The Newfoundland was developed in Newfoundland, Canada for use by fishermen. The dogs quickly became synonymous with the area and were named after the provenance it hailed from.
Research shows that the breed is related to the Irish water spaniel and Labrador retriever. In the 1880s, there were actually two types of Newfoundlands. The St. John’s Water dog, also called a Lesser Newfoundland, is the modern founder of most retriever breeds; however, it has been extinct since the 1980s. The Greater Newfoundland is the breed we call a Newfoundland today. Known for being a large dog with a heavy build and long coat, the dog quickly became a staple pet in several countries.
The exact origins of the Newfoundland are unknown; however, it seems most likely that they were developed in the late-1700s. The Greater Newfoundland is thought to have been bred with English mastiffs to make the breed bigger and give them those flappy jowls we all love so much.
Since its inception, the Newfoundland has become both a beloved pet and staple in literature due to its strength and caring nature. Some of the most famous tales involving Newfoundlands are:
Nana in Peter Pan is a Newfoundland. Based on JM Barrie’s actual Lanseer Newfoundland named Luath, the beloved nanny dog is often mistaken for a St. Bernard. However, Barrie was quite clear on Nana being a “prim Newfoundland.” The mistake may be due to people associating the Landseer’s brown and white markings with a St. Bernard. Whatever the case, Nana, the most famous nanny dog of all time, was most assuredly a Newfoundland.
Seaman may not be recognizable strictly by name, but he actually holds a prime spot in history, working on the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the United States. Purchased by Lewis for $20 in 1803, Lewis selected the dog due to their prime ability to swim and the breed’s inherent loyalty. Of all the animals taken on the expedition, Seaman was the only dog to survive the three-year trek which took the explorers from the East coast to the West coast in order to understand how the United States were laid out. The trip was treacherous for both man and beast, and Lewis kept a detailed record of Seaman’s adventures.
The dog was used as a hunting companion throughout the trip, ensuring its masters had food. It would regularly capture squirrels and even went so far as to capture an antelope for the starving explorers. At one point in 1805, the dog was severely mangled by a beaver. Lewis and Clark performed emergency surgery on the dog to care for an artery that had been bitten. Miraculously, the dog survived. Towards the end of the expedition, the dog was napped by Indians. Lewis sent three of his men to rescue the dog, ensuring Seaman wouldn’t meet a grizzly fate.
After the expedition, Seaman went home with Lewis to live out his days. Sadly, Lewis passed away within three years. Seaman, unable to cope without his beloved master, passed away shortly after, refusing to eat or drink after Lewis’ death.
Perhaps no other dog is as revered in English literature as Boatswain, the beloved Newfoundland of Lord Byron. At fifteen-years-old, Byron was given Boatswain as a present. He quickly fell in love with the little puppy and considered him a dear friend. Their bond ran deep, and it was not uncommon to see the two with one another at nearly all times. From walks in the forest to dinner time, Boatswain would not leave Byron’s side.
Unfortunately, at five years old, Boatswain came down with rabies. Byron, who was studying at Trinity College, became obsessed with nursing the dog back to health. He spent hours coddling the poor animal, going so far as to hand feed him and using his handkerchief to wipe the frothy drool associated with the disease from the beloved dog’s face. Sadly, the dog passed away in Byron’s arms after a seizure. Distraught and finding it difficult to cope with the loss of his best friend, Byron wrote an extremely long eulogy dedicated to Boatswain. He eventually had it carved on a headstone which still stands today. For the rest of his life, Byron would always hold dogs in higher regard than humans.