A Brief History of the Golden Retriever

The history of our lovely breed dates back over 150 years to a place called Guisachan in Scotland which was the estate of Lord Tweedmouth. In 1952, his great-nephew, the sixth Earl of Ilchester, found Lord Tweedmouth’s meticulously recorded Stud Book and only then was revealed the true origin of the breed. Until then, it had been thought incorrectly that the breed was developed from a troupe of Russian circus dogs but, upon his discovery of the book, the Earl of Ilchester could then dismiss the Russian dog story as a myth. Lord Tweedmouth’s Stud Book was dated from 1835 and recorded all dogs kept at Guisachan and there is no mention of Russian dogs within it.

Lord Tweedmouth’s grandson stated that his grandfather had purchased a ‘yellow dog’ from a cobbler in Brighton in June 1864; the cobbler had told Lord Tweedmouth that it was the only yellow puppy in a litter of black wavy-coated Retrievers and had been given to him by a keeper in payment of a debt. This puppy was called ‘Nous’. During the time of the first mating in 1868 to the last in 1889 some of the puppies bred were kept, some were given to keepers on neighbouring estates and others were given to friends and relatives both Scotland and England and thus were the early Golden Retriever kennels formed.

The first Golden Retrievers were exhibited in 1908. They belonged to the Viscount Harcourt who started his ‘Culham’ line with stock from the Earl of Portsmouth. They were shown at Crufts and at Crystal Palace although at the time they were not officially recognised as a separate breed of Retriever. When Mrs Charlesworth acquired a puppy bitch without a pedigree in 1906 which she named ‘Normanby Beauty’ and, as she proved to be a highly intelligent and tireless worker in the field, she decided to mate her to Lord Harcourt’s ‘Culham Brass’, in 1909, Mrs Charlesworth joined Lord Harcourt as the only other exhibitor of the ‘yellow retriever’. Lord Harcourt is given credit for naming the breed as Golden Retrievers. In 1909, although there was still no separate classification for them, 8 Goldens appeared at Crufts and, in 1910, there were 10. (The entry in 2009 was over 500)

Separate breed status as granted by The Kennel Club in 1913. First classified as ‘Retriever (Golden and Yellow)’, by 1920 the classification had been changed to Retriever Golden.

The first registration of Goldens in Ireland was in 1925 when 2 dogs, ‘Cubbington Drake’ and ‘Cubbington Beauty’, were registered. In the 1950s, a dog named ‘David of Westley’ was imported from the UK. He was to become the most famous of all Goldens in these islands – achieving Show and Field Trial Champion status in both Ireland and the UK. His exploits have never and most likely never will be equalled.

The 1950s and 1960s were halcyon days for the working Golden Retriever in Ireland – given that, at the time, most Golden breeders not only showed but worked their dogs too. Goldens have become one of the most popular show dogs in Ireland and their entry numbers are regularly one of the highest at shows country-wide.

Goldens, because of their intrinsically very good temperament, have become one of the most popular family pets and are also used as Guide Dogs for the Blind, Search & Rescue Dogs and also as other ‘assisting dogs’.

The temperament of the Golden Retriever is a ‘hallmark’ of the breed. They are trusting dogs and have a gentle disposition which means as a consequence they don’t make good guard dogs! Any form of unprovoked aggression towards people or other dogs is unacceptable in the breed. The typical Golden Retriever is calm, naturally intelligent and biddable with an exceptional eagerness to please.

Temperament is everything, whether showing, working or as a family pet.