History of the Golden Retriever – Origins to Family Pet

History of the Golden Retriever – Origins to Family Pet

History Of The Golden Retriever

History Of The Golden Retriever

The modern Golden Retriever is arguably one of the most popular family dog breeds available. The breed is renowned for being intelligent, handsome, patient, loyal and gentle. These traits make it desirable as family pet. Despite this, the breed was not originally intended for this role. The history of the golden retriever originates in the Scottish highlands!

History of the Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers are a somewhat new and young breed. A history of the golden retriever originates in the mid to late 1800’s in the Scottish highlands where they were the product of selective breeding. The breed is accredited to Sir Dudley Majorbanks, the 1st Baron Tweedmouth.

Defining Breed Requirements

Sir Dudley Majoribanks - 1st Baron Tweedmouth

Sir Dudley Majoribanks – 1st Baron Tweedmouth

The need for such a breed had developed due to the growing popularity of hunting waterfowl for both sport and sustenance. The production of new and more accurate hunting rifles, that were capable of hitting targets at further distances, defined the requirements for a new breed of hunting dog.

Baron Tweedmouth wanted to produce a dog breed that was highly intelligent and devoted while at the same time was capable of performing exceptionally well at retrieving game from large bodies of water.

Additionally, as the original hunters were gentlemen, they wanted more than just practicality in their dogs. They also wanted a handsome looking dog that was a pleasure to watch at work. The end result was the golden retriever, renowned for both hunting skill and beauty.

Prior to the introduction of Golden Retrievers, various breeds of pointers and setters were employed for the job, but with less than satisfactory results. This was partially due to the fact that they weren’t well equipped for performing in cold and marshy climates.

Golden Retriever Breed Foundations

The popular urban legend, about the Golden Retriever’s origins, is that Tweedmouth attended a traveling Russian circus and bought a handful of show dogs. These were some kind working dog breed, which he had taken a shine to due to their attractiveness and impressive performance.

Golden Retriever - Water Spanial

The actual reality of the breed’s ancestry was released in 1952 with the publication of Tweedmouth’s personal records. These records showed that he first began developing the breed by crossing a yellow retriever named Nous with, a now extinct, Tweed Water Spaniel named Belle. The spaniel was a breed that was known for their swimming abilities. Nous came from a litter of all black retrievers where he was the only blonde.

Tweedmouth is primarily credited for being responsible for today’s retriever’s colouring. His records never at any point indicate that working dog breeds were included in the breeding program.

The first litter produced, consisted of four puppies named Primrose, Crocus, Ada and Cowslip. These puppies would ultimately serving as the foundation of today’s Golden Retriever. They were mated with more Tweed Water Spaniels, Irish Setters, Curly Coated Retrievers as well as occasionally inbreeding at times. It has also been suggested that Newfoundlands, Bloodhounds and Labs were introduced into the breeding at some point as well.

Resulting from this breeding appeared the Golden Retriever

Results of the breeding

Hunting Golden RetrieverTweedmouth had proudly created the highly efficient breed of sports dog he needed that was powerful and elegant while also possessing both the necessary level of intelligence to have a gentle mouth so as to not damage they game they are retrieving, as well as the appropriate sense of scent that is required for any sports dog breed to locate game at great distances.

The breed has exception scenting ability, strong prey drive and good natured temperaments. By the early 1900s, the golden retriever had developed into an excellent hunting retriever. In addition to its hunting skills, the golden retrievers’ most distinguishing features were its luxurious golden coat and amiable disposition.

Acceptance of the Golden Retriever Breed

In the beginning of the 1900’s, Golden Retrievers were still working to establish themselves as their own breed.

The Kennel Club – UK

The breed became one step closer to the goal of acceptance in 1903. The Kennel Club of England began accepting them for registration, although they at the time were classified as a gold coloured variation of the Flat Coated Retriever breed.

Not long after, in 1908, Lord Harcourt introduced Golden Retrievers to the general public by displaying them at the Kennel Club show, and thus began their careers as a show dog in Britain. It’s during this first show that Harcourt is given credit for conceiving their current name. It wasn’t until 1911 that they finally completed their objective when The Kennel Club acknowledged them as their own breed.

American Kennel Club

Golden Retrievers made their American debut sometime in the 1890’s and became and an acceptable breed for the American Kennel Club show in the 1920’s. Originally, the AKC’s first registered Golden Retriever was in 1925.

The dog’s name was Lady, lived in New York and it’s been speculated that the owner was a relation of Baron Tweedmouth. At the time it was only registered as a type of Labrador Retriever.

In 1932 the AKC began recognizing Golden Retrievers as their own separate individual breed. Only a short few years later in 1938, the Golden Retriever Club of America was assembled.

Canadian Kennel Club

The first registered Golden Retriever with the Canadian Kennel Club happened not much later in 1927. Canada didn’t catch up with Britain or the US until 1958 when they finally formed the Golden Retriever Club of Ontario.

Golden Retriever Variations

Today, there are multiple variations of the Golden Retriever breed that are broken up by both location and colour.

English or American?

English American Golden retrieversThere are primarily three kinds of Golden Retrievers today which are English, American and Canadian. The English variety is the stockiest of the three and quite often has a lighter coat colour which often earns them the name English Cream Golden Retrievers.

American Retrievers are leaner than the English variation and the primary difference between the two is the coat thickness.

Canadian Retrievers have noticeably thinner coats in comparison to the American Retrievers.

Golden Retriever Colouring

Golden Retriever ColoursGolden Retrievers have three different categories of colour that they are divided into light golden, golden and dark golden. Technically the breed’s colour can range anywhere from white all the way to black, with all possible variations of gold and red in between. Regardless they still fall under one of these three groups.

Although any of these retrievers, despite their colour, can be registered purebred Golden Retrievers, there comes a point that if their coats are too light or dark they won’t be accepted into formal dog shows.

Golden Retrievers Today

Currently, Golden Retrievers have a more diverse resume than most dog breeds, which mostly consists of service animals, search and rescue dogs, therapy animals, family pets and still occasionally hunting dogs. They are also one of the top four smartest dog breeds and depict an unsurpassed level of obedience.

Golden Retrievers as a Family Pet

Marley and Shona

Marley and Shona

They have a well-deserved reputation of being highly loving animals and are typically kind to anyone they meet. They will do anything within their power to please their humans. These traits combined make this charming breed one of the most loved animals that you can find.



Hi, my name is Stuart and with my wife, Shona, we are the proud owners of two Golden Retrievers. Our boy Marley and our little girl Chloe.

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