Friday, August 30, 2013


Most people know what Golden Retrievers look like, since they are the third most popular dog breed in America.  Which means I don't have to waste time describing them to you.  In Australia, they are the fifth most popular, and they are the eighth most popular breed in the UK.  I'm not sure why people would choose to have a big, hairy dog like a Golden, when they could have a cute little short-haired basenji instead, but that's just the way it is.

Anyway, one thing people seem to like about Golden Retrievers is the fact that they are easy to train.  These dogs were first bred to be hunting dogs, but you can also train them to do sports like obedience, agility, flyball, or dock diving.  The breed is also used a lot as guide dogs for the blind, as detection dogs, and for search and rescue.  One thing you can't use them for is guard dogs, because they are so friendly that they would let bad guys come right on in your house.

Goldens have a thick inner coat that keeps them warm, and a flat outer coat that repels water.  They are bred to be gundogs whose job is to retrieve game birds or water fowl after the birds are shot.  Retrievers  are not allowed to tear the dead birds up and eat them, even if they would like to.  Instead, they are supposed to bring the birds back without harming them.

Photo:  Dirk Vorderstrasse

Most Goldens will also retrieve other things, such as tennis balls.   Augie, a Golden Retriever from Dallas, Texas, is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most tennis balls held in a dog's mouth.  On July 6, 2003 Augie picked up five tennis balls and successfully held onto all of them.

Photo: Guinness World Records

Because they have such nice temperaments, Goldens make good family dogs.  They do best if they have plenty of exercise, and since they shed so much, they need regular brushing.  They get along with other dogs, cats, and most livestock.  Sometimes Golden bitches have acted as substitute moms for other types of animals such as kittens or tiger cubs.

The Golden Retriever breed got started back in the mid-18th century in Scotland.  In those days, the wealthy Scots liked to go hunting, but their hunting dogs could not retrieve birds from both land and water.  This was a problem because there were lots of marshy places and rivers on their hunting grounds.  So a man named Dudley Coutts Majoribanks, the first Baron Tweedmouth, decided to create a new breed of dog that would be gentle and trainable, and that could retrieve game from both land and water.

Baron Tweedmouth's home, Guisachan
©Scottish National Trust

I think we can all agree that this poor man was stuck with two very funny names, "Majoribanks" and "Tweedmouth," but in spite of this handicap, he managed to invent the Golden Retriever.  He did this in 1868 by crossing a yellow-colored retriever named "Nous" with a Tweed Water Spaniel named "Belle."  Four puppies were born, and their names were Crocus, Cowslip, Ada, and Primrose.  After lots more breedings and cross-breedings, the new breed was created.

The Kennel Club of England accepted the breed for registration in 1903 as Flat Coats -- Golden.  They were first exhibited in 1908, and in 1911 the breed name was changed to Retriever (Golden and Yellow).  The American Kennel Club recognized Golden Retrievers in 1925.

Last month, an event called the Guisachan Gathering took place in Scotland.  Guisachan (pronounced Goose-a-kin) was held at the home of Lord Tweedmouth, where the Golden Retriever breed began.  Of course, the original Baron is long dead now, and his house is in ruins, but that doesn't stop people from going there and taking their Goldens.  This year, a record number of 222 dogs were at the Gathering.

Photo:  Gordon Richardson

People attended from the UK, Spain, Australia, Denmark, Austria, Japan, Italy, Canada, and the US.  During the three-day event, people did fun stuff like have a conformation show, play tug-of-war, and hurl haggis.  Haggis is the national dish of Scotland, and what it's made of is sheep's heart, liver, and lungs, all wrapped up in the sheep's stomach.  In my opinion, this haggis stuff sounds like it would be extremely yummy to eat, and I don't understand why people would hurl it away!  But humans are mostly crazy, as I think I have mentioned before.

Everybody loves Golden puppies!


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