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Posts Tagged ‘Archie Marjoribanks’

Ishbel Maria Marjoribanks married John Campbell Hamilton-Gordon,  1st Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair. They toured Canada extensively, eventually buying an estate in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia in 1891, which was named “Guisachan,” after Ishbel’s father’s estate. It is believed that some members of the family brought goldens to Canada as early as 1881.  Aberdeen would eventually become Governor-General of Canada, and in this capacity, tried to implement various liberal reforms in Canada, quite an unusual step in this period known as The Gilded Age. (The Marjoribanks family were all members of the now defunct LIberal Party of Great Britain, a percursor to the one in Canada and the modern Liberal Democrat Party of the United Kingdom. This family was close to the Prime Minister William Gladstone, who was known for his concern for social justice.) These goldens were the first lines introduced into North America.

One of the first goldens in North America.

One of the first goldens in North America.

The Marjoribanks family also tried ranching in Texas, purchasing a large estate in Collingsworth and Wheeler Counties called The Rocking Chair Ranch. The 1st Baron Tweedmouth purchased it, and it was eventually ceded to his son Edward Marjoribanks when he passed away 1884. Edward, 2nd Baron Tweedmouth,  chose his brother Archibald (“Archie”) to go to Texas and help manage the property. Archie is said to have little interest in ranching or proper management of the herds. Instead, he was said to spend most of his time drinking, gambling, and hunting with dogs.  He was known to the locals as “Old Marshie.”

Among these hunting dogs on the ranch, Archie had a golden retriever or yellow flat/wavy coat bitch named “Lady.” She was believed to have been from the Marquess of Aberdeen’s stock or born from a bitch in whelp brought down from the British Columbian Guisachan to Texas.

Lady and Archie

Lady and Archie

This picture is variously listed as 1891 or 1893.

Because Archie was not a very good manager, the ranch hands began to steal the stock. Archie never mingled with them, and they saw their opportunity to rob the ranch blind. The senior manager, John Drew, was also stealing cattle. Eventually the ranch’s debts became too much, and the Ranch was sold in 1896.

However, the Marjoribanks family introduced the yellow retrievers to North America. This story may be the only example of a family founding a strain of dogs and then introducing that strain to other parts of the world within a generation.

Most of these dogs were very dark in color, and later imports to North America by Colonel Samuel Magoffin were of this color, too. As a result, most North American goldens were much darker in color than their European counterparts. The field and working varieties in the US and Canada are overwhelmingly dark gold or red in color. This was the same for our show varieties until relatively recently.

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We have finally made it to the origin of the golden retriever. The golden retriever started as a line of wavy-coated retriever. (Check out part II of this series to learn about this breed).  During the nineteenth century it was commonly suggested that only black retrievers were capable of doing work. The vast majority of retrievers were black. Black early Labradors were being bred from the short-haired St. John’s Water Dog, while black wavy and curly-coats were much more common on shooting estates. The black color in retrievers is dominant, but whenever new blood from other breeds was introduced, recessive genes for other colors began to appear. Liver or chocoloate was in the original St. John’s Water dog, and most retriever breeds have this coloration– curlies, Labs, flat-coats, and chesapeakes all allow for this color and the Newfoundland comes in it, too. It was not a preferred color. Crosses with setters and yellow or reddish water spaniels introduced the recessive red color into retriever lines. This happened a lot in water spaniels because all water spaniels were deemed liver, even if they were actually genetically red dogs with brown skin pigment.  The Welsh black setter often carried a gene for red, and there are setters in the North of England and Scotland, such as the Featherstone Castle Setter, which came in pale gold. If two black retrievers were bred that carried the gene for recessive red (which is the color of all yellow or gold retievers and all red setters– Irish, gordon or otherwise), then yellow, red, or gold puppies could be born in the litters.

Such was the case of “Nous,” a wavy-coated retriever born in 1864. Here’s a picture of Nous as an old dog.

Nous is the founder of the Tweedmouth strain of wavy-coats. He resembles a modern golden retriever of the dark color almost exactly.

Nous is the founder of the Tweedmouth strain of wavy-coats. He resembles a modern golden retriever of the dark color almost exactly.

Nous was born to black wavy-coated parents belonging to Lord Chichester. The yellow or reddish pup would have probably been drowned, but the Lord gave him to a cobbler who lived at Brighton in lieu of a debt. The cobbler kept Nous at Brighton as a pet, but like many perfomance bred dogs, one can only assume that he was driving his owner crazy. When Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks saw the dog. He offered to buy him, but since it was a Sunday when he made the proposal, the actual purchase wasn’t until Monday. Nous was taken to a shooting estate called Guisachan in Inverness-shire.

Marjoribanks was a politician, a Liberal MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed, and had been made a baron. His title was 1st Baron Tweedmouth, which is often incorrectly called “Lord Tweedmouth” in breed lore. He was an experienced victorian animal breeder, starting his own line of Aberdeen-Angus cattle, breeding quality setters and pointers for the grouse moors, and generally trying to improve the stock he produced of all species. He was somewhat unusual in his desire to start a line of yellow retrievers.  Yellows were deemed less trainable than blacks. However, in his plan, he had found a yellow breed to cross into his yellow retrievers that would increase their trainability.

This yellow breed was one of the “liver” water spaniels. It was actually a yellow breed with black pigment, which came from cream to tawny gold in color. It was called the Tweed Water Spaniel, and one had been procured  to breed with Nous. (Nous’s trainabilty was already evident because his name denoted his “wisdom” and “common sense.” That’s what his name means in vernacular nineteenth century English. It’s borrowed word from Greek that means “mind or intellect.”)

Here’s what Tweed Water Spaniels looked like:

This breed’s origins are unclear. Some have suggested that this breed is a mixture of every sort of dog that retrieves, including the St. John’s Water Dog, which might explain its retriever-like appearance. Collies may have been introduced to increase trainability. And golden colored setters, perhaps culls from the Featherstone Castle Line, may have been crossed in. This breed was common among fisherman living in the River Tweed valley. The River Tweed is part of the border between Scotland and England. The dog depicted above is a dark gold dog that appears “liver.” However, it has black pigmentation. This is the only depiction of this breed.

Nous was bred to one of these intelligent, working class water spaniels named “Belle.” Their offspring would start the line known as “Tweedmouth’s strain” of wavy-coated retrievers. This litter was born in 1868, meaning that the first litter of golden retrievers is older than the first registered yellow Labrador, Ben of Hyde, a dog born in 1899.

In the next installment, I will explain how the Tweedmouth strain developed, and how it affected the development of both the golden and the flat-coated retriever. I will also explain how those breeds interacted with the development of the Labrador. I will also show you some areas in the historical record in which I have some skepticism.

BTW, the records are clear that this was how the golden retriever started. There was a crazy myth that persisted until the 1950’s that the breed was descended from a Russian circus dog called a “Russian tracker” that Baron Tweedmouth bred to bloodhounds to make the retriever. This breed was said to be a sheep dog, used for guarding sheep. Russian sheepdogs are livestock guardian dogs, but they can’t be used for tracking or for retrieving game either. Crossing them with bloodhounds would be counterproductive. And none of them would be circus dog. Some early fanciers believed this so much that they registered golden retrievers as Russian retrievers, even showing them against yellow flat-coats, which were also golden retrievers.

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