About the Retriever – History

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The history of the Labrador retriever is confusing. There have been many speculations and theories about the origin of the breed.

history3.jpgAn older theory proclaims that the Labrador was a variety, or offshoot, of the Newfoundland dogs. Supposedly, fisherman off the coast of Newfoundland wanted to scale down the large size of their Newfoundlands, but still wanted to keep the characteristics that made the dog so great- such as being a good retriever for anything that was needed, a dense, almost waterproof coat and a hard worker. So the Labrador was developed as that dog. Many people hold this theory to be untrue, and mostly because no one knows exactly how the lab was developed.

Some agree with that theory, while others believe that dogs were not even around this area until Europeans history1.jpgarrived at the Newfoundland coast to fish. This other theory states that Labradors came not from Newfoundland dogs, but that these two dogs were two different breeds altogether. To understand this, a little history needs explaining. Newfoundland is a Canadian province contained in a Canadian peninsula. The Dorset Eskimos, as the original settlers of Newfoundland, left no record of having dogs, as was the same as the Beothuck Indians, who were the next people to live in Newfoundland. Even though the English, Portuguese and French discovered Newfoundland in rapid succession, England was the only country to for a permanent settlement. Because it was a tough land, tough people were needed to try to survive there. Most of the men, many of them the toughest in England, were from Devon. These men were known throughout England for their hunting and outdoor skills, so naturally they would have wanted to bring with them their canine companions, who worked with them a great deal. The dog brought with the Devon men was probably the French St. Hubert’s dog, which is thought of as the ancestor to the Labrador. This dog was most likely bred with other dogs and developed into different breeds, thereby evolving into both a Newfoundland and a Labrador. Labradors were ideal for helping with the primary industry at the time, which was fishing. As was their name, they were trained to retrieve items that fell overboard and haul in fishing nets. This theory is the one usually accepted as correct.

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No one knows exactly when the Labrador breed was brought to history2.jpgLondon, but it is thought to be around the beginning of the 1800s. It took a century for Labradors to be considered their own distinct breed, because until 1904, Labrador Retrievers were lumped into the same category as all retrievers. The breed was favored by the Royal family, which helped contribute to its popularity.


Labradors were imported to the United States before World War I, and as in England, were grouped as all the retrievers into one breed. It was not until the late 1920s that they were a separate breed. Since then, their popularity in America has soared. The Labrador has been a favorite of show trials and hunting partners, accounting for the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) statistics as it being America’s highest numbered registered breed.


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