The St John’s Waterdog is best known as the main ancestor of several modern Retriever breeds. The St John’s Waterdog was an intelligent, affectionate, athletic dog that worked eagerly alongside fishermen in the Newfoundland area.
The St John’s Waterdog was a fantastic swimmer and keen retriever. They worked tirelessly fetching fish, lines, bait and ropes for their human companions. Sadly, this breed is now extinct and remembered only in faded black and white photographs, but the legend which began hundreds of years ago in, still lives on.
- St John’s Waterdog appearance.
- St John’s Waterdog characteristics.
- When and why did the St John’s waterdog go extinct?
- Can I buy St John’s Waterdog puppies?
St John’s Waterdog Appearance
Since there are no modern examples of this breed around, we have to rely on historical documents, paintings and photographs to learn what the St John’s Waterdog looked like.
These dogs share several traits with modern retriever breeds, particularly the Lab. For instance, they had dense, double layered coats containing oils that protected them from the extreme temperatures when retrieving from the water.
These dogs were medium to large in size. Like most breeds, females were smaller than males. They usually had tuxedo markings. This means, the majority of their coat was black, but they had white patches on their chest, toes, and sometimes on their muzzle. A fair percentage of the St John’s Waterdog breed had longer fur than others, but over time a short, smooth coat was the norm.
St John’s Waterdog Temperament
Temperament is perhaps even harder for us to learn than appearance. Instead of seeing examples of this breed’s temperament, we have to rely on sources from people who observed the dogs in person.
One thing’s for sure, though. We know that the breed was active, intelligent, and capable, since they performed their water retrieving roles so well. Well enough, in fact, that they caught the eye of British aristocrats, who took dogs home to breed from!
To be a successful working dog in Newfoundland, these dogs had to be friendly, energetic, and brave! At times, they would have to dive underwater to retrieve things. So, these dogs had to learn exactly what to retrieve and how to safely do so. The relationship between St John’s and humans was very cooperative, which is an ideal trait in a working dog like this.
When Did The St John’s Waterdog Go Extinct?
This breed’s numbers were in decline for a long time before they finally went extinct. Many sources believe that the last two examples of the breed died in the 1980s. These two dogs were both males, reaching ripe old ages of 13 and 15.
There are still many mixed breed dogs that exist in Newfoundland that look similar to old photos of the St John’s dog. And, the breed’s traits live on in many modern breeds, including the Labrador Retriever. However, there are no more purebred examples of the breed.
Why Did The St John’s Waterdog Go Extinct?
The 19th Century saw a rise in taxation and heavy restriction on dog ownership. This was implemented in an attempt to encourage sheep raising. Whilst this was happening, the UK was imposing a quarantine on all imported animals in an attempt to eliminate rabies. Both of these factors led to an irreversible decline in the breed’s numbers.
Can I Buy St John’s Water Dog Puppies?
It’s not possible to buy genuine St John’s Waterdog puppies, since the breed has been extinct since the 1980s. However, many of the breed’s traits live on in modern purebred dogs.
These dogs were a key breed in establishing many modern working dogs. For instance, the Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, the Flat-Coated Retriever, and many more, all have links to the St John Waterdog.
Many modern black Labrador mixes actually grow up to have markings very similar to the traditional water dog markings. They will have mostly black fur, but will have a white chest, white paws, and potentially some white on their face. Occasionally, you might even see this coloring in a purebred, though they wouldn’t qualify for show.
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