Newfoundland and Labrador Animals
The Newfoundland Dog
The Newfoundland dog is a well-known symbol of the
province. Its origins are
obscure, with different theories citing the Basques,
Norse and other settlers as those who introduced
this large dog to the island.
The Newfoundland dog is famed for its bravery, gentle
temperament and strong swimming abilities. It has a stiff,
oily outer coat and a fleecy undercoat that allows it to
adapt to harsh, wet conditions. Its
tight eyelids and drop ears keep out water, and its webbed feet are an
ideal swimming aid. Adult males weigh approximately 68 kg,
females around 52 kg.
Because of their physique, Newfoundland dogs were
frequent companions aboard fishing vessels, where they helped to
haul nets, and retrieve objects and persons from the water.
Because of their size and their life-saving instincts, they can
easily pull drowning persons to safety. Their lung capacity
enables them to swim long distances while fighting
powerful ocean currents.
Newfoundland dogs have proven to be useful on land as well.
They were often hitched to carts loaded with fish,
and because they can move over 900 kg, they
pulled wagons that delivered milk and mail.
Despite their usefulness, their numbers declined until the early 20th.
century when the Hon. Harold Macpherson established a kennel in St.
John's to protect them from extinction. Today the Newfoundland dog
enjoys immense popularity around the world.
The Labrador Retriever
This descendant of the Newfoundland
dog is believed to have originated on the island
and not in Labrador, as the name suggests. The name
"Labrador" was given to this dog by British breeders
in order to differentiate between the two types of
dog. The retriever was originally called the "lesser Newfoundland" or the "St. John's dog."
||Brian Bursey's Labrador Retriever "Triton".
Reproduced by permission of Brian Bursey. From Brian C. Bursey,
(St. John's: Harry Cuff Publications, ©1989) 48.
Weighing between 25 and 34 kg, these small water dogs were found to be
natural retrievers. They were shipped to England,
where the breed was officially recognized by the English
Kennel Club in 1903. This dog is known around the world
for its playful and friendly nature.
The Newfoundland Pony
Newfoundland ponies probably derive from breeds brought
from Europe in the early 17th. century, following which
they adapted to Newfoundland's harsh climate and conditions. The ponies
were used to haul boats out of the water, pull logs from the forest
and to prepare land for spring planting. Quiet animals with good
temperaments, they are good workers, easy keepers and great family
Reproduced by permission of John de Visser. From Harold Horwood and John de Visser, Historic Newfoundland
(Toronto: Oxford University Press, ©1986).
Since Confederation, cross-breeding and neglect have driven
the pony to near extinction; fewer than 200 remain. Recently, concerned
Newfoundlanders have been making efforts to reverse this trend. Possibly
the oldest breed of domesticated livestock in North America, the Newfoundland
pony has been declared a heritage animal.
Newfoundland ponies weigh between 227-454 kg, and stand approximately
14.2 hands (147 cm) high. Their coats are bay, brown, black or red with black
forelocks, manes and tails. Their lower legs are solid black, and they sometimes
have a black stripe along their backs. Hooves are blue-black with a very
hard outer horn. Winter coats generally grow to 5-7 cm and are a
different colour from the summer coats.
The above information was compiled from a variety of sources by Wendy
Dalziel, Vanessa Rice. The information contained
herein is accurate to August 1998.
Sidebar updated December, 2011.