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One of the most misunderstood aspects of the Newfoundland dog is colour. Back in 1996 I tried to inform breedline readers about the colour restrictions in the Canadian Kennel Club breed standard and that sure back fired on me. To explain why the breed standard only permits blacks and Landseers, I re-printed the text of a 1972 letter from the premier of Newfoundland to the President of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada. The key paragraph stated “The Government of Newfoundland is adamant, indeed totally opposed, to any changes in the standard that would depict our dog as anything other than the traditional black or parti-coloured landseer.” I naively thought this would clarify the controversy at the time concerning allowing the brown colour in the breed standard.

Instead I found that what people got out of this column was that I hated brown Newfoundlands and that brown Newfs were not allowed in Canada. Both of these assumptions are quite false. Let me state unequivocally that, while I have a personal colour preference, I have nothing against browns and would not be upset if the breed standard were some day modified to allow same.

As for browns not being allowed in Canada, this is certainly not the case and I am sorry that anyone got this impression. While any colours other than black, white or a sunburned black on a Newfoundland would result in a disqualification in a Conformation Show, the restriction is limited to such events. This means that there is no colour restriction when registering a Newf with the Canadian Kennel Club or in participating in any of the performance events sanctioned by the CKC such as Obedience Trials, Draft Dog Tests, Water Rescue Dog Tests or Tracking Tests.

Brown Newfs seem to be recognized in the breed standards everywhere in the world except Canada and, in the United States, grays are allowed as well. According to Mrs. Maynard K. Drury in her book, This is the Newfoundland, “In the ancestors of the breed the following particolor, or multicolors have been found: …brown and white, gray and white, black and tan, brindle, and wolf colors.” So conceivably, all of these colours, while extremely rare, could still be found in our modern day Newfs and such Newfoundlands, if they otherwise qualify, could be registered as purebred.

Peter Maniate has been writing columns for the Newf News, the magazine of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada, since 1979.  In 1996 he started writing a Newfoundland dog column in the Breedlines section of Dogs in Canada magazine on behalf of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada.  When Dogs in Canada ceased publication at the end of 2011 he continued the Breedlines column in the Newf Newfs.

Permission is granted for re-publication of the preceding article or excerpts from it as long as the author is credited and the name of the original publication and date of first publication is included.

Dogs in Canada

May 2002