The Labrador is one of the best all-round dogs in the world. Not only used for retrieving game, he has also made his mark in the world of assistance dogs and as a ‘sniffer’ dog for drug and arms detection. It is popularly thought that he originated on the coast of Newfoundland, where fishermen were seen to use a dog of similar appearance to retrieve fish.
An excellent water dog, his weather-resistant coat and unique tail, likened to that of an otter because of its shape, emphasise this trait. A real gentleman, the Labrador adores children and has a kind and loving nature and a confident air. The big city is not really his scene; a bit of a country squire at heart, he comes into his own in rural surroundings.
Comparatively speaking, the Labrador is not a very old breed: its breed club was formed in 1916 and the Yellow Labrador Club founded in 1925. It was in field trialling that the Labrador found early fame, having been originally introduced to Great Britain in the late 1800s by Col Peter Hawker and the Earl of Malmesbury. It was a dog called Malmesbury Tramp that was described by Lorna, Countess Howe, as one of the ‘tap roots’ of the modern Labrador.
One of the most popular dogs in the world, the Golden Retriever was bred, as its name suggests, to retrieve game in the shooting field. The breed has adapted to so many roles that there is virtually nothing he doesn’t do, with the exception of being professional guard dog – a task for which his friendly temperament makes him quite unsuited. He has been a guide dog, a drug and explosives detecting dog, a tracker, an obedience competitor, in addition to the job he does so universally and well, simply being an energetic, fun-loving member of the family.
Easy to train to basic obedience or higher standards, rarely a choosy feeder, and with a thick coat that is reasonably easy to keep clean, it is no surprise that the breed has risen in popularity over the decades. He often has the largest entry at Championship Shows.
For many years there was confusion over the origin of the breed, but it is now generally accepted that it was the first Lord Tweedmouth who developed Golden Retrievers as a breed. ‘Yellow’ Retrievers had existed for many years in the Border Country between England and Scotland, and at first Goldens were registered and shown as Flatcoats being defined only by colour until 1913. They took their present name in 1920.