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History of the Golden Retriever: Origins, Facts & More!

Kathryn Copeland

The Golden Retriever has been a longtime favorite dog for families around the world since the 1800s. They are the third most popular dog out of 200 breeds at the American Kennel Club (AKC)! Goldens are popular family dogs but are also commonly used as search-and-rescue and service dogs.

So, other than being one of the most lovable dogs around, what else do we know about Goldens? We go over the history of and interesting facts about the amazing Golden Retriever.

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Where Do Golden Retrievers Come From?

The short story is Scotland, or more specifically, the Scottish Highlands. The long story is that Golden Retrievers had their origins in 1868 through Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks.

He came from a wealthy family and was the second son to a Scottish banker but was without a title. He developed a strong interest in dog breeding as a teenager.

The story goes that in 1865, Marjoribanks was walking with his son while in Brighton, England, and crossed paths with a cobbler. This cobbler had a golden-colored and wavy-coated retriever dog by the name of Nous.

Marjoribanks purchased Nous from the cobbler and used him as a hunting dog for 3 years, which is when he bred his dog with a Tweed Water Spaniel (which is now extinct) named Belle.

The resulting puppies had the hunting instincts of both land and water dogs, and this is where the first Golden Retrievers made their appearance. The puppies were Crocus, Cowslip, and Primrose. In 1881, Marjoribanks received the title of Baron Tweedmouth.

golden retriever with bird
Image Credit: Linn Currie, Shutterstock

Those Golden Colors

Golden Retrievers are famous for their golden color. But that color comes in a wide range, from the palest yellow to a deep golden-red.

It’s thought that one of the original Goldens, Crocus, was bred with an Irish Setter, which is where the rarer red-gold color originated.

There are four official colors — cream, light golden, golden, and dark golden — but only the latter three colors are recognized by the AKC.

The Different Golden Retrievers

You may not know that there are actually three different kinds of Golden Retrievers: American, Canadian, and English Golden Retrievers.

Group of golden retrievers sitting on grass
Image Credit: Piqsels

There are minor differences between these types of Golden Retrievers.

  • American Golden Retriever: The American Golden tends to have a smaller build with a lankier body type and smaller, triangular eyes. Their coat color tends to be darker than the other Goldens.
  • Canadian Golden Retriever: These Goldens tend to be taller than the others and have eyes that are not dark or light but somewhere in the medium range. Their coats tend to be denser, but the hair itself is shorter and thinner.
  • English Golden Retriever: The English Golden tends toward a stockier build that is usually larger than the other types. Their eyes are darker in color and rounder. Their coats are generally lighter and brighter than the other Goldens.

Facts About Goldens

There’s a good chance that you will be familiar with a few of these facts about Golden Retrievers, but you might learn something new!

Golden Retriever
Image Credit: Lars_Nissen, Pixabay

Energetic

These dogs have a ton of energy! They need plenty of exercise and love going on hikes, playing fetch, and frolicking in the water. Goldens are athletic dogs and do best with active owners.

Service Dogs

Golden Retrievers are commonly used as service and therapy dogs. They are highly intelligent dogs that can provide unconditional love and affection and are reliable and devoted. They can make children and seniors feel comforted quite effortlessly.

Hard-Working

Goldens are used as search-and-rescue dogs, as well as hunting and tracking dogs. All that energy they have goes a long way in these kinds of jobs!

golden retriever running
Image Credit: Piqsels

Excellent Competitors

Due to their energetic and hard-working natures, Goldens are excellent competitors. They excel in dog sports such as agility, dock diving, and obedience.

Food-Oriented

Goldens love to eat! They will eat anything and everything if given a chance. This also means they’ll eat things that they shouldn’t (like toys or your newspaper) and are prone to overeating. Goldens are susceptible to obesity for this reason, so they need their meals measured out. Try not to leave too many items lying around that your Golden is prone to chomping on.

Mouthy

Golden Retrievers tend to be mouthy dogs. They enjoy carrying things around in their mouths like their toys, sticks, and almost anything else that they can. This is the retriever in them. They also have soft mouths, which means they don’t bite down hard.

golden retriver carrying tree branch in his mouth
Image Credit: Piqsels

Forever Young

Goldens are forever puppies in their hearts. They mature a little more slowly than some other breeds and tend to carry that puppyish joyful exuberance for most of their lives.

Always Popular

The AKC recognized Golden Retrievers officially in 1925, and they’ve only gotten more popular over the years. They have been among the top 10 dogs in North America for decades and have long held the number-three spot for years.

More Interesting Tidbits About Goldens

  • Goldens are considered the fourth smartest dogs — they come behind the Border Collie, Poodle, and German Shepherd. They are also lovable goofballs.
  • When Golden Retrievers are around 7 to 8 years of age, their faces will start to gray.
  • Their wavy double coats help regulate their body temperature and protect their skin, so never shave a Golden!
  • Goldens get along beautifully with everyone and everything. They are sweet and loving dogs that make perfect dogs for families with children and all kinds of pets.
  • Golden Retrievers do not make good guard dogs. Those loving and affectionate personalities mean they will greet everyone with adoration and kisses.
  • About 62% of Goldens are overweight, which should come as no surprise given their love of eating.
Golden retriever standing on the grass
Image Credit: Piqsels

Record Breakers

  • The oldest Golden Retriever was Augie from Tennessee, who lived until she was 20 years and 11 months. Sadly, she passed away on March 31, 2021.
  • A Golden Retriever called Finley from New York broke the record in 2020 for holding 6 tennis balls in his mouth! Goldens are certainly talented!
  • A Golden called Charlie from Adelaide, Australia, broke the world record for loudest bark in 2012. The bark was measured at 113.1 dB. Just to give you an idea of how loud this is, a chainsaw is measured at 110 dB! However, rest assured that in general, Golden Retrievers are not known to be barkers.

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Conclusion

We hope that you’ve enjoyed this information about the Golden Retriever, and maybe you’ve learned something new. These dogs are amazing, to say the least, and having a Golden will make any family a lucky one!


Featured Image Credit: tanatat, Shuttertock

Kathryn Copeland

Kathryn was a librarian in a previous lifetime and is currently a writer about all things pets. When she was a child, she hoped to work in zoos or with wildlife in some way, thanks to her all-consuming love for animals. Unfortunately, she's not strong in the sciences, so she fills her days with researching and writing about all kinds of animals and spends time playing with her adorable but terribly naughty tabby cat, Bella. Kathryn is hoping to add to her family in the near future – maybe another cat and a dog.