This Week in History
Newfoundland's Gentle Giants
For the Week of Monday, January 30, 2017
On January 31, 1988, a Newfoundland dog named L’il Bear Skipper was born. A working dog, he welcomed visitors to Cape Spear National Historic Site and served as a safety officer by barking at people who strayed too close to the cliffs.
The Newfoundland dog became threatened in the late 19th century when the colony’s government tried to promote sheep farming by exterminating all non-herding dogs. Attempting to revitalize the breed, Harold Macpherson started Westerland Kennels in 1901. In Britain, however, the breed flourished; authors Charles Dickens, Sir Walter Scott, and Lord Byron all wrote about their beloved Newfoundland dogs. The famous book character Nana from Peter Pan is a Newfoundland dog as well.
During both World Wars, Newfoundland dogs raised troops’ spirits as regimental mascots. The still-remembered Sable Chief was the beloved mascot of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment during the First World War. In the Second World War, Gander – a gift of Westerland Kennels – accompanied the Canadian Royal Rifles to Hong Kong. He was killed at the Battle of Hong Kong while carrying a grenade away from the Canadian line, in the process saving numerous lives.
To read more about Gander, read Sergeant Gander Reporting for Duty! in the This Week in History archives. L’il Bear Skipper’s home, Cape Spear Lighthouse, is a national historic site and The Canadian Role in the Defence of Hong Kong is a national historic event.
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