The lifesaving legacy of the Newfoundland dog dates back as
early as 1000 AD when large "bear dogs" worked side by side with natives living in the remote Canadian province of Newfoundland.|
As the breed evolved, the dogs developed a natural
ability to perform lifesaving water rescues. They were
indispensable to local residents, especially fisherman,
as the dogs helped them earn their livings. While working on boats, the dogs retrieved articles that fell overboard, carried lines between boats, hauled in heavy fishing nets and held the responsibility of lifeguard. In port, the dogs were harnessed to carts to pull the
day's catch to market and make other deliveries.
There are many stories about the courage and stamina Newfoundlands exhibited in rescuing people from drowning. As recently as the turn of the century, sailing ships kept these dogs on board to bring
unfortunate people who fell overboard back to the ship. Lewis and Clarke took a Newfoundland (named Seaman) on their journey to find the Northwest Passage. Napoleon I was saved from drowning by a Newfoundland. In 1919, a small steamer ran aground off Newfoundland's rocky coast. Surf and rocks
make using lifeboats impossible. A Newf from the ship was given a line to take to shore, from which a boatswain's chair was rigged, and all aboard were saved. No men could have made it to shore, as such an attempt would have pulverized them on the rocks.
Newfs were also used in the defense of Aleutian Islands during World War II. The Army Technical Manual of 1943 describes the Newf as "a massive powerful dog. Water-resistant coat equips him for cold and wet weather. An excellent pack dog, he also possesses a talent for rescuing drowning persons".
The Newfoundland is exceptionally well build for water work. He has a water resistant double coat, a strong muscled tail which is used as a rudder, webbed feet, ears that cling close to the head, and a strong swimming style resembling a breast stroke.
What is Lord Byron's poem?
I.E., What kind of love and loyalty do Newfies inspire in their owners?|
Inscription on the Monument of a Newfoundland Dog
by Lord Byron
When some proud son of man returns to earth,
Unknown to glory, but upheld by birth,
The sculptur'd art exhausts the art of woe,
And stoned urns record who rest below;
When all is done, upon the tomb is seen,
Not what he was, but what he should have been;
But the poor Dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, foremost to defend;
Whose honest heart is still his master's own,
Who labours, fights, lives, breathes, for him alone,
Unhonour'd falls, unnoticed all his worth,
Denied in Heaven the soul he held on earth;
While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,
And claimls himself sole exclusive of Heaven!
Oh, man! thou feeble tenant of an hour,
Debas'd by slavery, or corrupt by power,
Who knows thee well, must quit thee with disgust,
Degraded mass of animated dust!
By nature vile, ennobled but by name,
Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame.
Ye! who, perchance, behold this single Urn,
Pass on--it none you wish to mourn:
To mark a Friend's remains these stones arise,
I never knew but one, and here he lies.
Newstead Abbey, November 30,1808.
On one side of the pedestal supporting the antique urn he had inscribed:
"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 but a just tribute to the Memory of
BOATSWAIN, a Dog,
Who was born at Newfoundland, May, 1803,
And died at Newstead Abbey, Nov. 18, 1808."
Lord Byron's poem: Inscription on the Monument
of a Newfoundland Dog
The Newfoundland Today
Great Britain first sponsored formal water tests for Newfoundlands in the late 1800's. The Newfoundland Club of American began its water tests in 1973, with the first test in this country being held by the Great Lakes Newfoundland Club in Michigan.
Newfoundlands are used to help people patrol the beaches in Britain, France, and Italy. During their annual water training demonstration at the Molveno Dog Show, the Italian School of Dog Training showcases circumstances in which Newfs and their handlers jump out of helicopters hovering 15 feet above the water's surface. The French Coast Guard has determined that a well-conditioned Newf can tow an inflatable life raft
with 20 people aboard two miles to shore with out being unduly stressed.
The water rescue instincts of the Newf are particularly evident when children or other family members are in the water. The Newf takes his life guarding responsibilities very seriously, quite often circling around and herding his "family" to shore. They have an uncanny ability to sense when someone in the water needs help, whether a family member or strangers, a Newfie will immediately swim out to assist. Some dogs circle around the "victim" until they feel the person grab onto them, then head to shore; others will take the person's arm in their mouth
and proceed to tow them to
safety that way.
Quite a few famous people have been fortunate enough to own a Newf, including Samuel Adams, Sir Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, Lord Nelson, Lord Byron, Robert Kennedy, Bing Crosby, Robert Wagner, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin.
Newfoundlands make wonderful pets, but they are not for everyone. Nicknamed "The Gentle Giants," they are wonderful with children and other pets, and are great companions (Nana, in the story Peter Pan, was a Newfoundland). No breed is perfect for everyone, however; most Newfs drool heavily, and their thick coats make shedding and grooming quite an event.
Some Famous Newfoundlanders
Oolam was owned by Norse explorer Leif Erickson. He accompanied his master on Leif’s journey to North America. Legend tells of Oolam rescuing 5 drowning Vikings that fell overboard in a North Atlantic Storm.|
Henri was the faithful companion of Napoleon Bonaparte. Henri was so big, and stayed at his master’s side so faithfully, that French Commanders were worried that their leader might be recognized on the battlefield because of this massive and distinctive dog.
QueQue was the beloved dog of Patriot and Founding Father Samuel Adams. She pestered British Redcoats during the blockade of Boston harbor. George Washington and Benjamin Franklin both owned Newfies too.
Seaman was the companion of Lewis & Clark on their famous journey across North America. He helped them extensively with his swimming and tracking abilities. When Indians saw this nearly 200 pound animal, they thought their White visitors had a domesticated bear for their companion.
Click here for more information on Seaman
Brumis was owned by the late Robert(Bobbie)Kennedy. It was often joked that Brumis sat in on Top Secret meetings with other “Big Dogs.” He also was known to clean up any unguarded food at the dinner table, much to the surprise of any guests.
In Peter Pan, the Darlings’ dog Nana is a Newfie, according to author J. M. Barrie.