BBS Breed Spotlight: The Newfoundland

The Newfoundland is a gentle and loving dog with a history rooted in hard work as well as search and rescue. While the breed isn’t commonly seen working the jobs of yesteryear due to modern changes, demand for this breed’s companionship hasn’t diminished. With it’s giant bear-like appearance and stoic demeanor, there is no confusion about the Newfoundland’s great personality —  only how to pronounce his name!


Some believe the European predecessor of the Newfoundland made its way to the island with the Vikings around 1000 AD. This breed, known as the Viking Bear Dog, was crossbred with the native nomadic Indian dogs. Around 1610, when colonization of Newfoundland and Labrador began, the development of the Newfoundland as a breed was changed forever. Fisherman and tradesman brought their European dogs to the island and mixed them with the local breed.

Fishing was and still is a huge part of life in Newfoundland. Outfitted with webbed feet and a heavy, oily coat, the Newfoundland is perfectly equipped for the rigors of hard work in extreme northern climates. Used for everything from hauling wood to pulling nets through the icy North Atlantic waters, the Newfoundland was in high demand as a working breed. At home in the water and on land, the Newfoundland is a brave water rescue dog.

A Working Breed

During the 1600s larger European breeds like Mastiffs and Pyrenees were introduced by fishermen from the Old World. Gradually, the Viking/Indian mix was transformed into a larger, stockier and heavier coated dog. This is the Newfoundland we all know and love today.

Because this breed has spent so many years working on fishing boats and living with seafaring owners, it has developed an instinctive knack to grab things — and people — out of the water with little or no instruction.

In fact, a Newfoundland is even credited with saving Napoleon Bonaparte! In 1815, when Napoleon made his escape from exile off the island of Elba, rough seas battered his ship throwing him overboard. As luck would have it, a fisherman’s Newfoundland reportedly jumped into the sea and kept him afloat until he was able to be rescued.

During the early 20th century, a Newfoundland was also credited with saving 92 people — including one infant — from the wreckage of the SS Ethie. A blizzard with near zero visibility conditions caused the ship to wreck off the north coast of Newfoundland. A Newfoundland saved the day, and everyone’s neck, by carrying a rope to shore attached to a rescue buoy.

Stories like these are perfect examples of this breed’s amazing abilities. Driven by a natural instinct to save and protect people, the Newfoundland is quite literally a gentle giant.

Physical Appearance

A massive breed, Newfoundlands usually stand 25 – 29 inches tall and weigh between 100 – 150 pounds. Broad headed with a strong back, the breed’s role as a working dog has had a large effect on it’s appearance — this is especially true of the dog’s coat. Dense and soft, the Newfoundland’s double coat is oily and water resistant.

While black and black with blue highlights are the most common, there is some variation in color and markings. Other combinations include black with white markings, brown, gray and white with black markings.

The Gentle Giant

Calm and patient, the Newfoundland is well behaved around strangers and children. They also socialize well with other animals, especially when introduced at a young age. Newfoundlands can be a challenge to train, however. A bit stubborn at times, owners with calm and confident attitudes will have the most luck with this breed.

As with any dog, consistency and patience is mandatory when training. Check out our Training Tips series on the BestBullySticks Healthy Dog Blog for some inspiration!

Special Needs & Considerations

The Newfoundland’s size and heavy coat demand special attention. Better suited for colder climates, this breed can have quite a bit of difficulty adapting to hotter climates.

A daily brushing of their thick coat is important — especially during the spring and fall when shedding. Indoor Newfies tend to lose their thick undercoat over time. Owners should also avoid bathing unless absolutely necessary as it strips away the coat’s oils.

If you’re thinking about getting a Newfoundland, chances are you’ll be quite happy! Just make sure you’re up for the extra grooming responsibilities. And while it may not be ideal, the Newfoundland will fare well in an apartment if given ample daily exercise. This breed is genuinely drawn to water and given the chance, they’ll jump right in. A wet Newfie is a happy Newfie!

%d bloggers like this: