Labradors - Origin of the Breed

The Labrador’s probable source is the lesser Newfoundland or St. John’s dog, perhaps intermingled with dogs brought to Canada’s shores by European fishermen. Today’s Labrador was refined through English Breeding, while original dogs from Newfoundland are the basis for many other breeds.

History of the Labrador Retriever:
Canadian ancestors:
By the early 1800s there were two distinct types of dog Newfoundland – large, heavy – coated dogs used as draught animals and for collecting nets, and smaller, dense – coated dogs worked as retrievers on land and water. Admired for their skills and loyalty, they were brought to England by local fishermen until 1885, when Newfoundland destroyed its dogs to promote sheep farming.

First Labrador Breeders:
The dog’s hardy constitution and fine retrieving abilities were noted by English landowners, who purchased them for gunwork. Aristocrats, notably the Earls of Malmesbury and Dukes of Bucceleuch, developed successful breeding programmes and created intense in the new “Labrador” as a sporting dog. Colonel Peter Hawker and Lord Knutsford were also instrumental in establishing the breed and its official standard.

Nearest Relatives:
Although now quite different in size, the Newfoundland and Labrador probably have similar origins in mastiffs and working dogs taken to Canada by Portuguese, Basque, and English fishermen. Today, they share the same equable disposition, and are both physically and temperamentally not too distant from Iberian breeds such as the Portuguese Cattle Dog. The original dogs from Newfoundland are the root stock of all Retrievers. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers descend from dogs taken directly to Maryland. Curly – coated and flat – coated Retrievers are the result of cross – breeding with regional English dogs, while Golden Retrievers – so resembling Labradors in character and utility – are, in fact, more distant descendants derived from flat – ones.

Curly – Coated Retriever:
Early Labradors crossed with now – extinct English Water Spaniel.

Flat – Coated Retriever:
Produced by crossing Great and Lesser St. John’s Dogs, then crossing the result with Setters.

Portuguese Cattle Dog:
Working breed used by Basque and Portuguese fishermen may be distant ancestor of Labrador.

Golden Retriever:
Flat – coated Retriever crossed with now – extinct Tweed Water Spaniel.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever:
Result of Lesser St. John’s Dogs bred with local American hounds.

The Curious Labradooble:
The Labrador’s co – operative nature makes it an ideal service dog – easy to train, and an affable companion for the disabled. However, its hair is shed heavily, creating problems for people allergic to dog dander. Therefore, in an attempt to develop a non – moulting dog with the Labrador’s responsive and easy – going character, Australian breeders in 1989 began crossing Labradors with standard Poodles. The resulting Labradooble is certainly distinctive, but while the combination appears to produce a genial temperament, the non-shedding characteristic has not yet become fixed attribute.