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The Memoirs of St. John’s Water Dog

 

 St John’s Water Dog is an extinct breed that originated in Newfoundland and domiciled here and the neighboring countryside. Very little is known about this breed although dog pundits believe it origin is linked to a mixed heritage of cross breed English and Portuguese dogs.

At the turn of the 20th century, the number of these dogs reduced significantly and at the close of the 70’s they were completely gone. Some individuals claim to have taken pictures of the last two surviving dogs in a remote area of Newfoundland right about that time.

St John’s Waterdog is average in size but strong and it bore much semblance to the English Labradors. Its physical features were more pronounced. Most breeds st johns water doghad white patches on the head and this extended down the chest to the well developed breast and the under belly.

Documented evidence dating back as early as the 1600s mentions that the St John’s Water breed was fairly hardy and it provided escort to Newfoundland fishermen on their fishing trips. It was reputed for assisting fishermen in drawing the fishing nets from the water after fishing. St John’s Waterdog was also described as a great swimmer and hunter and had more endurance than other breeds when in water and so fishermen found great companionship in them.

The extinction of the St John’s Waterdog is blamed on the harsh laws which were implemented to promote sheep rearing and the levies charged on dog owners as well as the prolonged quarantine by some countries to minimize dog related diseases from spreading. Although the breed is extinct, there are breeds that still carry some of the traits of this Newfoundland breed.

They were imported into England at the turn of the 19th century where they were crossed with local breeds. The last surviving breeds were mixed with Labradors to create breeds that carried most of the traits of this extinct breed. Among the progenies under the St John’s heritage line include the bay and golden retrievers.

Some English noblemen also bred the St John’s Waterdog and successfully kept it pure but afterwards few people did not care about breeding the dog and perhaps this led to its decline in the 20th century. Last efforts attempts were made in the 70’s to save this breed through a cross breeding with a Labrador but nothing much was realized from these attempts but 4 puppies whose whereabouts remain scanty.

This dog had short and smooth hair cropped close and a long narrow muzzle. Although it had a thin body this deficiency seems to have been easily covered with the powerful legs. The legs were quite long and straight. This breed also had a wide pronounced chest with a white patch.

An significant observation was made by a geologist who ventured into Newfoundland regarding the attributes of this breed. The observation recorded in the memoirs helped shed light on this mysterious and little known dog. The memoirs indicate that St John’s waterdog was the dominant breed in the whole of Newfoundland area and quite different from the one people assumed as the typical breed.