Where Do Golden Retrievers Come From?

Golden Retrievers originally came from the Highlands of Scotland. They were bred by a member of the English Gentry called Dudley Coutts Majoribanks (later known as Lord Tweedmouth) in the 19th century to hunt for game. 

When they were first bred, Golden Retrievers were closely involved with hunting – they were perfect for running long distances, obeying commands, and gently carrying game back to their owners. However, their popularity increased much later when they transitioned from hunting dogs to family pets.

Read on to learn more about the origins of the Golden Retrievers!

Who Bred The First Golden Retrievers?

There’s one man who we can thank for creating the Golden Retrievers we know and love today. 

Dudley Coutts Majoribanks was born in 1820 to a wealthy Scottish banker, and he developed an interest in breeding dogs as a teenager. In 1881, Majoribanks became the 1st Baron of Tweedmouth and was a successful, wealthy businessman. 

While traveling in Brighton in 1865, Majoribanks came across a golden-coloured, Flat-Coated Retriever. What caught his attention was that both the parents had black coats, making the golden particularly distinct.

Majoribanks brought the golden Flat-Coated Retriever back to Scotland, and three years later he was gifted a Tweed Water Spaniel from his cousin. 

He wanted an agile dog that was equally as good in the water as on land – which would be ideal for hunting a range of animals. After breeding these two dogs, the first Golden Retriever was born.

The First Golden Retrievers

To get the distinct, beautiful Golden Retrievers we have today, Lord Tweedmouth had to mate several generations of dogs.

In 1868, the first pair mated was a yellow Flat-Coated Retriever called Nous and a Tweed Water Spaniel (now an extinct breed) called Belle. Every Golden Retriever today is a descendent from Belle and Nous!

Belle and Nous’s first litter (the first Golden Retrievers) were three pups called Crocus, Cowslip, and Primrose. They were later bred with an Irish Setter, another Tweed Water Spaniel, a St. John’s Waterdog (also known as a Newfoundland), and a Bloodhound. 

Myth: For many years, it was assumed that the first Goldens were descendants of Russian circus dogs, purchased by Lord Tweedmouth. However, upon studying Tweedmouth’s diaries years later, his descendants revealed that Nous was bought from a cobbler in Brighton. 

Why Golden Retrievers Were Bred

Golden Retrievers were first bred to retrieve fowl in the Highlands during game hunts. They were perfectly designed for the role, and quickly became the perfect partners for the hunters.

Why Golden Retrievers were perfect for the job:

  • High energy: This meant that they could work for hours without getting tired. They also need a minimum of two hours of exercise per day so running to retrieve game helped meet that daily quota.
  • Duck-like feet: This meant that they had better movement in the water, allowing them to be more agile and have greater control of their movements while swimming. They were equally as useful in the water as they were on land.
  • Double-coats: Their thick double coats repel water, which is just one of the reasons why this breed is great in the water. They enjoy swimming and wouldn’t be deterred by the cold due to their effective warm coat.
  • Easy to train: As the fourth smartest dog breed, Golden Retrievers are easy to train. They want to please you and are quick to pick up commands with fewer repetitions than other dogs need. Goldens can read your body language and emotions too, which makes them easy to work with.
  • Powerful, but gentle: The range here means they could carefully carry game, quietly walk alongside you, or sprint through the Highlands and propel themselves through the water. They can comfortably do a few different jobs.

As hunting evolved in the 20th century, using guns became more common. They were powerful and could be used over a longer distance, and this is when Golden Retrievers became the best dog for the job. Able to run for miles and with a strong sense of smell and good vision, they could spot, track, and retrieve game with no issue.

Golden Retrievers Today

Some Golden Retrievers still retrieve game as they were bred to do. They’re good little workers who will happily retrieve game for their owners day in and day out.

While other Goldie’s work in service (as a guide dog or assisting law enforcement officers) their high intelligence and personality make them good fits for these types of jobs. You can also find Golden Retrievers working as therapy dogs, providing comfort and joy to those who need it.

You’ll also recognise a bunch of Golden Retrievers in TV and film, such as the Buddy films.

And the vast majority of Golden Retrievers are family pets. They usually get on great with kids and other animals, making them a great fit into any family. While their retrieving instincts are still there, they’d mainly be used for fetching toys and playing now.

Timeline of Golden Retrievers Being Registered

It took a while from when the first Golden Retrievers were bred in 1868 to becoming a recognised and sought-after breed.

1903 The UK Kennel Club officially registered Golden Retrievers as a breed. They were registered as having yellow or golden flat coats.

1913 – The Golden Retriever Club of Great Britain was formed.

1920 – The UK Kennel Club officially accepted the name ‘Golden Retriever’ instead of yellow or golden.

1925 – The American Kennel Club registers Golden Retrievers as a breed. 

1927 – The Canadian Kennel Club registers Golden Retrievers as a breed.

1938 – The American Golden Retriever Club is formed.

1986 – The Golden Retriever Club of Ontario (now known as the Golden Retriever Club of Canada) registers Golden Retrievers as a breed.

Since then, Golden Retrievers have only become more popular around the world. Last year, Goldies were the third most popular dog breed in America, and have been in the top 5 for the last nine years straight.

Golden Retrievers are also one of the UK’s most popular dog breeds, and you can even attend Golden Retriever meet-ups. On the 150th anniversary of the breed being created, a new world record was set for the largest Golden Retrievers gathering in Scotland (361 Goldens!).

This record was later beaten on 14th October 2018, with an incredible 681 Golden Retrievers gathering on a beach in Huntington California.

Related Questions

Why Are Golden Retrievers Called Golden Retrievers?

The answer is in its name – Golden comes from the distinct color of their coat, while Retriever comes from the fact that they would chase and bring back game on command. Putting that together gave us Golden Retrievers.

What Are the Two Types of Golden Retrievers?

The two types of Golden Retrievers that you can get are Working Golden Retrievers and Show Golden Retrievers.

You can have either as a family pet, but you might find the working ones have more energy to burn and will want to exercise more. While show Goldens might need more upkeep with their coat such as professional or at least regular grooming.

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