Newfoundland Dogs are known as large, intelligent, and amiable companions. They are working dogs that hail from Newfoundland, Canada. Beloved for their utility as well as their loyalty, these giant dogs are often used for therapy as well as physical labor. The combination of their large size and kind nature has led to their reputation as “gentle giants.” Newfoundland Dogs have an expected life span of around 10 years.
These dogs have a long history that is closely tied to human activity, due to their usefulness on land as well as in water. They are a centuries-old breed, and have been the close companions of many notable figures throughout history. Famous stories, paintings, and sculptures alike have immortalized this giant dog.
While this dog has been popular both for working and companionship for hundreds of years, there are many facts about the breed that are not commonly known. Here are 10 of the most interesting features of Newfoundland Dogs.
Their ancestry is unclear
It is no surprise that this breed hails from Newfoundland, Canada. However, its exact lineage and ancestry is not known. There are several theories about its past, but none are certain. It is likely that Newfoundland Dogs are descendants of Tibetan Mastiffs, and it is possible that breeding between St. John’s Dogs and Portuguese Mastiffs resulted in these large dogs.
One interesting theory holds that when Vikings visited Newfoundland in the early 1000s, they left ancestors of the dogs behind. After breeding with other species (and possibly wolves), the Newfoundland Dogs known today emerged. This is the least likely of the theories, however.
They are versatile working dogs
The Newfoundland Dog is a breed that can be very helpful on land and in water. They were very popular among fishermen for pulling in nets in the water because they are extremely strong swimmers with a large lung capacity for long distance swimming. As well, they were used for pulling sailors who had fallen overboard to safety.
While much of their work was in the water, these dogs were also favorites for carrying heavy loads on land. Their large bones and powerful muscles meant they were excellent for carrying wood and other materials for their human companions.
Whether on land or in water, Newfoundland Dogs were helpful partners. Most people are unaware of how these dogs helped fishermen, acted as pack animals, and even saved lives.
They were lifeguards
As stated above, Newfoundland Dogs were highly popular with fishermen for their strong swimming abilities and intelligence. Their ability to save people who were drowning is a skill that brought about a unique job for the dogs: they acted as lifeguards on the British coast.
Newfoundland Dogs were once mandatory features of lifeguard posts in Britain. Remarkably, they have an instinctive sense of how to rescue drowning individuals. The dogs intuitively grab the arm of the drowning individual to turn him or her over, keeping their face above the water. This incredible ability, combined with such strong swimming, made the Newfoundland Dogs outstanding assets as lifeguards.
They are built for the water
Working dogs tend to be naturally suited for certain tasks. While Newfoundland Dogs are excellent helpers on land, with exceptionally strong builds that are perfect for carrying loads or delivering mail, they have characteristics that allow them to function very well in water.
Firstly, they are equipped with webbed toes. They also have long, double-layered coats to keep them warm in chilly waters. Their muscles are powerful enough to give them great speed while swimming, and they have a large lung capacity which allows them to swim for extended periods.
Perhaps most interestingly, Newfoundland Dogs do not swim using the “doggie paddle” as one might expect. Instead, they use a technique similar to the breaststroke. Many people will be surprised to learn just how well-suited to the water these dogs truly are.
Their coats come in four distinct colors
The coats of Newfoundland Dogs are not only special because of their long hair and two thick layers, but also because they come in four recognizable colors. These dogs can be black, brown, gray, or “Landseer,” which is a black and white mix. Newfoundland Dogs with white base coats and black on top are therefore known as Landseer Newfoundlands.
Black and white Newfoundland Dogs are named after a painter
These Landseer Newfoundlands are so named because of a famous painter, Sir Edwin Landseer. He famously painted black and white Newfoundlands in the 1800s, so dogs with these particular coats are named after him.
His paintings not only immortalized the breed, but also clearly represented his affection for the dogs. Some of his paintings were titled, “A Distinguished Member of the Humane Society,” and “Princess Mary and Favorite Newfoundland Dog.”
They were officially recognized in the late 1800s
While these dogs have been popular workers and companions for hundreds of years, it was not until 1860 that they were first featured in shows in England. It took until 1879 for the American Kennel Club to officially register the breed, and it was in 1883 that the very first American Newfoundland Champion was crowned.
While the dogs existed for hundreds of years before these honors, they were quickly recognized upon their showings in Britain and America.
They are not favorites of neat-freaks
Naturally, large and energetic working dogs like Newfoundlands are prone to tracking dirt around a household. This problem is compounded by their long, double-layered coat, which easily picks up pieces of dirt, burs, and twigs.
Their hair is not the only factor that may turn away those who hate messes; these dogs are famous for drooling. With such long, thick hair, these dogs quickly overheat, which leads to panting. With panting comes drool. Unless you are fine with dogs that bring in dirt from outside and give extremely wet kisses, the Newfoundland Dog may be too messy for you.
These dogs are great with kids
The size and strength of Newfoundland Dogs may cause some hesitancy from potential owners about how well-suited they are for young children. Luckily, these dogs are not only generally harmless around small kids, they are renowned companions.
Despite frequently weighing over 150 pounds, these dogs are known for their gentle and loving temperament. In fact, they were popular “nanny dogs,” who were trusted to look out for children in Victorian times.
A Newfoundland Dog was depicted in Peter Pan
When J. M. Barrie wrote Peter Pan, he included a character based on his Landseer Newfoundland Dog, Luath. In the story, the dog is named Nana, and is the very protective nurse dog for the children.
While this is the most famous example, Newfoundland Dogs have been prominently featured in many other areas, both fictitious and real. One famous real-life Newfoundland Dog was Seaman, the dog that accompanied Lewis and Clark on their famous expeditions.
Newfoundland Dogs are large, have thick coats, and drool excessively. However, they are also remarkably gentle, excellent helpers, and have been used as lifeguards because of their excellent instincts for saving lives.