For a long time, the breed’s origin was a little confusing, but today most enthusiasts believe these lovely “golden” dogs came about all thanks to Lord Tweedmouth who set about producing a gundog capable of retrieving game from water and marshlands. Yellow Retrievers already existed as working dogs in the field, but it was the Lord’s endeavours that produced the Golden Retrievers we see today.
There is some thought that the ancestors of Golden Retrievers were first seen when they performed in a Russian Circus and that it was Lord Tweedmouth who first saw them when the circus was in town in Brighton during the mid-1800’s. The dogs the Lord watched perform had wavy, thick coats and they stood at around 30-inches at the withers. Their coats ranged from a cream to light biscuit in colour and the Lord liked the look of them so much, he purchased the dogs which he then took to his estate in Scotland where he used his dogs to track down deer and other game.
Later, in the early 1950’s the Lord’s great nephew, the 6th Earl of Ilchester claimed that these dogs did not originate from a Russian circus and provided a stud book that had been kept since 1835 proving these dogs had been used on the estate since that date and that the first “yellow” dog had been purchased in Brighton in 1864 from a cobbler. The puppy was one of a litter produced by black wavy-coated Retrievers and was called “Nous”.
The first time Golden Retrievers were ever shown at the Crystal Palace was in 1908 by Viscount Harcourt and then a year or so later at Crufts. He started the “Culham” line using dogs bred by the Earl of Portsmouth. The dogs that were exhibited were referred to as “Flat Coat (Golden)”, a name they retained right up till 1913 only being called Golden Retrievers in 1920, but they were officially recognised as a breed by the Kennel Club in 1903.
Interesting facts about the breed
- Is the Golden Retriever a vulnerable breed? No, they have consistently been one of the most popular breeds in the UK and elsewhere in the world
- There is a story that Golden Retrievers were originally used as performing dogs in the Russian circus although there is no actual proof of this
- Golden Retrievers adore swimming and like nothing more than to take the plunge whenever they can
- They are one of the best therapy dogs in the world
- Golden Retrievers have a tremendous sense of smell and are known to be brilliant tracking dogs
- They are one of the smartest dogs on the planet
- Their double coats are extremely water-repellent