History describes the Newfoundland to be a brave loyal companion. Its webbed feet, water-resistant coat, and rudder-like tail make it an excellent swimmer. The Newfoundland is famous for rescuing drowning people.
There is much uncertainty about the origin of the Newfoundland. Some say that his ancestors are the white Great Pyrenees, dogs brought to the coast of Newfoundland by the Basque fishermen; others that he descended from a “French Hound” (probably the Boarhound); but all agree that he originated in Newfoundland and that his ancestors were undoubtedly brought there by fishermen from the European continent.
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 drastically affect the Newfoundland population almost into extinction. Many dogs were shipped out or destroyed but some Newfoundlander’s, such as Harold MacPherson (1884-1963), were loyal to their love for the breed and chose to ignore the degree. Thus, the breed survived in Newfoundland.
During the eighteenth century, the breed began to increase both in number and in popularity. A number of Newfoundland’s had made their way to the southern colonies. Stories were found written in journals from this century, like that of “Seaman”, 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”.
At the present time, the Newfoundland is admired and bred in many different countries including, besides his native land, Canada, England, France, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and the United States. Although he is a superior water dog, the Newfoundland has been used and is still used in Newfoundland and Labrador as a true working dog, dragging carts, or more often carrying burdens as a pack horse.