Casual dog owners tend to think that webbed feet are a trait unique to certain breeds, but better educated dog folks know that most dogs have webbing between their toes. If you look at your hand and spread your fingers apart, you’ll find a bit of webbing on your own body. Our dogs’ toes are not unlike our own digits that have a bit of skin between them. This is particularly true if the dog is a “water breed” in which webbing helps them swim.
Not everyone knows, however, that not every dog with webbed feet uses them for swimming, and one such breed is the Catahoula Leopard Dog. The Catahoula is not a retriever, but in this breed, webbing extends all the way to the end of their toes.
Why would a breed that’s not a retriever need webbed feet?
We veer wildly off topic to mention pirogues. These are boats used almost exclusively in swamps or marshes, and they are always paddled. What does a paddle have in common with webbed feet? They offer more surface area to displace water. In a dog, having “surface area” between its toes allows the dogs to traipse through the soggy and boggy Louisiana marshland with far less effort than if they had feet like colanders and once submerged, water would weigh them down. Think snow shoes.
Interestingly, we came across a moniker for the breed: “Children of the Forest. ” The children of the forest, sometimes referred to simply as “the children,” comes from the Game of Throne series. In the books, they are a mysterious non-human race that originally inhabited the continent of Westeros during the Dawn Age long before the arrival of the First Men thousands of years ago. Some Catahoula owners have mentioned that upon seeing a Catahoula run through the woods, one suddenly understands what it looks like for a creature to achieve perfect alignment with its cosmic purpose, and one supposes this can’t be done with bad feet.
Image: Pastel of “Nixon” by damit602