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Webster’s Dictionary defines mascot as “an object, animal or person whose presence is supposed to bring good luck” and if you served on a sailing ship in days of yore, the mascot of choice would have been a Newfoundland dog. Of course they were usually hard working crew members as well and more than earned their keep. They would help with such things as pulling in fishing nets, taking lines to shore and transporting objects between ships.

However the big black bear dogs were also seen as a good luck charm and that qualifies them as mascots. Like most things done by Newfs, they performed this role in an extraordinary way. Sailors in those days tended to be rather superstitious and the ship’s Newf figured so heavily in this that some crews would refuse to sail if they didn’t have a Newfoundland on board. What distinguished a Newfie dog from all other mascots was the fact that if the luck did run out, they could do something about it, like save some or all of the ship’s company. There are many examples of this, but that’s subject matter for future columns.

The schooner tour boats of Newfoundland that take tourists to see whales and icebergs seem to be continuing the tradition of Newfie mascots. In my December, 1999 column I mentioned two such ships. Last July reporter Rebecca Eckler of the National Post wrote of her experience on a very special tour boat, the Scademia. This ship was picked from the dozens operating out of St. John’s because it was the very first tour boat ever to set sail in Newfoundland and because it had hosted celebrities such as Rod Stewart, Pierre Trudeau and the cast of Lord of the Dance (aka Lord of the hurl). Ms. Eckler didn’t get to see whales or icebergs on her trip but still counted it a success and one the reasons she gave for that success was the ship’s mascot, Bosun, supposedly the most photographed dog in the province.

Newfoundlands are not restricted to being sea-faring mascots. One of the more prominent positions is in our very own Canadian Kennel Club. The web site mascot for the CKC’s Junior Kennel Club is Webster, a Newfoundland puppy: “He’s a perfect pup for the job because he’s got ‘Web’ feet and is one of Canada’s indigenous breeds.”

Naturally, the Newfoundland is a popular mascot all through the Island of Newfoundland. Some examples are the Dogs Rugby Football Club in St. John’s, MarbleWood Village Resort in Marble Mountain and so, so appropriately, the Newfoundland & Labrador Lifesaving Society. Of course I have to mention Moses, the official mascot of the Royal Newfoundland Companies (The Signal Hill Tattoo).

Other famous regimental mascots include Sam who went with the Royal Canadian Regiment to England in 1858. He always led the band on parade and upon his death in 1866, his skin was tanned and used as an apron for the bass drummer. The Royal Newfoundland Regiment in World War One had Sable Chief as their mascot. Upon his death, Chief was stuffed and now resides in the Military Museum at St. John’s.

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 2000