Breed Spotlight: the Golden Retriever

The modern-day Golden Retriever shares some history with the Flat-Coated Retriever and Labrador Retriever, which are all descendant of the now extinct Canadian landrace—St. John’s Water Dogs. During the 19th century, these dogs were brought from Newfoundland to England. There, these dogs impressed the English with their retrieving abilities and intelligence. Motivated by the English countrymen’s awe of the breed, the second Earl of Marlesbury founded the first breeding kennel for these types of dogs. Having noticed the St. John’s Water Dogs’ hunting and swimming abilities, as well as their good disposition, English sportsmen began using Retrievers to replace Pointers and Setters. Those imported from Newfoundland were considered the superior retriever. Although the yellow-colored coats would appear from time to time, the black Labradors and Flat-Coated Retrievers were more popular. 

However, Sir Dudley Marjoribanks, also known as Lord Tweedmouth, had taken a liking to the yellow coats and decided to develop a breed apart. In the late 1800s Lord Tweedmouth acquired a yellow Flat-Coated Retriever from which he started his breeding program. The yellow retriever was bred to the now extinct Tweed Water Spaniel, and offspring again crossed to more yellow Labradors, Irish Setters, and other light-colored retrievers, and reportedly, perhaps even a bloodhound. What Lord Tweedmouth eventually resulted in was what was known as the Golden Flat-Coated Retriever, a dog designed to be a perfect bird dog. He could retrieve upland game and waterfowl from the Scottish Highlands. The Kennel Club of England first recognized the breed in 1903, assigning the name of “Flat Coats-Golden” to the retrievers. The name of the breed was not officially changed to the “Golden Retriever” until 1920. 

The first Golden Retrievers arrived in the United States in the 1920s. The American Golden Retrievers today vary slightly from the Golden Retrievers in England. In the United States, the Golden Retrievers are known for their rich Golden hues, lighter, and less-wavy coats, while English Goldens tend to be lighter in color, heavier in substance, and with slightly more wave. 

Today, the charming demeanor and instinctive ability of the Golden Retriever make this breed one of the most popular and sought-after family pets in many parts of the world. The Golden Retriever is also associated with a variety of important canine services and duties. A guide to the blind, an aid to the elderly, an unrivaled hunting companion, and a loyal family member; these are just a few of the titles associated with this incredible and unique breed.
Want to learn more about the Golden Retriever? Click here to see the full breed standard. 

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