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Buccleuch Avon was one of the founders of the modern Labrador, and he carried the "liver" gene. He is believed to be the ancestor of all chocolate Labs.

Buccleuch Avon was one of the founders of the modern Labrador, and he carried the "liver" gene. He is believed to be the ancestor of all chocolate Labs.

NB:  This post needs to be rewritten to reflect new information and my new perspective on this issue.

“Buccleuch Avon” was one of the foundation sires of the Buccleuch dogs. The other foundation sire was Buccleuch Ned. Both of these dogs had very close short-hair, although one can obviously see that  Avon’s coat isn’t exactly like the modern Labrador. It is longish, perhaps the result of breeding short and long-haired dogs of this type together. (See my post on Zelstone to see two St. John’s water dog’s with long hair.)

Avon was born in 1885, and he was brought into the breeding program to save this type of “Newfoundland.” The Earls of Malmesbury had been using smooth-haired St. John’s water dogs for many generations, and the Dukes of Buccleuch had founded their own strain.  In the 1880s, the breed was so interbred with long-haired dogs, setters, and water spaniels, that the strain nearly died out. The Fifth Duke of Buccleuch and the 3rd Earl of Malmesbury got together, and the Earl of Malmesbury provided the Buccleuch Estate with dogs that were descended from recently imported stock from Newfoundland, as well as actual imports. Avon was one of these dogs, as was Ned. The most of the bitches used in the breeding program were “made in England,” descendants of the Malmesbury dogs.

At some point in the 1890s, “liver” puppies were born at the Buccleuch Estate. These resulting in breeding two dogs that descended from Avon, and it was assessed that it was Avon who carried this gene into the program.

The dogs were bred for even closer coats as the breed standardized. Patches of white that once appeared on the toes and chest were being bred out.  In 1887, the 3rd Earl of Malmesbury referred to his dogs as “Labrador dogs,” and this name has stuck ever since. Of course, the dogs aren’t from Labrador, but from Newfoundland. Labrador and Newfoundland make up the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, which was known simply as Newfoundland until 2001.  It was the last province to join Canada and was a separate British territory until 1949.

At the Buccleuch estate, the dogs were maintained through constant importation of  “water dogs” from Newfoundland until the 1890s. At that time, two things happened: Newfoundland passed a Sheep Protection Act that severely taxed dogs and Britain instituted its quarantine on imported dogs. No new imports were made to Britain until the 1930’s, when a few more were imported.

It is rather interesting to follow the politics of these retriever breed, for the golden retriever’s founders were all members of the Liberal Party, while the Labrador’s founders were Conservatives. The flat-coat was so common that it was pretty much the bipartisan dog.

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