A Brief History of Labrador Retrievers

A Brief History of Labrador Retrievers

The friendly, hard worker and most lovable companion, the Labrador retriever have such fascinating a history. Let’s travel back in time, and discover its mysteries.

Origin of Labrador Retrievers

Lifespan of a Labrador Retriever
  • The name can be misleading, as it often suggests that the breed may originate from Labrador, North America. However, the Labrador Retriever does arise from Newfoundland, dating back to as early as the 1700s.
  • They were first named St. John’s Dog and Lesser Newfoundland Dog.
  • The dwellers of Newfoundland were mostly English fishermen, who used their St. John’s Dog to retrieve nets, lines, ropes. St. John’s Dog was even able to navigate underwater, and retrieve fish. This is considered to be the ancestor of the Labrador Retriever.
  • They were first imported to England by Earl of Malmesbury, who first coined the term Labrador in a letter in which he notes: “we always call mine Labrador Dogs,” to differentiate the breed from the Newfoundland dog. The name then became viral.

The Early Developed Labrador Breeds

  • The Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • The flat-coated retriever
  • The Greater Newfoundland

The Birth of Different Labrador Retrievers

  • “Ned,” the first male was born in 1882, followed by “Buccleuch Avon” in 1885.
  • In 1899, “Ben of Hyde,” the first yellow Labrador was born.

The Most Important Dates in Labradors’ History

  • In the late 18th century and beginning of the 19th century, breeders started merging Labradors with other working dogs with the aim to design a working dog that meets their preferences.
  • Around 1985, The 3rd Earl of Malmesbury and the 6th Duke of Buccleuch started a breeding programme to pre-empt the breed from possible extinction threats. Duke of Buccleuch was given some of Malmesbury dogs, which later became the ancestors if English Labradors. 
  • In 1980, The St. John’s Dog became extinct.
  • 1903, they were first registered as a Kennel Club Breed.

Labradors in the United States

  • They were first referred to as “English Labradors.”
  • In 1917, the American Kennel Club (AKC) registered its recognition of Labrador Retriever as a unique type.
  • The Labradors’ unique abilities were not directly acknowledged by Americans due to geographical factors that framed the American hunting style. The variety of landscapes’ characteristics in America made it essential to use numerous kinds of Labrador for each hunting task. For example, The Springer Spaniel’s mission was generally to find the game on hilly lands. The Chesapeake Bay Retriever, however, was prescribed to dive and retrieve underwater. As soon as a significant number of Labradors was imported to America, its extraordinary capacities had not only been recognized but also considered compatible with the American Hunting style.
  • In the thirties, Labrador Retrievers were typically used as gundogs. The first to be used as gundog was The Buccleuch Labrador, which was imported by the 5th Duke of Buccleuch in 1830.
  • In 1932, the AKC registered the first liver colored Labrador, whose name was Diver of Chiltonfoliat.  
  • In 1991, the AKC listed it as their top breed.
  • Now, Labrador Retrievers are used as guide dogs, therapy dogs, and police dogs.

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