Description & History

Although the Newfoundland takes its name from the island province off the east coast of Canada, that is not thought to be its place of origin.

There are a number of theories on how the breed came to inhabit the island. Some canine authorities are of the opinion that 'bear dogs' brought to the island by Norwegian settlers, for hunting and as draught dogs, are the ancestors of the present day Newfoundland. Others have claimed that sailors from visiting fishing fleets introduced Pyrenean Mountain Dogs and perhaps other large breeds from Europe to the island - these dogs were mated to the island dogs, possibly Labradors, and are the true forebears of the breed.

Newfoundlands are probably one of the more versatile breeds in this group. Their exceptional strength and ability made them excellent draught dogs, rescue dogs and retrievers.

Draught dogs worked mainly in the Arctic region and in parts of continental Europe. In the far north, Spitz breeds such as the Alaskan Malamute, the Samoyed and the Husky were used for general sled work and on polar expeditions. In European countries, draught dogs were employed to pull small carts carrying vegetables, dairy products and timber. The Leonberg and the Swiss Mountain dogs were some of the breeds engaged in this work.

On the island where they lived, Newfoundlands were used by the fisherman to take carts laden with fish to the markets, also to help fetch wood from the forests and to deliver mail to outlying areas.

The breed's love of water combined with its swimming ability made them invaluable when saving people from drowning, handling fishermen's nets and rescuing tackle which had fallen overboard.

Wildfowlers who were fortunate to acquire one of these dogs always put them to good use. They retrieved wild duck and wild geese with the same expertise as they did any other object that needed retrieving from water.

Nowadays, besides being companions and show dogs, they pull children around in small carts and are always pleased to take part in any activity which includes water.

It is a loyal breed which has a rapport with its owners. Owing to this characteristic it does not like being parted from them and finds a change of ownership difficult.

Newfoundlands should live in the country as they need plenty of exercise. Part of this exercise should include a daily dip in a pond or stream - it is much appreciated.

Rosamund Walters.

Copyright © 1997 The Complete MultiMedia Co. Ltd.