The nonsense about golden retrievers being from Russia is further exacerbated with this breed. This dog was used as a setter. It is clearly a griffon fo some sort, or maybe a cross between a setter and poodle-type dog. Supposedly, this breed could be diffult to find in Russian in the 1860′s, when Colonel Hutchinson wrote about them in Dog Breaking. It is possible that the Russians did have some sort of griffon like the Spinone Italiano. And in Slavic languages the word for pointer is often translated as setter, like the Cesky Fousek (Bohemian wire-haired pointing griffon) of the Czech Republic is sometimes translated as the Bohemian Setter. The Russian setter is said to be one of the ancestors of the Wire-haired Pointing Griffon (Korthals Griffon). Maybe it shares an ancestry with the German wire-haired and broken-haired pointers.
I don’t know what a Russian setter was. It may not even be Russian. But it could be. There are dogs in Eastern Europe that do have the rough hair and also point, the wire-haired Vizsla of Hungary and the Bohemian Wire-haired pointing griffon (Cesky Fousek).
Compare the Russian setter with the Spinone:
Maybe this breed was crossed into some lines of retrievers. It would describe the retriever named “Devil” that was entered as a flat-coat in The Complete English Shot. However, it is unlikely that it played any role in the development of modern retrievers. Keep in mind that that some yellow wavy-coated retrievers (of Tweedmouth’s strain) in the early twentieth and late nineteenth century were called Russian to make them seem more exotic. Maybe it is the case with this breed, too, and might explain why it was impossible to find one in Russia!
My favorite anecdote about the Russian retriever story is that some estate holder in Britain managed to get a supposed Russian Retriever from the Southern Russia or the Ukraine. The dog was very aggressive, and no trainer could get it to retrieve anything. The dog was said to be white with thick matted hair. It resembled a poodle-type dog, which in Western Europe would mean a water dog, perfectly suited for retrieving work. However, what they actually had was a livestock guardian dog, which are bred to have very low prey drive and high levels of aggression towards people and animals with whom they did not grow up with. One golden retriever book I have said it was Komondor, which is a possibility. I think, though, that it was actually a South Russian Ovtcharka:
Retrievers do have a prey drive. What do you think retrieving is? It’s modified predatory behavior, which partly modified by breeding and partly by training. A LGD has been selected to have very little prey drive, because its job is to stay with the sheep, goats, or whatever else its supposed to guard without killing them through play predatory behavior or real predatory behavior. This dog would be worthless as a retriever, even though it looks like a poodle or barbet (superficially). The high level of aggression toward other dogs would probably disqualify it from ever being used around other retrievers anway, because retrievers have been bred to have rather low dog aggression in order to allow for multple dogs to be used in trial and on shoots, including dogs that are not from the same household.