The History of the Golden Retriever



With the mating of Belle and Nous in 1868, three females and a male, Ada, Crocus, Primrose and Cowslip, made up the first litter. Lord Tweedmouth kept Primrose and Cowslip for his own breeding purposes and gave Ada to the fifth Earl of Ilchester. The male pup, Crocus, was given to the second Lord Tweedmouth. From Primrose and Cowslip, we have the makings of our present day Golden Retriever and the specific dogs that were mixed in order to fit lord Tweedmouth’s vision. The dogs that were bred include an Irish setter, the St. Johns Water Dog of Newfoundland, a sandy-colored Bloodhound, and two Wavy-Coated Black Retrievers. In addition, Lord Tweedmouth would occasionally reintroduce a Tweed Water Spaniel, Labrador retriever, and a Red Setter. This created the perfect dog for hunting as well as imbuing characteristics such as gentleness, the ability to navigate water, and exceptional trainability. Virtually every account that has been written about Lord Tweedmouth’s breeding program, shows it was met with great success, which is a testament to his skill and love of breeding dogs. It was clearly established which dogs were bred to create the Golden Retriever, and why Lord Tweedmouth chose to mix these dogs. Lord Tweedmouth was a sporting gentleman who very much enjoyed the hunt for waterfowl on his estate with his countrymen. Recent innovations in weaponry of the period allowed shotguns to shoot at greater distances; therefore, it was necessary to have a keen dog capable of waterfowl retrievals in rough terrain. The innovations in 1850 saw new developments in hunting guns such as the center fire, breech loading, and hammerless shotguns. Continued innovations show that there was a 410 smooth bore from a British gun maker in 1871, which holds true to Tweedmonth’s need for a dog to fit the guns capabilities. The type of breeding incorporated, along with new gun technology, showed how proficient retrievers were in the field. Most breed dogs today have been widely taken out of the workforce and become show dogs or family pets. This likely began when retrievers were introduced in the early 20th century for show. Lord Tweedmouth kept the yellow retriever away from the public eye until one of his prized dogs won the first field trial for retrievers in 1904. Yellow Retrievers thereafter were registered as Yellow Retrievers, Retrievers - Wavy or Flat-Coated. After the introduction of Lord Tweedmouth’s dogs, they were exhibited in Britain in 1908, by Viscount Harcourt who began a Culham line, with stock from the Earl of Portsmouth. Consequently this is when retrievers, Golden and Yellow, were first classified and showed prominence by placing first in Bench Competition. In 1913, the Golden was given a separate breed class and became the Golden Retriever; henceforth, the Golden Retriever Club was founded that same year. Officially, the name Golden Retriever was accepted in 1920; however, in 1881, Archie Majoribanks, the youngest son of Lord Tweedmouth, brought a Golden Retriever to Canada and in 1894, he registered his retriever Lady, with the American Kennel Club (AKC), but it wasn’t until 1925, that the AKC officially registered the breed. In 1893, the first Golden Retriever was documented in the United States and from here we can assume America fell in love with this dog. In addition, Canada registered a Golden Retriever in 1927 and played a significant role in developing the Golden Retriever of today. The Golden Retriever Club of America was founded in 1938, and is closely related to the AKC for which the present day standard is followed. Furthermore, as a part of Golden Retriever lineage, a sire, Speedwell Pluto was born in England in 1929, and had a global impact on the breed. Lord Tweedmouth died in 1894, but managed to leave behind a very profound legacy. We can look at the characteristics of a modern Golden Retriever and discern what temperament and abilities Lord Tweedmouth was looking for. However, there are some distinct differences between the American Golden Retriever and the British line. The English Golden Retriever is wider, shorter, and more muscular, with a forehead that is a bit more block like. In addition, their chest is deeper, with shorter legs and a shorter tale. They are also heavier and have a height of 56 - 61cm, 22 - 24 inches at the withers, the tallest point behind the neck at the shoulders. Females are slightly shorter at 51 - 56cm or 20 - 21inches with narrower heads. The eyes are a bit darker and rounder as opposed to a more triangular and slanted shape of the American breed. The “cream colored retrievers, English Crème Golden Retrievers, English Golden Retrievers, European Golden Retrievers, Blond Golden Retrievers, Light Golden Retriever or White Golden Retrievers are also listed as White Goldens, and Platinum Blond Goldens.” The AKC standard retriever is longer and slimmer than its British counterpart, and is 22 - 24 inches or 58 - 61 cm at shoulder height, females are shorter at 21 ½ - 22 ½ inches, 55-57 cm, 65 - 75lbs for males, and 55 - 56lbs for females. Moreover, the title "English Golden Retriever” is not used solely to describe a retriever coming from England; it is simply a standard in which a retriever is judged. However, these are not the most important qualities if you use the retriever in the field. The Golden Retriever, used in the field, needs all of distinct abilities that were originally bred into it. They are known as non-slip retrievers, which are dogs who are able to sit quietly in hunting blinds until they are ordered to retrieve game, both on land and water as well as walk without making any sound at heel. In addition, they need to be biddable, which is the ability to take direction from owners and handlers. Although many retriever’s today are household dogs in America they are still quite proficient in many working areas such as bird dogs, trackers, narcotics detection dogs and a guide dogs for blind and physically challenged people. In order to be proficient bird dogs, retrievers must have soft mouths so that they do not destroy game. Furthermore, today’s retriever must have good physical attributes such as strength and good athletic ability in order to pursue game and walk for long periods of time. Besides being a hunter, the golden retriever is an excellent companion for any homeowner who is willing to provide the kind of environment they need in order to thrive. As in most high caliber breed dogs, plenty of exercise is paramount to their happiness and success as a family pet. These dogs are not bred to exist in all family situations. Moreover, they are not suited for small confined spaces such as apartments or limited backyard areas with an owner not willing to spend adequate time to ensure the dog’s physical and mental health. One of the down sides, if any, of owning and taking care of a Golden Retriever is health related issues that may arise due to their breeding history. Depending on the breeder you buy from the average lifespan is anywhere from 10 to 12 years and they are susceptible to a wide array of medical problems. Some of these problems include cancer, cataracts, hip Dysplasia, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, heart problems, Von Will brand's disease, skin disorders and they gain weight quite easily so one should be careful not overfeed this breed of dog. However, this should not dissuade the serious dog owner from having a companion that loves children, is extremely loyal, friendly, intelligent, and overall very good natured, not to mention great hunters.
Grooming a Golden Retriever as an essential part of any well maintained dog and this breed is no exception. You should dry shampoo on a regular basis, but only bathe when necessary. One must always remember that Golden Retriever’s outer coats were designed to endure very wet conditions. They are considered an average shedder which means that brushing and combing twice a week is a good way to remove wooly hair from their dense undercoats. If you use a firm bristled brush you’ll have success in keeping your dog well maintained. The Golden Retriever is a fine breed of dog that will provide many years of companionship if kept active throughout its life. Golden Retriever’s are rated as the fourth smartest dog of all breeds as stated in the book The Intelligence of Dogs, by Stanley Coren. Numerous people from president’s to celebrities have owned retrievers. For instance, Gerald Ford owned a retriever named Liberty, author Dean Koontz is pictured on the back of his books with his golden retriever Trixie. Pamela Anderson is known to have owned a Golden Retriever as well as Joe Pesci, Jerry Seinfeld, George Lucas, and Tom Cruise who owns two Goldens. Golden Retrievers have also starred in films such as Air Bud and Air Bud: Golden Receiver played by Buddy the Dog and Homeward Bound the Incredible Journey played by Shadow the Golden Retriever.