• Dogs of CANADA

    January 30th, 2013Laura P (Editor)Dogs Of The World

    Every November, The Kennel Club hosts Discover Dogs at Earls Court in London. This is an opportunity for dog lovers to attend seminars and demonstrations, socialise, do some shopping, and, most importantly, meet and greet over 200 different breeds of pedigree dog.

    In association with his event, and the Discover Dogs stands at Crufts in March, Dogs In The News aims to give you a brief preview of some of the dogs you might meet with our new “Dogs of the World” series. Today, Canadian dogs get the spotlight:

    Only four recognised breeds come from Canada, but they are some of the most beloved in canine history:


    LabsThis well known breed needs little introduction.  Enduringly popular as pets all around the world, and instantly recognisable as assistance dogs, the Labrador Retriever is the epitome of dog-dom. Many countries (Britain chief among them) can claim to have contributed to the development of the Lab – like most Canadians this individual is nothing more than the sum of all his travelling ancestors – but Canada is the lucky place which he calls home. Named after the town of Labrador in Newfoundland province, this breed was originally bred, as the name suggests, to retrieve game; he remains one of the most successful and popular Gundog breeds to this day, and is an excellent swimmer. This breed comes in three different coat colours, Yellow, Chocolate and Black, although originally only Black dogs were accepted by the breed standard.  This breed has starred in numerous novels and films, and a Lab was the first dog to ever grace the front cover of TIME magazine. The Labrador is a descendant of now extinct St John’s Water Dog.

    St John’s Water Dog

    St John's water dogAlthough this breed – also named after a Newfoundland town – has been extinct since the 1980s, we thought that it merited a brief mention, as it has contributed greatly to the history of the two most prominent Canadian breeds. The SJWD, a mix of British and Irish gundogs and Portuguese Water Dogs brought over by immigrants, was originally used to retrieve fishing nets and carry messages between ships. It is thought that he passed his unique webbed feet on to his water loving ancestors. Similar to the Labrador in build, they often had distinctive “tuxedo markings” – black with white on the chest, brow and feet. A genetic throwback to these markings still sometimes crops up in Labradors today, as a “blaze” on the chest. These dogs were once numerous across Eastern Canada and the Maritimes, but a variety of factors, including strict quarantine laws in the UK, taxes on dog ownership in North America, and the rising popularity of the Lab and the Newfie all contributed to his eventual demise. Some informal attempts have been made to resurrect the St John’s Water Dog in recent years, and similar-looking dogs still live and thrive in Canada today.


    NewfoundlandThe Newfoundland, affectionately known as the “Newfie”, is the result of crossings between the St John’s Water Dog and mastiffs brought over to Canada by European immigrants. These large, hairy dogs made themselves almost instantly popular, with their strong swimming abilities and ceaseless devotion; traits still strong in the breed today.  Newfoundlands are credited with many anecdotal stories of sea rescue and this is a role in which they still excel today; many international Coast Guard organisations consider these gentle giants a vital part of their teams. Although they can be clownish and have a propensity to drool, the Newfie is also fiercely loyal. In fact, it was a Newfoundland who inspired some of the most immortal lines of canine poetry ever penned: “Epitaph to a Dog” by Lord Byron. They have also inspired artists in their time – the black and white variety of Newfie is known as a “Landseer”, after Sir Henry Landseer, who featured many Newfoundland dogs in his paintings.

    Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

    NSDTRThe Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever (or “Toller” as it is thankfully known!) is less well known than his East Coast cousins, but is rising in popularity as both a pet and as a show dog. The Toller is a medium sized dog – the smallest of all the Retrievers – with a reddish brown coat and distinctive white markings (another throwback to the St John’s Water Dog). With Tollers, it’s a case of ‘what it says on the tin’: this breed was developed in Nova Scotia, it’s a retrieving breed of Gundog and its original function was to “toll” (entice) ducks within gunshot range. Tollers were trained to frolic in the water at the edge of rivers: it is thought that their white markings, plume-y tails and activity drew ducks out to investigate. The dogs then returned to the hide and their handlers could have their pick of birds. (The only other breed known to do this is the Dutch Kooikerhondje). They also swam out and retrieved any downed birds, making it a dual purpose Gundog. Despite its history and success in Canada and the UK, the Toller was only recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2003.

    Canadian Eskimo Dog

    Canadian Eskimo DogWith much of its Northern regions wintery and difficult to traverse, it’s not really surprising that Canada created a spitz type sled dog, its answer to the Husky and the neighbouring Alaskan Malamute. What is surprising is that, although similar dogs still exist in great numbers in the Great White North, the Canadian Eskimo Dog, as a purebred, is one of the rarest breeds of dog in the world. Just 23 attended Crufts in 2012!  It is the oldest of the Canadian breeds and the only one which can claim to be truly indigenous; it was bred by the Inuit people years before settlers arrived in Canada. (It also goes by the name of “qimmit/ qimmiq” – the Inuit word for dog/bitch.) In the Arctic, the Eskimo Dog pulled sleds; hunted seals, hare, fox and even bear; acted as a companion and bed warmer; and, in times of hardship, even served as a source of food. Their decline is often attributed to the rise of the snowmobile, but there is also a disturbing chapter of history which claims that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police culled thousands of these dogs as a way to disrupt the Inuit way of life during the 1960s. According the American Kennel Club, this breed is officially extinct, but it is still recognised by the British Kennel Club and a small group of devoted breeders are working to ensure that this breed has a future.

    We hope you have enjoyed our little tour of the dogs of Canada. Don’t forget you can visit all these breeds and over 196 more at Discover Dogs at Earls Court in November and at Crufts in March each year.


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