For as long as we have records there seems to be myths surrounding the Newfoundland dog. In the days of sailing ships Newfies were considered good luck and many a sailor would refuse to sail without such a canine crew member. Likewise the concept of a fisherman with just the help of his Newfoundland dog pulling in the fishing nets is mostly likely at best an exaggeration. The dogs may have done some pulling with their mouths but this is really not their skill as fishermen. If they were of any significant use in pulling in nets, modern day fishermen would still be using them as they work for much less than human crew members.
At least some of the amazing sea rescues attributed to Newfs are now being documented as myths. The two most famous in this category are the saving of the passengers and crew of the SS Ethie in 1919 off the coast of Newfoundland and the tale of the Newfoundland dog, Rigel, on the Titanic.
A common modern day myth that seems especially common among folks from the Island of Newfoundland is that purebred Newfs have tongues with black spots. This is entirely false; spots or lack thereof on the tongue give no indication of the purity of a Newfoundland’s genetic heritage. Of course some Newfoundlanders refuse to accept any colour on a Newf other than black, even though their own Government has specified white and black as an acceptable colouration in the 1972 decree naming the Newfoundland as the dog emblem of the province. Another modern day myth is that Newfs need drooping flews for water rescue. Observation of Newfs training for rescue makes it clear that Newfs with or without flews are equally capable of carrying objects through the water. Further observation reveals that Newfs are also capable of drooling with or without the hanging jowls.
Probably the most common myth of all concerns English CH Siki. When our breed almost went extinct during World War I, this Newf born in 1922 provided the genes that revitalized the breed. Almost all Newfs today can trace their origins to this most amazing sire. Most accounts have described Siki as a magnificent specimen of the breed. However, two renown authors have debunked this particular myth. Joan Bendure, author of The Newfoundland: Companion Dog, Water Dog stated “…Siki himself was not an outstanding example of a Newfoundland…”. Margaret Booth Chern in the Second Edition of The New Complete Newfoundland says “Unfortunately Siki himself does not appear to have had a sound rear and there is no point in perpetuating the myth that Siki was a perfect Newfoundland.”
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