Archive for the ‘golden retriever history’ Category

These two photos are of a dog spying a flask during Prohibition. These were taken at the Potomac River and are dated to February 23, 1922. The dog was actually trained to find hidden stores of liquor. (An early sniffer dog).

1922 golden retriever prohibition

1922 golden retriever prohibition 2

The dog looks a lot like a golden retriever, even though I’m a bit skeptical that it was one. There were almost none of them in the US at the time.

Retrieving dogs are a commonly used as sniffer dogs. All they have to do is associate the scent of what they are retrieving with the substance in question and then build upon that.




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These are not “golden retrievers,” as Christie’s claims. The true golden retriever program wasn’t underway until the 1860’s.

white retrievers

The painter was John Hamilton Glass, and the painting appeared in the Scottish Royal Academy in 1852.

The dogs are fairly large, and the one in the one in the background looks very much like a British conformation type golden retriever.

You can tell they are retrievers because the game presented are a pheasant and duck.

Yellow retrievers existed long before the true golden retriever came about.


And no, that terrier isn’t a Jack Russell, but you could call it that and not be entirely wrong.




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michael of moreton

The Friends of Guisachan are planning to place statue of this dog at the golden retriever ancestral estate.

Funds are being solicited now.

I received an e-mail about this project about a month ago, and I just now discovered it.

But it sounds like a very worthwhile project!

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vesta of woolley

Woolley was Mrs. J.D. Cottingham’s kennel.

Binks painted many of her dogs.


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Winifred Charlesworth, the woman most instrumental in creating a distinct golden retriever breed, with some of her Noranby goldens.


And the modern version: Ginger, photo courtesy of Djanick Michaud of Zomarick Golden retrievers:


In black and white:

ginger black and white

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Whatever it was. She’s after it!


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Most sources list the Tweed water spaniel or Tweed water dog as a breed strongly resembling a small liver or yellow curly-coated retriever.

In the late nineteenth century, the flat-coated retriever expert Stanley O’Neil encountered some of the Tweeds helping salmon fishermen with their nets on the Northumberland coast:

Further up the coast, probably Alnmouth, I saw men netting for salmon. With them was a dog with a wavy or curly coat. It was a tawny colour but, wet and spumy, it was difficult to see the exact colour, or how much was due to bleach and salt. Whilst my elders discussed the fishing I asked these Northumberland salmon net men whether their dog was a Water-Dog or a Curly, airing my knowledge. They told me he was a Tweed Water Spaniel. This was a new one on me. I had a nasty suspicion my leg was being pulled. This dog looked like a brown Water Dog to me, certainly retrieverish, and not at all spanielly. I asked if he came from a trawler, and was told it came from Berwick.

The dogs were water spaniel/Newfoundland (“St. John’s water dog) crosses, which were essentially a regional variant of the curly-coated retriever.


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bloodhound golden retriever mix

A cross between a golden retriever and a bloodhound looks a lot like a ridgeback. There are no dogs like this one featured anywhere in historical golden retriever photos.
Source for image.

I see it often repeated on websites that golden retrievers have bloodhound ancestry. I don’t know why it gets repeated that much, but if you breed a golden retriever to a bloodhound, you get smooth-coated puppies. There are no smooth-coated golden retrievers or any mention of smooth-coated bloodhound retrievers anywhere in the breed history.

The GRCA has published an article in which it quotes Arthur Croxton Smith, a British gun dog enthusiast from last century, who actually talked to the originators of the strain. It was actually he, not Elma Stonex, who revealed that the Russian circus dog story was bogus.

But no one listened to him.

And apparently no one is listening now. This is what Croxton Smith found out about the exact ancestry of the retrievers from the Third Lord Tweedmouth:

“Col. Ie Poer Trench ( St. Hubert’s Kennel) told me a romantic story which I was responsible for reporting extensively in various articles, to the effect that Sir Dudley Marjoribanks founded his kennel on a troupe of performing dogs that he bought from a circus proprietor in Brighton soon after the Crimean War. My old friend told me this story with such conviction that I had no reason to doubt it, but when I saw descendants of Mr. Harcourt’s strain (Culham} I came to the conclusion that they were not greatly different from the Flat­Coats that I used to know when a boy, and I thought the best way of getting an accurate version of the origin of the Guisachan dogs was to go to the late Lord Tweedmouth who was the grandson of the first peer [Dudley Churchill Marjoribanks, 3rd Baron Tweedmouth].

“He told me that one Sunday when his grandfather and father were at Brighton in the late ’60’s, they met a good looking yellow retriever and approached the man who had it. This man, who was a cobbler, said that he had received the dog in lieu of a bad debt from a keeper in the neighbourhood and that it was the only yellow puppy out of a black Wavy-Coated (the Flat Coats were then called Wavy) Retriever litter. Sir Dudley bought the dog and later obtained a bitch of a similar colour in the Border country. Several others were obtained, and to prevent the danger of excessive inbreeding, an occasional outcross was made with black Flat-Coated bitches. The third Lord Tweedmouth assured me that there was never a trace of Bloodhound in them — they were absolutely purebred Retriever.

“This version had corroboration in a letter published in the ‘Field’ in 1941, when M. S. H. Whitbread stated that the second Lord Tweedmouth told him how, as a small boy at school near Brighton, his father, Sir Dudley Marjoribanks, took him for a walk on the downs where they met a man with a very handsome young yellow retriever. He was a shoemaker and had received the puppy from Obed Miles, the keeper at Stanmer, in payment for a bill. Sir Dudley bought the dog, which was the originator of the Tweedmouth breed.

“Reading these two accounts together, combined with my previous doubts, I feel we must accept them as being correct.”

The bloodhound story is the last vestige of the Russian circus dog story that gets repeated in respectable circles.

People did breed hounds to retrievers, but there isn’t very good evidence that modern golden retrievers are bloodhounds.

Now, there is an account that at Guisachan the retrievers were bred to a bloodhound to make a better deer-tracking bloodhound, but there is no account of those dogs being bred back into the retrievers.

Croxton-Smith knew that the golden retrievers were nothing more than yellow or reddish variants of the old way-coated retriever, and  for that reason, he was skeptical of the Russian origins story.

We now have dropped the Russian dogs from the picture, but the bloodhound still remains.

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It just comes in gold only:

Golden retrievers retain much of the genetic and phenotypic diversity that existed in the early British retriever breed called a wavy-coated retrievers. Some of these dogs were nothing more than pure long-haired St. John’s water dogs that had been sent to England as ship’s mascots and for sale as “exotic pets.”  The recessive long-haired type that appeared in the St. John’s breed was not preferred, so they were eager to ship them off to England and America. The British did cross their long-haired dogs with setters and other things.

In the early days of retrievers in the UK, it was common for smooth-coated and long-haired puppies to appear in litters of wavy-coated retriever. The smooths were not always called Labradors. Indeed, the term “Labrador” could also refer to a wavy-coated retriever that was free of the setter influence.

The flat-coated retriever has had most of the wave bred out of its coat, which is why it’s called the flat-coated retriever.

But the golden retriever breed retains much of its ancestor’s type. It still has the dense undercoat of the long-haired St. John’s water dog, which was purged from the gene pool through exportation in the early and middle decades of the nineteenth century.

Although it’s technically a new breed, it’s really an old-fashioned dog.



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This is a South Carolina golden retriever:

You very rarely see one that is this curly.

There are actually two sources for this type of coat in golden retriever. One is the Tweed water dog or Tweed water spaniel, which was sort of a regional type of “unrefined” curly-coated retriever that was endemic to the Scottish Borders and Northumberland.

The other is the actual refined show curly, and at least one of the breed’s very prolific sires had a well-known show curly ancestor.

This golden retriever is probably the closest thing we’ll ever see of a modern-day Tweed water dog.

This dog even has the “conical”  head shape that early writes mentioned the breed having.

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