Posts Tagged ‘English golden retriever’

Very typical KC/FCI conformation dog.  (Lived from 1991-1999.)

Not exactly what I like.

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Eng Irish Ch. Papeta Philosopher, born 11 November 1985:

A fairly recent prolific sire in the UK/FCI conformation lines.

This is the so-called “white” color that is more accurately called “cream.” This is fairly common in conformation lines from Europe and the UK.

The head and somewhat heavier bone are also characteristics of this type. The eyes are usually quite dark and round, and the head shape is closer to the blockiness one associates with Labradors.

Virtually all of these lighter colored dogs have black skin pigment– and it’s usually quite clear and dark. I’ve actually never seen one with brown skin.

Miley’s somewhat lighter color and very dark skin come from this breeding. Her sire was of this type. When she gets her feet wet, the dark skin shows through the lighter fur, making her feet look smudgy or even muddy. I first noticed this when hosing her off after a good walk. Lke all goldens, Miley is magnetically attracted to mud, but when I hosed her feet off, they just wouldn’t come clean.

It was only when I looked at them closely that I noticed it was just an optical illusion of the wet, light gold hair lying close to the black skin.

Dogs of the European show type have certain traits that do make them good pets, though many of them lack the drive to be decent gun dogs– at least as it is understood in this part of the world. These dogs tend to be more sedate and more softly disposed than the typical golden retriever in this country– which is already an extremely soft-natured dog to begin with. Some studies of golden retriever health in the UK and Sweden at least imply that their dogs have a lower incidence of cancer than the ones in North America. However, more comparative health surveys need to be done on goldens in different countries before such pronouncements can be given without providing some caveats.

However, these European conformation dogs are very often mass-produced and sold at exorbitant prices. “Rare white golden retrievers” or “British white retrievers” sell for thousands of dollars on the internet. Never mind that the dogs aren’t rare– it’s a very common color in goldens worldwide– and they aren’t really white. They are cream. Many of these dogs come from unknown European stock that may have health or temperament issues, which is why they were sold to unwitting Americans as something novel.

That’s not to say that every breeder of these sort of goldens is mass-producing this type of dog, but if one really wants a polar-bear dog,  one should be very careful of which breeder one chooses.

It’s very easy to sell puppies that look like baby seals or Knut. And the mass producers know this.

The typical European conformation golden does have traits that might make it more suitable for the typical American home, but because it’s almost a brand name, one should make certain that one isn’t just buying a brand.

The dog has to fit with your lifestyle and your family.

And goldens from all different types have varying temperaments and energy levels.

Just because it is “white” and “English” doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a good family dog.

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Gipsy, a "white" wavy-coated retriever.

From an article in Country Life (29 February1908):

It is very unusual to find a distinct type of dogs which are true bred and yet owe their origin to nothing more than descent from an ancestor which was merely a freak in a true and pure bred class of retrievers, remarkable when we find two such distinct breeds of existing to-day in the same kennels. On the estate of Mr. C. J Radclyffe, at Hyde in Dorsetshire, a visitor may see a pure white breed of the old-fashioned… wavy-coated retrievers. Mr. Radclyffe has kept for more than forty-five years a well-known breed of these wavy-coated dogs, which until a certain date were all black. A matter of ten or twelve years ago, in certain of the litters sired by one particular dog, one or more of the puppies were born pure white in colour. This dog was a purebred scion of the old breed, and there was no chance of there being any mongrel blood in his veins. The owner carefully preserved all… white puppies, and in course of time hoped to perpetuate a breed of white dogs by breeding from his favourite white dog Gipsy. But out of the first forty-six puppies sired by this clog from black mothers not one of the pups was white. On the other hand, some of the white bitches had whole litters of white puppies. And, by breeding from white dogs and bitches, which were of necessity in the first instance rather closely related to each other, Mr. Radclyffe has been able to establish a breed of these dogs, which it is hoped in future will breed descendants true in colour to their white parents. Naturally, it may be presumed that occasionally certain puppies in some litters will throw back to the black colour of their ancestors.

In the same kennels at Hyde may also be seen the rare sight of a breed of pure yellow’ Labradors. These dogs are owned by Captain C. E. Radclyffe, and, like the above-mentioned white retrievers, they owe their origin to a freak. In one litter sired by a celebrated black Labrador owned by Captain Radclyffe there were two yellow puppies, a dog and a bitch. By breeding from this yellow dog, named Ben, his owner has now collected a splendid kennel of yellow dogs; and, curious to say, unlike the white retriever, Gipsy, quite 75 per cent, of the puppies by this yellow Labrador are true to the colour of their sire, even when he is mated with a black bitch. Their owner has not been experimenting long enough to prove whether or no by interbreeding with the young yellow Labradors he will be able to perpetuate the breed, but he has every confidence that such will prove to be the case. In support of this theory he quotes an instance of where a light – coloured and almost white Labrador bitch, owned by the Hon. Francis Dawnay, was mated with the yellow dog Ben, and all the puppies were either yellow or white in colour. It is noteworthy that none of these white or yellow dogs is an albino as regards the colour of its eyes, etc., and,- moreover, they are as good workers in the field as were their black ancestors. It seems a pity that these dogs cannot be exhibited on the show bench, in order that the sporting public may see how very picturesque and handsome they are in appearance; but it is understood that some rule prohibits judges from awarding prizes to any such dogs unless they are black in colour. It is believed that these two breeds of retrievers are unique, and, needless to remark, their respective owners consider them to be priceless, consequently none of them has ever been sold (pg. 305).

The author has the genetics a little wrong. The “white” dogs were very likely just pale yellows, and the recessive nature of the e/e genotype that causes this coloration is now well-established. The “white” wavy-coats resulted from breeding a black dog that carried this recessive gene with a bitch that carried that gene. That particular gene cannot be traced to a single sire in the way that this article suggests. However, Mendelian genetics was not well-known at this time, so both the breeder and the author can be forgiven for this misunderstanding.

Radclyffe’s yellow Labradors would become better known than his “white” wavy-coats. Ben of Hyde, the dog mentioned in this article, is the first “official” yellow Labrador and the source for most of the yellow Labradors that exist today. This article contains a much better photograph of Ben than I have previously posted on this blog:

Ben is a relatively dark yellow dog, but because it was easier to establish the yellow coloration in Radclyffe’s line of Labradors, it is very likely that yellow was much more established in black Labrador lines before Ben was born.

These dogs were not the result of “freaks,” as this article suggests. Rather, they are just recessive yellows  that popped up in Labrador and wavy-coated retriever lines. Radclyffe was just one of the first breeders to select for this color over the more traditional black color.

I don’t know if Radclyffe had been aware of yellow wavy-coats at Guisachan or if this this dog named Gipsy traces its roots to that breeding program. He was obviously not the first person to select for yellow in wavy-coats, but he was the first to select for it in Labradors.

Tramp, a "white" wavy-coat.

These white wavy-coats are quite intriguing. Very light-colored golden retrievers were virtually nonexistent in the early lines of that breed, but within the foundational pedigrees of golden retrievers, there are dogs of unknown parentage. Perhaps some of these “white” wavy-coats were behind these anomalous goldens, and they are the source for the cream-colored dogs that are commonly associated with “English type” golden retrievers. Because we do not have records of the pedigrees of these anomalous goldens, we can only conjecture.

This close-up of Gipsy’s head does show a retriever that looks very much like a golden:

However, we simply do not have the records.

But the photographs are so beguiling.

Perhaps Radclyffe’s kennels were not just the source for the yellow Labrador. His breeding program may have been the source for the “white” golden retriever, too.

I find it particularly interesting that Radclyffe didn’t realize that his “white” wavy-coats were caused by the same recessive genes as the yellow Labradors.  This article suggests that he was at least considering this possibility when one of the yellow Labradors produced at his kennels was quite pale. Perhaps if it had been born fully white, he would have realized that he was dealing with the same gene in both breeds.

He could have been better able to establish the color in his wavy-coats if he had been willing to breed his yellow Labradors into this strain.

Retriever history is forever revealing such unusual stories.

All golden retriever fanciers known of the 1st Baron Tweedmouth’s breeding program for yellow wavy-coated retrievers at Guisachan. Virtually all Labrador fanciers know of Ben of Hyde as the first official yellow Lab.

But the story of the “white” wavy-coats has been ignored. I just discovered this story today, and I am amazed that I have never encountered it in my quests through retriever history. It is a story that should be examined more closely, for it is possible that these “white” wavy-coats contributed to the foundational golden retriever bloodlines and are a potential source of the cream-colored dogs that are now so popular. These wavy-coats existed at a time when the golden retriever was becoming established as a distinct breed– 1908 is when the Kennel Club recognized yellow as an official color for flat-coated retrievers– and there are so many dogs within the foundational pedigrees that are total unknowns. These unknown dogs could have been some of these “white” wavy-coated retrievers.

The fact that anyone tried to establish lines of these dogs point to a simple reality: Humans are quite visual creatures. From the account in this Country Life article, these retrievers were great workers, but Radclyffe just preferred the yellow and white color.

White wavy-coated retrievers and yellow Labradors. Radclyffe had to have been a bit of a maverick, for even liver was a controversial color for retrievers in those days. Most people wanted a black retriever, whether it was a wavy/flat-coat, a curly-coat, or a Labrador.

Dogs of such unusual colors definitely would have been conversation pieces.

Never mind that they were competent working dogs!

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The main advantage of the European-type golden retriever is they produce far cuter puppies than the old leggy red dogs do.


I should note here that this color isn’t rare. It’s only relatively less common in North America than the other colors are. In Europe, the vast majority of goldens look like this.

And the color is not white.

It is a very pale cream.


If you want to find a rare color in golden retrievers, you can’t get much rarer than mahogany:

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When did they change from this,




And this


To this,




and this?


It happened at least ten years ago, when I wasn’t in the market for a golden retriever, and I didn’t realize what was going on with the show lines.

I don’t think I’ll be as quiescent and complacent as I was when the shift happened.

In fact, I’ll do anything within my power to make them shift back.

These dogs are nothing like they once were, and you have to hunt hard to find a good one.

But in the popular imagination, golden retrievers don’t look like the old type, and I find this scary. That means that hundreds and maybe thousands of dogs will not be considered goldens if they are picked up on the street.

I saw a supposed Irish setter/golden retriever cross on the Dogs with Jobs show. He was no such thing. He was just a dark gold dog with a lighter build than what apparently show up in the ring and in dog breed books.

If you see a dark golden with  a light build, the odds are in favor of it being a golden retriever, not a crossbreed. I wouldn’t have had to say this ten years ago, because most golden retrievers in this country looked more like the old way.

This is the first real shift I’ve seen in goldens in this country, although the Europeans shifted their golden retrievers many decades ago.

So the dog fancy hates conserving the dog type. It claims to do so, but in reality, it is as susceptible to fickle caprices as virtually any fashion trend in clothing.

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They start out as cute little “white” puppies:


Unlike field bred golden puppies, they aren’t nearly as active or obsessively intelligent and driven. The first dog I had of this type I actually thought there was something medically wrong with puppy, because she never wanted to play or get silly. Most consumers of dogs don’t really want the real drivey temperament in a puppy, so that puppy doesn’t cause that much trouble (at least by comparison).

Then they mature into dogs that run like draft horses. Have you ever ridden a draft horse? They may have once carried knights in full armor, but compared to a saddle horse, they are lump and choppy in their gait. You get the same out of a blocky English goldens. (Here’s an example of coarse English goldens running with that choppy, lumbering gait.)

Compare the gait of these dogs with some working bred dogs.

Here’s a video of “Shuttle” (The dog in the header). She moves very quickly and fluidly. I don’t see any lumbering around with this dog.

Now, you might like a cute dog that lumbers around. You aren’t going bird hunting, and you don’t want to work a dog. Well, I have a simple statement: Don’t get a golden retriever and stop accommodating breeders who are breeding in poor working conformation and mellow temperaments in the dogs. If you can’t handle the working temperament, you need another breed.

I hate to be blunt here, but I’m tired of seeing my breed destroyed by the caprices of a fickle public, one that wants a mass-produced animal that is not only good- natured and very trainable but also “white,” bear-like, and calm. To get those other three characteristics, you have to fundamentally change the other two.  And people who like retrievers as retrievers and not playthings do not want those  first two characteristics to change.

Further, a lot of these “white” dogs develop food possession for some reason. The one thing this breed always had going for it was its incredible temperament. It might have a relatively high cancer rate. It might not be as good a trial dog as a Labrador. But its gentle temperament was its asset. If that goes, this breed deserves to lose its popularity.

I hope it does. And I say this as someone who is absolutely in love with the golden retriever as a retriever and dog.

*I have yet to be challenged by any “white” golden fans out there. I’ll just tell you this– I don’t have any good scientific studies on the two separate lines of golden and their behavior and health. However, it’s been my experience dealing with this breed most of my life.

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Unless we are careful, the golden retriever will become an ivory-colored Newfoundland.

Unless we are careful, the golden retriever will become an ivory-colored Newfoundland.

 This dog is an exaggerated “English-type” dog.   It is the future of the golden retriever, and it is nothing like what the Marjoribankses, Mrs. Charlesworth, or anyone else who founded the breed had in mind.

I feel like I’m one of those “original intent” constitutional scholars or jurists with whom I actually disagree.

But there is no way this type of dog is as fast or as healthy as the more lithe dogs that were once bred and can be still found in the working lines. My experience with this type is they are also lacking in intelligence, a statement their owners always take as offensive.

Well, working type retrievers have been bred for biddability almost entirely. They have the prey drive, which comes across as a mouthing behavior that eventually is matured and trained into a mouth and return behavior.  The dogs I have had were almost obsessive in their desire to retrieve.  They also learned their commands (the simple ones) in less than 10 (often less than 3) repetitions. I’ve yet to see one of these show types from English extraction really behave as a retriever is supposed to. (I don’t even think they look like golden retrievers, to be honest.)

The Labrador people are laughing at this dog. They can condescend that a golden isn’t a working dog, because this is the type of dog that they associate with the breed. It is not what I associate with the breed at all.

If someone offered me one for free, I’d take it, have it spayed or neutered, and rehome it.  But they are nothing like the field bred dog, and they are nothing like the original breed.

Unless like-minded golden retriever people say no to this type dominating our breed, this is what we’re going to be stuck with.  The golden retriever will have become an Ivory Newfoundland.

And for now on, that’s what  this blog is going to call this type of golden. It is the Ivory Newfoundland!

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I found this photo of an early “cream” golden. I don’t know the dog’s name or where it comes from, but I’m assuming that it’s British and dates to sometime in the 1950’s or 1960s, just 20 or 30 years after the very dark colored and lightly built dogs dominated the breed. It’s not that cobby or blocky, as you would find today in European lines of golden. Think of this dog as a transition from that type to the very cobby creams that exist today in Britain.


Compare this dog with Culham Brass (b. 1904)


And compare with what’s in vogue in the European show golden set:


It’s almost like a different breed, isn’t it? It reminds me of another breed, not a retriever but a livestock guardian breed.

The Kuvasz:


I think someone could make a lot of money selling Kuvaszok as “white golden retrievers.” They have about as much retrieving instinct and working ability as a retriever as most European show goldens!

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