History of Labrador Retriever

History of Labrador Retriever

Golden Labrador puppy

The Labrador retriever is currently one of the most popular dog breeds, both in the United Kingdom and in the United States according to the number of dog ownership registrations. This dog breed is exceptionally friendly, loyal, intelligent and amiable. They are not just an outstanding dog buddy; they are great working dogs as well. The history of the Labrador Retriever tells us a lot about how this fascinating dog has been used to perform various tasks.

Most people think that the Labrador retriever hails from the place called Labrador because of its name. That’s truth is that the Labrador retriever originated in Newfoundland during the late 1700’s. But before the dogs got its current name it was known as St. John’s dog. This name was used as early as the 1500’s. Some even call these dogs Newfoundland dogs because two breeds of working dogs were present in the region at that time: the Greater Newfoundland and the Lesser Newfoundland or St. John’s dog.

The Greater Newfoundland was used mainly to haul carts loaded with 200 to 300 pounds of fishes. These dogs were really big and had a coat that was both longer and ticker than that of the Lesser Newfoundland or St. John’s dog. The Lesser Newfoundland or St. John’s dog accompanied fishermen to help in their fishing occupation. These dogs would get into the often icy water and bring back fishes that had fallen off from the fishermen’s hooks. They would also haul fishing nets in the water. The Lesser Newfoundland or St. John’s dog had a coat that can repelled water and could stand the coldness of the winter sea. The Lesser Newfoundland or St. John’s dog also had webbed paws that they used for swimming. It is the Lesser Newfoundland/ St. John’s dog that is believed to be the ancestor of the Labrador breed we can see nowadays. The history of the Labrador retriever is therefore also the history of the Lesser Newfoundland/St. John’s dog.

An important step in the history of Labrador Retriever was taken in the early 1800’s when the first St. John’s dogs were imported to Poole, England by the Earl of Malmesbury. He saw what these dogs could do and instantly liked them. He began calling them his Labrador Dogs. He might have got the name from Labrador which is located at the northwest of Newfoundland. As early as 1809, the Earl of Malmesbury started using St. John’s dog in England for shooting sports. However, there is a different suggestion on how the dog’s breed got its current name. The Spanish and Portuguese’s term for workers or laborers is labradores and lavradores respectively. In the northern part of Portugal, there is a village called Castro Laboreiro where the working dogs that guards the livestock display a striking resemblance to the St. John’s dog and the present day Labrador Retriever. The history of Labrador Retriever might have links back to northern Portugal.

In 1903 the English Kennel Club acknowledged the Labrador retriever as a separate breed. It would take until 1917 before the American Kennel Club in the United States recognized the breed. Labrador retriever gained its popularity in between 1920’s and 1930’s.