Posts Tagged ‘red and white Newfoundland’

This is a portrait of Karl August, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, the man best known for establishing the Weimaraner gun dog.

This portrait dates to 1805, which is why I am fairly certain that this dog isn’t  a St. Bernard.  St. Bernards were not popular as pets until the late 1880’s. Further, the long-coat in the St. Bernard was established in the 1850’s when Newfoundland dogs were crossed in.

The Newfoundland dog, however, was the most popular dog throughout the world in the early nineteenth century. It was the first widely popular large pet dog for the family.

This dog might have been a long-haired red and white Küherhund (cow herdsman’s dog) with long hair. The Küherhund type was very similar to the tricolored mountain dogs of Switzerland. Indeed, the red and white and predominantly white dogs were just a variant of the Swiss mountain dog landrance, but it was the monks of the hospice at the Great Saint Bernard Pass who took these dogs and bred them into the modern St. Bernard. Even the long-coated Küherhund during this time period were not as profusely coated as this dog.

Also, in 1805, Switzerland was under French occupation.  Napoleon had tried to set up a centralized republic in Switzerland, but it had been a failure, but in 1803, Napoleon issued the Act of Mediation, which restored the old canton system for which Switzerland is famous.

Because of these reasons, it is unlikely that a noble who was living in what is now the German state of Thuringia would have kept what was then an obscure Swiss breed.  In those days, nobles tried to avoid keeping commoners’ dogs, unless, like the Newfoundland and the various forms of collie, the dogs had been romanticized for their sagacity. The St. Bernard would get its turn at being this romanticized sagacious dog, but in 1805, it was a relative unknown.

Therefore, it is with some reservation that I say that this dog is a red and white Newfoundland. Its long coat is indicative of the Newfoundland of that time period, not the St. Bernard. I don’t know of any native Thuringian dogs that would fit this dog’s description. The main farm dog of Thuringia is actually one of the main ancestors of the German shepherd dog, and it never could have been confused with a St. Bernard or a Newfoundland.

It has often been suggested that red and yellow were always part of the Newfoundland water dog landrace. I think this portrait is the best evidence of this reality. The dog clearly has a black nose, so we know that this dog isn’t a liver and white. It is very likely a recessive red and white. In the solid-colored dogs of this type or of the St. John’s-type, this would have produced a dog very similar to a fox red Labrador or a dark golden retriever.

I wonder if St. Bernard historians have attached themselves to this image. Everyone knows that the early St. Bernards were smooth-coated dogs, and the long-haired dogs didn’t make an appearance at the hospice until the 1850’s. And even then, St. Bernards were not the dog that everyone had to have in 1805.

The St. Bernard just doesn’t fit.

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