The History Of The Golden Retriever

Updated: August 1st, 2022

Golden Retriever History - A Golden laying in the grass
© / Chendongshan

In comparison to many breeds, the history of the Golden Retriever is relatively new, originating from Scotland as recently as the mid to late 19th century.

The hunting of wildfowl was highly popular among wealthy Scottish Gentry at the time. But due to the prevalent hunting grounds being very marshy and peppered with ponds, streams and rivers, existing breeds of retrievers were found lacking in the necessary skills to retrieve game from both land and water.

And so to try and breed a working dog with this special mix of skills, the retrievers of the day were bred with water spaniels, resulting in the beginnings of the breed we now know as the golden retriever.

The Earliest Records Of Golden Retriever History

The earliest and best kept records of Golden Retriever history are in the journals of Dudley Marjoribanks (also known as Lord Tweedmouth) from Inverness, Scotland, during the years of approximately 1840 to 1890.

According to (and other sources) In the middle 1860s Dudley acquired a yellow wavy-coated retriever, named ‘Nous’, from a litter of black coated retrievers that had Golden Retriever characteristics.

Dudley bred Nous to a Tweed Water Spaniel by the name of ‘Belle’ producing 4 yellow puppies that formed the basis of the breed.

These offspring were then bred from, occasionally out-crossing to further water spaniels, an Irish setter, Labrador retrievers and a couple more wavy-coated black retrievers.

Disagreement And Controversy Around The Breeds Origins

For many decades, the exact origins of the Golden Retriever breed was disputed, with many people asserting they originated from the purchase and development of a whole pack of Russian tracker sheepdogs from a circus that had visited.

But Dudley Marjoribanks journals being published in 1952 finally put an end to this popular myth.

Coming To Public Attention

The breed was developed mostly away from the view of the general public until, Lord Harcourt exhibited a collection of dogs from the breed at the Kennel Club show in 1908 and they proved very popular.

They were entered into a class available for ‘Any variety of retriever’ as they were as yet unclassified, but it was at this time the term ‘Golden Retriever’ was first used to described them and so the coining of the term is usually given to Lord Harcourt.

Recognition By The Major Kennel Clubs

The UK kennel Club

The UK Kennel Club first allowed the registration of Golden Retrievers in 1903, though they were registered as flat coats, yellow or golden in color.

They were first shown in 1908, then given a separate status in 1913 when the Golden Retriever Club of Great Britain was formed.

It wasn’t until 1920 that the KC recognized and allowed them to take on their present name of ‘Golden Retriever’.

The history of the Golden Retriever from the UK KC can be found here: KC Golden Retriever history

The American Kennel Club

Although a few specimens were seen in America as early as the start of the 1880s, it wasn’t until more than a decade after the UK KC that the AKC registered the first Golden Retriever in 1925.

And 25 years after their UK counterpart, in 1938 the American Golden Retriever Club was formed. They’re now a much-loved and very popular breed in the US.

The history of the Golden Retriever from the AKC can be found here: AKC Golden Retriever history

The Canadian Kennel Club

The breed was first registered in Canada in 1927, with a Golden Retriever Club of Ontario formed much later than the US and UK equivalents, in 1958.

The Golden Retriever Club of Ontario became the Golden Retriever Club of Canada in later years.


Written By

Wendy is a self-employed beauty therapist, mother of two, life-long pet parent and lover of dogs who somehow manages to squeeze in the time to satisfy another of her loves - writing. Wendy is the founder, main contributor to and editor of TotallyGoldens.

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