The Newfoundland is a breed of large dog. Newfoundlands
can be black, brown, grey, 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
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 (black or brown head and white and black or
brown body); The Kennel Club (KC) permits only black, brown, and landseer; the
Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) permits are only black and landseer. 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 Landseer to be a
separate breed; others consider it only a Newfoundland color variation.
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.
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The Newfoundland dog is legendary for its calm and docile nature and its
strength. It is for this reason that this breed is known as "the gentle giant".
International kennel clubs generally describe the breed as having a sweet
It typically has a deep loud bark, is easy to train if started young, makes a
fine guardian or watchdog. It is exceptionally good with children, giving it the
nickname "the nanny dog." The breed was memorialized in "Nana," the beloved dog
guardian in Peter Pan.
The Newfoundland dog is also extremely good with other animals. Its caring
and gentle nature comes out in play and interaction with humans and animals
alike. As with any breed, the Newfoundland can have dominance issues, but this
is unusual for the breed.
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.
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, including the
Labrador Retriever. Both breeds were used as working dogs to pull fish nets,
with the Greater Newfoundland also being used to haul carts, and other
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 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.
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 the early 20th century, a dog that is thought to have been a Newfoundland
saved 92 people who were on a sinking ship in 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.
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
"The man they had got now was a jolly, light-hearted, thick-headed sort of a
chap, with about as much sensitiveness in him as there might be in a
Newfoundland puppy. You might look daggers at him for an hour and he would not
notice it, and it would not trouble him if he did." Jerome K. Jerome Three
Men in a Boat
"Newfoundland dogs are good to save children from drowning, but you must have
a pond of water handy and a child, or else there will be no profit in boarding a
Newfoundland." Josh Billings
"A man is not a good man to me because he will feed me if I should be
starving, or warm me if I should be freezing, or pull me out of a ditch if I
should ever fall into one. I can find you a Newfoundland dog that will do as
much." Henry David Thoreau Walden
"Near this spot are deposited the remains of one who possessed Beauty without
Vanity, Strength without Insolence, Courage without Ferocity, and all the
Virtues of Man, without his Vices. This Praise, which would be unmeaning
Flattery if inscribed over human ashes, is but a just tribute to the Memory of
Boatswain, a Dog." George Gordon, Lord Byron, Epitaph to a Dog.
"That boat, Rover by name, which, though now in strange seas, had often
pressed the beach of Captain Delano's home, and, brought to its threshold for
repairs, had familiarly lain there, as a Newfoundland dog; the sight of that
household boat evoked a thousand trustful associations..." Herman Melville
"Your fatuous specialist is now beginning to rebuke "secondrate" newspapers
for using such phrases as "to suddenly go" and "to boldly say". I ask you, Sir,
to put this man out without interfering with his perfect freedom of choice
between "to suddenly go", to go suddenly" and "suddenly to go". Set him adrift
and try an intelligent Newfoundland dog in his place." George Bernard Shaw,
letter to the Chronicle newspaper (1892)
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