Every Dog Has It’s Day And Today, March 25th, is Newfoundland Dog Day or as they are affectionately known, Newfies.
Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock
The Newfoundland is a large breed of working dog that takes its name from the region by the same name, of Northeast Canada. The dogs can be black, grey, brown or black and white, though in the early days, only black and Landseer (white and black), were considered to be proper members of the breed. They were originally used as a working dog to pull nets for fishermen as their oily waterproof coat and webbed feet made them excellent swimmers. Indeed their versatility has seen them completing several tasks during their history, such as towing fisherman’s carts, pulling logs from the forest for lumberjacks, hauling in fisherman’s nets, jumping from boats to retrieve lost equipment, and in more recent times, jumping out of low flying planes and helicopters to rescue swimmers in distress.
Newfoundlands are known for their giant size, intelligence, tremendous strength, calm disposition, love of children and loyalty. Males normally weight between 65 to 80 Kg and females 55 to 65 Kg. However the largest on record weighed 120 Kg and measured over 1.8 metres (6ft) from nose to tail!
The Newfoundland is known as one of the best swimmers in the canine world. Its large musculature gives it the power it needs to take on rough ocean waves and powerful tides. The dogs have a huge lung capacity for swimming extremely long distances, one has been known to swim 3 miles without stopping. They are natural swimmers, love water and are well adapted to this activity with their waterproof coats and webbed paws to give it maximum propulsion. Their swimming stroke is not an ordinary dog paddle as the Newfoundland moves its limbs in a down and out motion giving more power to every stroke.
Newfoundlands have saved many people from drowning. The Newfoundland dog breed has been nicknamed the lifeguard dog and with good reason. An unnamed Newfoundland was credited for saving Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815. During his escape from exile on the Island of Elba, rough seas knocked Napoleon overboard. A fisherman’s dog jumped in to the sea and kept Napoleon afloat until he could reach safety. When the RMS Titanic sank, First Officer William Murdoch went down with the ship but his Newfoundland dog, Rigel, swam for 3 hours next to a lifeboat until it was rescued by the RMS Carpathia. Rigel is renowned as a hero because his barking alerted the Carpathia’s Captain to the presence of weakened survivors in the lifeboat before the ship hit them. Rigel was adopted by crewman Jonas Briggs. Today Kennel Clubs across the United States host Newfoundland Rescue Demonstrations as well as offering classes in the field. Many harbour boat tours in St John’s have a dog on board for local charm as well as for passenger safety.
Photo courtesy of Downeast Dog News
One of the best known was the canine lifeguard, Bilbo, a 14 stone Newfoundland, who patrolled the sands of Sennen Cove in Cornwall, UK, as a working member of the RNLI with his owner Steve Jamieson. The two of them could be seen patrolling the beach on the lifeguard quad bike with Bilbo sat behind Steve. Bilbo was credited with saving at least 3 lives during his career. Newfoundlands are now being used in other parts of the world on beach patrols.
Image by Mike Rushworth
The Italians have really taken this idea of using Newfoundlands to rescue people from drowning and the Italian Coastguard now have 300 dogs on duty and they help save thousands of people every year. The Italian School of Water Rescue Dogs states that Newfies are the best breed for the purpose because of their size, strength, affinity for water, and most importantly, a built in instinct for rescue. The dogs must be proficient in different types of rescue scenarios, such as towing small boats, rescuing more than one person at a time, diving from heights, and bringing ropes from one boat to another.
Image courtesy of Animal Hearted
Photo courtesy of the Italian School of Water Rescue Dogs
As already stated the Newfie is known for its calm and docile nature. They are very loyal, have a mild nature and are often called “the gentle giant”. They make ideal companions in the world of therapy and they are often referred to as “nanny dogs”. The breed was memorialised in “Nana”, the beloved guardian dog in J M Barrie’s Peter Pan. Several establishments use Newfies now as part of their therapy program to help people overcome or deal with PTSD, illness, trauma or substance abuse.
Image courtesy of Flickr (Peter Pan Nana)
I think you will agree with me, Newfies are certainly amazing gentle giants of the dog world with big hearts filled with love and devotion.
If you have an interest in other breeds of large dog there is an excellent article on 10 of the larger dog breeds that can be found on the TrustedHousesitters blog page using the link below.