History of the Golden Retriever Breed
Today’s Golden Retriever is most commonly known as a companion animal. Unless you go to, or are involved in, conformation, obedience, field or hunting trials, you may not realize that the Golden Retriever is a far more versatile animal. It also had a reason for having been developed as a separate breed back in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
Golden Retrievers were “developed” in Britain during the 1800’s. Believed to be included in the formation of the Golden Retriever breed are the now extinct Tweed Water Spaniel, the Newfoundland, the Irish Setter and a variety of water spaniels.
The need for a retriever to gather the vastly larger number of birds being brought down by hunters was a concern to Sir Dudley Majoribanks, the first Lord Tweedmouth at Inverness, in Scotland. He wished to develop a dog which was loyal and kind, yet spirited and energetic, with a love for the water and an ability to retrieve. His early vision of a Golden Retriever was for a dog that would have great enthusiasm for retrieving waterfowl.
Until the discovery of Lord Tweedmouth’s stud books in 1952 the breed was thought to have originated from a troupe of Russian circus dogs which Lord Tweedmouth saw performing in Brighton in 1858. These dogs were thought to be about 30 inches at the shoulder with thick wavy coats, varying in colour from cream to light biscuit. Lord Tweedmouth was said to be so impressed by their intelligence, looks and docility, that he purchased all 8 of them and had them transported to his Scottish Estate at Guisachan, where they were used for tracking deer.
However the sixth Earl of Ilchester, a great-nephew of Lord Tweedmouth, in 1952, dismissed the Russian theory, basing his evidence on a stud book meticulously kept from 1835 which recorded all the dogs kept at Guisachan and in which there was no mention of the Russian dogs.
It is says that Lord Tweedmouth purchased a yellow coloured puppy, whose litter mates all possessed black wavy coats, from a Brighton cobbler in 1865. This yellow coloured puppy was named Nous and he was the foundation of the Golden Retriever breed. This yellow colored puppy was named Nous, and in 1868 was bred to a Tweed Water Spaniel named Belle that gave birth to four yellow bitches, Crocus, Cowslip, Primrose and Ada.
Lord Tweedmouth kept one female from the get of this breeding, and gave away the rest of the litter to neighbors, friends and relatives. For twenty years he would line breed any yellow pups produced by this one female, named Cowslip, and her litter mates, and any yellow pups produced by subsequent offspring.
In 1876 Cowslip was bred with a Red Setter and Jack was born. Topsy was bred with a black wavy coated Retriever named Sambo witch led to the birth of Zoe. Zoe was then inbred with Jack who become parents to Gill and NousII. Gill was then bred with a black Retriever called Tracer wich led to the birth ok Quennie in 1882. In 1889 Quennie was inbred with Nous II which resulted in Prim and Rose. Prim and Rose were 47% Setter, 35% Lesser St. Johns Newfoundlad, 12% Springer Spaniel and 6% Water Dog.
The dogs produced proved to be grand workers, biddable and attractive. Puppies from the matings were given to friends and family, notably his nephew, Lord Ilchester, who also bred them. The dogs bred true to type, and so the forerunners of the breed we know today were established.
Once developed, early Golden Retrievers were shown in England as Flat-Coated Retrievers under the variety Golden. Over time the Golden Retriever made it’s way to North America, brought back by people visiting Britain. It is believed that Golden Retrievers came to North America in the 1890’s, however, Golden Retrievers were not “exhibited” in dog shows until the 1920’s. Golden Retrievers, in the early years were used primarily in hunting. Over time, as the breed gained popularity, the Golden Retriever became a valued family companion, a hunting companion, and a show dog.
It was not until 1908 that the breed came into the public eye. Lord Harcourt had formed a great liking for the breed, and had gathered on to his estate at Nuneham Park, Oxford, a collection of the dogs descended from the original matings. He decided to exhibit them at the Kennel Club Show in 1908, where they created great interest. They were entered in a class for Any Variety Retriever, and described as Yellow Flatcoated Retrievers. The term ‘Golden Retriever’ was first coined around this time, and has been attributed to Lord Harcourt. In 1906 Mrs Charlesworth obtained her first Golden, a bitch puppy without a pedigree, whom she named Normanby Beauty. She proved to be a highly intelligent and tireless worker. In 1908 she mated her to Culham Brass and in 1909 she joined Lord Harcourt as the only other exhibitor of the ‘yellow’ retrievers. In 1909 although there was still no separate classification for them, eight Goldens appeared at Cruft’s, while ten appeared in 1910.
The breed was accepted by the Kennel Club in 1913, and an allocation of Challenge Certificates was made the same year. The race had already been on to see who could win the first Field Trial award with a Golden, and the honour had fallen in 1912 to Captain Hardy with his bitch Vixie, who went on to become an influential dam in the breed. The honour of winning the first C.C.’s on offer proved to be an anti-climax.
With the restarting of Field Trials in 1920 and of shows in 1921 the inter-war years saw the beginning of a gradual rise to popularity for Goldens supported by a substantial number of new breeders.
In 1921 the GRC ran its first Trials and these of course were the first to be confined to the breed, although Goldens were already proving that they could well hold their own in any variety stake competition. Cruft’s entries in 1921were only 34, but this rose to 231 in 1925 and to 263 in 1927, which remained the highest figure until after the war.
In 1932, the Golden Retriever was recognized by the American Kennel Club. The Golden Retriever Club of America was formed in 1938. An interesting point was that even though the Golden was being used by hunters, and it was growing in popularity, the A.K.C. considered it a rare breed.
A very important kennel wich had a very profound influence on the breed was Camrose Kennel. Golden Camrose Tess’ was the foundation bitch of this kennel and every Golden with a ‘Camrose’ ancestor is descended from her – and this is most of today’s Goldens. Some of the most importand Camrose dogs are: Camrose Antony, Camrose Fantango, Camrose Cabus Chiristopher, Camrose Matilda, Styal Stephanie of Camrose, Cabus Cadet, Camrose Nicholas of Westley and many others.
In the 1950’s and 60’s the Golden experienced a resurgence of popularity as more people began to use this dog in obedience trials and conformation.
A beautiful dog, engaged in a work that it loves – serving its master, loving its family, and benefiting mankind by its very existence.