Gentle, loyal, strong and intelligent Newfoundland dogs love to swim.
For centuries Newfoundlands have been bred on the island to be fishermen’s working dogs — performing water rescues, hauling fishing nets, and pulling carts. Weighing up to 150 pounds, they are big.
Their double thick fur, muscular build, webbed feet and great swimming ability make them especially valuable for water rescue. In fact they’re so good at it that they’re entered into sea rescue competitions. The dog in the photo below is doing a “handholding” exercise in France, swimming the man to safety by holding his hand.
Even untrained Newfoundlands will leap to aid people in distress in the water. Wikipedia recounts this example:
In 1995, a 10-month-old Newfoundland named Boo saved a hearing-impaired man from drowning in the Yuba River in Northern California. The man fell into the river while dredging for gold. Boo noticed the struggling man as he and his owner were walking along the river. The Newfoundland instinctively dove into the river, took the drowning man by the arm, and brought him to safety. According to Janice Anderson, the Newfoundland’s breeder, Boo had received no formal training in water rescue.
Newfoundlands have a Pittsburgh connection: In the summer of 1803 Meriwether Lewis was in Pittsburgh waiting for his boats to be completed so he could start his journey down the Ohio to meet up with William Clark (in Indiana) and begin the Lewis and Clark expedition. While he was here Lewis purchased a Newfoundland dog named Seaman for $20. Seaman was the only animal to complete the trip to the Pacific coast and back. (Read more about Seaman here.)
Today Newfoundlands are also kept inland as pets but on the island you can sometimes find them at work on the water. And no wonder. If you lived in a place where the cold ocean can kill a man in less than hour, you’d want this dog on the boat.
p.s. Newfoundlands and Labrador retrievers are related. Both were bred in the province for which they are named. They’re honored by this statue on Signal Hill in St. John’s, NL.
(photo of dog statue in St. John’s by Kate St. John. All other photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the images to see the originals)
Trip is over. I’m back home in Pittsburgh.