The British poet Lord Byron aptly describes the majestic Newfoundland dog in one sentence: “Beauty without vanity, strength without cheek, courage without ferocity, all virtues of man without his vices”. The lovable giant among the dog breeds clearly feels at home as a family dog, but when it comes down to it, the loyal companion confidently, but never aggressively, secures his loved ones and the home.
The history of the origins of the Newfoundlands is a veritable mosaic of speculation. As the name suggests, the breed comes from Newfoundland, one of the Atlantic islands off Canada’s east coast. How he got there, however, is not exactly known. The oldest sources are dated around the year 1100, with the large black bear dogs of the Vikings believed to be the ancestors of the Newfoundland.
Other cynologists see a contribution from the Tibetan Mastiff or the Great Pyrenean Dog. Another theory speaks of working dogs that have been on the fishing boats of European Nordland fishermen to bring the nets on board or to rescue drowning people. On land, the Scandinavian dogs are said to have mated with the polar dogs of the Newfoundland islanders. The dogs from the neighboring island of Labrador, which European emigrants brought with them in the 16th and 17th centuries, may also have contributed to the breed cocktail. From the early 15th century to the end of the 17th century, today’s appearance and character traits stabilized; to be precise, the Newfoundland was already “complete” at the beginning of colonization in 1610. In the 18th century the English navigator Captain Cartwright first mentioned the working dogs with the name Newfoundland and later the Newfoundland came back to Europe with the fishing boats.
With its swimming paws and thick, slightly oily fur, the Newfoundland dog has always been used for water work. As a sled dog, he did pulling work, for example in the forest, where he moved logs that were four times as heavy as himself. Thanks to its excellent performance as a working and rescue dog, the breed soon spread across the entire North American continent. In addition to his physical strength, he valued the balanced nature, his friendly relationship with other dogs and the quick perception that made it easy to train for special tasks. With the cod fishermen, the Newfoundland finally came back to Great Britain, from where the gentle giants conquered mainland Europe. At first, the breed continued to be used as a working dog for pulling work, but the middle and upper classes soon became interested in the Newfoundland, as with his impressive appearance he had what it takes to guard the property while gently and patiently looking after the children. There are also all sorts of stories about its dazzling reputation as a lifesaver and as a recognition a long line of artists immortalized the Newfoundland in paintings, carved in stone, cast in bronze or on porcelain. The first dog show to introduce Newfoundland dogs was held in Birmingham in 1860. The British Kennel Club began keeping the studbook in 1857 and the first breed club, the Newfoundland Club, was founded in 1886. Since the island of Newfoundland was a British crown colony until 1947, the Newfoundland is a pedigree dog of British origin, but Canada is the country of origin. In Germany, the composer and great animal lover Richard Wagner made a name for himself with the Newfoundland breed. In today’s Richard Wagner Museum in Bayreuth, the artist’s former home, his loyal companion Russ is buried in the garden at the master’s feet, so that he should always be his master at his side until after death.
The head of the Newfoundland is as massive as the entire body structure, naturally somewhat larger in males than in females. The well-defined stop ends in a slightly rounded, broad skull with a strong occiput. Relatively small ears of a slightly rounded, triangular shape are set far back and close to the body. The eyes are relatively small and there is no red conjunctiva to be seen. The eye color of black and white-black specimens is deep brown, with brown fur the eye color may be lighter. The pigmentation of the large nose corresponds to the same scheme: black for white-black and black coat colors, brown coat with a brown nose. The muzzle has the square shape typical of molossoid species. Soft, rather short lips cover a scissor or pincer bite. The dewlap should only be moderately developed on the strong neck. The whole body looks compact because the total length is greater than the shoulder height. The back line is straight with sloping croup. Since the Newfoundlander uses his rod as a rudder when working in the water, it is accordingly strong at the base. When at rest it hangs straight down; when paying attention, he lifts it horizontally with the tip slightly bent, but never higher. The lower profile line is also horizontal; it is formed from the spacious, deep chest and the belly, which is not tucked up. The forelegs run parallel and straight, the paws have an intermediate skin between the toes (swimming paws). The very muscular hindquarters and a correspondingly wide pelvis enable the best power transmission during pulling work. The double coat is thick and impermeable to water, it has an oily texture, so that the Newfoundland dog does not mind spending hours in cold water. It consists of moderately long stick hair and a soft, dense undercoat that is thinner in summer than in winter. The hair on the head, ears and muzzle is fine and short, the fore and hind legs are feathered and the tail is lavishly covered with long hair.
There are currently around 1000 Newfoundland puppies registered in Germany. That’s not much, as this large breed requires demanding husbandry. It needs sufficient space, exercise and closeness to nature. Rain and wind don’t bother him, but he should be spared the blazing summer sun – a shady spot or a spacious dog house as a retreat in the garden would be ideal. He also doesn’t want to do without his great passion, water. Swimming, retrieving and diving are a lot of fun for the Newfoundland dog: keepers of this breed know this and choose long walks in clean waters. For these reasons, it is advisable to keep it in a house with a freely accessible garden plot and also because it shakes moisture and biomass out of its fur with relish after its excursions. However, the Newfoundland is not at all suitable for permanent outdoor housing, as this would seriously damage its sensitive nature in the long run. This breed wants to be close to its people and at the same time keep an eye on the home territory. Despite his calm and peaceful demeanor, he should know and obey the basic commands. The legendary protective instinct of the Newfoundland dogs has to be put on the right track early on, because if the extremely strong 70-kilo dog knocks over the visitor and sits on it without any great warning, it’s not so strange. The Newfoundland dog usually learns the rules of behavior in a short time thanks to his high level of intelligence. However, if his proverbial stubbornness becomes noticeable at a young age, the owner must be patient. The previous work, far removed from people giving commands, may be the reason for his independent action. Eye work is not his thing. The love for water and the remarkable rescue instinct predestine these dogs for professional use in water rescue, as a protection dog he is not necessarily suitable due to his nature and a certain slowness.
Like many large dogs, the Newfoundland dog is prone to genetic hip or elbow dysplasia, and cruciate ligament ruptures can occur due to the high body mass. Damage to the heart muscle with simultaneous enlargement of the heart (dilated cardiomyopathy) and bone cancer are mentioned as diseases typical of the breed. Newfoundland dogs need regular grooming so that matting does not form, especially in the chest area and behind the ears. A stiff brush and a wide-toothed comb ventilate the coat sufficiently. The dog odor, reminiscent of damp carpets, disappears when you dry it very thoroughly. On rainy and winter days you can provide a bed in front of the warm heater to accelerate the drying process and brush hard at the same time. Frequent shampooing should be avoided, as the degreased fur loses its waterproof and heat-insulating properties and the sensitive skin dries out. Dog deodorants and perfumes drown out the (natural) smell, but in order to combat the cause in a healthy way, switching to sensitive food can bring about a noticeable improvement.
The Newfoundland at a glance
Origin: Canada FCI Standard No. 50, Group 2 Pinschers, Schnauzers, Molossoids, Swiss Mountain Dogs Section 2: Molossoide 2.2 Mountain Dogs Other names: Newfoundland Height at the withers: males approx. 71 cm, females approx. 66 cm Weight: males approx. 68 kg, bitches approx. 54 kgHair coat: straight stick hair with thick undercoatFur color: black, white-black, brownEyes: dark brown and lighter, depending on the coat colorEars: triangular, relatively small, close-fittingBody structure: solid, well muscled, longer than highDeployment: companion dog, sled dog, water dog, rescue dogCharacter: balanced, calm, friendly Health risks: hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cruciate ligament rupture, bone cancer Life expectancy: approx. 5 – 10 years
Image: © Depositphotos.com / Ryhor