Named after the Canadian Island of Newfoundland where he was first developed, this giant breed is capable of swimming strongly in the sea, hauling loads on land as well as being a gentle companion. Immortalised in numerous works of art by famous painters, in literature by poets and writers especially through the 1800's, today's Newfoundland is essentially unchanged.

Logistics of Newfoundland and Labrador

Relevant areas of North AmericaRelevant areas of North America

The Island of Newfoundland is situated off the east coast of Canada. But the Province is called Newfoundland and Labrador, the latter being the nearby coastal district to the north-west of the island. From these two areas, today we have the names of the two breeds of dog which were not indigenous to either of these areas. Instead both the Labrador Retriever and the Newfoundland are products of European settlement.

Newfoundland 1790Newfoundland 1790

Historically this Province had no indigenous dogs. The Maritime Archaic Indians who occupied these lands some 9,000 years ago relied on fish and seals to provide them with the food and shelter they needed. Over the next few centuries, these early Indians were replaced by two separate tribes of people, the Inuits who occupied what is now the Province of Labrador and Beothuks who occupied Newfoundland.

Newfoundland 1881Newfoundland 1881

Archaeological evidence proves they lived in a traditional way on a diet of fish and harp seal which provided fur, meat, and bones utilised for food, clothing, and shelter without the need for dogs to assist them with with hunting or sledding or any other purpose[2].

Karalien Bear DogKaralien Bear Dog

But in 1001 AD when the Vikings explored this east coast of the North American continent, they settled in the USA State of Massachusetts. It appears most likely that they would have brought hunting dogs with them, similar to today's Karalien Bear Dog (FCI 48 pictured).

Over the next few centuries English dogs were also brought into Canada because of the development of the fishing trade. By that time the Vikings would have explored the coastline further. So it seems likely that not only would these large black dogs have already been bred in America, this type of dog and its descendants would have influenced the size and coat type we see in today's Newfoundland[1].

History of the Newfoundland

Newfoundland 1881Newfoundland 1881

In 1497 John Cabot discovered what is now called Newfoundland and claimed it for Henry V11 of England, bringing back stories about the amazing abundance of fish. Over the next century, a British colony was established, relying on the fishing industry. The dogs they brought with them became well known because they had learned to swim, negotiating the rough seas to catch fish that got away often delivering them to hand. They also assisted sailors that fell overboard and towed ropes from boats to the anchoring points. Together with hauling cart loads of fish and other goods from one place to another, these dogs became vital to the flourishing fishing industry that was developing in Canada's Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Newfoundland becomes a Pure Breed

Newfoundland 1881Newfoundland 1881

So this Province is responsible for the origin of developing two distinctly different dog breeds from dogs originally brought to North America by the Vikings and early British settlers. At first both breeds were known as Newfoundlands, still the name of this heavier breed today. But the smaller dog became known by three different names, the lesser Newfoundland, the St John's dog and the Labrador Retriever.

After areas of Canada were cleared for sheep farming, in 1885 a law was introduced in the Province which saw the destruction of many dogs. Simultaneously, quarantine laws came into force in England. This ended the random trade in dogs between Canada and England. But by this time the Newfoundland had become well established on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. He was one of the breeds to be listed in the first Kennel Club (UK) Stud Book.

Development of the Newfoundland and Landseer

Newfoundland Landseer mid-1800'sNewfoundland Landseer mid-1800's

In 1639 AD a large, predominately black woolly dog was first described in America[1d]. About 1775 AD this dog was named Newfoundland by George Cartwright after the Island where he had become popular[1e]. Many stories of heroism and intelligence followed for which this dog then became renowned in America and in the destinations of sailing ships.

In England he became the subject of many works of art and various writings about prowess in rescue, hunting, carting and as well as being a faithful companion. For example in 1808 AD the famous verse below was penned by English poet Lord Byron[1b]. Then in 1838 AD the artist Sir Edwin Landseer in his famous painting also reproduced below, named him as "Distinguished Member of the Humane Society"[3].

The Newfoundland becomes a Pure Breed

As Landseer's paintings always depicted black and white Newfoundlands, those specimens with white markings became known as Landseers, a name which they are still called today[1c]. As the Newfoundland appeared in Birmingham Show of 1860, he appeared in the First English Stud Book.

Newfoundland Painting by Landseer 1838Newfoundland Painting by Landseer 1838

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 just a tribute to the memory of
Boatswain, a dog
Who was born at Newfoundland, May 1803,
And died at Newstead Abbey
November 18, 1808 [1b] 

History of Newfoundlands in Australia

Newfoundland SwimmingNewfoundland Swimming

"Hector", the first Newfoundland to land in Australia belonged to John Marshall, the captain of the "Scarborough" one of the eleven ships that made up the First Fleet that arrived here from England in 1788[4]. As it was the usual practice for ships to carry a giant sea rescue dog like a Newfoundland on these long voyagers, we can only assume this was the reason so many Newfoundlands were found here in the early 1800's. Unfortunately there were no formal registration records kept until the early 1900's.

Newfoundland (Black)Newfoundland (Black)

At the First Dog Show held in Melbourne in 1864 listed 22 Newfoundlands, large breed[5] and entries were also recorded at another Show held in 1871[7]. A further 11 are listed as being imported from 1869 to 1893[6] but despite the St Bernard, Mastiff and Newfoundland Club being formed in 1891, none appeared in this first Stud Book[7].

None then seemed to be bred Maybe until 1938 when Dr Murray of Melbourne advertised the West Felton Kennel as "The only Kennel of Newfoundlands in Australia"[8]. But in the mid-1960's John Hughes from Bourke NSW brought 3 imports into Australia and these founded the Majesty Kennels. In Victoria Don and Mary McCaul imported a bitch and bred under the Marydon prefix and was instrumental in encouraging others like Meg and Roy Simpson to re-establish the breed in Victoria[4]. From the 1970's Newfoundlands grew from strength to strength with barely a major Show being held here ever since without representation of these magnificent dogs.

The Newfoundland Today

Newfoundland (Brown)Newfoundland (Brown)

The gentle Newfoundland is a giant breed with massive bone, a deep body but well muscled and coordinated. He stands 71 cms (28 ins) for a dog, 66 cms (26 ins) for a bitch and weighs 63.5-68 kgs (140-150 lbs) for a dog and 50-54.5 kgs (110-120 lbs) for a bitch. His oily double coat comes in dull jet black with a tinge of bronze, brown which is chocolate both with or without a splash of white on the chest and toes, or evenly marked black and white which is called a Landseer.

Newfoundland (Black)Newfoundland (Black)

The head should be broad and massive with a slightly arched skull with prominent brows over the eyes giving the impression that the sloping stop looks steeper when viewed in profile than a closer examination reveals. The muzzle should be no longer than the skull and should be very strong with square flews which should never be excessive. The mouth has a normal scissors bite but a level bite is also acceptable. The eyes should be small considering the size of the head and as dark as possible with tight fitting eyelids showing no haw. The ears and small blending into and lying close to the head so they protect the orifice of the ear when the dog is swimming.

Newfoundland (Landseer)Newfoundland (Landseer)

The neck must be strong so the dog can carry large objects but of sufficient length for a proud head carriage. The shoulder blades should be well muscled and broad and of approximately the same length as the humerus or forearms. The forelegs should be perfectly straight with plenty of bone but have some resilience in the pasterns. The feet are large but the toes are firm and compact with webbing between them. The chest should be deep, well covered with hair but not forming a frill, and the ribcage oval in shape. The back is broad with the topline as straight possible to the slightly sloping croup. The tail should hang downwards with just a slight curve at the end but on the move the dog may elevate the tail to slightly above the horizontal. He moves freely with his body swung between his legs which could give the impression of a slight roll, especially at slower speeds.

Comparison between Newfoundland, Saint Bernard and Leonberger

Newfoundland Saint Bernard Leonberger
Historical Purpose Developed on Canadian Island of Newfoundland to rescue people from the sea so can swim strongly. Developed by Swiss monks centuries ago specifically to rescue people lost in snow blizzards or buried by avalanches. Supposedly developed in the mid-1860's as a cross between the Saint Bernard and the Newfoundland.
Size Dogs: 71 cm (28 in) Bitches: 66 cms (26 in). Weight: Dogs: 63.5-68 kg (140-150 lbs) Bitches: 50-54.5 kg (110-120 lbs) Dogs: 70 cm to 90 cm (27.5 to 35.5 in) Bitches: 65 cm to 80 cm (25.5 to 31.5 in) or exceeding the upper limits of this height Dogs: 72-80 cms (28.5-31.5 ins)
Bitches: 65-75 cms (25.5-29.5 ins)
Colour Dull jet black with a tinge of bronze, brown which is chocolate both with or without a splash of white on the chest and toes. Alternatively evenly marked black and white called a Landseer. Primarily colour is white with small or large clear red patches of clear to dark red or reddish-brown covering the back and flanks with dark shadings on the head. The chest, feet, tip of tail, muzzle band, blaze and patch on the neck are white.
The Leonberger is lion gold, red, reddish brown, sandy (fawn or cream) and all combinations in between, always with a black mask but black hair tips permitted.
Coat Oily double coat Smooth haired or long haired The fairly long, close fitting, straight double coat is medium soft to harsh. There should be a mane on neck and chest, especially in males, distinct feathering on front legs and ample breeches on hindlegs.
NewfoundlandNewfoundland Saint BernardSaint Bernard LeonbergerLeonberger

The head is broad and massive, Slightly arched with prominent brows over the eyes and a well developed occipital bone. Muzzle no longer that the skull.

Powerful and slightly rounded from the front and in profile. There should be wrinkles on the forehead above the eyes and a moderately developed occipital bone. Muzzle one third the total length of the head. The head should be strong but not heavy, elongated rather than stocky. The skull should look slightly dome shaped, with no wrinkles. The back part of the skull should not be substantially broader than at the eyes. Muzzle and skull of equal length.

Looks steeper when viewed in profile than a closer examination reveals.

Pronounced causing the frontal furrow to run up the middle of the skull. Medium stop.
Foreface The very strong muzzle should be no longer than the skull with square flews which should never be excessive. The bridge of the nose is broad, square and straight despite a slight groove. The black nostrils are well opened. The flews are strongly developed, but not too pendulous with the corners of the mouth visible. The muzzle should be moderately tapered, but never snipey. Nasal bridge of even breadth and slightly arched (Roman nose). The black lips should be close fitting with the corner of lips closed.
Mouth Normal scissors or level bite Normal scissors or level bite but reverse scissors acceptable A complete normal scissor bite with complete dentition but a level bite is tolerated.
Eyes Small with tight fitting lids showing no haw Medium sized with a little haw acceptable Medium sized, oval eyes are brown to dark brown with close fitting eyelids showing no haw.
Ears Small blending into and lying close to the head Triangular, pliable ears of medium size with rounded tips Medium sized, fleshy, well feathered ears are set on high, hang close to the head, have have rounded tips and are well feathered.
Newfoundland (brown)Newfoundland (brown) Saint BernardSaint Bernard LeonbergerLeonberger
Neck Sufficient length for a proud head carriage Medium length with moderate dewlap The moderately long neck is strong, flowing into the withers in a slight arch, with no dewlap.
Legs and feet Straight legs with webbing between the toes Straight legs with dewclaws on hind legs tolerated Forelegs straight, well boned and not too close with strong, straight pasterns.
Body Broad with topline as straight as possible with the body swung between the legs Broad, strong and firm with horizontal topline Height at withers to length of body in ratio of 9 to 10. The broad chest should be approximately 50% of height at withers, reaching at least to elbows. The ribcage should be oval, the firm back should be straight with broad loins, and a moderately sloping croup.
Tail Hanging downwards with just a slight curve at the end Long with the last vertebra at least reaching to the hock joint with the last third is slightly turned up. The well furnished, straight tail should never form a ring. It should reach at least to hock and, on the move tail it may curve slightly but never carried above level of back.

References and Further Reading

[1] Newfoundland Club of America - "This is the Newfoundland" edited by Mrs Maynard K Drury 2nd Edition Published 1978 by T.F.H. Publications, Inc 245 Cornelison Ave, Jersey City, N.J. 07303

[1a] Ibid., Chapter 1 Origin Page 20

[1b] Ibid., Chapter 3 The Newfoundland in Art, Literature, Lore, and Legend Page 88

[1c] Ibid., Chapter 3 The Newfoundland in Art, Literature, Lore, and Legend Page 56

[1d] Ibid., Chapter 2 History Page 24 quote from Bailey's "Long Island, Nassau and Suffolk", Volume 1 p.235

[1e] Ibid., Chapter 2 History page 22

[2] John Christopher Erwin, Thesis "A Prehistoric Soapstone Quarry in Fleur de Lys, Newfoundland" University of Calgary August 2001

[3] Robert Leighton "The Book of the Dog" published circa 1905 Subscriber's Edition, The Waverley Book Co. Ltd. Volume 1 Chapter VI The Newfoundland, Pages 75 written by Major J.H.Bailey

[4] Frances Wilson, "The History of Purebred Dogs in Australia" The Newfoundland published by OzDog Newspaper 1997 Page 229

[5] Catalogue of the First Exhibition of Sporting & Other Dogs, Thursday & Friday April 7 & 8, 1864 promoted by the Council of the Acclimatisation Society, printed in Melbourne by Mason & Firth, Printers, Flinders Lane West Pages 11-12

[6] "Tyzack's Annual" Compiled by T. W.Tyzack and C.S.Turner. Published by the Victorian Poultry and Kennel Club Printed in 1912 by Bellamine Bros. Printers, 66-70 Flinders Lane Melbourne Page 87 Book of Chronicles Page 131.

[7] W. Beilby 'The Dog in Australasia' published George Robertson & Company in 1897 Chapter on The Newfoundland Page 200

[8] The 1938 Annual "Dogs on the Bench and in the Field" published by the Kennel Control Council Temple Court Collins Street, Melbourne Page 45