Cape Shore Dogs (Doo Dah!)

Our introduction to the Cape Shore Dog came by way of a friendly rebuttal to a comment we made a while back. Our comment was: “Had it not been for a small group of dedicated breeders, the breed would have gone the way of the St. John’s Water Dog, one of several now-extinct breeds.”

In response to our comment, a reader wrote the following: “The St. John’s water dog isn’t extinct. They are called Cape Shore dogs with a small but healthy breeding pool on the east coast of Newfoundland. 

This was news to us, and it underscored our belief that there is always something to learn in the world of dogs. We commenced with a bit of investigation into the Cape Shore Dog and share what we learned.

Cape Shore Dogs, also seen written as Cape Shore Water dogs (CSWD), are found on the island of Newfoundland and in small outports. Some believe these working dogs (selected for raw working ability) to be descendents of the St John’s Water Dog (a breed described by virtually every source we checked as being extinct).  They are not recognized by any kennel club, there is no stud book, and most would say the dogs are less a breed, and more of a landrace because there is no established breed standard. Indeed, one source writes that for over fifty years, this strain of dogs has been maintained, but to keep the “breed” from suffering from genetic bottleneck, other retrieving breeds have been introduced to keep widening the gene pool; they include Labrador retrievers, some Chesapeake Bay Retriever and even small amounts of English Setter. This explains the inconsistency in breed type that we noted in the many photos we stared at during our research. One owner (and we’re grateful to her!) even shared the results of her CSWD’s Embark DNA test which you can see here. 

The reader whom we mentioned in the first paragraph went on to share that there is a healthy breeding pool on the east coast of Newfoundland, and a kennel named Cape Shore Kennels there as well as a few dozen breeders scattered about that area. To our delight, we found that Cape Shore Kennels has an Instagram page where you can see more of these dogs. There is also a private Facebook group with over 1K members.

Is the Cape Shore Dog a breed, then?

Speaking from a kennel club perspective, probably not. But we point out that many of today’s recognized breeds were once considered landraces, so (shoulder shrug), perhaps in time, the CSWD may be similarly considered — but a few big things have to happen first, and at the top of the list would be the desire of breeders and owners for their dogs to be formally recognized. Our sense is that there is no hurry in this regard. Owners – and hunters among them – are very pleased with their dogs as they are: Strong water dogs, great retrievers, and wonderful companions.

As for the post title, we succumbed to a moment of weakness. The cadence of saying “Cape Shore Water Dogs” out loud so reminded us of a song written by Stephen Foster, Camp Town Races, that we borrowed part of the lyrics to name this post:

Camptown ladies sing dis song, Doo-dah! doo-dah!
Camptown race-track five miles long, Oh, doo-dah day!
I come down dah with my hat caved in, Doo-dah! doo-dah!
I go back home with a pocketful of tin, Oh, doo-dah day!

Goin’ to run all night,
Goin’ to run all day!
I’ll bet my money on de bob-tail nag,
Somebody bet on the bay.

Silly, we know.

Image: “Dog in Kayak,”a resin magnet by Cape Shore, is available for purchase here. 


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