not uncommon.
The Beauceron is another large, French dog breed that historically, fulfilled a number of livestock guarding and herding roles, and which again has a double set of hind limb dewclaws. The Beauceron’s rear dewclaws tend to be quite low down on their leg, and can serve to help to distribute the dog’s weight more evenly, which helps them to walk over snow and ice with ease.
The Briard dog breed again hails from France, and was historically used as a working dog for herding and guarding sheep. Outcrossing to maintain the breed in perpetuity and help to improve the breed’s health was undertaken in the 19th century, with one of the most common dogs used in the crossing being the Beauceron, which as mentioned above, has hind leg dewclaws.
The Briard usually has double hind dewclaws too, which once again, are quite low down on their legs.
The Norwegian Lundehund is pretty much top dog when it comes to dewclaws, and toes in general – most dogs of the breed have at least six toes per foot, including their double pairs of hind limb dewclaws. Not only does the breed have the rather uncommon trait of double pairs of hind dewclaws, but their toes also have an additional joint, which is thought to be caused by a genetic trait that is unique to the Lundehund and dogs of Lundehund origins.
The Anatolian shepherd dog is a larger-than-life giant dog breed that hails from Turkey, and is sometimes known as the Turkish mountain dog. They are also thought to be one of the oldest extant dog breeds that appear very similar today to their ancient ancestors, and almost always have a double pair of hind leg dewclaws.
The Catalan sheepdog is a medium-sized dog that originates from Spain, where they were originally used as herding and guarding dogs working with shepherds to protect their sheep in the Pyrenean mountain range between Spain and France.
The Catalan sheepdog also tends to have rather unique hind dewclaws, being as they are a double pair that are often joined together.
The Saint Bernard dog breed is a gentle giant that hails from Switzerland, and they are famous all across the world for their work as mountain rescue dogs, helping to locate and save travellers who run into difficulties on the snowy slopes or fall foul of avalanches.
The Saint Bernard boasts hind leg dewclaws that usually take the form of one single pair, but can also be doubled.
The Estrela mountain dog or Portuguese shepherd dog comes, as you might have guessed, from Portugal – where they were prized for their prowess as livestock guarding dogs, and watchdogs for farms and homes. The Estrela mountain dog may have either single or double dewclaws.
You may have noticed something of a pattern amongst the various different dog breeds that we have mentioned as having hind dewclaws – they all tend to be large or giant breeds, and many of them hail from snowy, mountainous regions, as well as historically having been used as working livestock dogs.
They all also originate from Europe, aside from the Anatolian shepherd dog, which is from Turkey – often known as the gateway between Europe and Asia.
Whether the breeds with hind dewclaws have common ancestors back in the mists of time to thank for their shared trait or if they evolved hind dewclaws as a result of their native terrain and lifestyles is not definitively known – and it is entirely possible that both of these factors play a part.
However, whatever breed or type of dog you own, if they have a set of hind dewclaws – or even two sets – they can fairly be considered to be relatively unusual compared to the dog population as a whole!