The origin of the Newfoundland is a subject of much debate. One theory suggests that the Newfoundland evolved from the Tibetan Mastiff that accompanied Asian warriors across the Asian continent and entered North America at Newfoundland. A second theory suggests a cross-breeding between Mastiffs, Pyrenean Sheepdogs and Portuguese Water Dogs sometime during the 15th and 16th centuries. Another accepted theory holds that the breed descended from “Bear Dogs” that were brought to North America by the Vikings in 1000 AD. Whatever their origins, the first documented record of a breed resembling the Newfoundland can be found in records of that country dating back to the 1600s. A Newfie accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte on board his ship from France, and is legend to have saved his life when he fell overboard one night. A Newfoundland was also chosen to accompany Lewis and Clark on their famous expedition to the Pacific Northwest Coast in 1803. In England, during the 1800s, every lifeguard station along the British coast was required to employ two Newfoundlands to aid in rescue attempts. The hardships of WWII produced a serious decline in the breed, although they served admirably during the war hauling supplies and ammunition. Today their numbers thrive worldwide.
The Newfoundland is best known for their sweet and gentle disposition, and especially their great love of children and protective feelings towards them. They are especially tolerant of toddler behavior and make great nannies, helping Moms to watch over youngsters. The Newf is well constructed for life-saving heroics in the water. Their coat repels water allowing them to swim for hours yet remain dry at their skin. Their massive build and great endurance allow them to swim in cold, rough waters with ease. They have webbed feet, and unlike other water-loving breeds, they swim with a breast-stroke instead of the dog paddle. Their natural instincts help them to evaluate and handle a rescue according to the needs of the victim. The Newf will circle around a conscious swimmer allowing the person to grab hold of them. But if the swimmer is unconscious, the Newf instinctively grasps the swimmers upper arm causing the person to roll onto their back with their head out of the water.