Newfoundland dogs might be extinct — if not for this guy

Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

A monstrous Newfoundland and its owner walk by my house regularly.

The big dog certainly has an independent streak.

If he wants to divert from the street and head into our driveway to see my son, this gentle giant does so, dragging his owner along for the ride.

This animal is beautiful and friendly, and I always dream about what it'd be like having a dog that large bounding around the house, playing and being part of the family.

But then I think of the drooling, eating and shedding - which these dogs do a lot - and it quickly becomes clear a Newfoundland is not the leash on life we might be looking for.

Luckily for the breed, which is arguably this province's most iconic image, Harold MacPherson didn't feel that way.

He was a St. John's businessman who became president of his family's company, the Royal Stores, and sat as a director on a number of other firms.

MacPherson was a politician too, sitting on the Legislative Council of Newfoundland from 1930 to 1934. But he's also heralded for saving the Newfoundland dog from extinction.

In the early part of the 20th century, there were breeders in England, but the numbers were low here "due to a law passed in 1780 in Newfoundland forbidding the ownership of more than one dog," according to the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada.

Realizing this, MacPherson set up Westerland Kennels near where the Aquarena stands today.

He bred the animals and shipped them around the world to eager owners.

According to Memorial University's online archives and special collections, MacPherson "gained an international reputation for his work with breeding the Newfoundland dog and was for a time vice-president of Newfoundland Club of America (Newfoundland Dogs)."

He died 50 years ago July 15.

His efforts with the Newfoundland breed are featured in a new display at The Rooms.

"It's a Dog's Life" opens today and runs for a year outside the Archives Reference Room on the third level.

The staff has assembled an exhibit that shows the importance of the dogs in the province's past, according to archivist Craig Tucker.

"Dogs were much more than pets in years gone by," he says. "They were used for working purposes and basically for survival."

Newfoundlands were certainly used for both.

I'll be thinking about that, and about MacPherson, the next time my neighbourhood Newfoundland tows its owner in my driveway.

Then I'll once again daydream about owning one.

Email Steve Bartlett at On Twitter, he's @TelegramSteve.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page