What Makes the Newfoundland so Special?

newfoundland dog,newfoundland dog breedThe Newfoundland, a gentle giant among canines, is a striking dog bound to elicit admiring comments wherever he accompanies his owner. A sweet, devoted companion, the Newfoundland will protect children, haul leaves and firewood, save drowning people, and compete successfully in obedience and tracking trials.   The Newfoundland dog is legendary for its calm and docile nature and its strength.  They are extremely loyal and make incredible working dogs.  It is for this reason that this breed is known as “the gentle giant” or the “nanny dog”.


Average  Breed  Standards
Height:    Male: 28 inches tall, Females:  26 inches tall
Weight:   Male: 130-150 lb., Female: 100-120 lb.

                                                   History of the Newfoundland

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The Newfoundland shares many characteristics with the other mastiffs, such as the St. Bernard and English Mastiff, including short, stount legs, massive heads with very broad snouts, a thick bull neck, and a very stufdy bone structure.  In fact, it’s believed that St. Bernard Dogs have Newfoundland 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 mountain dog breeds such as the Great Pyrenees.

The Newfoundland breed originated in Newfounland, 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.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 1880’s, 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.Many tales have been told of the courage diplayed by Newfoundlands in adverturing 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 exporers Lewis and Clark on their expedition.


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Newfoundlands exibit a very strong propensity to rescue people from water.  One Newfoundland alone rescued 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 1881, in Melbourne, Australia, a Newfounldand 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 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 the Janice Anderson, the Newfoundland’s breeder, Boo had received no formal training in water rescue.