The exact origins of the Newfoundland are uncertain, with many theories surrounding its early development. Some suggest that the breed is related to the Great Pyrenees, a dog that was brought to Canada by Basque fishermen. Failing this, others attribute its evolution to breeds including the Great Dane, English Mastiff, St. Bernard and various Nordic dogs, which all bear a striking resemblance to the Newfoundland in their respective ways. Boasting a varied history, having worked alongside fishermen in the North Atlantic and been utilised in cart pulling, sledding and tracking, the Newfoundland has demonstrated its versatility throughout its existence. Many notable Newfoundlands have found their way into the history books, with a dog named Rigel having swum alongside a lifeboat following the sinking of the Titanic, alerting the passing steamship Carpathia to its presence, thus saving everyone aboard.
Capable of working both land and water, the Newfoundland is a classic working dog with an inherent energy, confidence and love of people. Eager to please, the Newfoundland adapts well to new situations and people and is both able-bodied and independent-minded. Boasting a heavy-boned, proportioned body with short legs, a deep, square-cut muzzle, large pendant ears and a long tail, the Newfoundland strongly resembles its early forebears. The profuse double coat, heavily feathered, would have served to insulate the dog from the icy waters in which it originally swam, whilst protecting the body from bracken, rough earth or predator bites. The Newfoundland coat is typically dense and long, predominantly coloured black, usually with blue, grey or white markings. Unsurprisingly, the Newfoundland has a natural affinity with water, being a confident and enthusiastic swimmer. The Newfoundland contributed to the foundation stock of the Leonberger.
The breed is perhaps most recognised for playing the part of 'Nana' in Peter Pan, expertly demonstrating the Newfoundland's instinctive nature to protect children. Other qualities showcased by the breed are its gentle, loyal and mannered temperament, its high trainability, its versatility and its ability to differentiate harmless strangers from those likely to pose a threat. A breed of impressive appearance, size and stature, the Newfoundland weighs a healthy average of 45-68 kg, with an approximate life expectancy of 8-10 years, providing its needs for exercise, mental stimulation and human companionship are met.
Despite being generally healthy and resilient, there are various health conditions specific to the breed. Hip dysplasia and associated structural and orthopedic complaints, as well as arthritis and easy weight gain are identified in the Newfoundland, along with more serious incidences of kidney disease, bladder stones and heart defects resulting from its large size.