“The worst cross the author ever made was with Zelstone. Although not a large dog, he was said to be a pure bred Newfoundland. He was a flat-coated retriever Champion, and may have been himself a good worker ; but he ruined the working qualities of the descendants of Jenny above mentioned, and brought the author’s strain of them to an end. Consequently, it is suggested that the Newfoundland is the type to breed out of the flat coats. ”
–George Teasdale Teasedale-Buckell, The Complete English Shot (1907)
“Zelstone” also appears in the Guisachan kennel records as an outcross, although he’s listed as Labrador in those documents. However, this description makes sense because Labrador and Newfoundland for this type of dog were often used interchangeably. Interestingly, a dog of this breeding could also be called a flat-coat or wavy coat at this time and used in breeding with retrievers. The registries were that open in those days.
Below is a depiction of a St. John’s water dog with long hair and retrievery features. This dog was listed as a Labrador, despite its long hair. Again, this classification is in keeping with the interchangeable terms of Labrador and Newfoundland, as well as the fact that dogs called Labradors or Newfoundlands could also be called wavy-coated or flat-coated retrievers. This dog is similar to Zelstone, but it has much more coat, which one would not expect. All St. John’s water dogs are supposedly short-haired, like a Labrador, or so the Labrador historians would have us believe. Of course, this assertion is nonsense.
Zelstone, however, does not appear to be as cumbersome as the author suggests his progeny were. This dog actually looks like a nice, big retriever with good working conformation, especially if I were interested in using this dog for retrieving big birds from cold water. Perhaps it is Zelstone’s influence that turned out a large number of big red dogs that lived at Guisachan during the 1880’s and 1890’s. It is possibly that he was carrying genes for even more cobby and coarse dogs than one would have expected.
You can see them in this photograph of Guisachan’s retrievers and pointers :
The Tweedmouth retrievers are on the left, with one light colored one lying in the middle. The dog you can see most clearly is on the far left, and it looks like a red Newf. Dogs of this type can be seen in the US pet golden population, such as this heroic one.
But these big dogs were soon bred out, as Mr. Teasdale-Buckell hoped. The dogs were too heavy to be useful in field trials, which were gaining in popularilty. The lightly built, newly standardized flat-coat would dominate retriever trials for nearly a quarter century. These dogs would provide the basis of the golden retriever breed when it was separated from the flat-coat.
Unfortunately, the big dogs have made a reappearance. First they popped up in the Lab, and have now become common in the golden. A friend of mine has a golden that is 30 inches at the shoulder and 125 pounds. (Yes, he has bad hips). He was not selected for this size, either, for his sire was only 75 or 80 poundsand 25 inches at the shoulder, and his dam was the same size, which is a bit big for a golden bitch but not giant.
These big, blocky goldens are throwbacks to Zelstone. A dog that early retriever fanciers may have loved for his working ability but later cursed when he introduced too much lumber and size into his progeny.