Posts Tagged ‘Labrador’

Yes. They do.

(Source for all photos in this post)

Yes. The purebred dog in that last identification query is a Labrador.

And you may have seen a dog like this one on this blog before.

Remember, Ch. Zelstone?

Zelstone was born in 1880, and he became a very important sire in the old wavy and flat-coated retriever breed from which both golden retrievers and modern flat-coats descend. Tracer, his son and full brother to Ch. Moonstone, was bred into the strain of yellow wavy-coated retrievers at Guisachan. Moonstone, when bred back to his mother produced a red-gold puppy, which meant that Zelstone carried the recessive red color.

Zelstone’s ancestry ran right through Henry Farquharson’s kennels— and he was mostly of St. John’s water dog ancestry. Farquharson was a major importer of dogs from Newfoundland, and although most of his dogs were of the larger type, he evidently had some of the smaller St. John’s type. It is likely that some of these were long-haired dogs. Lambert de Boillieu, a trader working Labrador during the 1850’s, mentions that long-haired dogs were of no use to the fishermen and hunters of Newfoundland and Labrador, and they were eager to have them sent off to Britain:

The dogs sent to England, with rough shaggy coats, are useless on the coast; the true-bred and serviceable dog having smooth, short hair, very close and compact to the body. I sent to England a fine specimen of these, but unfortunately the vessel which bore it had the misfortune to be wrecked on the north coast of Ireland, and all hands were lost (243-244).

The long-haired dogs likely comprised the vast majority of the dogs imported to Britain, where they were used to found the wavy-coated retriever. It is often said that the long-coats on these dogs derived from crossing the smooth-coated St. John’s water dog with the setter. However, this doesn’t theory hold up with much scrutiny. If one breeds a dog that is homozygous for the smooth-coat to a dog that is homozygous for the long-coat, you will get smooth-coated puppies. The vast majority of retrievers derived from St. John’s water dogs or “Labradors” in the British Isles during the nineteenth century were long-coated and were called “wavy-coated retrievers.” These dogs were sometimes crossed with setters or collies, but as a rule, they were almost always long-coated.

The Rev.  Thomas Pearce (“Idstone”) wrote inThe Dog (1872) that smooth-coated retrievers that were of this St. John’s water dog ancestry were quite rare in England, but it was possible to get puppies with both coats in litters. The smooths were always associated with imports from Newfoundland, but they were good workers:

The flat and shaggy, and the smooth-coated—I mean as short in the hair as a Mastiff—are sometimes found in one litter, and one of the best I ever saw was thus bred from Mr. Drax’s keeper’s old “Dinah” (imported), the father being also from Labrador. “Jack” acknowledged no owner but Mr. Drax, and died in his service at Charborough Park. During the time he was in the squire’s service he must have carried more game than any team, or half-a-dozen teams, could draw, since every year he went the circuit of Mr. Drax’s manors and estates, and the two were as much heralds of each other in Kent, Dorset, or Yorkshire, as Wells and “Fisherman” when a Queen’s Plate was to be run for. Beaters gave him a wide berth, for he was not to be induced to give up game to them, and woe betide any of the number, whom he knew by their dress—a white gaberdine with a red cross in it—if they approached to familiarity, or intercepted him whilst he tracked his game liked a Bloodhound, and stooped to his line amongst the underwood, or tried to knock over crippled game after he had viewed it and was racing it down.

He was just like his rough brother ” Tom ” —or, in fact, like “Snow,” in all but length of coat . As they,” Snow” and “Tom,” came out of the lake when we were shooting teal and widgeon, drenched with half-frozen water, I have frequently been struck with the family likeness.

But the smooth-coated dog has a lighter eye—a pale hazel with an intensely black pupil, occasionally very like what is known as a “china” or “wall-eye.” Be that how it may, they are the best of all breeds for boating; they can stand all weathers, and though men unused to them call them butchers’ dogs [a common complaint was that St. John’s water dogs with smooth coats looked like bulldogs], I think them handsome, and I know that they are sensible, and that the punt and shore men, living by adroit use of the long stauncheon gun and “flat,” look upon them as a part of their household, and in some cases—to quote the words of one old sporting farmer, to a duke who wanted to buy his horse— “no man has money enough to buy them” (pg. 128-129).

Idstone believed that the setter was the primary ancestor of the wavy-coated retriever, but we now know that during the early days of this kind of retriever in the nineteenth century that they were primarily of St. John’s water dog ancestry.

The famous depiction of Paris and Melody from an edition “Stonehenge’s” Dogs of the British Islands. Paris was said to have been a pure “Labrador” or “St. John’s water dog.” He also had long hair. Melody was a setter cross, and she looks more like a setter than even the modern flat-coated retriever, which had some Irish setter crossed in at a later date to make them even more refined.

The modern flat-coated retriever also has more or less the setter’s coat, which lacks the very, very dense undercoat that is associated with golden and Labrador retrievers. Because of this coat type in modern flat-coats,  it is much more likely that the wavy-coated retrievers were primarily of St. John’s water dog ancestry– with only occasional outcrosses to setters.

When Stonehenge provided a depiction of a St. John’s Newfoundland or Labrador dog in an edition of The Dog in Health and Disease (1879), he chose to use an image of a long-haired one.

Now, the long-haired dogs would be instrumental in establishing the old wavy-coated retriever, which eventually became the golden retriever and the modern flat-coat. These were the dominant retrievers in the British Isles through the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century.  The founding president of the Kennel Club, Sewallis Shirley, was a major patron of this retriever, and he and Dr. Bond Moore, who often called his dogs “Labradors,” were instrumental in establishing the old wavy/flat-coated retriever as defined breed.  These were all long-haired dogs, but because there were only two varieties of retriever, the curly and the wavy, there was some interbreeding between those two types. Smooth-coated retrievers were very uncommon at this time, which also strongly suggests that the founding population of St. John’s water dogs that were used to found the wavy-coated retrievers were of the shaggy-type that Lambert de Boilieu mentioned. If the founding dogs were smooth-coated as the later St. John’s water dogs were, then most of the retrievers that were derived from these dogs would have been smooths. But the bulk of the evidence shows that the British retriever in the nineteenth century was almost universally long-haired.

A modern long-haired Labrador retriever in profile. Its resemblance to the old wavy-coated retriever is uncanny.

One needs to understand that the dog that these texts call a “Labrador” isn’t necessarily the same as the breed called the “Labrador retriever.”  The modern Labrador retriever traces to the 1880’s, when the line of smooth-coated retrievers that was kept by the Dukes of Buccleuch was combined with that of the Earls of Malmesbury. This was the only British retriever to be selected for the dominant smooth coat. Modern Labrador retriever are almost universally smooth-coated dogs.

However, very rarely, a long-coated puppy is born. These dogs are extremely rare– much rarer than Labradors with tan poins or brindling.

The exact origin of these modern long-haired Labradors isn’t exactly clear.

They could have always been hidden within the smooth-coated St. John’s water dog bloodlines that eventually gave us the Labrador retriever, but if this were so, it probably would be more common in the breed than it is today. I think a much more likely source for this coat is cross-breeding. Labrador, golden, and flat-coated retrievers were considered varieties of a single breed, and interbreeding the varieties was very common. When the Labrador retriever needed fresh blood, it was occasionally bred to wavy or flat-coated retrievers, which may have included dogs we would call golden retrievers. The Dukes of Buccleuch and the Earls of Malmesbury tried to keep their dogs from being bred to long-haired retrievers, which is one reason why they were so eager to import more smooths from Newfoundland. However, other breeders certainly did outcross.

Long-haired Labrador retriever puppies.

Long-haired Labrador retrievers are a sort of atavism. The dogs look very much like the old wavy-coated retriever and the long-haired St. John’s water dogs, which were essentially the same breed. They also point to the simple reality that Labrador, golden, and flat-coated retrievers are much more closely related than one might assume.

See related posts:

Read Full Post »

The original image of this dog is from a painting by A. Cooper. It was entitled “Tar, a Celebrated Retriever, the Property of Charles Brett, Esq.”

I have not been able to find anything about this Mr. Charles Brett, other than he was located at West Hill House in Fareham in Hampshire. It lies in between Portsmouth and Southamptom, which are major port cities.

It is not very far from Poole, which is in the neighboring county of Dorset.

Poole, of course, was the home port of virtually every English ship that fished the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

It was a major port of entry for St. John’s water dogs into England, and it would be expected that we would find a dog like this one in a neighboring county. Or perhaps the dog arrived in either Portsmouth or Southampton as a direct import from Newfoundland.

Most sources suggest that this dog is a flat-coated or wavy-coated retriever– and they actually wouldn’t be wrong. The division between St. John’s water dogs and wavy/flat-coated retrievers and what became Labrador retrievers was quite nebulous.

However, I think it might be reasonable to suggest that Tar was actually a lightly feathered St. John’s water dog from imported stock. His size and build are very similar to what we’d expect from a male of that breed. Judging from the mallard drake at his feet, I would estimate him to be roughly the size of a typical Labrador retriever dog, though maybe just slightly larger– in the 85 pound range. He also possesses white toes and a white chest– both traits that were commonly in the St. John’s breed. He also has a slightly roached back– a trait one sometimes sees in Chesapeake Bay retrievers and curlies. It has been selected against in golden, Labrador, and flat-coated retrievers, but it would be reasonable that the St. John’s breed would have this trait. Perhaps it gave the dogs a bit better swimming posture by allowing the back legs to go a bit deeper in the water and permitting the head to rise a bit more out of the water– thereby allowing the dog a better chance of seeing or smelling that which it was sent to retrieve.

His name is Tar. That could refer to his color, but it also could refer to “Jack Tar,” a common name for a British sailor.  It  is synonymous with the word “seaman,” and giving this dog this particular name might have been a reference to a seaman’s dog.

I cannot find any information on this Mr. Charles Brett, Esquire, of Fareham. My guess is he was involved in some sort of import or export business, for this region was (and still is) a major sea port. He was obviously well to do to have been able to afford a retriever, and the term “esquire” meant that he was of some rank.

I just can’t find out who he was. If you have any info, please pass it along.

But I think Tar was a St. John’s water dog, either recently imported or derived from recent imports.

Of course, he could have been called a “Newfoundland,” a “Labrador,” or a “wavy-coated retriever,” and every one of those distinctions would have been correct.

Read Full Post »

These two Labrador retriever bitches belonged Arthur Holland-Hibbert, 3rd Viscount Knutsford.

The one on the left is Munden Saba. The one standing is Munden Single. Munden Single was the first Labrador retriever to run in a field trial.

Viscount Knutsford sent this photograph to Country Life Illustrated, which published the image and this letter on 26 October 1907:


Perhaps you may care to insert the enclosed photograph of two Labrador retriever bitches. The one standing is Munden Single, the other Munden Saba. They are typical of the breed, and I receive so many letters asking me to give the characteristic points of the Labrador, that it occurred to me such a picture might be appreciated by some of your readers.

A. Holland-Hibbert.

Viscount Knutsford was instrumental in getting the Labrador retriever recognized as a distinct breed.

Munden Single was almost entirely of Buccleuch breeding.

The other lines of dog include dogs that were Labradors, but as far as I can tell, the only lines that consisted of only smooth-coated retrievers in Britain are those of the Earls of Malmesbury and the Dukes of Buccleuch. These other lines in the Labrador foundational pedigrees were outcrossed to then the much more common wavy and flat-coated retrievers. Some of these wavy or flat-coated dogs were also referred to as “Labradors,” making research into the pedigrees more than a little difficult.

The fusion of the Malmesbury and Buccleuch lines also included the addition of fresh blood from Newfoundland. The dog called Buccleuch Avon in that pedigree was an import, and all modern Labrador retrievers have him in their pedigrees.

I put the origins of the modern Labrador retriever at the arrival of Avon.

Before that time, the term “Labrador” could have referred to virtually any retriever, and in some cases, even referred to the large Newfoundland dog.

By 1900, the term “Labrador retriever” came to have a very specific meaning.

And once it became more specific, a breed could be developed.

Read Full Post »

This Sir Edwin Landseer painting of a St. John’s water dog named Cora has taken several different titles, but it is of a St. John’s water dog named Cora that belonged to a Mr. Alsop.

This dog looks very similar to a long-haired version of Lassie, one of that St. John’s water dogs in Newfoundland.

This is one of the earliest depictions of a St. John’s water dog, dating to 1822, when it was entitled Watchful Sentinel.  Labrador retriever historians know it best as Cora: A Labrador Dog, which they assume means “Labrador retriever” as we know it today.

A dog called a “Labrador” in the nineteen century almost universally refers to the St. John’s water dog in both its long-haired form (which was exported to England, where it became the basis for the early “retrievers proper.”) and the smooth-coated form (which the Newfoundlanders preferred).

I wish that Labrador retriever historians would understand that their breed as we know it today is actually a newcomer.  It didn’t start developing into its current form until about the mid-1880’s, when the smooth-coated retriever strains belonging the Dukes of Buccleuch and those belonging to the Earls of Malmesbury were merged and new imports of the smooth water dogs from Newfoundland were added to the combined bloodline.

See earlier posts:

Read Full Post »

This painting is said to be of a Labrador. We could just as easily call it a wavy-coated retriever or a St. John’s water dog with long hair.

We can tell from the hat on the table that this isn’t a giant dog. In fact, it looks like a golden retriever with border collie markings.

See earlier posts:

Read Full Post »

This dog is Billy, and he is mentioned in Stonehenge’s  The Dog in Health and Disease (1859). Stonehenge (John Henry Walsh) believed that his very curly coat showed that he had some setter or spaniel in him, which is possible. He was owned by Bill George, the famous (or infamous) dog dealer, who is best known for developing the old baiting bulldog into a pet and show dog. Billy could have been a cross between a long-haired St. John’s water dog or wavy-coated retriever and a curly-coated retriever, a cross that would have happened fairly often before these dogs began to standardize.

Another depiction of a long-haired St. John’s water dog is this “St. John’s Labrador.”

I cannot find the original source for this image, but this particular dog has a straight, flat-coat, which is quite profuse. The dog appears to have a more substantial coat than Billy. He is also built more like a modern Labrador or a short-haired St. John’s water dog.

Of course, these dogs both could be thought of as wavy-coated retrievers, which were the ancestor of the modern flat-coats and golden retrievers.  They were very common in Britain in the middle to later part of the nineteenth century.

One of the reasons why these long-haired dogs were so popular as retrievers is that Sewallis Shirley, the founding president of the Kennel Club, was a major patron of the breed.

The other reason is that these longer-haired dogs were the type of St. John’s water dog that were more easily procured in Britain. Long hair is a recessive trait to the smooth-haired St. John’s water dogs that were common in Newfoundland until the 1970’s.  None of these later dogs had long hair, but they seem to have been really common in England during the nineteenth century, where they were often registered as wavy-coated retrievers.

The reason why the long-haired dogs became common in England and disappeared from Newfoundland can be found in the writings of William Epps Cormack, the first European to walk across the interior of Newfoundland in 1822. He wrote of the settlers of Newfoundland using their smaller water dogs to hunt waterfowl and game birds, but they preferred to use the short-haired dogs for this task:

The dogs here are admirably trained as retrievers in fowling, and are otherwise useful. The smooth or short-haired dog is preferred, because in frosty weather the long-haired kind become encumbered with ice upon coming out of the water.

Any long-haired puppies that would have been born to the smooth-haired dogs would have been among those they would have exported to Britain, where they would have worked very nicely as working retrievers on shooting estates. In the more mild climate of the British Isles, the long coat would not have been so much of a problem.

The famous wavy/flat-coat Zelstone, who was born in 1880. If one traces his pedigree, one notes that his paternal grandmother and his maternal great grandfather were both owned by someone named Farquharson.

That Farquharson was Henry Richard Farquharson, an importer and breeder of Newfoundland dogs. He was an MP from Dorset, where the port city of Poole is located. Poole was a major port for the cod fishing fleet that worked the Grand Banks off the coast of Newfoundland. At one point, Farquharson had 125 dogs of the “Newfoundland” type on his property, Eastbury House. Keeping up with so many dogs was a daunting task for his servants:

Henry Richard Farquharson was also a fanatical breeder of Newfoundland dogs. He had a pack of one hundred and twenty five, 50 bitches and 75 dogs. This pack had taken twenty five years to create. Two kennel lads had the job of exercising the dogs. They knew that they had to keep the bitches and dogs separate whilst exercising them. One day both groups accidently met on Chettle Down and the two kennel lads could not stop a fight starting. Forty-five dogs were either killed outright or had to be put down. It is said that the two kennel lads were almost killed as well – not by the dogs but by Farquharson who had a remarkably quick temper.

(Farquharson also played a role in the Jack the Ripper story, but I’m leaving that out for this post!)

Those ancestors of Zelstone that were said to be owned by Farquharson were likely long-haired St. John’s water dogs that looked like the ones mentioned in this post.

Most of these dogs would have been registered as wavy-coated retrievers or would have been referred to as such. They would have been put to work on shooting estates and would have been bred to setters to give them and a stronger tendency to air scent birds and other shot game.

I’ve noticed that in much of the literature on the Labrador retriever, there is a tendency to ignore these long-haired dogs. That’s because the modern Labrador is derived mostly from later imports from Newfoundland. These dogs arrived in the 1880’s, and they were mostly smooth-coated. The cod fishery was in decline, and many of the ship’s dogs were no longer useful. So even the much valued smooth-coated water curs were arriving from Newfoundland by this time. Because the short-haired dogs made up the population of these later dogs, it was assumed that they every single one of these dogs that ever existed possessed the smooth “otter” coat.

If all St. John’s water dogs were smooth-coated, the smooth-coated dogs would have dominated the entire British retriever gene pool in the middle and later parts of the nineteenth century. This simply isn’t what the historical record showsat all. Some of these dogs had to have had the feathered coat, and my understanding of Cormack’s account suggests the reason why the long-haired dogs became common in England and disappeared from Newfoundland.

The Newfoundlanders preferred smooth-coated dogs, and they were more than eager to export the feathered puppies to British dog dealers and shooting enthusiasts.

And the shooting enthusiasts were more than willing to buy them. Most sagacious animals. Gentlest retrievers with the softest mouths.

Just what the shooting sportsman needed. Long-haired water curs from Newfoundland.






Read Full Post »

From the Duluth News Tribune:

People in the Piedmont Heights area started talking after the News Tribune reported last month about a black Lab taking down a deer in someone’s driveway.

Sue Hansen, owner of Hansen’s Auto Service on Trinity Road, said she saw the article and couldn’t wait to speak with customer Andrew Frielund when he came into the store.

“I asked why he didn’t write (a letter to the editor) explaining about that black Lab,” she said with a laugh. “He said he didn’t want people to think he was nuts.”

They assert that a black Labrador retriever is living a wild life in the woods. And that’s only the half of it. The other half is that the canine has formed a relationship with a coyote.

“Don’t laugh, because seriously, they exist,” Hansen said. “They were outside on the wood line of my house tearing up a deer about two months ago.”

“They are well-documented in the area,” Frielund added.

He’s seen them twice together in the woods near the antenna farm by Orange Street. He also has seen what he believes could be their offspring — an animal he calls “the creature.”

Bunter Knowles, who lives on Orange Street near the famed ice volcano, has seen the pair several times in the past few years.

In fact, he’s seen them out his window, the coyote sleeping while the Lab stands sentinel.

“There’s no question there’s been a pair of a coyote and a black Lab traveling together. … I’ve seen them 30 yards away with binoculars,” he said. “It’s quite a funny pairing.”

When asked about it Friday, Martha Minchak, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources assistant area wildlife manager in Duluth, said she wasn’t buying it.

“There wouldn’t be a Lab and coyote running around together,” she said.

And then she saw the photos taken by Steve Owen in 2008. He was able to sneak up on the pair as they were lounging in the backyard of his mother’s house at 2328 Springvale St.

“So, I stand corrected and obviously (the dog and coyote) haven’t read the behavior books!” Minchak wrote in an e-mail. “I have no real explanation other than the coyote must have been rejected from its pack for some reason and has obviously taken up with the Lab. It seems like it’s been a successful strategy for both of them if they are catching deer.”

She also said it was possible for the two to breed.

Owen said Friday he knows the Lab is alive and well because he last saw it on Monday.

“He was lying in the grass, sunning himself,” he said. “I didn’t see any coyotes with him.”

Owen said he doesn’t believe the Lab has a human home to visit.

“He was skittish enough the day I took their pictures,” he said. “As soon as the coyote and dog saw me, they went away. It wasn’t like he wanted to come down and look for a treat.”

With an abundance of deer in the city, Minchak also speculated that the dog was on its own — except for the coyote.

“It’s more like the Lab has gone over to the coyote side,” she said.

No one interviewed said they’d experienced any aggressive behavior from either animal, and Duluth animal control officer Carrie Lane said no one has ever reported the animals to her office, whether as a nuisance or a curiousity.

Knowles said he’s been out in the woods nearly every day snowshoeing and although he thinks he hears the Lab bark at his dog, they never approach him.

“I haven’t seen any damage by them so I wouldn’t have any recommendation to make to interfere,” Knowles said. “It’s something that’s unusual … but it’s not as if I’d try to break up a mixed marriage.”

Minchak concurred.

“Before I would have said (the two together are) something from Walt Disney movies, but now I guess I’d say it’s a classic odd-couple pairing,” she said.

She said she’d leave them alone because she didn’t think anyone would be able to rehabilitate the dog.

So there we have it:  A Labrador has gone feral and has formed a partnership with a coyote. And the two are successfully hunting deer in Minnesota.

Amazing story.

I think this story puts another hole in some of Raymond Coppinger’s theories, most notably his theory that domestic dogs cannot learn to become successful predators of large game.

Coyotes are not major predators of deer. They normally aren’t big enough to really take on the large one.

But if a dog the size of a Labrador learned how to hunt a deer, it could provide the muscle that the duo needs to tackle larger prey.

The reason why most stray and free roaming dogs don’t become successful predators is that they have no reason to learn how to do so. It is much easier to scavenge off of our waste.

It has nothing to do with neoteny or perceived developmental delays.

It’s just easier to live as a scavenger.

For whatever reason, the Lab has chosen to hunt. Perhaps this dog had a very hard life early on, and it has no reason to trust people.

And the coyote just found a partner that isn’t super aggressive. Coyotes are more aggressive with each other than dogs and wolves are, and if a coyote could hook up with a relatively docile breed of domestic dog, it would have the ideal companion.

This story reminds me of The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams in which two dogs– a fox terrier and Labrador cross– escape from research facility in England’s Lake District. A fox called “The Tod” teaches the dogs how to be predators in that wild part of England.

All dogs are born with some hunting instincts and predatory motor patterns. The only thing humans do is refine them through context and training. That’s exactly what happened here. The Labrador’s learned to use its instincts and motor patterns to kill deer.

It’s not that far-fetched.

But par of Coppinger’s theory is that specialized working breeds– like retrievers– can never engage in a full predatory sequence. Their brains are so wired that they cannot stop doing the exaggerated retrieving motor pattern, and thus, they cannot learn to hunt and kill prey.

This story shows that to be a very tenuous assessment at the very least.

Most dogs can become fully wild again. They just need the context.

Read Full Post »


This is the first post on this blog. Let me tell you I have in mind for it!

I am a person who has some training in historiography and social science methods. I also have a background in golden retrievers, which are the fourth most popular dog in the United States, according to American Kennel Club registrations. Originally a retriever of waterfowl and descended from the St. Johns Water Dog (as are ALL retrievers), the golden has shifted from a hunting dog belonging to the British aristocracy to a  pet. Some enjoy the talents of a working retriever in the field, using those talents to flush and retriever game. Others use those talents in creating sniffer dogs for bomb and contraband or train the dogs in search in rescue. The talents that made the golden a hunting retriever are used in all of those tasks; however, the golden is rarely chosen to be a competitor in retriever field trials.

One of the reasons for this shunning in field trials is that goldens are such beautiful animals and are easily trained. They are widely recommended as family pets because of their good nature. Whole generations of goldens have been bred that have never fetched a duck or flushed a pheasant. These dogs make up the majority of the breed throughout the world. In Europe, the tendency has been to breed goldens with more muscle and bone than could ever be practical in a field dog, while in North America, the tendency has been to breed much more feathering on the dog. When one has to compete against a short-haired dog that can swim very fast (the Labrador) that has well-established working lines, it becomes obvious that the golden is not going to be the field trial competitor’s first choice. Goldens are known for their high trainability, even in the lines that are not bred for work, but the field trial Lab has been selected through the generations to be a retriever trial specialist.

Although I am not currently a breeder of goldens, I would like to have contact with those who are working on producing the working golden, one that can compete with the Lab. I see no reason why selective breeding cannot produce a golden that can work as well in the field as the Labrador, except that there are not enought people out there who consider the golden a working retriever.

The golden has proven to be a superior competitor in obedience and dog agility competition. Goldens have dominated the Lab in obedience and dog agility. However, the golden is often thought of in the field as being the more hard-headed of the two most common retriever breeds. A disconnect must exist here, and I think it has more to do with selective breeding. Generations of Labradors are bred for the field trial, and its peculiar environment. There are specialist lines of Lab that have done nothing but win trials. A short-haired dog is also more streamlined and can swim faster than a long-haired dog. The Lab is also more accepting of harder corrections than the golden, in general. Most retriever trainers use corrections that might be a little strong for a more sensitive dog like a golden.  All of these factors might explain why the Lab is the field trial dog, and the golden is the “swamp collie.”

First of all, let’s talk about how we got golden retrievers.

Here is a look at some goldens of the 1920’s:

Silence of Tone, Noranby Black -Eyed Susan, Ch. Noranby Diana & Noranby Jane--Note that Noranby Diana is dark and appears lightly built and is a show champion!

Silence of Tone, Noranby Black -Eyed Susan, Ch. Noranby Diana & Noranby Jane--Note that Noranby Diana is dark and appears lightly built and is a show champion!

The original golden was considered a variety of the wavy-coated retriever, which became the flat-coated retriever. The golden was considered part of the flat-coated breed until 1920 in the United Kingdom (by the Kennel Club) and 1925 in the United States (the American Kennel Club). The golden retriever club of America was not founded until 1938, and the breed was very rare.
If you don’t believe me about the flat-coated retriever’s close relationship with the golden compare the dogs in the first picture with a modern flat-coat:
The flat-coated retriever still maintains its working ability and its lighter build for fast retrieval work. However, the breed is often considered more difficult to train than goldens and Labs, but this breed is far rarer than either of those two breeds, even though the three were interbred extensively!

The flat-coated retriever still maintains its working ability and its lighter build for fast retrieval work. However, the breed is often considered more difficult to train than goldens and Labs, but this breed is far rarer than either of those two breeds, even though the three were interbred extensively!

 Because the golden was a color variety of the flat-coat, the two breeds have a very similar history. They both derive from the St. Johns Water dog, often thought of as the ancestral Labrador. These were crossed with setters (each region in Britain had its own setter, like the Welsh black setter), water spaniels (of which there were many, many varieties) and working collies to produce a dog that would retrieve game that was shot.

In the early to mid-nineteenth century, economic conditions had led to the development of new economic titles. Romanticism was deep within Britain’s intelligentsia and economic elites. Many people with means to buy land were purchasing estates in Scotland and rural England solely for the purpose of having a shooting estate. Game-keepers raised pheasants for their master’s gun, and the wealthy began to want a dog to pick up shot game. The retriever is the dog developed for this purpose. Originally, the dogs used for this task were water spaniels, which are rather old breeds. They are mentioned in Shakespeare, and often described as a cross between a land spaniel and a “water dog.” A water dog is a dog much like a poodle or a Portuguese water dog. A cross between the two would look something like a cockapoo or one of the other poodle hybrids. However, selective breeding for a mixture of spaniel and water dog traits could result in a dog very similar to the Irish water spaniel and the American water spaniel. The most important water spaniels in the development of retrievers are two extinct breeds: the English water spaniel, which was often liver and white or black and white in color, perhaps similar to the English Springer spaniel into which some of these dogs were absorbed, and the Tweed water spaniel from the Scottish Borders region, which was “liver,” meaning like a chocolate Labrador or pale cream to a tawny coloration.)

The St. Johns Water dog comes from Newfoundland, and its exact ancestry is an utter mystery. Some think it was mixture setters, water spaniels, and hounds that were brought to Newfoundland by settlers and fisherman. Others think that Iberian breeds played a role in it, because Portuguese and Basque fisherman had long frequented the Grand Banks fishery. The breeds of that type usually suggested are the Portuguese and Spanish water dogs and any of the Iberian livestock guarding mastiffs, particularly the Cao de Castro Laboreiro, which resembles a brindle Labrador. Brindle was a coloration of the St. Johns Water dog, so the speculation is rather strong that this breed or its ancestors played a role in its development. Although one does wonder why a livestock gurdian dog would be accompanying Iberian fishermen. The other mastiffs of the region are also suggested, like the Great Pyrenees and the Spanish Mastiff.  One of the reasons why this is discussed is the modern Newfoundland has definite ancestry with the St. Johns Water Dog. It would make sense, then, that big mastiffs were in that breed’s background. However, it’s just as likely that the original Newfoundland was not of the large mastiff type at all. There is a great debate that has long raged through the dog fancy about what the “original” Newfoundland looked like. It is possible that the modern Newf has been bred from the St. Johns Water Dog when it was crossed with mastiffs when it became extremely popular in Europe as a pet. In fact, the Newfoundland was the dog that was ever marketed as a family pet. It was once as popular as Labrador, its close relative, is today. The St. Johns water dog was crossed with setters, water spaniels, and collies to make the first retrievers. The most common type in the early to mid-nineteenth century was the wavy-coat, but the curly-coated retriever was also quite common. The difference between the two was not as obvious as one would think. The curly was not the tightly curled dog of today, and the wavy-coat sometimes had a straight coat! The curly had a much closer ancestry with water spaniels and possibly the last remaining water dogs. It does closely resemble the Wetterhoun of West Friesland in the Netherlands. Both breeds are more protective than the Labrador, golden, and flat-coated breeds.
Curly-coated Retriever:
The curly-coated retriever was in development before the importation of St. Johns water dogs from Newfoundland. However, it was crossed with it at some point. It shows a very strong water spaniel ancestry and may include the last remaining European water dogs in its ancestry. It was once a very common breed.

The curly-coated retriever was in development before the importation of St. Johns water dogs from Newfoundland. However, it was crossed with it at some point. It shows a very strong water spaniel ancestry and may include the last remaining European water dogs in its ancestry. It was once a very common breed.



This concludes “Golden Retriever History I.”  Continued with “Golden Retriever History II,” which will be coming soon!

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts

%d bloggers like this: