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What colour is a Newfoundland dog? You might think the answer is simple and for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, it sure is; they passed an Order-In-Council in the early 1970’s that declared that the Newfoundland dog was either black or white and black.

However, in the second edition of This is the Newfoundland (Official Publication of the Newfoundland Club of America), edited by Mrs. Maynard K. Drury, the ancestors of our breed were found to have black, bronze, brown, blue, silver, gray and lemon as solid colours. By the time you factor in the various combinations of these colours along with white markings, the list becomes somewhat large. While lemon doesn’t seem to be existent in our modern day Newfs, all of the other solid colours do appear, although blue is incredibly rare and silver is probably formally recorded as grey.

The Canadian Kennel Club isn’t a big help in this matter. When they send the registration applications for new pups to a breeder, they list ten possible colours that a breeder can use for the registration of a Newfoundland: black; black, white markings; bronze; bronze, white markings; bronze, black markings; grey; grey, white markings; grey, black markings; black & white; and white & black. There are no definitions given to help a breeder choose the correct colour, for example, is the pup black with white markings or black & white? Further compounding the problem is the fact that in the official CKC breed standard, a black Newf with white on toes and/or chest and/or tip of tail, is considered equal to a solid black dog.

Old time breeders and conformation show exhibitors still refer with disdain to “Irish spotted”. When I looked up the definition, the term merely referred to a black dog with white markings. However, the reference is usually made to Newfs that have a very obvious colour flaw such as a white strip across the shoulders or base of the tail. The irony of this is that really extreme Irish spotted Newfs may end up shown as Landseers.

Another term thrown around by old timers is “black for black” referring to a truly solid black Newf. Personally I have never seen such a dog. Whenever a Newf is presented to me as black for black, I have always managed to find a few white hairs. They look completely black when you just observe the dog from a few feet away, but when you start running your fingers through the coat, the odd white shank appears.

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

April 2006