It talks about black water dogs in Newfoundland, but instead of calling them St. John’s water dogs, as I do, it is referred to as a Cape Shore water dog.
After a careful search on the Googles, I found that a Cape Shore water dog is also called an “eider dog,” probably because they used to retrieve shot eiders and other sea birds.
And of course, that is what the St. John’s water dog was used for in addition to being the fisherman’s dog.
From that blog post, we see that this breed is found on Newfoundland and on the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, the last vestiges of France’s North American empire, and there is a strong relationship between the Basques and these dogs.
I don’t know if the dogs in Spain that are featured are actually of an endemic Spanish water dog breed or if they are derived from Spanish imports of St. John’s water dogs from back in their heyday.
I think these dogs actually are St. John’s water dogs, though they probably have more than a bit of modern Labrador retriever ancestry. Labrador retrievers are, of course, derived from the St. John’s water dogs as are all the other retrievers but the Nova Scotia duck-tolling retriever, which mostly of spaniel and collie extraction.
I think part of the problem in recognizing these dogs for what they are comes from two problems:
One is nomenclature. The dog was called the St. John’s water dog, because that is where they were imported from. However, the breed was spread all over Newfoundland and Labrador and on St. Pierre and Miquelon. Its last redoubts as a “pure” strain– that is, unmixed with Labrador retriever blood–were in isolated outports (“fishing villages”) on Newfoundland’s Sou’west Coast.
But there are so many different names for this dog: Newfoundland, wavy-coated retriever, lesser Newfoundland, true Newfoundland, black water dog, Labrador dog, small Labrador, and St. John’s dog (minus the “water”).
When you read histories of retrievers, you always see mention of Newfoundlands and Labradors, and when you see depictions of the dogs, some look like the big Newfoundland dog, which I think is almost entirely a creation of the British pet market, and dogs that look somewhat like black golden retriever or black Labradors with white markings on them.
If we could agree on the name for this dog, I think would be much clearer whether we should regard this landrace as extinct.
Yes. This type of Newfoundland dog is a landrace, and that brings us to the second problem. Most dog authorities, including the great Richard Wolters, who wrote a history of Labrador retrievers, believe the last two St. Johns water dogs were two male dog that were living at Grand Bruit in the 1970s. These two dogs were said to be free of any Labrador retriever ancestry, but there definitely were dogs around that had mixed with their British descendant.
I define a landrace as dog that exists as a clearly defined type with in defined purpose and cultural context. However, it differs from a breed in that breeds have closed registries with a very narrowly defined set of physical characteristics. A golden retriever is a breed, but the water dog from which it descends never was.
So if we call the St. John’s water dog a landrace, then all the dogs who are mixtures of St. John’s water dog and Labrador retriever are still St. John’s water dogs.
They just aren’t free of the globalized Labrador retriever blood.
And because it’s a landrace, I don’t think we should get all worked up about these dogs potentially having a bit of Labrador retriever in them, and if we are willing to admit that it is okay that that these dogs aren’t extinct.
Now if any readers from Newfoundland know anything more about this sort of dog, I would be happy if you passed this along.
I don’t think we are getting what this dog actually is because the nomenclature is not lining up. This is the famed Newfoundland dog that everyone wrote about all these years.
Of course, we need DNA samples.
These old outport dogs have been ignored for too long. I think they may have a lot to tell us.