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15 Incredible Facts About Newfoundland Dogs You Will Love to Learn

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By Nicole Cosgrove

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Some dog breeds are tiny and cute; others are big and scary. And then there are unique breeds that manage to be equally imposing and charming. The Newfoundland dogs are exactly like that! These hardworking giants can easily pull heavy carts and handle the toughest tasks. Newfies (or Newfs) have a soft side, too, and love to play and watch over little kids.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As you’ll learn today, Newfies are quite a talented bunch. These dogs swim like pros, excel as rescue dogs, and win golden medals at prestigious shows. Plus, they served among fellow soldiers in historical wars. So, join us, and let’s talk about the most amazing facts about Newfoundland dogs!

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The 15 Incredible Facts About Newfoundland Dogs

1. Newfoundland Dogs Are Gigantic!

This is the first thing that will catch your eye. Newfoundland dogs aren’t just big: they’re lean and mean. Males easily go over the 100 pounds mark, often reaching 150 pounds. As for the height, expect a mature Newf to stand up to 28 inches tall. The heavy bone structure, mighty muscles, and tough upbringing make them excellent working dogs. So, if you’ve been looking for a giant dog breed, you just found it!

Thanks to their affectionate, eager-to-please character, these hounds are obedient and live to serve. But they’re not overly aggressive and rarely bark unless provoked. Generally, Newfies are open to strangers (both humans and pets) and can get playful with the right people. A quick note: the biggest Newfoundland dog in history was Boomer. He weighed 180 pounds and reached 7 feet when standing up!

man playing with his newfoundland dog outdoors
Photo Credit: D. Ribeiro, Shutterstock

2. They’re Sweethearts, Despite the Size

Don’t let the formidable size stop you from making friends with this gentle, caring animal. Once the two of you get acquainted and do some bonding activities like walking, running, and fetching, you’ll see just how tender-hearted these giant dogs are. This is one of the most affectionate, open, and adaptive large dog breeds to ever be domesticated. Newfoundlands do require training and socializing, of course.

3. Newfs Are Very Camera-Friendly

Here’s another thing that most folks might not think of when looking at a Newfoundland: these dogs aren’t at all camera-shy! That big nose, dreamy eyes, and lush coat turn them into the perfect models for your next photo shoot. Unlike some other dogs, Newfies won’t get uncomfortable or aggressive when you start snapping pictures. As far as the most photogenic breeds go, these chaps are right there in the top 5.

taking photo of newfoundland dog
Photo Credit: rzoze19, Shutterstock

4. These Dogs Originated in Canada

So, where do these majestic dogs come from? Well, it’s not that hard to figure this one out: as the name suggests, Newfs are from Newfoundland and Labrador, an eastern Canadian province. More specifically, they hail from a pretty big island of the same name. It’s categorized as the 16th-largest island on the planet. Just like many other breeds, they were bred to serve as working dogs.

The island used to be a “hub” for local fishermen and ship crews from Ireland and England, and they all needed a big, strong, and ready-to-work dog like the Newfies. Now, if we go even further back in history, we’ll see that Newfoundland dogs are the descendants of the now-extinct St. John’s dogs and the Scandinavian bear dogs. Plus, they have the same physical features as Labradors, Retrievers, and Portuguese Mastiffs.

5. They Almost Went Extinct Once!

In 1780, the Canadian government passed a law against Newfoundland dogs.1 The reason: the streets were overcrowded with these giants, and they were a real threat to sheep. So, folks from the island were only allowed to keep one Newfy pet. Now, while the law did protect the livestock, in the early 20th century, the dog population was so low that the breed was on the brink of extinction.

Fortunately, that all changed with the arrival of Harold Macpherson, a dog breeder. Later, he became a noted Newfoundland breeder and is largely recognized as the savior of this breed. Today, Newfoundland dogs are cherished and respected for their hardworking nature, charming personalities, and obedient nature. More than that, they’re recognized as one of the best lifeguards. Let’s talk about that next.

brown newfoundland
Photo Credit: Utekhina Anna, Shutterstock

6. Newfoundlands Are Quite the Swimmers

You might not believe that at first, given how big and heavy these dogs are, but they are, indeed, excellent swimmers. Naturally, Newf dogs were brought up by fishermen, and their ability to cross rivers, carry something heavy, and perform the tasks of working dogs were greatly appreciated. So, how come Newfies are so good at swimming?

Partially, this is thanks to their webbed feet. Just like geese, frogs, and other animals with webbing between their toes, Newfoundlands feel at home in the water. This is interesting: unlike most mammals, Newfies move their legs in a down-and-out motion, which makes them faster and more agile. The impressive lung capacity doesn’t hurt, either.

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7. They’re Amazing Rescue Dogs

Newfs don’t just swim for fun or to cool off during summer heat. For hundreds of years, they’ve been serving as rescue dogs. Newfoundlands have great natural instincts and always come to the rescue of drowning humans. To this day, quite a few coastal guards and boat tours have at least one such dog aboard the ship. One great example is the Italian K9 lifeguard crew that never sets sail without a Newfoundland.

These dogs have a truly incredible track record. Here are some more amazing stories that involve Newfies saving lives:

  • Once, a single doggo helped save 63 sailors from a wreck. Unfortunately, we don’t know the name of that hero
  • In 1828, Hairyman, a Newfy dog, helped Ann Harvey save an even bigger crowd: 160 Irishmen aboard the Despatch ship
  • In the late 19th century, another Newfie helped rescue 92 people, the SS Ethie crew
  • In 1941, a hero doggo nicknamed “Black Beast” saved seven Canadian soldiers from a Japanese grenade
  • In 1995, a Newfoundland dog named Boo helped save a deaf and mute person that was drowning in a river
newfoundland dog training
Image Credit: mariesacha, Shutterstock

8. A Newfoundland Saved Bonaparte Once

Here’s how it went: in 1814, the French Emperor was banished to the island of Elba. A year later, Napoleon attempted to escape the island on a boat, but at one point, he lost his balance and fell into the water. The man wasn’t a great swimmer. More than that, he was wearing heavy armor and a sword. Thankfully, a Newfoundland dog quickly came to his rescue!2

The doggo kept his head above water until the soldiers pulled him up. Again, we don’t know what that dog was called, but it was definitely a hero! Napoleon didn’t always have a positive attitude toward dogs, but this miracle sure did change his mind. Later, he said, “If you don’t like dogs…you are not faithful”.

9. Napoleon the Wonder Dog Was a Newfy

In the 1860s, Van Hare, a legendary English magician/circus owner, had a dog named the “Thousand Guinea Dog”. There were quite a few Newfie dogs in that circus, but the “wizard dog” was truly special. Dancing, jumping, leaping over horses, and spelling names were all part of his routine. Today, we know him as “Napoleon the Wonder Dog”, and sadly, he died when practicing a dangerous trick for the circus.

At that time, the dog was 11 years old and weighed almost 200 pounds. Napoleon is widely recognized as one of the most gifted furry artists to ever perform in front of a crowd.

newfoundland dog
Image credit: YAN WEN, Shutterstock,

10. Lewis and Clark Owned a Newfie Dog

Back in 1804, Captain Lewis and Lieutenant Clark led one of the most ambitious expeditions: to explore the western parts of the country. The project was green-lit by Thomas Jefferson himself. It took the men more than two years to complete the mission, yet they weren’t alone on this historic journey. The explorers were accompanied by Seaman, a loyal Newfoundland dog (the only animal on the trip).

It’s said that Lewis specifically bought him for the expedition, and the dog was of great help. He retrieved wild animals like geese and deer and helped the duo survive. Many monuments of Lewis and Clark also include their now-famous four-legged bud. Who knows how their expedition would’ve ended if not for the dog? Oh, and Lord Byron also had a Newfie dog, Boatswain, and he built a monument after its death.

11. They Served in the Civil and World Wars

Just when you thought Newfoundlands couldn’t get any cooler, we have one more amazing fact to share. These dogs have served in many different wars, including the American Civil War and World Wars I and II. In 1942, the US Army founded the Dogs for Defense initiative, and most hounds under its wing served as search and rescue dogs, messengers, and roving guards.

And most Newfies were trained in Camp Rimini. They had serial numbers and records, much like the human soldiers, and did a great job pulling heavy weights. WWI soldiers were backed by the big, strong, and intelligent mascot, Sable Chief. During the Civil War, an artillery crew from Chicago fought alongside Tony, yet another Newfoundland dog. And he wasn’t the only dog in that war!

Newfoundland dog
Image Credit: Pandas, Shutterstock

12. US Presidents Loved These Gentle Giants

James Garfield, Rutherford Hayes, and Ulysses Grant, former US presidents, were big fans of pets, and they all owned Newfoundland dogs. The same goes for James Buchanan, the 15th president of the United States. Robert Kennedy, the late John F. Kennedy’s brother, also owned a Newfy. So, why choose this breed as their pet dog?

Well, Newfoundlands are calm, patient, and quick to follow commands. On top of that, they are very good with children and welcoming to fellow pets and humans. That said, these dogs are incredibly strong, imposing, and highly protective. That’s exactly what kind of companion a POTUS needs!

13. Peter Pan’s Nana Is a Newfoundland Dog

You don’t have to be a fan of the Peter Pan saga to know and love Nana, the sweet, loving Newfoundland nursemaid. She first appeared in the 1953 Disney animated film. This is interesting: many readers think that it’s a Saint Bernard dog, but J.M. Barrie, the man that wrote the book, created the character based on his beloved Newfie, Luath. Nana was the favorite nursemaid for the Darling kids.

newfoundland dog on the grass
Image Credit: Roman-Zaiets, Shutterstock

14. Newfies Are Two-Time Westminster Champs

The Westminster Kennel Club hosts one of the best dog shows in the States. The competition is quite tough, and many breeds haven’t yet won a single award. Well, that’s not the case with Newfoundlands! These dogs stole the show not once, but twice. The first one was a talented doggo named Adam. He won the prize back in 1984. Twenty years later, in 2004, another Newfie named Josh came in at #1.

Oh, and by the way, Terriers are the absolute champs of Westminster. Overall, they managed to win 46 (!) times; the Sporting group is the second-best, with 18 gold medals.

15. Newfoundlands Have a Unique Coat

One of the reasons why Newfs are such good swimmers is their coats. It’s not only double-layered and thick but also water-resistant. Most dogs get soaked after spending two minutes in water. Their coats get rather heavy, making it much harder to move (or swim) around. But Newfoundland dogs don’t have to worry about that when trying to rescue a victim.

That’s why they love getting proper baths, with shampoo and everything. Oh, and not all Newfoundland dogs are black. Their coats can also be brown, gray, and a combination of white and black. So, if you’re just planning on getting a Newfy pup, do keep in mind that you have a choice between four different colors.

newfoundlanddog rescue training
Image Credit: mariesacha, Shutterstock

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Newfoundland dogs are truly fascinating. Despite their size, they are affectionate, kind-hearted, and full of charm. More than that, these buds are excellent swimmers and have rescued hundreds, if not thousands of people over the years, including famous figures like Napoleon Bonaparte. The loyal yet stubborn character, in turn, makes them exemplary war dogs.

So, if you’re the proud owner of a Newfie, go ahead and give it a hug. Despite the strikingly large nature, this breed has a very patient, sweet temper and can serve as the ultimate protector not only for the adults but the kids as well. Just like Nana from Peter Pan, a well-trained, socialized, and cared-for Newfoundland dog is a perfect guardian!

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Featured Image Credit: Marsan, Shutterstock

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