Archive for September, 2009

This is pretty good

What follows is political. Ignore if you disagree.


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Identify this skull


The answer.

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Identify this skull


Look at those canines!

Rinalia got it right.

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Newfoundlands were used for retrieving shot birds. Yes, this includes the large black and white dog that eventually became the modern Newfoundland and FCI Landseer breeds.

newfoundland retrieving bird

This painting is by Edmund Bristow.

So yes, Newfoundlands were used as retrievers in both the United States and Europe.

One of the problems in determining what dogs were in the early retrievers is that Newfoundland could refer to the St. John’s water dog and the large black and white dog.

Audubon and Lewis and Clark both had Newfoundlands, but no description of these dogs exists. My guess is that they were of the proto-Landseer and Newfoundland type, not the St. John’s water dog type.

The Chessies are said to come from Newfoundlands, but my guess is these come from more of the St. John’s water dog type, which is why they look more like retrievers and have the brindling that was associated with the St. John’s water dogs.

Breed clubs are forever coming up with stupid histories, which are often parroted by the gullible. The trouble with all that is that actual historical records are something else.

There were two dogs called Newfoundland and both hauled nets and retrieved. The larger ones hauled carts and sleds. The smaller ones moonlighted as upland game retrievers, but both became part of the early retriever lines when they were exported to Europe.


But I do know two things about the St. John’s water dog and the Newfoundland. They are not descended from Norse dogs. These dogs would have had to have lived with the Beothuck when the Norse finally abandoned their colony on the island. Unfortunately for that theory, the Beothuck were conspicuously without dogs when the Basque, Portuguese, and English came to fish and whale Newfoundland’s waters.

Of course, none of that matters, when breed clubs keep saying that the dogs are derived from Leif Ericsson’s “Viking bear dog.” It simply isn’t true. The so-called bear dogs were mastiffs similar to the Dalbo-dog and the Broholmer. However, there is not a shred of evidence that these dogs lived on in North America after the Norse left. It’s a flight of fancy.

Now, it is possible that husky-type dogs from Labrador (of the North American hauling spitz type) may have played a role in their development. It is also possible that the Native American dogs that were used to retrieve ducks shot from canoes were used in their development.

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Newfoundland swimming:


Here’s a flat-coat:


See how maneuverable that flat-coat is in the water? That’s why it’s a gun dog, and the Newfoundland isn’t.

And watch this little golden (“Shuttle” from the header)

I’m pretty sure she could swim circles around a giant dog with tons of bone and hair.

I’m not going to show a Labrador swimming, because Labs are the fastest water dogs you can find. They can outswim virtually any dog, simply because they have a coat like a seal or an otter.

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One little warning

I noticed that the top referring search term for this blog is “pit bull.”

I know just a little bit about their history, mainly because I’ve subjected myself to reading rather dubious and poorly written histories of the fighting strains of that dog.


Because they are actually very similar to retriever bloodlines and histories.

The great dogs are mentioned, as are their bloodlines.

Many of these people actually knew dogs.

Unfortunately, they wasted all of their knowledge on breeding dogs that would tear each other apart.

I have no respect for that.

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For those of you who don’t live in North America, here’s a very good video on skunks. This show was on PBS not long ago, and the striped skunks were awesome.


I can’t describe what skunk musk smells like. I really can’t.

It’s really not the smell that is bad.

It’s how it irritates your eyes and mucous membranes.

I say this as someone who has been skunked.

I had a dog that reveled in killing skunks, and she attacked one that was maybe 10 feet away from me one evening. As she shook it, the skunk wound up spraying me as “collateral damage.”

In some states, people can keep these animals as pets, but most states ban it because skunks have their own strain of rabies.

Incidentally, skunks are not weasels (Mustelids). They used to be classified with the weasels, ferrets, mink, otters, badgers, martens, and wolverines (gluttons). But now skunks and stink badegrs are in their own family called Mephitidae. Both skunks and Mustelids are members of the superfamiy Musteloidea, which includes the raccoon family (Procyonidae) and the red panda (Ailuridae). This suborder Caniformia within the order Carnivora. This suborder also includes dogs, bears, seals, sea lions and fur seals, and the walrus.

Finally, we supposedly have Eastern spotted skunks in West Virginia, but I have never seen one here. Those are the skunks that do handstands.


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