History of the Breed

Brief History Of The Breed

The origin of the Newfoundland will always remain a matter of speculation. There are several theories to explain the appearance of the large, black dog on their native island of Newfoundland. It is interesting to note, however, that they are one of the few breeds indigenous to Canada. No matter what the origin, English settlers on the island of Newfoundland were impressed with the native dogs’ great size and strength, their natural swimming ability and their gentle dispositions. Traders brought the dogs back to England where they were bred with the large estate dogs. The breed was first given its name about 1775. At first the breed evolved by natural selection and later by selective breeding. In the mid 19th century, the white and black Newfoundland became very popular as a result of a painting by Sir Edwin Landseer and these white and black Newfs took their name from him. Newfs were used for draft purposes and as ship dogs. Few ships in the 18th and 19th centuries set sail without a Newf on board. Their reputation for heroic water rescues was unparalleled. Legends abound of Newfoundlands saving drowning victims by carrying lifelines to sinking ships. The dogs were kept in the “dog walk’ on early sailing ships. If the sea was too choppy when land was sighted, the dog carried a line to land. In 1919, a Newf was credited with saving the entire crew of the “Ethie” which was caught off the coast of Nova Scotia. The ship’s dog carried a line through the treacherous sea and rocks to shore and the line, secured by those on shore, enabled the crew to make its way to safety. This is but one of countless stories of heroism performed by the Newfoundland Dog.

In the late 1800’s, breeding kennels were active in England but the breed was near extinction in its native land due to a law passed in 1780 in Newfoundland forbidding the ownership of more than one dog. Due largely to the efforts of the Honourable Harold MacPherson (Westerland Kennels), the breed survived in Newfoundland.

The hallmark of the breed is his sweet and gentle temperament. This combined with his devotion and eagerness to please his owner make the Newfoundland the best of the giant breeds.