The Newfoundland is an ancient breed with origins shrouded in a mist of conflicting historical information. Initially, we thought they originated from Newfoundland, which is one of the provinces of Canada. But then a group of archeologists found evidence of a giant dog in regions that were once occupied by the Sioux and Algonquin Indians.
There’s also a legend that talks about the life of Leif Erikson, who used to be a revered Viking in a different century. And as the story goes, he had a dog that had features that were very similar to our modern version of the Newfoundland breed. It was massive, muscled, black, and had a very large skull.
At this point, it’s starting to dawn on us that we’ll never know for sure where the Newfoundland breed came from. If you’d like to learn about some of the interesting facts that make this breed unique, keep reading.
The 11 Fascinating Newfoundland Facts
1. The Newfie Is a Strong Swimmer
Traits that often make a breed an incredible swimmer are usually classified into two groups: physical and behavioral. The type of coats that they have, as well as their feet, pretty much sums up their defining physical attributes.
The Newfie is different from most breeds because it comes with a double coat that also happens to be water-resistant. The outer coat is not as thick as the inner coat but it’s oilier and longer. This ensures the dog stays warm in water and is buoyant.
Their feet are like paddles since they are webbed, thus making it easier for the dog to propel forward without expending too much energy. In the behavioral compartment, they are always drawn to water. They’ll jump in the water every chance they get, probably because they love the feeling of getting wet.
2. Newfoundlands Are Reliable Rescue Dogs
Speaking of their high affinity with water, for decades the Newfie has served our communities as a rescue breed. You’ll never find this dog just watching if someone is drowning at a distance. Stranger or not, they’ll immediately put on their metaphorical “cape”, and go save the day. In fact, they are so good at what they do that they’ve been recruited by many coast guards.
3. Napoleon Bonaparte Was Once Saved by a Newfie
In 1814, Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to the island of Elba. At the time, he was a French emperor who abdicated following the Treaty of Fontainebleau. Bonaparte spent a year on the island, until one day, he decided to escape. Unfortunately for him, the sea waters weren’t as calm as they usually were, hence tipping his boat over.
Luckily, there was a fisherman nearby, and his dog saw what was happening. Without wasting time, the dog jumped into the sea and helped keep Bonaparte afloat until he got to dry land. The emperor knew he would have died had it not been for the dog, seeing as he wasn’t a strong swimmer and was wearing heavy armor.
Do you know what breed that dog was? Yup, you guessed it—a Newfie.
4. The White House Has Housed At Least Three Newfies
Ulysses Grant, Rutherford Hayes, and James Garfield are all former US presidents who couldn’t live without pets. And yes, coincidentally, they were also huge fans of the Newfoundland breed.
This dog is so popular among notable figures because it’s very intelligent. And it’s that high level of intelligence that helps them easily interpret, understand, and follow various commands, as well as human gestures. Despite its massive size, it’s always calm, gentle, and very patient. It loves playing with kids and making new friends, hence the reason why they are typically considered great family pets.
Are they protective? Yes. They are also very strong and imposing—traits that have earned them spots in our former presidents’ protective detail.
5. Newfoundlands Have Cameoed in Several Disney Movies
Do you remember Nana from Disney’s 1953 film? She was the dog that played the Darling family’s nursemaid. She would tuck the kids in bed every night before their parents went out to party.
What’s interesting about this movie is that the creator gave the dog the physical attributes of a Saint Bernard breed, but the behavioral traits were adopted from a Newfoundland dog. And that’s an undisputed fact because he confirmed the character was based on Luath, the name given to his family’s dog. Needless to say, Luath was a Newfoundland breed.
6. Newfies Have Won the Westminster Tournament Twice
Dog tournaments are essential in the breeding community, as they help us gauge the quality of breeding stock. Dogs that end up winning these competitions are normally tagged as having good conformation. That’s to say, they have the ideal physical appearance and structure, making them suitable to produce high-quality purebred pups.
These competitions are not easy at all, and that’s why some breeds have not been fortunate enough to win even a single award. But the good news is, being part of the winner’s circle is not something that the Newfie has to worry about. They’ve topped the podium twice and come close to winning a third innumerable times. Their first prize was delivered by Adam in 1984 before Josh added a second in 2004.
7. The Newfie Breed Has Survived Wars
To serve as military personnel in any war, you have to be strong, brave, and more importantly, loyal. This is all the proof you need to evaluate what kind of dog breed the Newfie is. For generations, they’ve had the backs of different soldiers on the battlefield, especially those who fought in World War I, II, and the American Civil War.
The US Army has trained dogs since 1942. They called the original program the Dogs for Defense Initiative (DDI), and as you’d expect, the dogs were being trained to serve as roving guards, messengers, or rescue dogs. Most of the training was done in Camp Rimini, and the service animals were treated the same way the soldiers were—they all had personal files and serial numbers.
8. The Newfie Was Part of The Corps of Discovery Expedition
Our former president Thomas Jefferson organized a transcontinental expedition to explore the American West. This visionary project was named the “Corps of Discovery Expedition,” but it’s now popularly known as the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Captain Meriwether Lewis and his close pal, Second Lieutenant William Clark, were tasked by the then-president to figure out the true course of Upper Missouri, as well as its major tributaries. To ensure the mission was a success, Lewis and Clark recruited army and civilian volunteers. And guess what? There was a Newfie dog on that trip too, and he was the only animal.
9. The “Thousand Guinea Dog” Napoleon Was a Newfie
In 1857, G. Van Hare bought Napoleon at a very young age. And as he grew older, so did the bond that they shared. Being a circus owner, he felt it was only right to teach the dog some of his nifty tricks so that both of them would entertain their guests as a duo. What he didn’t know at the time, was that the dog would grow to become the star attraction in all his subsequent Magic Circus events.
The circus acts continued for several years, as they traveled throughout Europe. Sadly though, in 1868, the dog succumbed to an accident. Napoleon was an all-black Newfie, who was loved by many. Some people remember him as “Napoleon the Wizard Dog.”
10. Newfoundlands Almost Went Extinct
In the 1780s, everybody wanted to own a Newfie in Canada. Therefore, the breeders were tasked to produce as many as they could to meet the demand. Their population increased exponentially, to levels that made the government feel like they were now becoming a threat to an already balanced ecosystem. So, a law was passed that compelled Canadians to only keep one Newfie per household.
The law was effective in controlling the population, but this breed almost went into extinction in the 20th century. Fortunately, the tides changed in their favor when Harold Macpherson, who was an experienced breeder, began producing more Newfies.
11. Newfies Are Gentle
In the dog community, the word “large” isn’t always synonymous with “aggressive.” There are dogs that are tiny but more aggressive than large dogs and breeds that are massive but very gentle around people. The Newfoundland dog falls in the latter category. They are all soft-hearted and love hanging out in social settings.
The Newfoundland breed is certainly unique in every sense of the word. They are very loyal, gentle, protective, caring, and intelligent. As of now, we believe they were initially bred in Canada. But that doesn’t mean that we should disregard the fact that what looks like their skeletal remains have been found in other parts of the world.
Featured Image Credit: Pandas, Shutterstock