history of the Golden Retriever begins in the British Isles. During the
nineteenth century the British gentry were attempting to develop the
perfect hunting dog. They proceeded to breed hunting dogs with the
qualities they desired with other breeds and cross-breeds in an effort
to acquire other desirable traits. This type of selective breeding
resulted in the origin of many of the hunting and retriever breeds of
today such as the Golden and Labrador Retrievers.
the British gentry engaged in breeding hunting dogs was Sir Dudley
Marjoriebanks who later became the first Lord Tweedmouth of England and
Scotland. Unlike many of his fellow gentry,
Marjoriebanks kept breeding records and recorded them in his "Stud Book."
1952 the original Stud Book of Lord Tweedmouth was made available by his
descendants. These books record his breeding activities from 1835 to
1890 at his residence, known as "Guisachanon," in Scotland. An
examination of these records revealed that Lord Tweedmouth developed a
sophisticated method of line breeding, i.e. breeding related dogs with
desired traits in order to improve those traits. Undoubtedly, the
desired traits that Marjoriebanks sought were the friendly nature and
disposition, the athletic ability, the love of water, and the natural
instinct for hunting and retrieving which Golden Retrievers are known
regards to the type of dogs utilized in Marjoriebanks breeding program,
his Stud Book lists that in 1865 he purchased a yellow retriever named
"Nous" from a cobbler in Brighton, England. The dog was given to the
cobbler in exchange for payment of a debt. It was the only yellow pup in
an unregistered litter of black Wavy-Coated Retrievers. Marjoriebanks
transported the dog to his home in Scotland where the dog adapted
extremely well to hunting. Later, Marjoriebanks obtained a Tweed Water
Spaniel, which he named "Belle." He subsequently bred Belle to Nous
which produced four bitches which he named "Ada," "Primrose," "Crocus,"
and "Cowslip." Each of these females, particularly Cowslip, were bred
back to over a twenty year period in the development of the Golden
Retriever. The Stud Book lists that Cowslip was bred to another Tweed
Water Spaniel, no doubt where today's Goldens inherit their love of the
water. Next, a bitch puppy from this litter was later bred back to a
descendant of Cowslip's sister, Ada.
breeding process continued with careful out crosses to two black
Wavy-Coat Retrievers in order to improve the hunting instincts of the
dogs. Eventually an Irish Setter was bred to improve the upland hunting
ability and to insure desired colour. Finally, a sandy-coloured
Bloodhound was used to improve the tracking ability of the new breed.
The Stud Books reveal that the coat texture of these dogs varied from
fox red, similar to the Irish Setter, to cream which is similar to the
colour of many British and Australian Goldens of today.
Wavy Coated Retrievers which were used in Marjoriebanks breeding program
are the ancestors of today's Flat-Coated Retrievers, which today are
black in colour as were their ancestors. The breed was developed in
England from cross-breeding the St. John's Newfoundland (different from
today's Newfoundland) with Irish Setters. According to history, the St.
John's Newfoundland was a native of North America. They were imported to
England aboard fishing ships returning from America. They are the
ancestors of most retriever breeds of today and were about the same size
as Irish Setters.
Though the Tweed Water Spaniel is extinct and
its exact origins are unknown, in Britain early water dogs were
commonly bred to Land or Field Spaniels in order to develop Water
Spaniels. Along the coast of Great Britain, Water Spaniels were relied
upon by families to bring food to the table with their great retrieving
ability. The Water Spaniels were very intelligent, good swimmers, and
were eager to please their masters. Hence, the Tweed Water Spaniel is
credited with contributing to the temperament, intelligence and
retrieving skills of today's Goldens. What is known of the Tweed Water
Spaniel is that they were developed in the Tweed River area after which
they are named. They were essentially a small brown to yellow coloured
1903 the Kennel Club of England accepted the first Goldens for
registration. However, they were not called Golden Retrievers, they were
called Flat-Coats-Golden. In 1904 the first Golden placed at a Field
Trial. Then, in 1908, Culham Brass and Culham Copper were the first
Goldens to place first in Bench Competition. These dogs descend directly
from Lord Tweedmouth's dogs and are the most common ancestors of the
Breed today. In 1911, the Golden Retriever Club of England was formed
and the England Kennel Club recognized Goldens as a separate breed. At
first they were called "Yellow or Golden Retrievers," but a few years
later were called "Golden Retrievers," and the "Yellow" was dropped
forever from their name.