This section is from the book "A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland. (Non-Sporting Division)", by Rawdon Briggs Lee. Also available from Amazon: A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland, Non-Sporting Division.
Mr. T. W. Wildman, of Bingley, about this period gave considerable attention to the exhibition of Newfoundlands, and possessed admirable specimens in such animals as Lion, Mayor of Bingley, and Black Prince, which were, however, rather smaller dogs than either Cato or Leo alluded to earlier on. Mr. R. W. Moll was exhibiting some excellent dogs at this time, and so were Mr. W. Coates, Mr. H. R. Farquharson, and Mr. E. Nichols.
The Newfoundland has never taken particularly high rank as a show dog, nor does the establishment of a club to look after his welfare appear to have very much increased his popularity, though at the present time there are more good Newfoundlands both black and other than black in the country than has been the case previously. But sometimes he is judged in a rather in and out fashion, and on more than one occasion recently have I seen a second rate dog placed over one that could in every way be deemed in the first rank, and for no other reason than the mere caprice or whim of the judge.
A few years ago there was considerable agitation as to the swimming powers of Newfoundlands, and on two or three occasions water competitions were arranged in connection with dog shows. Such, however, proved neither popular nor interesting, and in one noteworthy case a very much-lauded dog refused to enter the water at all. The last competition of the kind was at Aston, near Birmingham, in 1882, where the best water dog was undoubtedly the late Mr. Bagnall's Landseer, Prince Charlie, which won a first prize, a Bedlington terrier being his most formidable opponent.
It may be worth mentioning that the Newfoundland dog as he is now found in the island which gave him his name, is a sad mongrel creature, if he exists at all in any amount of purity. It is likewise noteworthy that in the United States of America no Newfoundlands are kept anything at all equal to the best specimens of the variety as we have produced them in the British Isles.
Although I have owned a Newfoundland or two, I never had one sufficiently long or made his acquaintance to such an extent as to be able to speak with great authority on the nature and disposition of the animal. My lack of opportunity in this respect can, however, be easily remedied, and Mr. T. E. Mansfield, a gentleman whose favourite the Newfoundland has been for many years, kindly contributes the following practical, and therefore valuable, notes. He says:
"The Newfoundland is essentially a companionable dog, his whole nature is wrapped up in human beings, anxious to serve them at every turn; his disposition is kindness in itself, and he adapts himself to every emergency, and can be taught almost anything, even to make as good a rat catcher as a terrier. Some Newfoundlands are slow to make friends, but when once that relationship is established they never forget you, and are steadfast companions through life, and to their owner what the poor man's mongrel dog was to him, Made him more content with fate.
"Of course there are, as in all things, exceptions but taking him as a whole no more suitable dog as a companion can be found than a good Newfoundland.
"During the last ten years the Newfoundland has grown in popularity by leaps and bounds. I find at the Kennel Club Show in July, 1885, there were eight classes with thirty-seven entries. Seven months later, at the same club show, there were again eight classes with seventy-one entries. At the Jubilee Show in June, 1887, there were nine classes with sixty-five entries to be found. It is not only at the Kennel Club Shows that the entries have so largely increased, but at all the provincial shows. Prior to and some little time after the year 1884, it was rarely we saw more than one class for Newfoundlands, with from three to half a dozen entries. Then Liverpool came off with sixty-five entries, and so they go on increasing until Preston Show of 1892 reached the enormous entry of 128.
"Not only in numbers, but in the type and quality of the dogs has this improvement gone on, until there is at the present day - in the blacks at all events - an entire absence of that large coarse - with rough soft coat, big ears, long face, flat bowed legs without muscle, and with no general appearance to recommend him - type of dog, so frequently seen years ago. It is to be hoped breeders of Newfoundlands will not be led away with the idea prevailing in some quarters that size is the principal thing at which to aim. Herein lies a very great danger. Whilst, however, admitting that size is very desirable, it must not be gained at the expense of type and general appearance, for a Newfoundlander must not be an awkward, slouching animal, but smart, active, and full of life and go - looking at all times ready to perform his duty - to enter a rough sea.
"To give an accurate description of a black Newfoundland is an extremely difficult task, for the simple reason that a really typical dog is in appearance almost indescribable; he must be seen to be appreciated. I will, however, attempt what I consider a fairly intelligible one. To begin with, he must have a good general appearance - symmetrical throughout - head should be well developed, with a clean-cut muzzle, not too long, large skull, with small, leaf-like ears set well back from the eye low down on the skull, and fall close to the head, so that when you look him in the face they are scarcely perceptible, being hidden at the back of the jawbone; the eyes should be dark - not black - and fairly wide apart. Much difficulty is being experienced in getting the dark eye, which adds so much to the appearance of the head, many of the best dogs having light eyes, and the question is, where does this defect come from? You may mate a dark-eyed dog and bitch, still light eyes will be found in their progeny. It has occurred to me that the light eye must to some extent be natural to a black animal, for a black cat has always a light eye, and a black horse has generally a light blue one, and so I might go on down to pigeons. I must admit I would much rather see a kind light eye than a black sour one, which always appears most treacherous.