Genetic Resources

This was posted to the Newf-L list and posted here with permission

Origins of Colours in Newfoundland Dogs

by John Coulding

There has been a lot said recently about browns, but as yet not much about
origins of the colours.

We have a book printed in 1927 called "Dogs - Their History and Development"
which has a very interesting section about Newfoundlands. It is much too long
to print it all, but below are extracts of the sections concerning colours :-

Edward's (Governor of Island 1780) Newfoundland dog was black-and-white,
sometimes red-and-white, and more rarely of one colour, whilst some were
black-and-white with tanned spots about the face.

The Rev. L. Anspach, in his "History of Newfoundland," (1819) writes on the
Newfoundland dog : "The natural colour of this dog," writes this author of a
Newfoundland he owned,  "was a perfect black, with the exception of a very
few white spots." 

Thomas Bell (1837) - the colour is black-and -white, the latter generally
equalling if not predominating over the former. 

Richardson (1847)   colour usually black, with a shade of brown though it,
and occasionally some white.

Colonel H. Smith describes the Newfoundland dog as the "original breed." The
plate in the works shows a black dog with brown muzzle and cheeks, and brown
feet, with a white and grey tip to its tail. 

Stonehenge (1859) gives Youatt's illustration, states the colour black, or
black-and-white, or white with a little black or liver colour, with a reddish
dun, or sometimes, but rarely, a dark brindle not very well marked.

In the "Field" and also in the "Country" a considerable correspondence took
place during the years 1865 to 1870 as to the correct colour, coat, and size
of a Newfoundland dog,

 The "Field" for November 18, 1865, contained the following letter :

"Last spring I was offered a dog which had been purchased from the captain of
the Mountaineer the previous autumn. The dog was not black, but bronzed with
tabby or brindle points. I have seen, though rarely, pure brindle dogs landed
at Poole, but these have been brought over by captains ignorant of the
prevailing taste for black dogs."

This note was signed Thomas Pearce (the Rev. Thomas Pearce, subsequently
better known as Idstone).

Stonehenge, in 1867, in his "Dogs of the British Isles", "The purest
specimens," he writes, "are of an intense black colour, with a gloss on their
coat which reflects the light like a mirror. Any admixture of white is a
defect ; but there are specimens with brindle points, or black-and-white, or
wholly brindle, or of a rufous-dun colour."

In the "Field" of July 3, 1869, p.13, appears another letter signed with a
"hand" (Index), in which the author writes : "Sometimes I have seen in
Newfoundland a very large black-and-white dog. Perhaps there are three or
four on the whole island." He adds that these black-and-white dogs he has
invariably found to be direct importation's from England or the Continent,
often from Spain.

He states that Sir Edwin Landseer was led to misrepresent the colour of the
Newfoundland, because his well- known picture is of a black-and-white one.

The issue of July 10, 1869, contains a letter signed Interloper, a most
frequent visitor to Newfoundland, staying at the capital for a month or so at
a time :  They were "all black," and "black-and-white were considered a sign
of impurity."

On December 18, 1869, Mr. Henry Reeks, of Thruxton, who had just returned
from a sporting tour in Newfoundland suggests that Index's experience of
"Newfoundlands" is limited, because of his sojourns at the capital. That in
the interior areas "at every station were black, black with white spots on
chest, black with grey noses, black ticked with grey and with white or with
light grey legs, as well as plenty of brindles and fawn- coloured dogs," the
latter in favour amongst the settlers for sporting purposes.

Idstone has a letter in the same number which somewhat confirms Mr. Reeks'

Idstone writes that the dogs he had purchased at Poole were shaggy,
straight-coated, and generally black. He had learnt from villagers who knew
Newfoundland that the dogs there were of all colours, and he had possessed
black-and-white, brindles, and black-tan dogs.

Idstone (the Rev. Thomas Pearce), at that time at Morden Vicarage, near
Blandford, brought out his book "The Dog" in 1872. He tells us that thirty
years ago, that is to say, in 1842, black-and-white shaggy or thick coated
dogs were in fashion. At the time of writing the Newfoundland was totally
black, without any white, but some had "a few white hairs in the middle of
the chest."

While toes showed signs of impurity of blood, but not so a white tip to the
tail, which was to be looked upon with suspicion.

In Walsh's book of 1878 "Leo" appears as the plate to the chapter, a very
beautiful dog, and certainly a great improvement on "Carlo," Walsh gives the
following scale of points :

"10. The colour ( value. 5 ) should be black, the richer the better ; but a
rusty stain in it is so common in the native breed that it should by no means
be penalized. Still, the jet-black is so handsome in comparison with it, that
I think, other points being equal, it should count above the rusty stain in
judging two dogs. A white star on the breast is often met with. The
white-and-black colour exhibited in the Landseer type never occurs in the
true Newfoundland."

If we were to judge the breed from earlier pictures, the Newfoundland has
altered much since then. To-day the black Newfoundland still have white
marks, and these are allowed on the chest, toes, and tip of tail, but white
on the head or body places the dog in the class for "other than black." The
black is of a dull jet. In the "other than black" are black-and-tan, bronze,
and white-and-black. The arrangement of marking is important. The head is
black, a white blaze and muzzle. The body and legs, white with large patches
of black on the saddle and quarters, with or without black spots on the body
and legs.

The Newfoundland Club was established in 1884.

The modern show points of the breed are :

Colour, dull jet-black, a slight tinge of bronze or splash of white on chest
and toes not objectionable. White- and-black dogs, the marking desired :
narrow blaze on black head, even marked saddle; rump black, extending onto

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