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The Newfoundland in Art & Literature

The Penny Magazine

While in London last fall I found the enclosed sheet from The Penny Magazine, January 11, 1834 and thought NCA readers might enjoy it. (Mrs. Donald R. Ford, Palm Beach, Florida) Reprinted from Newf Tide Spring 1984.


This powerful, intelligent, and docile animal, which in its unmixed state is certainly the noblest of the canine tribe, is a native of the country the name of which it bears, and may be considered as a distinct race. Its introduction into this country is of comparatively recent date; and the fine animal known to us by the name of Newfoundland dog is only half-bred and of size inferior to the dog in its native state, when it measures about six feet and a half from the nose to the extremity of the tail, the length of which is two feet. In its own country it only barks when greatly irritated, and then with a manifestly painful effort, producing a sound which is described as particularly harsh. Its exemption from hydrophobia in Newfoundland appears to be well authenticated. 

The dog is employed by the settlers as a beast of burden in drawing wood from the interior to the coast. Three or four of them yoked to a sledge will draw two or three hundred weight of wood with great facility for several miles. In this service they are said to be so sagacious and willing as to need no driver or guide; but,  having delivered their burden, return without delay to the woods in the expectation of receiving some food in recompense for their labour. We see, indeed, in this country, that, from the activity of his disposition, the Newfoundland dog delights in being employed; and the pride of being useful makes him take uncommon pleasure in carrying in his mouth for miles baskets and other articles of which, as well from that satisfaction as from the fidelity of his character, it would be dangerous for a stranger to dispute possession with him. In many respects he may be considered as a valuable substitute for the mastiff as a house dog. 

The Newfoundland dog is easily satisfied in his food. He is fond of fish. whether fresh or dried; and salt meat or fish is more acceptable to him than to most other animals, as well as boiled potatoes and cabbage. When hungry, however, he has not very strong scruples about appropriating such flesh or fish as falls in his way. or even of destroying poultry or sheep. For the blood of the latter animal he has much appetite, and sucks it from the throat without feeding on the carcass. 

It is well known that the Newfoundland dog can swim very fast, dive with ease, and bring things up from the bottom of the water. Other dogs can swim, but not so willingly, or so well. This superiority he owes to the structure of the foot, which is semi-webbed between the toes; thus presenting an extended surface to press away the water from behind, and then collapsing when it is drawn forward previous to making the stroke. This property, joined to much courage and a generous disposition enables this dog to render those important services in the preservation of endangered life of which such numerous instances are recorded, and of which our engraving affords an illustration. 

The following anecdotes of the Newfoundland dog are taken from Captain Brown's interesting 'Anecdotes of Dogs.' 
"A Newfoundland dog kept at the ferry house at Worcester, was famous for having, at different periods, saved three persons from drowning; and so fond was he of the water that he seemed to consider any disinclination for it in other dogs as an insult on the species. If a dog was left on the bank by its master and in the idea that it would be obliged to follow the boat across the river, which is but narrow, stood yelping at the bottom of the steps, unwilling to take the water, the Newfoundland veteran would go down to him and with a satirical growl, as if in mockery, take him by the back of the neck and throw him into the stream." 

"A native of Germany, fond of travelling. was pursuing his course through Holland accompanied by a large Newfoundland dog. Walking one evening on a high bank, which formed one side of a dike, or canal. so common in that country, his foot slipped, and he was precipitated into the water, and, being unable to swim, he soon became senseless. When he recovered his recollection, he found himself in a cottage on the opposite side of the dike to that from which he had fallen, surrounded by peasants, who had been using the means so generally practised in that country for restoring animation. The account given by the peasants was that one of them returning home from his labour observed, at a considerable distance, a large dog in the water swimming and dragging, and sometimes pushing, some thing which he seemed to have great difficulty in supporting. but which he at length succeeded in getting into a small creek on the opposite side to that on which the men were. 

"When the animal had pulled what he had hitherto supported as far out of the water as he was able, the peasant discovered that it was the body of a man. The dog having shaken himself began industriously to lick the hands and face of his master, while the rustic hastened across; and having obtained assistance, the body was conveyed to a neighbouring house, where the usual means of resuscitation soon restored him to sense and recollection. Two very considerable bruises, with the marks of teeth, appeared, one on his shoulder, the other on the nape of the neck; whence it was presumed that the faithful animal first seized his master by the shoulder, and swam with him in this manner for some time; but that his sagacity had prompted him to let go his hold, and shift his grasp to the neck by which he had been enabled to support the head out of the water. It was in the latter position that the peasant observed the dog making his way along the dike, which it appeared he had done for a distance of nearly a quarter of a mile. It is therefore probable that this gentleman owed his life as much to the sagacity as to the fidelity of his dog." 









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