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Posts Tagged ‘water rescue dogs’

This photo comes from a Dutch book called¬†Our Domestic Animals: Their habits, Intelligence and Usefulness (1907). The author–Gros de Voogt–was an admirer of Lord Baden-Powell and helped get the concept of scouting established in the Netherlands.

This particular book is fairly remarkable work. It is unapologetically anthropomorphic, and it goes against some of the scientific conventions at the time, which were strongly against any projection of human emotion or reason onto animals. That is still a fine concept, but one can err in trying to keep anthropomorphism under control. Sometimes animals behave like us because they are like us.

The dogs in the depiction are working water rescue dogs that were kept by the city of Paris to keep people from drowning the Seine. De Voogt writes that these dogs are Newfoundland dogs.

And I’m not going to argue with that assertion. Newfoundlands historically varied in type, even at this time.

The dog on the right has a curled tail and somewhat curly hair. Its ears are semi-erect, but its face says “Labrador retriever.” it reminds me of a super-sized version of the Frisian water dog, the Wetterhoun.

The dog on the left looks like a slightly larger version of a wavy-coated or flat-coated retriever. Instead of being the large Newfoundland, it could be a cross between that large breed and the St. John’s water dog. It appears to be a bit smaller than the dog on the right.

If both of these dogs are Newfoundlands, then they are definitely of the unimproved, non-show type. It was this type of dog that most closely resembled the dogs of Newfoundland. They were bred for function from a diverse collection of dogs from many European countries.  It was only in Europe that they became standardized.

However, it is also likely that the Parisian police crossed their Newfoundlands with lots of other dogs, just to see what they could get. Perhaps they had been burned using the kennel-bred Landseers and Newfoundland, and they wanted to try dogs that had a bit of hybrid ancestry.

Whatever they were, they were big dogs, but not giants.

These working-type Newfoundlands are very different from what might expect when we think of that breed, but they are definitely part of the history of that breed.

The more I think about, the more I think that the dog on the left is actually a long-haired St. John’s water dog, not a Newfoundland. It is very retriever-like. The French own the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon archipelago, which are just off the coast of Newfoundland. Farley Mowat, the Canadian author who tried to save the breed, first encountered one of these dogs at St. Pierre. A St. John’s water dog from St. Pierre could have easily made it to France, where it could be used for any variety of tasks.

Water rescue would have been a natural choice.

Of course, neither of these dogs could pass for even a Labrador or flat-coated retriever of their time.

Still, there are interesting hints implied by these dogs to the common ancestry that is shared between retrievers and Newfoundlands.

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