The Newfoundland is a large working dog, from the Canadian Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. They can be black, black and white (landseer) or brown, although before Newfoundland became part of the Confederation of Canada, only black, and black and white dogs were considered to be proper members of the breed.

Now known for their giant size, intelligence, strength and loyalty, the Newfoundland was originally bred to work with fishermen. They also excel at water rescue and life saving because of their muscular build, thick double coat, webbed feet and swimming abilities.

The Newfoundland shares many physical traits with Mastiffs and Mollosser type dogs such as the St Bernard and the English Mastiff. These traits include, stout legs, massive heads with a broad snout, and a very strong bone structure. Many modern St Bernards have the Newfoundland in their ancestry, they were introduced into the St Bernard in the 18th century when their population was threatened by a distemper outbreak.

The Newfoundland are descended from breeds indigenous to the Canadian island, known as the Lesser Newfoundland or the St Johns dog. DNA analysis confirms that Newfoundlands are closely related to other Canadian retrievers including the Labrador, the Golden retriever and Flat coated retrievers.

By 1610 when colonisation was permitted in Newfoundland, the distinct mental attributes and physical characteristics of the breed had been established. Early in the 1850s explores from England and Ireland travelled to the Great Banks of Newfoundland, where they discovered two main types of working dogs, The bigger, heavier breed was known as the Greater Newfoundland or the Newfoundland, the smaller breed was known as the Lesser Newfoundland or the St Johns dog. (The St Johns dog became the founding breed for modern retrievers). Both breeds were used as working dogs, used for pulling the fishnets, while the larger dogs were also used to pull carts and other equipment.

Many tales have been told of the courage displayed by Newfoundland dogs in their life saving exploits. This as inspired a number of artists who have portrayed the dogs in paintings, stone, bronze and porcelain. One famous Newfoundland was ‘Seaman’ who accompanied the American explorers Lewis and Clark on their expeditions.

The breed prospered in the U. K until 1914, the outbreak of World War I, when the numbers were almost fatally depleted by wartime restrictions, numbers were just getting back to normal when World War II broke out, causing further setbacks. Since the 1950s there as been a steady increase in numbers and popularity, this is despite the Newfoundland huge size and love of mud and water meaning its unsuitable as a pet for a lot of modern households. Anyone thinking of taking on a Newfoundland puppy will have to be aware of the huge challenges that lie ahead but if this doesn’t bother them they will have a fantastic loyal pet.

The Newfoundland dog is known for its calm, docile nature as well as its great strength, they are highly loyal and it is for these reasons the breed is known as the ‘gentle giant’. They are easy to train, if started young, and are wonderfully good with children, but small children can accidentally get leaned on and knocked over.

Male Newfoundlands normally weigh between 65 and 80kg (143-176lb) and females 55 to 65kg (121-143lb) placing them in the ‘giant’ weight range, they can grow to 56 to 76cm (22-30in) at the shoulders.

The Newfoundlands large bones give it mass, and its large muscular build gives it the power needed to take on rough seas and powerful tides. They have amazing lung capacity, which means they can swim long distances, and their thick, oily double coat protects them from the chilly, icy waters. In the water the dogs massive webbed paws give it propulsion, the swimming stroke is not an ordinary dog paddle, unlike other dogs it moves its limbs in a down-and-out motion, giving more power to each stroke.

The American kennel clubs standard colours for Newfoundlands are black, brown, grey and black and white, sometimes known as Landseer. ( named after the artist Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, as they featured in many of his paintings). The U. K kennel club permits only black, black and white and brown.

There are several health problems associated with Newfoundlands, they are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia (a malformed ball and socket in the joint), and cystinurina, a hereditary defect that causes calculi stones in the bladder. Another genetic problem is Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis (SAS), this is a common heart defect in Newfoundlands, and can cause death at an early age.

It is common for Newfoundlands to live for 8 to 10 years, 10 is a commonly cited life expectancy, but they can live to be 15 years old.

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michael simpson

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