Information about the Newfoundland
The Newfoundland is a breed of large dog. Newfoundlands can be black, brown, gray, or black and white. They were originally bred and used as a working dog for fishermen in the Dominion of Newfoundland, now part of Canada. They are known for their giant size, tremendous strength, calm dispositions, and loyalty. Newfoundland dogs excel at water rescue/lifesaving due to their muscular build, thick double coat, webbed feet, and innate swimming abilities.
Newfoundlands (‘Newfs’, ‘Newfies’) have webbed feet and a water-resistant coat. Males weigh 60-70 kg (130-150 lb), and females 45-55 kg (100-120 lb), placing them in the “Giant” weight range. Some Newfoundland dogs have been known to weigh over 90 kg (200 lb). The largest Newfoundland on record weighed 120 kg (260 lbs) and measured over 6 feet from nose to tail, ranking it among the biggest Molossers. They may grow up to 22-28 inches tall at the shoulder.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) standard colors of the Newfoundland dogs are: black, brown, gray, and landseer (white dog with black markings) Other colors are not rare, and not recommended due to breeding double recessive genes; The Kennel Club (KC) permits only black, brown, and landseer; the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) permits are only black and landseer. Contrary to popular belief The Landseer is named after the artist Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, who featured them in many of his paintings. AKC, CKC, and KC all treat Landseer as part of the breed. Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) consider the ECT Landseer to be a separate breed; as do the AKC, and the CKC. It is a taller, more narrow white dog with black markings not bred with a Newfoundland.
The Newfoundland’s extremely large bones give it mass, while its large musculature gives it the power it needs to take on rough ocean waves and powerful tides. These dogs have great lung capacity for swimming extremely long distances, and a thick, oily and waterproof double coat which protects them from the chill of icy waters. The droopy lips and jowls make the dog drool. In the water, the dog’s massive webbed paws give it maximum propulsion. The swimming stroke is not an ordinary dog paddle. Unlike other dogs, the Newfoundland moves its limbs in a down-and-out motion, which can be seen as a modified breaststroke. This gives it more power with every stroke.
The Newfoundland dog is legendary for its calm and docile nature and its strength.They are incredibly loyal and make incredible working dogs. It is for this reason that this breed is known as “the gentle giant” or the nanny dog. International kennel clubs generally describe the breed as having a sweet temper. It typically has a deep bark, is easy to train if started young. It is exceptionally good with children, but due to their size at a very young age, small children could get accidentally leaned on and knocked down. The breed was memorialized in “Nana,” the beloved dog guardian in Peter Pan. The Newfoundland in general is good with other animals, but their size can create problems if not trained.
There are several health problems associated with Newfoundlands. Newfoundlands are prone to hip dysplasia (a malformed ball and socket in the hip joint). They also get Elbow dysplasia, and cystinuria (a hereditary defect that forms calculi stones in the bladder). Another genetic problem is subvalvular aortic stenosis. This is a common heart defect in Newfoundlands involving defective heart valves. SAS can cause sudden death at an early age. It is common that “Newfs” live to be 8 to 10 years of age.
The Newfoundland shares many characteristics with other mastiffs, such as the St. Bernard and English mastiff, including short, stout legs, massive heads with very broad snouts, a thick bull neck, and a very sturdy bone structure. In fact, many St. Bernard Dogs have Newfoundland Dog ancestry. Newfoundlands were brought and introduced to the St. Bernard breed in the 18th century when the population was threatened by an epidemic of distemper. They share many characteristics of many mountain dog breeds such as the Great Pyrenees.
The Newfoundland breed originated in Newfoundland, and is descended from a breed indigenous to the island known as the lesser Newfoundland, or St. John’s Dog. The mastiff characteristics of the Newfoundland are likely a result of breeding with mastiffs brought to the island by Portuguese fishermen beginning in the 16th century.
The speculation that Newfoundlands may be partly descended from big black bear dogs introduced by the Vikings in 1001 A.D. is based more in romance than in fact.
By the time colonization was permitted in Newfoundland in 1610, the distinct physical characteristics and mental attributes had been established in the Newfoundland breed. In the early 1880s, fishermen and explorers from Ireland and England traveled to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, where they described two main types of working dog. One was heavily built, large with a longish coat, and the other medium-sized in build, an active, smooth-coated water dog. The heavier breed was known as the Greater Newfoundland, or Newfoundland. The smaller breed was known as the Lesser Newfoundland, or St. John’s Dog. The St. John’s Dog became the founding breed of the modern retrievers. Both breeds were used as working dogs to pull fish nets, with the Greater Newfoundland also being used to haul carts, and other equipment.
Newfoundland dogs are well known for their even temperament and stoic nature.
Because of that, they were part of the foundation stock of the Leonberger (which excelled at water rescue and was imported by the Canadian government for that purpose); and the now extinct Moscow Water Dog, a failed attempt at creating a lifesaving dog by the Russian state kennel — the unfortunate outcross with the Caucasian Ovcharka begat a biting and not a rescuing dog.
Many tales have been told of the courage displayed by Newfoundlands in adventuring and lifesaving exploits. Over the last two centuries, this has inspired a number of artists, who have portrayed the dogs in paint, stone, bronze and porcelain. One famous Newfoundland was a dog named Seaman, who accompanied American explorers Lewis and Clark on their expedition.
The breed’s working role was varied and another famous all black Newfoundland performed as the star attraction in Van Hare’s Magic Circus from 1862 and for many years thereafter in one England’s founding circus acts, traveling throughout Europe. The circus dog was known as the “Thousand Guinea Dog Napoleon” or “Napoleon the Wonder Dog”. Van Hare trained other Newfoundland dogs to perform a steeplechase routine, with baboons dressed up as jockeys to ride them. Nonetheless, his “wizard dog” Napoleon was his favorite and would compete at jumping against human rivals, leaping over horses from a springboard, and dancing to music.
The breed prospered in the United Kingdom, until 1914 and again in 1939, when its numbers were almost fatally depleted by wartime restrictions. Since the 1950s there has been a steady increase in numbers and popularity, despite the fact that the Newfoundland’s great size and fondness for mud and water makes it unsuitable as a pet for many households.
During the Discovery Channel’s second day of coverage of the AKC Eukanuba National Championship on December 3, 2006, anchor Bob Goen reported that Newfoundlands exhibit a very strong propensity to rescue people from water. Goen stated that one Newfoundland alone once aided the rescue of 63 shipwrecked sailors. Today, kennel clubs across the United States host Newfoundland Rescue Demonstrations, as well as offering classes in the field.
Many Newfoundlands are known to drool in excess, especially in warmer climates or on hot days.
An unnamed Newfoundland is credited for saving Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815. During his famous escape from exile on the island of Elba, rough seas knocked Napoleon overboard. A fisherman’s dog jumped into the sea, and kept Napoleon afloat until he could reach safety.
In 1828, Ann Harvey of Isle aux Morts, her father, her brother, and a Newfoundland Dog named Hairyman saved over 160 Irish immigrants from the wreck of the brig Dispatch.
In 1881 in Melbourne, Australia, a Newfoundland named Nelson helped rescue Thomas Brown, a cab driver who was swept away by flood waters in Swanston Street on the night of 15 November. While little is known about what became of Nelson, a copper dog collar engraved with his name has survived and 130 years after the rescue it was acquired by the National Museum of Australia and is now part of the National Historical Collection.
In the early 20th century, a dog that is thought to have been a Newfoundland saved 92 people who were on the SS Ethie which was wrecked off of the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland during a blizzard. The dog retrieved a rope thrown out into the turbulent waters by those on deck, and brought the rope to shore to people waiting on the beach. A breeches buoy was attached to the rope, and all those aboard the ship were able to get across to the shore
including an infant in a mailbag. Wreckage of the ship can still be seen in Gros Morne National Park.
In 1995, a 10-month old Newfoundland named Boo saved a hearing-impaired man from drowning in the Yuba River in Northern California. The man fell into the river while dredging for gold. Boo noticed the struggling man as he and his owner were walking along the river. The Newfoundland instinctively dove into the river, took the drowning man by the arm, and brought him to safety. According to Janice Anderson, the Newfoundland’s breeder, Boo had received no formal training in water rescue.
Further evidence of Newfoundlands’ ability to rescue or support life saving activities was cited in a recent article by the BBC. The breed continues in that role today, along with the Leonberger, Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever dogs; they are used at the Italian School of Water Rescue Dogs, Scuola Italiana Cani Salvataggio, SICS, founded by Ferruccio Pilenga.