The Fascinating History of Labrador Retrievers
THE LABRADOR RETRIEVER ANCESTORS IN NEWFOUNDLAND
The Labrador Retriever is one of the most popular dog breeds worldwide because of its athletic nature and friendly temperament, but many people do not realize that the roots of this breed’s history go all the way back to Newfoundland. The name of the dog breed comes from the Labrador sea that surrounds the coast of Newfoundland, a large island in Canada. Newfoundland was known for the Newfoundland breed of dogs that were bred by villagers in the area. Labradors are said to be a direct descendant from the Newfoundland dog breed. Supposedly, the Newfoundland villagers started to make their livelihood from fishing, so they began to import dogs to improve the local type of dog in the area. The local Newfoundland dogs were bred with a few other breeds to create a dog that was slightly more compact and had shorter hair. These dogs were often called “water dogs,” because they were used to help fishermen retrieve fish and crab traps from the water. They became known for their excellent swimming, and the dogs were praised for their ability to retrieve prey without damaging or eating it.
THE RETRIEVING DOGS OF NEWFOUNDLAND START TO BE NOTICED
At first, the newly created breed of dogs was just used by working class fishermen, but then people who hunted started to realize that the Newfoundland water dogs could be very useful. The water dogs were praised for their intelligence, quickness, and willingness to bring animals back to their masters. Over time, they started to be called “retrievers” because of this signature quality, and hunters begin preferring retrievers to other types of hunting dogs. Styles of hunting evolved from chasing down prey with a pack of dogs to following prey on foot and shooting them. For this style of hunting, a retriever that could fetch a hunter’s prey without biting it was more useful than a pointer dog that would hunt down and attack prey.
THE MODERN FORM OF LABRADOR RETRIEVER IS CREATED
The trendy style of hunting that retrievers were so useful for was a sport for the nobility at the time, so it is no surprise that the two men most responsible for creating the modern breed of retrievers were the second and third Earls of Malmesbury. These men were key to developing and solidifying the characteristics that Labrador retrievers are now loved for. The Earls of Malmesbury were a father and son duo in the 1800s that imported water dogs from Newfoundland and St. John’s islands in Canada. The family bred the Labrador water dogs with their local retrievers, and the modern form of the dog was created and named the Labrador Retriever.
LABRADORS ARE FINALLY RECOGNIZED AT KENNEL CLUBS
Official recognition by the Kennel Club is a sign that the breed had gained mass acceptance. In 1903, the Kennel Club acknowledged the dogs as an actual, definitive dog breed. As early as 1905, key traits of the breed included a peaceful and happy personality, a compact and muscular build, elegant movements, and signature retrieving ability.
THE PRIMARY CHARACTERISTICS OF THE LABRADOR RETRIEVER
Labrador retrievers all have brown eyes and a thick coat of short, straight hair. This coat has been a trait of all ancestors of the breed, and it keeps the dogs from getting cold in the water. On average, Labrador Retrievers are about 60 pounds and stand 22 inches tall at the shoulder. Male dogs tend to be slightly heavier and taller than female labs, and the males typically have a slightly coarser coat.
LABRADOR RETRIEVER COLORING
At first, all Labrador Retrievers were black, but occasionally, puppies were born in other shades. Chocolate Labradors can be a medium to dark brown color, and Golden Labradors can be cream to golden red shade. At first, a Labrador could only be registered as a Labrador if it was black, but the American Kennel Club finally allowed other variations of the breed to be registered in 1917. Typically Labrador Retrievers are a single color without any spots or stripes, but in rare cases, black or chocolate labs can have a white mark on their chest, and this is called a “mismark.” Golden Retrievers are particularly popular, and they are consistently one of the top ten breeds in America.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ENGLISH AND AMERICAN LABRADOR RETRIEVERS
The breed of Labrador Retrievers is divided into two categories depending on where they were bred. Labradors that descended from English breeding lines tend to have a thicker coat, a bigger and heavier body, wider heads, and slightly shorter legs than their American counterparts. Due to differences in terrain and aesthetics, American bred Labradors have longer legs, thinner bodies, and a lengthier muzzle, and their coats have a slightly thinner appearance than English bred Labradors. American Labradors Retrievers are often called field dogs because they are bred for athletic performance, and English Labradors are referred to as show dogs that are bred for the appearance in dog shows.
LABRADOR RETRIEVERS CONTINUE TO BE AN EXCELLENT DOG FOR FAMILIES
Though they were originally bred as hunting companions, Labrador Retrievers are mostly used as family pets in modern times. Their adorable looks and playful, calm, and loyal temperament make them ideal for families. Labrador Retrievers are known for playing well with children and being great companions for active people. Their energy allows them to keep up with active children, but they are never aggressive.
Labrador Retrievers tend to do best with owners who provide firm training and lots of cuddling. Since Labradors were originally working dogs, they have a tendency to dig and chew everywhere if they are not properly trained and exercised. Therefore, it is recommended that you provide lots of toys and regularly walk your Labrador and play with it to keep it entertained and happy. With proper treatment, this wonderful, friendly, and historical dog breed can be an ideal furry companion.
Labrador Retrievers also make great pets, so be sure to see my post on Why Labradors Make Great Pets.