Posts Tagged ‘European show golden retrievers’

How can we say that kennel clubs have preserved golden retrievers, when they once looked like these dogs:

The second dog from the right is Ch. Noranby Diana. You'll never see a dog like her in the British show ring for goldens today.

The second dog from the right is Ch. Noranby Diana. You'll never see a dog like her in the British show ring for goldens today.

Now look like this:

European-type golden retriever.

European-type golden retriever.

Or this? :


American show golden.

The answer is dog shows and kennel clubs are not about preserving breeds. Some breed clubs, like the one for the flat-coated retriever in this country, are very concerned about making sure their dogs still have functional conformation and don’t have wide swings and divergences from the original functional type.

In the show-ring, the golden shifted from being a functional retriever to being an art piece. These dogs are an accumulation of silly standard revisions and the accumulation of  “fancy points” in the breed.

Someone in Britain started breeding the very light colors. I still have yet to find who that was. In the 1936 standard revision for the KC, the golden received a two inch height reduction at the shoulder– 20 1/2 inches– and the color was changed to allow cream. My guess is the original intent was the allow for cream shadings on a light gold dog.

However, that’s not how judges interpreted it, and by the late 1950’s, very light colored dogs began to appear in the bloodline. These dogs were also quite heavily built, which one would expect from a standard that had a height reduction and no adjustment for weight.

In North America, the breed ring began to favor dogs with lots of feathering. As late as ten years ago, most American goldens had functional conformation, except that they had too much feathering. All I have to do to explain the golden’s need for a reduction in feathering are the words of the great retriever man James Lamb Free when he said the golden swimming with that much hair was “like [a person] going swimming in a coonskin coat.”

Now you can still find goldens that are built nicely and resemble the old type.


But now, most people think such a dog is a “setter-golden mix” or a “puppy mill” golden. Why? Because goldens are supposed to be “red.”

The truth is they are all “red,” even the palest “white” ones. The gene that makes that coloration is the recessive red to yellow color (e/e). The darkest dogs on that spectrum are mahogany, and Irish setters are that color, too.


The only problem with these “old-fashioned” or “working-bred” dogs is that they don’t have much genetic diversity. Try to find a golden from these lines that doesn’t have this dog in its pedigree:  AFC Holway Barty.

Barty is the Wiston Cap of working golden retrievers in this country.

It is very hard to find a border collie of trial stock in any part of the world that doesn’t have Wiston Cap in its pedigree. He and Barty were what we would call most-used sires.

With goldens, it is a bit better. However, most European working lines are also partially derived from Holway dogs, so you have real problem in trying to increase genetic diversity.

Because of this problem, some breeders, like this one in Sweden, are crossing with the “fancy” dogs. Her F1 cross with these dogs produces puppies with rather difficult to predict working characteristics. She calls these her “lost generation.” (BTW, she is a bit wrong about calling the show dogs the “old-fashioned” type. The “old fashioned” type is working type.)

So here is the problem with working golden retrievers: we have a narrow gene pool but to broaden it we have to breed away from the original, more athletic type to include dogs that are slower on both the land and the water and very often don’t have retrieving instinct.

And that’s why I say the golden retriever is very much in trouble.

I wish we could go back to the dogs that lived 15 years, retrieved from land and water as well as any Lab, and never thought of biting anyone. But in order to go back to that time, we are going to have to some reform of our canine institutions. And the breed is going to have to lose some of its popularity so it can be rehabilitated.

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This dog comes from Ingrid0804’s Photostream.

This dog, as you can see from the other photos, has some retrieving instinct and an althetic frame. This dog is quite atypical of the “white” goldens I see in the US, and the “white” goldens I saw in Hyde Park.

Such dogs should not be ignored from a performance line breeding program. Indeed, they could be a source of new blood that these lines desperately need.

I go by a simple adage: no good dog is of a bad color.

I’m not opposed to “white” dogs because they are “white.” I’m opposed to them because they are usually built so coarsely that they lumber around like bears and they are too mellow to get excited about anything. But a “white” dog that is smart and active and healthy is a really good asset to a breeding program, every bit as much as the reds and mahoganies and those with white markings that also have that good conformation and drive.

Those of you who usually read this blog may be a bit surprised that I wrote such a post, but it’s what I think. When I’m talking about “white” goldens, I’m talking about “white” goldens that don’t have the drive or conformation to do anything but lie around.

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