Where Did the Labrador Retriever Come From?

The history and origin of the Labrador Retriever is well documented. Originally he came from Canada and was bred as a hunting assistant, today he is also convincing as a family dog. The Labrador is also related to the Newfoundland dog, among others.

That is the short answer. If you want to find out more about “Where did the Labrador Retriever come from?”, read on below.

where did the labrador retriever come from

From Wolf to Labrador Retriever – History and Origin

The story of the Labrador could actually be explained very simply: In many corners it is descended from the wolf, just like every dog. But it’s not that simple after all, because in the course of evolution there have been extreme changes in the wolf, ranging from the Rehpinscher in dwarf format to the pony-sized Irish wolfhound. It is therefore worth taking a closer look at the Labrador and its family. And to shed light on its origins.

The Labrador originally comes from Canada

The Labrador Retriever originally comes from Canada, more precisely from Newfoundland, a peninsula in the northeast of the country. Since Canada used to be a purely British colony and is still part of the British Commonwealth today, it is considered a British dog breed, although it did not originate from the island across the English Channel. The Labrador peninsula is part of Quebec and part of Newfoundland.

The Labrador is therefore closely related to the Newfoundland dog, even if it is bigger, stronger and hairier.

The 1.5 million square meter peninsula in what is now Canada was discovered in 1495. At that time there were dogs and Indians, both of whom had immigrated here thousands of years earlier. So the dogs already lived here, very different from the mustangs, which had only been brought to America by Spanish, French and English explorers.

Labrador Retriever Behavior by Age : 10 Character Traits

It is not clear when exactly the ancestors of Newfoundland and Labrador immigrated to America. There are different theories.

Labradors and Newfoundlands share their story

Initially there was only the classic Newfoundland dog on the Labrador Peninsula. It was not until 1814 that a distinction was officially made between the Newfoundland and the much slimmer and short-haired Labrador dog for the first time. Canadian fishermen used the ancestor of today’s Labrador to hunt or to fetch fishing nets from the sea. The Labrador is anything but afraid of water. The English occupiers also liked the friendly animal. They took the dog to the UK and started purposefully breeding it (which is one of the reasons why it is considered a British breed of dog).

In 1870 the dog – now clearly distinguishable from the Newfoundland dog – was called Labrador Retriever for the first time. Previously he was known as St. John’s Dog.

The first part of the name is a symbol for the origin of the dog, the second stands for its ability to retrieve objects or prey such as shot game.

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The Most Famous Labrador Breeder

The best known breeder for Labrador dogs is the Earl of Malmesbury, who lived from 1778 to 1841. The nobility also got to know the water-loving hunting animal through him. Since hunting was one of the most important pastimes of British society, it was soon started to be bred specifically for these activities.

For reasons unknown – possibly overbreeding or disease – the Labrador nearly became extinct in 1870. Only a few animals survived, including Buccleuch Avon, born in 1885. It is believed that all of the Labrador Retrievers living today can be traced back to this one dog. If you run into another Labrador while out walking, then your dogs are probably related in some way. Buccleuch Avon, the great great grandfather of all Labrador Retrievers today had a black coat color, just like the original Labrador always had the coat color black.

British Labrador Retriever vs American: What's the Difference?
where did the labrador retriever come from
Photo: The Duke of Buccleuch’s black Lab Avon (“Buccleuch Avon”)

The first yellow Labrador Retriever was then Ben of Hyde. He was born in 1899 and died in 1910. Perhaps he was not the first Labrador with this light coat color, but he was at least the first one registered.

Recognition as an Independent Dog Breed

But it took a few more years before the Labrador Retriever was recognized as an independent dog breed. It wasn’t until July 1903 that the Labrador was first admitted to exhibitions, which made it incredibly popular. Two exhibition lines were later bred from the Labrador: one for show with a compact figure and one for work with a slimmer and lighter animal.

In the UK, USA and Germany, the Labrador Retriever is one of the five most popular dog breeds today. He played in various dog films such as Marley & Ich, A Dog Saves Christmas or Quill – A Friend for Life. Alongside Bill Clinton, two Labradors made it into the White House.

Other Labrador Retriever Facts

Labrador Retriever Scientific Name

As with other dogs, the scientific name of the Labrador Retriever is Canis familiaris when considered a distinct species or Canis lupus familiaris when considered a subspecies of the wolf.

What Breeds Make a Labrador Retriever?

The Labrador Retriever, often abbreviated to Labrador, is an FCI recognized British dog breed (FCI Group 8, Section 1, Standard No. 122). The Labrador Retriever and the Labrador is therefore one and the same, and the claims of Labrador Retriever being a cross between a Labrador and a Golden Retriever is not true.

Labrador Retriever Head Shape

The Labrador Retriever head shape differs between an American Labrador and an English Labrador. The head of an American Labrador looks a bit more streamlined, whereas the head of an English Labrador is often a bit wider.

Labrador Retriever Coat Type and How to Properly Care for it