When Saint Bernard people and Newfie people discuss how in 1830 the Saints were crossed with Newfs, the Saint folks rarely acknowledge that the Newfoundlands revived their breed, probably saving it from extinction. without the loss of type. Instead they are more likely to complain that out of this cross breeding came long-haired or rough-coated versions that collected snow and ice and were thus not suitable for Alpine rescue.
While some Saint Bernards have developed longer coats as a result of this crossing, they did not inherit Newfoundland coats. The fur of a Newfoundland is a marvel of nature. It has enabled the Newf to be comfortable in the coldest of environments and to survive in the hottest ones. Newfs have served on dog teams that went to the South Pole and live in places like Equador and Arizona.
The harshest environment on the surface of the Earth is not at the Poles, the Equator or at the top of Mount Everest, it is in saltwater where the temperature can drop 1.8 degrees Celsius below the freezing point of fresh water. Water can suck the heat from your body at 25 times the rate that air can; in sub-zero water, humans and most other land based mammals can only last a few minutes under such conditions whereas Newfoundlands and polar bears are in their comfort zone.
Several breeds have a dense double coat with a fleecy undercoat coupled with a medium to long coarse outer coat. A handful of breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers, have a short oily coat that can be described as “greasy”. However, only Newfoundlands have an oily coat combined with medium to long fur. Add in the density and double coat and you have nature’s best outer coating. It can repel all sorts of precipitation and provides insulation in all temperatures. When I first got into Newfs, I thought they were more vulnerable to high temperatures than short coated breeds. Then at July dog shows, I was surprised to find that when short-haired Saint Bernards and Rottweilers were dropping in the heat, my Newfoundlands weren’t. I only saw the light when someone reminded me that insulation works both ways, protecting from both cold and heat.
So as winter approaches, don’t be afraid to let your Newfie go for a swim. If you have another breed, beware, as only Newfs are designed to swim all year round.
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.
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