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The Newfoundland –Breed History

    There are three theories that exist to explain the existence and origination of the large, black dogs on their native island of Newfoundland. The three theories are:

  1. They evolved from the American Black Wolf (now extinct) or from the Tibetan Mastiff believed to have entered into North America from Asia.
  2. They developed from dogs transported to the New World and left by Vikings in 1000 A.D. with speculation that these dogs may have interbred and crossbred with the native wolves.
  3. They were a mixture between fifteenth and sixteenth century European explorer's dogs.  Perhaps the crossbreeding between Mastiffs, Pyrenean Sheep Dogs and Portuguese Water Dogs resulted in the Newfoundland.

Because theories are only speculative, the true origin of the breed will always remain a mystery.  No matter what the true origin, these big black dogs have always impressed man with their great strength, size, natural swimming abilities, instincts and gentle dispositions. 

The Newfoundland breed development is credited to the fishermen and settlers of the island of Newfoundland, Canada. Vikings and Basque fishermen visited Newfoundland as early as 1000 AD and wrote accounts of the natives working side by side with these retrieving dogs. The Newfoundland was known to be a working partner of these people as far back as the 1600's. The breed, however, is probably far older than that. 

Breed experts disagree as to whether the Newfoundland dog is descended from Tibetan Mastiffs, Great Pyrennees, or the wolf (bear)dogs explorer Leif Eriksson took to North America (about 1000A.D.).  The Newfies of that time period earned their living, not as a decoration or point of proud ownership, they worked at pulling carts, carrying packs, hauling nets, and delivering lines to shipwrecked vessels. They served, and are still serving, as rescue dogs, both on shore and in fishing boats. 

They hauled wood for fuel and for construction.  They even were used by farmers to haul and deliver milk. 

The breed itself was not formally named until the latter half of the eighteenth century, when George Cartwright appropriately applied the name of the breed's native island to his own dog in 1775. 
In 1780 Governor Edwards limited the legal ownership of the dog to one per household in order to promote sheep raising.  Even though the decree had no positive effect on sheep raising, it did almost drive the whole Newfoundland population into extinction. 

During this time of the early 1800’s Newfoundlands were being exported from Canada to England to keep the breed alive. The Newfoundlands however became very popular in England.
In 1894, a commemorative half-penny stamp was issued to honor the Newfoundland.  In fact, the Newfoundland is the first animal to be so commemorated by any country.  In summation, the Newfoundland was and is a superb working dog, both on water and on land.

As the breed became more and more popular, it is thought that the English Mastiffs were crossed to the Newfies to obtain the size and massiveness known in the breed today. It is also possible that the Springer Spaniel may have been used to contribute the black and white color - known as Landseer. 

Sir Edwin Landseer frequently portrayed this type of Newfoundland in his paintings, hence the reference to Landseer.
Stories were found written in journals from this century, like that of "Scannon", the Newfoundland that accompanied Lewis and Clark on their famous expedition to the Pacific Northwest coast during the first decade of the 18th century.

The first record of official showing of the breed was held at a dog show in Birmingham, England in 1860, where six Newfoundlands were entered in the show.  The first Newfoundland was registered with the American Kennel Club in 1879, and in 1883, a Newfoundland named "Sam" was the first American champion of the breed. 

Most of today's Newfoundland's can be traced back to a English show dog named "Siki" from the 1920's. "Siki" was an outstanding example of the breed, but more importantly, he was a very prepotent sire that produced outstanding progeny.  "Siki" and three of his sons were imported into the United States and when crossed with the American Newfoundland, began the definition of the Newfoundland standards as we know them today.  Almost all Newfoundland's can trace their pedigrees back to "Siki".   

Today's Newfoundland has found work around the world.  The French National Federation for Seaborne Rescue Dogs and the French National School for the Training of Rescue Dogs for Disaster use Newfoundlands particularly for rescue during extreme weather. Newfies see service in Canada and the U.S. as Avalanche Rescue Dogs. New Zealand uses Newfies as well for Search and Rescue.  The Newfoundland is not just another pretty face in the conformation ring.  They pull carts, track, pull sleds, they are working as service dogs and therapy dogs.  And best of all, they will sit beside you when you need a friend.








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