History of Labrador Retrievers | Lab History

October 10, 2014 – 05:35 pm

"I've ever seen a grumpy looking Lab. Their people are usually quite nice too."

Labrador Retrievers originated in Newfoundland, Canada and are believed to have descended from the now extinct "St. John's Water Dog". At that time, Labrador Retrievers where trained to help retrieve fishing nets from the icy cold waters of the North Atlantic, and to retrieve escaping fish. Their dense, water-repellant coats, swimming skills and hard working nature made them the perfect dog for this task.

In the early 19th century, the Duke of Malmesbury was the first to coin the name "Labrador" and set up a breeding program in England. Labs where recognized by The British Kennel Club in 1903 and the American Kennel Club in 1917. Labradors are now considered the most popular dog breed in the world.

St Johns Dog, ancestor to Labrador Retriever

St. John's Dogs — Canada

The modern Labrador's ancestors originated during the 16th century on the island of Newfoundland, now part of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. The founding breed was often referred to as St. John's Water Dog, St. John's Dog or the Lesser Newfoundland (photo right).

When these dogs were brought to England, they were named after the geographic Labrador area of their origin to distinguish them from the larger Newfoundland breed. St. John's dogs are also the ancestor of the Flat Coated Retriever, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, and Golden Retriever.

St. John's dogs were medium-sized, strong, and stocky – more closely resembling modern English Labradors than American Labs. They were typically black in color with characteristic white patches on the chest, chin, feet, and muzzle. This classic 'tuxedo' marking of the St. John's dog commonly manifests in modern day Lab mixes. In full-blooded Labs, there occasionally appears a small white chest patch – known as a "medallion" – or as a few stray white hairs on the feet (although not desireable, both are acceptable for AKC registration).

No records were kept of the development of the St. John's Dog, as they were likely a random-bred, working breed mix, developed by the English, Irish, and especially the Portuguese fishermen that settled in the area (in the Portuguese language, the word Labrador means 'laborer' ). The breed we know today as the Newfoundland was known then as the "Greater Newfoundland", and is likely a result of the St. John's Dog having been crossed with Portuguese mastiffs.

St. John's dogs were used by the local fishermen to assist in carrying ropes between boats, towing dories, pulling fishnets out of the water, and retrieving escaping fish. The Labrador's loyalty and hard working behavior were the most valuable assets for fishermen, so naturally those dogs most eager to please were retained for breeding.

St. John's Dogs — England

The first St. John's Dogs were brought to England around 1820 and the breed became somewhat popular. However, in 1895, the Rabies Quarantine Act put a halt to the import of all dogs, and the remaining pure St. Johns Dogs eventually died out.

Source: www.summerlandlabradors.com

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