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Newfoundlanders probably have never shown more pride in the giant breed dog of the Island than when they presented a Newfoundland to visiting royalty. This they did on two occasions, once in 1860 and again in 1901 when the current Princes of Wales came to St. John’s.

In 1860 the Prince of Wales (future King Edward VII) started his North American tour with the Island of Newfoundland. During his visit he was presented with a Newfie dog as a gift from the people of Newfoundland. The dog was wearing a massive silver collar specially engraved with three shields. The two outer ones bore the Royal Arms and the larger middle shield was inscribed with the words “Presented to his Royal Highness, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, by the inhabitants of Newfoundland, A.D. 1860.”

The Governor suggested that the Prince call his Newfoundland dog Avalon after the peninsula that they were on but his Highness chose to name him Cabot after the discoverer of Newfoundland.

In his book, Prince of Wales, John Wood had this to say about Cabot after he went aboard the Prince’s ship, the Hero:

The size, courage, strength, and perfect docility of Cabot, of course made him an universal favourite of the officers of the ship.

It was soon found, however, that his daring and love for the water was of such an absorbing nature as was likely to terminate his career abruptly, unless closely watched while on board the flagship. The first day he was let loose for a run on the main deck, to the astonishment of everyone, the instant he caught sight of the sea, he made one bound clear through a port, down into the water, and of course a boat had to be lowered to pick Master Cabot up again. On a second occasion, when let loose, his love of swimming again overpowered all fear of consequences, and Cabot was overboard in the twinkling of an eye, frisking and enjoying himself among the heavy waves with as delight as if he was born there.

One or two other little escapades of the same daring kind proved beyond a doubt that Cabot was not “fit to be at large” when in sight of the sea. The higher the waves the more anxious and determined he seemed to plunge among them. In sight or out of sight of land made not manner of difference to him, and it was therefore feared he would go overboard some day when the sea might be so wild that it would be dangerous to lower a boat for his rescue and recapture. Therefore Cabot was kept chained up while at sea, rambling around a dog’s house large enough to accommodate a small family.

I was unable to find an image of Cabot but he might have looked like this Newfoundland circa 1860:

In 1901, in preparation for the visit of the Prince of Wales (future King George V) to Newfoundland, royal assent was granted for a Newfoundland dog and cart to be presented to the Prince and Princess; it was to be a gift for their son from the children of Newfoundland. Their son was Prince Edward (future King Edward VIII) grandson of the royal recipient of the Newf in 1860.

Margaret Booth Chern, in her book, The New Complete Newfoundland, picks up the story from there:

But the Newfoundlanders then found themselves embarrassed by the fact that good Newfoundlands were scarce.

“We scoured the island to find the best available,” recalled Harold MacPherson later. Just seventeen at the time, he had helped in the search. A dog was found and hastily trained to harness, and the Committee hoped it had something worthwhile to present. The man who trained the dog, however, had no such apprehensions. After the formal presentation of the Newfoundland and cart, Her Royal Highness went to pet and examine the dog. “Oh, isn’t he a beauty!”, she exclaimed. “Begobs, ma’am,” the trainer replied (as the committee gulped), “you won’t find the likes of him nowhere!”

This incident inspired Mr. MacPherson to do something to save the Newfoundland strain on the Great Island. How well he succeeded is seen in the considerable contribution that Westerland dogs have made to bloodlines throughout the world.

The Newf presented in 1901 was named Bouncer and here are some photos of this boy:

To get a better look at the dog in harness, here is a picture of a sculpture:

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.

Newf News

March/April 2015