The Golden Retriever descends from dogs bred in the 1800s in Britain, when sportsmen wanted efficient retrieving dogs for both waterfowl and upland game. It is thought that almost all retrievers go back to the Saint John’s Dog of Newfoundland, an immediate ancestor of the wavy-coated retriever, which is behind both the Flat-Coated and the Golden retrievers. The best record of the breed’s origin is contained in a journal kept from about 1840 to 1890 by Dudley Marjoribanks in the Highlands, Inverness-shire, of Scotland. He acquired the only yellow puppy in a litter of black wavy-coated retrievers in 1865 and named him Nous, which is Greek for “wisdom.” Nous grew into a sturdy dog recognizable as a Golden. He was bred to a Tweed Water Spaniel (now an extinct breed) named Belle, resulting in four yellow puppies that became the foundation of the Golden Retriever breed. Over years of careful breeding, occasionally bringing in another Tweed Water Spaniel, several black Wavy-Coated Retrievers, a red setter and possible a Labrador retriever and a Bloodhound, Mr. Marjoribanks and his relatives created an exceptional and consistent line of yellow working retrievers with exceptional water abilities.
Golden Retrievers remained largely unknown until 1904, when one of the Marjoribanks dogs won the first field trial for retrievers. “Yellow retrievers” were registered thereafter with The Kennel Club (of England) as “Retrievers – Wavy or Flat-Coated” and were shown for the first time in 1908, in a class for “Flat-Coats of Any Other Color.” In 1913, Goldens were recognized in their own right as”Retrievers – Yellow or Golden.”
Golden Retrievers first came to the United States in the early 1900s and immediately became popular. The American Kennel Club registered its first Golden Retriever in 1925. The Golden Retriever Club of America was founded in 1938 and is one of the strongest AKC parent clubs. The most notable foundation sire, Am/Can Ch Speedwell Pluto, was born in England in 1929 and made enormous contributions to the breed worldwide. Golden Retrievers grew steadily in popularity in the United States both before and after World War II, with a surge in registration in the 1970s. Goldens are used as hunting dogs, assistance and service dogs, guide dogs for the blind, search-and-rescue dogs and as tracking and scenting specialists. They excel in obedience trials, hunting tests, field trials and agility, as well as in the conformation show ring. The Golden’s grace, trainability and delightful temperament contribute to the breed’s popularity as a family companion. They usually are among the top ten most popular breeds in AKC registrations.
The average life expectancy for the Golden Retriever is between 10 and 12 years. Breed health concerns may include the following:
- Cancer (Various forms): Defined as any malignant, cellular tumor
- Cataracts: Refers to any opacity of the lens of the eye. Dogs of either gender can develop cataracts
- Elbow Dysplasia: Leads to malformation and degeneration of the elbow joint, with accompanying front limb lameness
- Hip Dysplasia: Involves abnormal development and/or degeneration of the coxofemoral (hip) joint
- Muscular dystrophy (Duchenne’s X-linked muscular dystrophy cardiomyopathy)
- Hypothyroidism: a clinical syndrome caused by inadequate production and release of the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4)
- Myasthenia gravis
- Hock osteochondrosis
- Pericardial Effusion
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy: Refers to a group of degenerative eye disorders that eventually lead to permanent blindness in both eyes.
- Obesity: Obesity is defined as an increase of over 20% above the optimum body weight
- Skin Disorders: Conditions that affect the dog's fur and skin. Causes are often related to allergies, bacteria, fungus or parasites
- Subaortic Stenosis