Known as one of the friendliest dog breeds out there, the history of the Golden Retriever is pretty iconic. Let’s dive in and explore the roots of Man’s Golden Best Friend.
The Golden Retriever dates all the way back to Scotland in the late 1800s.
Wealthy aristocrats would breed various dogs aiming to “get” the type of dog they wanted. According to researchers, around 1868, a wealthy dog enthusiast called Dudley Marjoribanks (he was also called, “Lord Tweedmouth”) of Scotland wanted to spawn a breed that was family-friendly, had a strong jaw, and also made a great hunting companion.
There was a desire in the Scottish Highlands for a medium-to-large dog that would also “retrieve” dead birds from marshes and fields that were shot at when estate owners and residents went hunting.
Buying from the Brits
Marjoribanks was also hoping to breed a retriever pooch that could adapt to all types of weather and terrain. Now the big question was—which two dogs needed to mix in order to create his dream pup?
While visiting southern England in 1864, while out on a walk Marjoribanks spotted a yellow dog that caught his eye and was immediately curious. The dog belonged to local cobbler. He was surprised to learn the golden pup was born to dark-furred parents.
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), during the 19th Century, black sporting dogs were fashionable and considered to be better hunters; dogs of any other shade were usually, sadly, killed.
So, it’s a good thing this yellow dog—named Nous--was spotted by Marjoribanks who purchased the pooch from the cobbler and brought Nous back to his Scottish estate for breeding.
Belle meets Nous
When he crossed Nous (male) with Belle, a female Tweed water spaniel given to him by a relative (this breed is now extinct), Marjoribanks kept thorough records of the resulting yellow pups, which he named Cowslip, Crocus, and Primrose. These cuties are considered the world’s first Goldens!
According to the Golden Retriever Club of America, Nous and Belle’s pups were then used in further breeding with lines including the Irish setter, bloodhound, St. John's water dog, and black retrievers.
Take note of it
Believe it or not, Marjoribank’s original breeding notes are kept at the American Kennel Club Library. It’s a good thing he journaled his breeding success, because in the 1950’s there was some “origin” controversy. Some argued the breed originated in Russia through dogs that were once part of a traveling circus.
However, once Marjoribank’s notes were made public, they confirmed Goldens originated in Scotland, not Russia. Golden Retrievers were officially recognized by The Kennel Club of England in 1911.
The Golden Retriever was the perfect dog Marjoribanks was hoping for, and over time the breed gained popularity especially in England.
Today, Golden Retrievers are the third most popular dog breed in the United States (the German Shepard is #1; Labrador is #2 based on research from the AKC) and we can thank an ambitious Scottish breeder intrigued by golden fur, for that.
Golden Retrievers were officially recognized by The Kennel Club of England in 1911.
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