Newfoundlands are legendary for their strength and athletic ability in and out of the water, and for their gentle, yet fearless nature. This breed developed in Newfoundland, off the coast of Canada, but its origins are nebulous. The Basques, Norse and other explorers to the Atlantic Coast are credited with bringing this dog to the island, but it is also believed that the breed was develped by selectively crossing European dogs with native dogs found by explorers to the area.
The Newfoundland has a stiff, oily outer coat and a fleecy undercoat, allowing it to adapt to harsh and cold conditions. Webbed feet make him an ideal swimmer, and because of this physique, Newfs frequently accompanied fishing vessels and performed life-saving rescues. The dogs helped haul nets, retrieve objects and people from the water, and their lung capacity allows them to swim long distances against fierce currents.
Newfies were also used on land to haul carts of fish, milk and mail!
Newfoundland legends abound, but many have been cited by multiple soures. A famous Newfie named Bob was known to have rescued over 20 people from the Thames River, Great Britain, in the 1830s, and received a medal from the Royal Humane Society for his efforts.
Two decades later, a Newfie named Wallace stopped a mutiny on the U.S.clipper ship Dreadnought simply by standing up and placing his paws on the mutineer.
In Great Britain, Sir Edwin Landseer, a famous animal painter, depicted a Newf rescuing a boy and pulling him to a beach. Landseer painted and drew many other Newfoundlands, but he is best known for giving his name to the black and white Newfoundland often depicted in his works.
Today, Newfoundlands are used in search and rescue missions by many countries, and Italy even has a training school for the dogs, which are used in their Coast Guard service. Many Newfie videos are available from Google and other sources, but please also reference the Museum's video of Leo performing a rescue in 2012 in Maryland! Leo is a Landseer-type, and a talented rescuer!
Visit our Facebook Page to view the 2012 video of Leo performing a water rescue.