by Doris Donnerman
(last updated April 6, 2009)
A long and romantic history has been built up around the Newfoundland dog, but in truth, most of it is pure conjecture. The most likely story is that the modern Newfoundland is the result of a cross between native Newfoundland dogs, or wolves, and ships' dogs, with the resultant strains purified and beautified in England. Early writers do not mention any dog as being found on the island. This omission hardly seems possible if a dog of the size and striking individuality of the Newfoundland was in existence there.
Moreover, if today there are any dogs of this breed on the island, they are descendents of dogs bred in England. This is explained by saying that the demand for the dogs caused all of them to be exported to England and other European countries. There has been no indication that there were any kinds of dogs on the island. It was reported that a "Mastiffe-dogge" mingled with the wolves on a number of occasions, and was gone nine or ten days on each. The question immediately arises, could this Mastiff have mated with the wolves to produce the huge Newfoundland dogs?
Whatever the truth of this conjecture, the earliest pictures of the Newfoundland show him to have possessed many of the characteristics of the Arctic dogs. The Arctic dogs themselves look suspiciously like wolves, and some of them, like the Arctic wolves, reach a weight well over 100 pounds.
At first, the British fancied an all-black dog. Then Sir Edwin Landseer painted a black and white Newfoundland. This color became the rage in England. The blacks predominated in the United States, with the so-called Landseer type coming in later.
The Newfoundland was a superb water dog. As a result, all large water dogs went through a period being called Newfoundlands. There are many articles and letters from British authorities to show the dog's superior ability in water. These articles have been quoted by Edward C. Ash. They also tell of the dogs being used to rescue objects and humans which have fallen into the water from ships or docks.
Few Newfoundlands were seen in the United States until after World War 1. The breed suffered in England during both World Wars. It began resurgence in America about 1935, and has continued to improve. The dogs being shown today are of good type, excellent soundness, and unusually sweet dispositions. They still carry their inherent love of water.
A general description has the color of a dull jet black with a tinge of bronze or splash of white. The coat is flat and dense with a somewhat coarse texture and oily nature, and is capable of resisting water. The male of average height stands at the shoulders about twenty-eight inches and twenty-six inches for the female. The average weight for the male is about 150 pounds and the females from 110 to 120 pounds.
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