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Here, I explain something that often gets dog historians in trouble. In historical texts, the ancestor of the retrievers is described as Newfoundland. This confuses most people, because they assume that this is exactly the same breed that we call Newfoundland today. The breed they are talking about is the St. John’s Water dog, which more like a retriever and not like the modern breed at all. The big Newfoundland might have never existed on Newfoundland at all, and may actually descend from that dog crossed with mastiffs in Europe. This has long been a debate among people who are interested in the Newfoundland dog’s history. It has started more than one or two fights.
However, it is misleading to say the Flat-coat descends from the Newfoundland. It is the St. John’s Water dog from which it descends.
It is also misleading to say that the golden retriever derived from the flat-coat. In reality, both derived from the wavy-coated retriever. The golden was a strain of wavy-coat bred for yellow or reddish color. The flat-coat derived from wavy-coats that had the wave bred out of their coat. This tendancy to breed out the wave also affected the golden retriever. In fact, when the two breeds separated, the only real difference between the two in conformation was the color. High quality show champion goldens were much rangier and lightly built,with far less coat. Flat-coats were a little stockier with a bit more coat. The heads of both types were moderate. Blocky heads were not favored in golden retrievers, and very narrow heads were also not favored in flat-coats. Many flat-coats carry golden retriever genes, because one flat-coat sire, who was influential in the breed, Don of Gerwn, was actually of Tweedmouth’s yellow wavy/flat-coat strain. He was black, and, there for a flat-coat, but he carried the genes for yellow or reddish coat. The golden has both wavy and flat-coat types in its genome, while it’s not unusual to see a little wave in the flat-coated retriever breed even today.
It is impossible to write the history of the golden or the flat-coat alone, because the two have very similar histories. To ignore Tweedmouth’s strain in both breeds is short-sighted. 1st Baron Tweedmouth did not start the golden retriever, as is common claimed. He started a line of yellow wavy-coats.
It was only through the efforts of a few yellow flat-coat fanciers that the golden retriever was separated from the flat-coat. Incidentally, goldens, flat-coats, and Labs were all interbred. All Labrador experts recognize that the flat-coat was an important outcross in their breed. Even wavy-coats were crossed in the nineteenth century. What is ignored is that flat-coats at this time also meant goldens, so the three breeds’ history and ancestry is quite interwoven.
The dog above is a Flat-coat that has some waviness to its coat. It looks somewhat like a working-type golden, except for color.
This program is about the Dire Wolf and the comparison between that animal and the modern wolf. The shepherd breeds are meant to show the lighter modern wolf’s attack style. The Dutch shepherd attacked the same way that the Fila Mastiff and the American Bulldog did. It’s funny, but the Dutch Shephered is often judged by the same standard as the Malinois. I wonder if a really hardcore Malinois were used, one that came from heavier breeding, that the results might have been different.
The Dire Wolf had a bigger head than a modern wolf and much more massive teeth. It may have been slightly dumber than the modern wolf, because many of these animals were killed in the La Brea Tarpits. But that’s horrible speculation.
Head sizes are key to dog bite strength, as this video points out. Wolves, for example, have a bite strength twice that of a similar-sized German shepherd. Wolves have massive heads, especially those races of wolf that have evolved to hunt large game like Moose. Mastiff dogs often have very strong bites. I know this because I had a cross between a golden and boxer, with the boxer predominating. When we fed our dogs bones, the boxer cross could crunch the strongest bones, while her retriever friends could not. Working retrievers don’t have large, muscular heads when compared to the Molosser breeds. (They probably have bigger brains, though!).
This program is excellent. If it’s ever on National Geographic, I highly recommend it.
No dog or wolf alive, though, has the bite of the Dire Wolf. Even our big mastiffs and big wolves can’t equal that bite force of that animal. It must have been a site to behold! (BTW, the Dire wolf was only about a hundred pounds in weight, roughly the size of the average male wolf from the Northern and Western subpecies).
I thought all Scandinavian goldens were “white” and “mellow.” I guess not!
This has really good advice on deciding to get a retriever of this type.
And another one with lots of links to other breeders in Germany and Scandinavia. It seems that the working golden has some real dedicated breeders in this part of the world.
Here’s an article I wrote on the Origins of the Golden Retriever.
I will have a blog entry within the next week explaining in further detail why I doubt the story of the bloodhound cross in goldens, because it comes from Elma Stonex, the breed historian who exposed the Russian circus dog malarky, second hand. In that second hand source, it says that the dogs from the bloodhound (St. Hubert Hound) cross were aggressive. Bloodhounds (St. Hubert Hounds) are NOT aggressive dogs. They are not really trainable, but one thing they are not is aggressive. In fact, the only hounds that are aggressive are the curs (including the Catahoula Leopard Dog), some of the German hounds, the Plott hound (which is a German-derived hound), and dachshunds (and they aren’t THATaggressive).
I also have another article here on the Treeing Walker Coonhound. The person who started this title at Helium thought that this breed is the same as the Walker Hound, which is actually the ancestor of the Treeing Walker. The Walker hound is an early line of American Foxhound, which was descended froma pack of foxhounds brought to Virginia in 1742 by Thomas Walker. This was one of the earliest imports of European hounds to the colonies.
I do know my scent hounds, having grown up in the scent hound capital of North America. I believe we are second only to France in the number of hound breeds we have created!
I also have one here on my own dogs, which is personal without being romantic portrayal of growing up with farm dogs. I have included my first golden retriever in this essay.
I hope you like them!
The wavy-coated retriever is an important early retriever breed. It is the ancestral variety to both the golden retriever and the flat-coat, and it is an important out-cross to the Labrador retriever.
The wavy-coat descends from the St. John’s Water Dog, which may have had long-haired dogs in its type. This breed is credited with being ancestral to all retrievers, except the curly-coat, which was in development before this breed from the island of Newfoundland (the island part of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador) was imported to Britain. (The curly probably was crossed with this dog at some point, however). The wavy-coat was developed when the word retriever described a function rather than a breed. Any dog that picked up shot game could be a retriever. Collies, setters, pointers, land spaniels, and water spaniels were all probably used as retrievers and cross-bred. The St. John’s Water dog just happened to be a very good retriever dog, and it became the ur dog from which all retrievers eventually were developed.
The early retrievers looked something like this:
This picture comes from a bookby a British officer named William Nelson Hutchinson called Dog Breaking: The Most Expeditious, Certain, and Easy Methods, an early encyclopedia of training hunting dogs of all types. The dogs at the bottom are typical of early wavy-coats, while the dog at the top is probably a good clue about how the curly-coated retriever developed once the St. John’s Water Dog was imported. In the original, where I have put the word “St. John’s Water Dog,” the author had the word “Newfoundland.” I changed it because at the time the words were interchangeable, but today, Newfoundland dog is a large mastiff type dog derived from this breed and bred from the late eigthteenth century to the mid-nineteenth century as a fad family pet. The modern dog called the Newfoundland has many genetic problems, which came from overbreeding as a much larger dog. It has a gentle temperament, but it lacks most of its original working instincts. This should be a warning to all retriever lovers, especially those who like the working instincts and healthy bodies of working retrievers. The same thing is happening to our dogs.
The wavy-coat began as a St. John’s Water Dog and setter cross. Something like this:
These dogs became rather popular among the shooting estates. The short-haired St. Johns Water Dogs that existed in Newfoundland at that time were held by very few people in England. The short-haired variety was more common in Newfoundland at the time, because the long-haired variety tended to get bogged down in ice. Short-haired dogs can swim faster. However, most British gentry had wavy-coats derived from the long-haired dogs of this type and setter crosses. It would make sense, then, that the Newfoundland fishermen were more likely to export long-haired puppies from their Water Dog litters. However, the short-haired variety did make to England, and were used extensively in the development of the Labrador.
The wavy-coat’s other important ancestor was the setter. However, at this time, there were more breeds of setter than the three that exist right now. Welsh black setters were common on shooting estates, and they were certainly used in the Wavy-coated cross. Another variety existed called the Featherstone Castle setter in Scotland that produced yellow and light red setters that were probably also used in the development of the Tweed water spaniel. Gordon setters were in development here, too, and solid red gordon setters were not unknown. All of these, along with the Irish setters (solid red and red and white weren’t separate breeds) and English setters (of all strains), were crossed with the St. John’s water dog. As a result of crossing with setters, genes for yellow and red were introduced into the wavy-coat.
During most of the nineteenth century, black retrievers were the preferred color. Blacks were supposedly easier to train. Yellow or red puppies were culled or drowned.
One reddish colored wavy coat was born to the Earl of Chichester in 1864. Instead of being killed, he was given in lieu of a debt to a cobbler at Brighton. The cobbler had no real use for a working retriever, but he kept him as a pet. Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks happened upon this dog and offered to buy him from the cobbler in 1865. Marjoribanks was a Liberal MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed and had a large shooting estate in Inverness-shire called “Guisachan.” Marjoribanks’s title was 1st Baron Tweedmouth, and that man would start the first strain of yellow wavy-coats, which would effect the devlopment of the wavy-coated breed and, later, the flat-coated breed, as well.
This concludes Golden Retriever History II. I will begin with the actual development of the golden retriever from that reddish wavy-coat named “Nous,” which means wisdom.
Not all animals can be domesticated.
Here is an article on why some animals were domesticated and others were not.
Because of this, we probably won’t have domesticated polar bears or warthogs. We’ll never have a domesticated cheetah, even though it was attempted in several parts of the cheetah’s range. Cheetahs are faster than any sight hound over a short distance. Cheetahs are even tractable if imprinted on humans. However, cheetahs are nearly impossible to breed in captivity. Male cheetahs have a very low sperm count, in part because all cheetahs are so inbred.
BTW, because I’m on cheetahs for a minute, Cheetahs once lived in Asia. Today, the last Asiatic Cheetahs are found in Iran.