This section is from the book "The Dogs Of Great Britain, America, And Other Countries. Their Breeding, Training, and Management in Health and Disease", by John Henry Walsh (Stonehenge). Also available from Amazon: The Dogs Of Great Britain, America And Other Countries.
This most valuable animal is of three very different kinds, viz.: 1. The true Newfoundland; 2. The large, loose-made, and longhaired variety, known as the Large Labrador; and 3. The small, compact, and comparatively short-haired dog, known as the St John's or Lesser Labrador breed. All were originally natives of Newfoundland, and though many are bred in England, fresh specimens are constantly being imported from the island. Many of the naturalized strains are now more or less crossed with the mastiff or setter. They are chiefly used for ornamental purposes and as companions to their masters, the small breed being also crossed with the setter to make the retriever; but in their native country they are used to draw timber over the snow in the winter months, being harnessed to carts and sledges made for the purpose. In intelligence the three breeds are about equal, all being celebrated for their faculty of learning to fetch and carry. This is sometimes developed to such an extent that a well-trained dog will go back for anything which his master has pointed out to him, if it has been handled, when it is only necessary to order him back to seek, and he will find it by the scent.
Both breeds are good water dogs and bear immersion for a long time, but the large variety having a more woolly coat is superior in endurance of wet and cold. Hundreds of anecdotes are told of extraordinary escapes from drowning by means of these dogs, their tendency to fetch and carry being doubly useful here. Children and light small women may be intrusted to them with safety in the water, if they are not bewildered with fear, when they will sometimes cling round the dog's neck, and frustrate all his efforts to restore them to the land by swimming; generally, however, in cases of recovery, the person has fainted, and being then powerless, is towed ashore readily enough. The speed with which the Newfoundland swims is very great, his large legs and feet enabling him to paddle himself with great force. From their great size and strength they are able to beat off most dogs when they are attacked, and their thick coats prevent the teeth of their assailants from doing much damage; but in offensive measures they are of little use, being rather unwieldy, and soon winded in a desperate struggle. Hence they are not useful in hunting the large kinds of game, nor the bear, wolf, or tiger.
The nose is delicate enough to hunt any kind of scent, but as they soon tire, they are not used in this way, and it is solely as retrievers on land or water that they are useful to the sportsman, being generally crossed with the setter for the former, and the water spaniel for the latter element.
The characteristic points of the Large Newfoundland are, great size, often being from 25 to 30 inches high; a form proportionally Stout and strong, but loosely put together, so that there is a general want of compactness, especially about the loins, which are long and very flexible. The head is not large in comparison to the size, but wide across the eyes; muzzle of average length and width, and without any flews, as in the hounds and pointers; eye and ear both small, the latter falling, and without much hair on it; neck short and clothed with a ruff of hair; tail long, curled on itself slightly, and woolly; legs very strong, but not feathered; feet large and rather flat, bearing the road badly; coat on the body long, hairy, shaggy, and shining, without any admixture of wool; the color should be black, but it is sometimes black and white, or white with little black, or liver color, or a reddish dun, or sometimes, but rarely, a dark brindle not very well marked.
Fig. 25. - NEWFOUNDLAND DOG, LEO.
The large black Newfoundland is remarkable for his majestic appearance, combined with a benevolent expression of countenance. The latter quality, being really in accordance with his disposition, and frequently displayed by his life-saving capacities in cases of threatened drowning, has made him for many years a great favorite as a companion, especially with those who live near the sea or any great river. With these points in view, judges have naturally made a full size of great importance, since it not only adds to the majestic aspect of the clog, but renders him really more capable of distinguishing himself in the career so beautifully commemorated by Landseer in one of his most popular pictures.
The general opinion now is, that a dog of this breed above 26 inches is almost unknown in Newfoundland; but it is also allowed that puppies bred and reared in England of the pure strains, which in the island never attain a greater hight than 26 inches, will grow to 30 or even 32 inches. Such an animal is Mr. Mapplebeck's Leo, who has recently taken the first prize at Islington in the Kennel Club Show, after distinguishing himself previously at Bath, and other places.
The Large Labrador is a more loosely-framed animal, and is never entirely black, being more or less mixed with white. The coat also is longer, more woolly, and curly.
The St. John's, or Smaller Labrador, or Newfoundland, the three names being used indiscriminately, is seldom more than 25 inches high, and often much less. The head is larger in proportion to his size, and the ear also slightly fuller; neck longer; body far more compact, and clothed with shorter hair, shining, and without any woolly texture; tail similar in shape, but the hair less woolly; legs and feet also better adapted for work; color almost always a jet black, rarely liver-colored. This dog is now generally more or less crossed with the setter.