The History Of The Labrador Retriever

The History of the Labrador Retriever is a little mysterious in so much that the Labrador Retriever does not originate from Labrador in Canada but rather from nearby Newfoundland.

Some theorists believe that the breed may even have originated in Portugal (Labrador means 'labourer' in Portuguese) before being introduced into Newfoundland by Portuguese sailors.

Whatever their origins the historyof the Labrador Retriever began in the 19th century when the English aristocracy began to import the dogs from Newfoundland. Known as 'St Johns' dogs they would work with the Newfoundland fisherman retrieving lines and lost fish before going home to play with the children of the family. Labrador lovers of today will recognise their hard working, lovable and eager to please pet from in that description.

The St Johns Dogs were ideal for hunting and sport which was why they were so popular with well-to-do Englishmen who could afford to have them brought back from Canada. By the mid-1800s there were a few references to the St Johns Dogs being called Labradors though the name didn't come into common use until around 1865.

By the 1880s a limited breeding programme was underway in Britain. All Labradors were black until 1892 when the Duke of Buccleuch bred the first liver coloured Labs though the first real chocolate's wouldn't appear in any number until the 1930s. The first yellow Lab, the legendary Ben of Hyde, was born in 1899. I suppose the history of the Labrador Retriever officially began in 1903 when the breed was recognised by English Kennel Club with the American Kennel Club following suit in 1917.

Over in Newfoundland the St Johns Dog eventually became extinct after the introduction of sheep farming to the region. Legislation was passed towards the end of the 18th century limiting each family to only one dog and by the 1880s heavy licensing costs were imposed on the dogs with the taxes on females being higher than on males. The breed eventually died out in the 1930s.

Earlier, the introduction of the Quarantine Act in Britain in 1895 more or less put a halt to the import of dogs and, with most of the true St Johns Dogs in England having died out, the Labrador breed was saved by a breeding programme undertaken by Dukes Buccleuch and Home along with the Earl of Malmesbury.

The history of the Labrador Retriever since the turn of the 20th century has being one of increasing popularity with the wonderful nature and characteristics of the breed making the Labrador one of the most well-liked and fashionable dogs for family pets as well as in showing and trialing circles.

Breed Standard

General Appearance
The general appearance of the Labrador should be that of a strongly built, short-coupled, very active dog. He should be fairly wide over the loins, and strong and muscular in the hindquarters. The coat should be close, short, dense and free from feather.

Approximate weights of dogs and bitches in working condition:
Dogs: 60-75 lb. (27-34 kg); Bitches: 55-70 lb. (25-32 kg)
Height at shoulders: Dogs: 22-1/2 - 24-1/2 inches (57-62 cm); Bitches: 21-1/2 - 23-1/2 inches (54-60 cm)

Coat and Colour
The coat is a very distinctive feature; it should be short, very dense and without wave, and should give a fairly hard feeling to the hand. The colours are black, yellow, or chocolate and are evaluated as follows:
(a) Blacks
All black, with a small white spot on chest permissible. Eyes to be of medium size, expressing intelligence and good temper, preferably brown or hazel, although black or yellow is permissible.
(b) Yellows
Yellow may vary in colour from fox-red to light cream with variations in the shading of the coat on ears, the underparts of the dog, or beneath the tail. A small white spot on chest is permissible. Eye colouring and expression should be the same as that of the blacks, with black or dark brown eye rims. The nose should also be black or dark brown, although ?fading? to pink in the winter weather is not serious.
(c) Chocolates
Shades ranging from light sedge to chocolate. A small white spot on chest is permissible. Eyes to be light brown to clear yellows. Nose and eye rim pigmentation dark brown or liver coloured. ?Fading? to pink in winter weather not serious.

Skull should be wide, giving brain room; there should be a slight stop, i.e., the brow should be slightly pronounced, so that the skull is not absolutely in a straight line with the nose. Head should be clean-cut and free from fleshy cheeks. Jaws should be long and powerful and free from snipiness. The nose should be wide and the nostrils well developed. Teeth should be strong and regular, with a level mouth. Eyes should be of a medium size, expressing great intelligence and good temper, and can be brown, yellow or black, but brown or black is preferred. Ears should hang moderately close to the head rather far back, should be set somewhat low, and not be large and heavy.

The neck should be medium length, powerful and not throaty.

The shoulders should be long and sloping. The legs must be straight from the shoulder to ground, and the feet compact with toes well arched, and pads well developed.

The chest must be of good width and depth, the ribs well sprung and the loins wide and strong.

Stifles well turned, and the hindquarters well developed and of great power. The hocks should be well bent, and the dog must neither be cow-hocked nor be too wide behind; in fact, he must stand and move true all round on legs and feet. Legs should be of medium length, showing good bone and muscle, but not so short as to be out of balance with rest of body. In fact, a dog well balanced in all points is preferable to one with outstanding good qualities and defects.

The tail is a distinctive feature of the breed; it should be very thick towards the base, gradually tapering towards the tip, of medium length, should be free from any feathering, and should be clothed thickly all round with the Labrador?s short, thick, dense coat, thus giving that peculiar ?rounded? appearance which has been described as the ?otter? tail. The tail may be carried gaily but should not curl over the back.

Movement should be free and effortless. The forelegs should be strong, straight and true, and correctly placed. Watching a dog move towards one, there should be no signs of elbows being out in front, but neatly held to the body with legs not too close together, but moving straight forward without pacing or weaving. Upon viewing the dog from the rear, one should get the impression that the hind legs, which should be well muscled and not cow-hocked, move as nearly parallel as possible, with hocks doing their full share of work and flexing well, thus giving the appearance of power and strength.

Dudley nose (pink without pigmentation).

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