The History of Golden Retrievers - Part 1

4th May 2023 Posted by: Neena Panboot

In the first part of a two-part blog, we look at the origins of those wonderful dogs, Golden Retrievers.

We have to pop back to 1865 and the famous city of Brighton on the southeast coast of England. That summer, Sir Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks came across a dark yellow-coloured sporting dog (named “Nous”) while walking about the city. Sir Dudley was the 1st Baron Tweedmouth and a Scottish businessman and a Liberal politician who was originally an elected member of the House of Commons (the UK Parliament) between 1853 and 1880 before his elevation to the House of Lords (the Upper House) as Baron (or Lord) Tweedmouth.

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The History of Golden Retrievers - Part 1 2

He discovered that this particular dog was the only dark yellow-coloured dog from a litter of black Wavy-Coated Retrievers owned by a local shoe repairer. At the time, black dogs were considered the best hunters, so when non-black dogs were born, they were, very sadly - and we would nowadays say, rather criminally - just disposed of. However, Nous was to have a far more happy life altogether.

Lord Tweedmouth, took ownership of Nous and brought him back home to Guisachan, his estate in Scotland. In 1868, Lord Tweedmouth bred Nous with Belle, his female Tweed Water Spaniel. Belle produced four puppies, the first litter of Golden Retrievers in the world, meaning Nous had become the founding father of one of today’s most loved breeds of dog.

Today, apart from those who see dogs as somewhat of a fashion statement, people no longer are comfortable with “designer cross-breeds”, bred very much to pander to people’s desires that can sometimes extend beyond common sensibilities. However, if being totally honest, that is somewhat how the Golden Retriever came about.

The ultimate hunting dog

As a member of the British upper class, Lord Tweedmouth was very keen to breed the ultimate dog for hunting. His own grounds in Scotland were very rural, complete with marshes, ponds, and streams. He wanted a dog that could retrieve the proceeds of his hunting activities not just over dry land, but also over water. And as shooting paraphernalia was advancing, enabling shooting in more human-accessible locations, he wanted the ideal hunting dog to be able to accompany his endeavours more efficiently and effectively in terms of retrieving his game birds.

With the breeding of Belle and Nous to produce the first Golden Retriever, the rest is, well, history!

Lord Tweedmouth had bred a dog that with its waterproof, and quite substantial coat, is happy in any environment is very active and athletic and are great swimmers. With an exceptional sense of smell, they can track down game and have relatively gentle mouths that don’t ruin the game they retrieve.

Some characteristics

As well as their excellent working abilities, ability to learn very quickly and with their overall intelligence, they are exceptionally loyal dogs, will guard their human families and are great with other household pets and farm animals. Their extremely friendly, approachable and affectionate personalities mean they also make exceptional family pets. Learning new Being so relatively easy to train means they also make great rescue dogs as well companions for those with disabilities.

While some may think all Golden Retrievers are simply “golden”, they not only exhibit three variations on the colour, namely golden, dark golden and light golden, there are three “international” variations, English, American and Canadian Golden Retrievers.

In part two of this blog, we’ll look at their characteristics in more detail.

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