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Our Newfoundland dogs in Canada owe a great deal to a Newf from the 19th century. I don’t know his name, although I hope to learn it some day. He probably never set foot in a show ring and didn’t likely save a life or do anything that would get his name in a newspaper – in fact, nowadays he would probably be described as “just a pet”.

In Newfoundland in the 1880’s young Harry’s parents owned a Newfoundland dog and the lad was raised with and by this dog. At 17 years of age, he tried to buy a Newf of his own and discovered that this breed of dog was in danger of extinction in its country of origin.

Not only was the breed going extinct on the Island, but come World War I, the breed almost disappeared from the planet. Newfoundlands, up to the time of the Great War, had flourished in England, but rationing of food killed most breeding programs. It was so bad that in 1923, only 23 Newfs were registered in Britain and five years later, the number of Newfoundland dogs had only climbed to 75. Species of animals have been declared effectively extinct when their numbers have dwindled to 300. Meanwhile on this side of the ocean, National Geographic immediately after World War I, in 1919, had virtually declared that the breed was extinct in America.

Miraculously a few good specimens of the breed survived from the English stock and a small number of extremely dedicated breeders in England, Switzerland, Holland, the United States and Canada laboured to save our breed. In Canada, it was the Honourable Harold Macpherson who resurrected the breed. He founded the famous Westerland Kennels in St. John’s Newfoundland. Mr. Macpherson started with a bitch named Guess and bred her to an English import called Bobs. His kennel went on to become world famous.

Westerland Sieger will live forever as the dog on a series of stamps published in the 1930’s in Newfoundland. A special and unique honour was given to this dog as he got to share a series of stamps in 1937 with the newly crowned King George VI. It was, however, another Newf from the Westerland Kennels that in the 1960’s so excelled in the international show rings that the breed experienced an extraordinary revival that has continued to this day. That Newf was International Champion Newton.

Now when you see the beautiful Newfoundland dogs parading so proudly at the dog shows, or demonstrating their working abilities at Water Rescue Dog and Draft Dog Tests, you can thank young Harry’s pet Newf who inspired a great man to do great things for the breed in Canada.

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

December 2002