Posts Tagged ‘Mahogany golden retriever’

This is the late Mick, who belonged to a reader from Minnesota:

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The dog on the left is Shelter Cove Beauty, a golden bitch that won the NFC title in 1944. She was owned by Dr. L.M. Evans, and she was the second golden to win the NFC title, following King Midas of Woodend in 1941.

She was a half Rockhaven dog who also had Cubbington Diver in her pedigree. She was said to be an exceptionally biddable dog who always sought to do what was asked of her.

I have seen another photo her in Gertrude Fischer’s The New Complete Golden Retriever, and I can tell from both photos that she was very dark in color. She was rather lightly built, and because of her appearance, I’m sure that she was regularly mistaken for an Irish setter.



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Myrna Loy of Gilbert, Minnesota, sent me this photo of her late golden retriever named Mick.

Mick was a mahogany golden.

It’s not a very common coloration these days, even among field lines, where darker colors tend to predominate.

He was a beautiful dog and, as you can tell from what he has in his mouth, really got to be a real retriever.

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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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Sometimes pictures really do speak louder than words.  Very few breeds have the pictoral history of their development as golden retrievers do. I’ve sifted through the history of this breed rather closely and carefully studied the photographs and paintings. I have come the following conclusions:

  1. The vast majority of the early dogs, including those at Guisachan were not light colored. It is often said that they were, usually using Elma Stonex’s history as a source. However, she was simply wrong about this. It is possible that she was wanting to please the golden retriever club mandarins, who were beginning to breed the lighter colors and had changed the standard to allow for these lighter colors just a few decades earlier (in 1936). Most of the golden retriever intelligentsia of that time were deeply committed to the Russian circus dog story of golden origins, and it is likely that she was trying to make the story fit better with the politics of golden retriever society at the time.
  2. Heavy and very coarse dogs existed in the Tweedmouth strain. Whether these are part bloodhound or not is another question. I think they are showing a stronger Newfoundland influence than bloodhound. There is no really good documentation on bloodhounds being crossed into the Tweedmouth strain, except that it was said to be written down on a piece of paper, which was then lost. I’m of the view that it is likely that the Tweed water dog (“water spaniel”) did have some hound in it, and early retrievers were sometimes crossed with hounds. However, we do know that a dog appears in the Tweedmouth studbook with the name of Tracer. Tracer’s sire was Zelstone, who was known to have Newfoundland or St. John’s water dog influence. If he had the big Newfoundland in his ancestry, it is possible that his progeny could be heavy dogs.
  3. One of the problems that Mrs. Charlesworth, the real founder of the golden retriever, discovered in the strain was that they were too heavy and coarse to really be good retrievers.  The pictoral history seems to bear this out. Noranby Sandy and Noranby Balfour are much heavier-built dogs than her later dogs. However, her later dogs, Noranby Jeptha, Noranby Jane, etc. were of a much more svelte and workmanlike body-type.

So I think I am going to go through the golden’s history in photographs starting with “Lady,” Archie Marjoribanks’s Texas ranch golden. Lady’s descendants would include Culham Brass and Culham Rossa.  Culham is one of the three foundational lines of golden retriever, and it is closely related to Mrs. Charlesworth’s Noranby line. The Culhams were owned by the 1st Viscount Harcourt, a Liberal cabinet minister. The other strain was Ingestre, which were kept on the Ingestre estate, which was owned by the Earls of Shrewbury. However, let’s start from the beginning, with Lady the Texas ranch. She was not the first golden in North America, for the Lord Aberdeen, who was married to Ishbel Majoribanks, imported several goldens to British Columbia during his tenure as Canada’s governor-general.

Lady with Archie Majoribanks:

lady and archie

From her descended Culham Brass, b. 1904.

Culham brass (1904)

Mrs. Winifred Maud Charlesworth founded her strain. Some of her ealier dogs were a bit heavy and lighter in color.  Here, she is photographed with Noranby Sandy and Noranby Balfour. Both of these dogs are a bit heavier than her later dogs. Sandy is a light gold, which at that time was sometimes called a shaded gold. Occasionally, really light golds were born with cream shadings. I have a photo, though not digitized, of an even lighter golden belonging to Lord Aberdeen in Canada. However, you can tell that this dog is not a “white” one. It is about the color of my dog.

Mrs. Charlesworth

Now, in the early days, goldens were part of the flat-coat breed, and most lines were interbred with them. Also contrary to Mrs. Stonex’s history, breeding a black flat-coat to a golden will not make your goldens darker. Goldens are genetically the same color as yellow Labradors. Yellow Labs are often bred to black Labs, yet the number of “fox red” Labradors remains quite low. The genes that make goldens dark or lighter in color is not related at all to the genes that determine whether a dog is yellow-to-red or black or liver, except that yellow to red is recessive to both black and liver. One of the top trial retrievers of the early twentieth century was Don of Gerwn, a liver flat-coat. Don was born to another liver flat-coat named Rust and  “cream-colored” (meaning light gold) retriever of Tweedmouth’s strain. Don very strongly resembles what later goldens would become.

don of gerwin

Don of Gerwn

Don of Gerwn

Now, Mrs. Charlesworth wrote the first standard for the golden retriever in 1911. In 1910, a group of yellow flat-coat fanciers decided to separate their breed. Mrs. Charlesworth was one of the ring leaders. I suppose the desire to have them separated had more to do with the fact that in flat-coats, blacks did better in dog shows. Livers occasionally won, but yellows and reds were simply out of the running. Futher, just a few years before, there was a widely circulated story about the origins of the Tweedmouth strain of wavy-coat. It claimed that the dogs were actually descended from a race of Russian sheep dogs that were performing at a circus in England. The 1st Baron Tweedmouth purchased them and took them to his estate in Scotland, where he crossed them with bloodhounds. (I think it is from this story we get the bloodhound entry into the golden retriever). If that were true, then the golden retrievers were never wavy or flat-coats. They were their own unique strain. Mrs. Charlesworth was a proponent of this theory. I think she actually believed it, but it simply was not true. The golden retriever, as we all know, is derived from the wavy-coat, which is the ancestral strain for both the golden and the flat-coat.  In fact, the 1st Baron Tweedmouth used lots of black wavy-coats in his strain.The Kennel Club rightly had placed these yellow dogs with the flat-coats. However, with such a story, it would be easier to get the Kennel Club to recognize the golden as a distinct breed. The breed eventually was recognized in 1912, but it was still bred to the flat-coat until 1916.

Mrs. Charlesworth was also interested in making the breed competitive in British trials, so she began to work on breeding out the lumber and excessive bone that had appeared in the strain during the early decades of the twentieth century.

By the 1920’s, she was producing mostly lightly-built and darker golden retrievers, not unlike what we see in working strain golden of today.

Noranby Jeptha was a mahogany born in 1925. I have a photo of her in one of my books that shows a very, very dark dog. In those days, flat-coats and goldens were more heavily trimmed than they are today, but most dogs lacked the really excessive feathering we see in too many show dogs today.

noranby jeptha

Ch. Noranby Jeptha

Of course, she was not the first dog of this type to exist. Indeed, Mrs. Charlesworth also bred the first champion in the breed, Ch. Noranby Campfire. You’ll never see a dog like him in the ring today.

Ch. Noranby Campfire, b. 1912, the first champion Golden retriever.

Ch. Noranby Campfire, b. 1912, the first champion Golden retriever.

Another important Noranby dog was Ch. Noranby Diana, who also placed in a few field trials.

Ch. Noranby Diana

Ch. Noranby Diana

Noranby Diana was born in 1929. If you cannot tell her color from the black and white photo, she is a golden red. She’s just a shade lighter than a mahogany. Here’s her color photo:

Noranby Diana on the right. Noranby Jane on the left. Photo from the 1930's.

Noranby Diana on the right. Noranby Jane on the left. Photo from the 1930's.

The main goal of the early golden retriever club was to have a working retriever that could be shown. That’s why all of these show dogs were also worked, and their body type was much closer to functional than we see in show dogs today, which very often aren’t worked at all. Very often show-line goldens haven’t been bred for working coformation or instinct many generations. But in those days, most show dogs looked like what we would today call field line dog.

Here’s Ch. Flight of Kentford. A very nice looking dog with good legs and very moderate bone.

Ch. Flight of Kentford

Ch. Flight of Kentford

And then there’s the lovely bitch, Ch. Abbot’s Daisy.  She appears to have a bit more bone but not so much as we see today.

Ch. Abbot's Daisy, b. 1934

Ch. Abbot's Daisy

And then there’s the famous stud, Ch. Michael of Moreton. Now, as I’ve said before, using a single stud dog in many different matings within a closed registry system is a very bad practice. One of the early “most used studs” in the golden retriever was Michael of Moreton. He was said to be a very high priced stud, but today, I don’t think show golden breeders would spend a dime on him. In fact, they would have a cow if such a dog bred one of their blocky bitches.

Ch. Michael of Moreton, b. 1925

Ch. Michael of Moreton, b. 1925

And dogs of this type were commonplace in the late 1930’s.

Ch. Dunkelve Rusty was a top show dog in the late 1930's. He's a very nicely built dog, although, as per the custom of the day, he was a bit over-trimmed.

Ch. Dunkelve Rusty was a top show dog in the late 1930's. He's a very nicely built dog, although, as per the custom of the day, he was a bit over-trimmed.

Now after the Second World War, British goldens began to change dramatically. Heavier bone, which had been bred out of the breed in its eary years, suddenly became popular in the ring, as had the lighter colors. The golden in Europe began to evolve very differently from those in the US and Canada, which were largely based on imports that came to North America in the 1920’s and 1930’s. These dogs would provide the basis for most North American line dogs until th 1970’s, when breeding for more coat became more popular here. The working line dogs on both sides of the Atlantic would tend to keep this “old-fashioned appearance,” beause in working retriever work, conformation is not set by a standard of appearance, which changes a little every couple of decateds.  Working retriever work favors a lighter frame and less feathering, although it is possible to train a heavier-coated and heavier-built dog to work with some style. It just will lack the real agility, speed, and style of one of these performance-bred dogs.

Today, this is the version that does well in the AKC ring.

Heavy in bone, short in the leg, and excessive in feathering, this show golden probably swims with all the grace of a Clydesdale.

Heavy in bone, short in the leg, and excessive in feathering, this show golden probably swims with all the grace of a Clydesdale.

This version is certain a far cry from the early days of the breed!

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This mahogany golden's puppies were born in the dun color.

This mahogany golden's puppies were born in the dun color.

(photo from http://www.over-the-moon.us/.)

Golden puppies are usually born a different color than the one they have when they are mature Most mid-gold and light-gold puppies are born cream or even off-white. The darker-colored ones, though, very often do not look gold or reddish at all when they are first born.

Very dark golden retrievers–the tawnies, the coppers, the golden reds, the reds, and mahoganies– are born in two basic colors. Some puppies are born in their adult color. Others are born with natal coats of a dun color. The dogs in the photo above are of this dun color.

Elizabeth Marshall Thomas writes about this color in The Hidden Life of Dogs. One of her dogs is a full dingo of the typical red color. The dog had two litters, one with a springer spaniel and one with a white husky. In both cases, the puppies were born of a dun coloration. The spaniel cross puppies were more of a beagle color, but their tan coloration was dun. In the husky cross puppies, the color was all dun, and the puppies matured into reddish husky-type dogs with blue eyes.

Dingoes almost universally come in this recessive red to yellow color, and is not Australian dingoes come in this color. Virtually all dingoes throughout southern Asia and Indonesia are of this color. It is also a very common color in Asian dogs. One only has to look at the Korean Jindo and the Japanese strain of Akita to understand that this color is well-known in Asia. We now believe that dogs have an origin in Asia, and it is poossible that this color could be the oldest color in domestic dogs. It might be that a clear red color was an identifying characteristic of domestic dogs that separated them from wolves. A red dog-like animal wouldn’t get killed on sight, while a gray dog dog-like animal would. It is also possible that people just liked that red color. This selection for red has gone on in several different cultures. The Masai livestock guardian dog, which is smaller than a border collie yet guards against lions, is usually red in color. The Masai love that color, so they have selected for it. Europeans have selected for it in golden retrievers and Irish setter for no other reason other than its novelty. (Although a case can be made for goldens that their color is good camouflage.)

This phenomenon of reddish dogs being born dun is a very common characteristic.

However, it is not universal.

Irish setters are born full red in color.

And some red goldens also with their coloration approaching that of their adult pelage.

These golden retriever puppies are from Zomarick. They were born red, which is the color of both of their parents. The puppies appear at 3:02. Yes, that’s the sire of the litter helping the bitch lick the puppies clean!

The dun-colored whelps usually have a red muzzle and ears and a reddish shaded stripe that runs down their backs. As they mature, the red gradually spreads over the puppies.

The first litter of golden I ever saw were dun-colored. I thought they were mixed with Norwegian elkhounds. It was only when they matured into rather dark golden retriever puppies with no elkhound features at all that I realized that this dun coloration was a very common coloration in dark golden retrievers when they are first born.

Golden retriever puppies, then, come in a very wide range of colors when they are first born. But they all mature into dogs that range from almost white to mahogany. Gold coloration is truly a many-splendored thing.

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In a mahogany dog, the red is so intense that it almost doesn't look real.

In a mahogany dog, the red is so intense that it almost doesn't look real.

I love this color, even though it is really frowned upon in the show ring.  In some mahoganies, the dogs don’t have the lighter breeches coming off the hindquarters.  This dog, however, does have lighter-colored breeches.

This is actually the rarest color in the golden retriever, not the so-called “white” ones. These dogs used to be relatively common in the field-bred goldens, although they certainly did not make up the majority of the population. The golden-reds, tawny golds, and the copper-golds made up the majority of the field dogs.

The first dual champion in the breed, Dual Ch. Balcombe Boy, a dog bred by Lord Harcourt, was of this color.  He would never be shown today.

This is the color that most people associate with Irish setters, and that’s the source of this color in goldens. Irish setters, both black and red, were a common outcross for the wavy-coated retriever landrace, and the 1st Baron Tweedmouth, used at least two Irish setters (in British parlance, “red setters”) in his breeding program.

I hope you enjoyed this picture, and I hope you understand that this mahogany color is probably close to being extinct in the golden retriever. I’d hate it if it disappeared entirely.

This dog is darker than the Irish setter-golden crosses, which is really amazing.

I really wish we’d appreciate this color more in our breeding programs– even if it means ignoring the current caprices and fashion in the breed.

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Very few goldens approach the setter's mahogany color, but some do.

Very few goldens approach the setter's mahogany color, but some do.

A photo of one is here.

This is the darkest golden I’ve seen in many, many years.

They used to be relatively common. In fact, the first dual champion in the breed, Dual Ch. Balcombe Boy, was a mahogany.

In black and white photos, I have a hard time telling this color from the liver coloration.

Even in full color, it can be hard to discern, especially if you don’t know that any dog with a black nose and black lips isn’t a liver.

Liver flat-coat.

Liver flat-coat.

But it’s also possible for a mahogany with brown skin to exist, and that would make classifying color very difficult. This is why so many very dark red and mahogany-colored goldens were called livers, and I’m sure that the golden breed got a few liver flat-coats into the registry. These were bred out, though, when the standard’s desire for black skin pigment became an important requirement. It’s a good way to ensure that no more liver dogs  in the registry.

And remember: crossing a homozygous liver with a recessive red to yellow with black skin will result in black puppies.

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