Archive for the ‘Retriever history’ Category

duggan family water spaniel

A reader named Tim, who blogs as the Wicked Yankee over at the Daley Clan blog sent me photos of what his family insists was an Irish water spaniel that belonged to his great-great grandfather, Daniel Duggan. Duggan was a poacher and lover of dogs and horses:

Daniel was a very talented trainer of animals. I have even heard him described as a horse-whisperer. Daniel was also very fond of poaching, which was very illegal in Ireland. According to family lore, he had an Irish water spaniel named Drake who he had trained to catch salmon as they went over the shallows in the Blackwater River. Unfortunately, Daniel was caught poaching on the lands of a Magistrate by the name of Grehan, who lived on the estate at Clonmeen House.

At this time one of the consequences for poaching was forced transportation to Australia. According to relatives, Daniel was not willing to accept the punishment. He is said to have stated, “It would be like going to law with the Devil when the court was in Hell.” Instead of accepting his sentence, Daniel decided to move his entire family to the town of Mallow (only about 20 miles). However, before he left, he made sure to go back and get his dog.

The dog in the photo is not Drake, but Drake and this dog, whose name was Rock, were very similar.

There is some debate as to whether Rock was a water spaniel or an Irish setter.

My guess is that both Rock and Drake were a regional type of water spaniel that became either got absorbed into other strains of spaniel or retriever.

Daniel Duggan and dog

The dog actually reminds me of smaller version of a very dark golden retriever.

Of course, it’s very hard to tell what color he was. He could have been a liver or a very dark red dog.

Maybe this is one of the last photos of a Tweed water spaniel or Tweed water dog. There isn’t much wave to this dog’s coat, but he has featured that are suggestive of retriever ancestry, too.

One of the great disservices that kennel clubs have given us is that they have destroyed the English language’s descriptive abilities.

Look at the AKC name for the “English” coonhound. It’s called the “American English coonhound.”  The name is so bizarre that one would laugh at it.  (First of all, there are no raccoons in England!)

In a similar way, the dog fancy has got us thinking that the only Irish water spaniel was the rat-tailed liver dog with the Afro.

Careful reading of historical documents show that there was McCarthy’s breed of water spaniel, and there was another type of water spaniel in Ireland. It was always described as being  more like a retriever, and it was always associated with the north of the country. There was actually a debate as to whether it was the same thing as the Tweed water dog, which is from the Scottish Borders and Northumberland. (One should note that the settlers of the protestant plantations of what is now Northern Ireland came largely from this part of Scotland, where centuries of border warfare and rule by warlords had forced large numbers of these people into deep poverty.)

County Cork is, of course, in the southwestern part of the country, which nowhere near the core territory of the Northern Irish water spaniel.

But that doesn’t mean that the Duggans couldn’t have been able to procure one.

I think there is almost as strong a likelihood that these two dogs represented a regional breed of water spaniel that just simply wasn’t documented because it wasn’t fancy enough to turn into a show dog.

The history of dogs is really mostly the story of dogs like these two.

They were the dogs that helped people poach and played with the kids.

These dogs really don’t get much mention in the books.

Because the dog fancy was an elitist sport, we know all about the Labradors owned by the Dukes of Buccleuch, the water spaniels that Justin McCarthy bred, and the yellow wavy-coats at Guisachan.

We know so little of Tweed water dogs that helped net salmon near Berwick-upon-Tweed, though they are mentioned in just about every book about golden retrievers.

We know so little about the water spaniels of the British Isles.

Only one of them still exists.

Lots of romantic histories are written about it. Fantastical claims of antiquity are bandied about.

But the truth is the average Irish water spaniel was most likely a dog like Drake and Rock. Nothing fancy. Rustic.  Handsome. And very smart.


Please do not take this post as an attack on Irish water spaniels of the McCarthy type.

It’s not meant to be.

Rather, it’s an attack on the homogenization that the modern dog fancy has exerted on domestic dog strains. Regional types have fallen out favor as “global breeds” like Labrador retrievers have moved.

The modern dog fancy is global, but because it originated in the United Kingdom in the nineteenth century, it was going to have a global impact in a very short time.

Only the French have been able to hold onto their regional breeds. For most of the history of the American dog fancy, there was always a denial that there were very many American breeds.  (There are actually many, many American breeds, but most stayed out of the kennel club system until very recently. So I guess they didn’t count.)

In agriculture, there is a strong movement for the preservation of heritage breeds of livestock. These animals fell out of favor due to market forces, but now there is a movement afoot to keep esoteric breeds of cattle and sheep alive– mainly to keep the food supply at least somewhat genetically diverse.

In a Dog’s History of America Mark Derr writes that something similar swept the dog world in the late nineteenth century in Europe and America. In age when virtually everything was mass-produced and homogeneous, there was a move to go back to the old ways of doing things.  People with money and time on their hands spent lots of both scouring the countryside for traditional crafts and tools. In the realm of dogs, it caused people to go to rural areas and pick out various working dog landraces and bring them home as artifacts.

It’s from this movement that the collie dog became a fancy breed, as did the Old English sheepdog.

But those dogs were mostly herding dogs belonging to noble stockmen.

They were not the dogs of poachers, like these water spaniels.

It’s also the reason why no one ever thought of creating a show club for lurchers. (The thought of which gives me the creeps).

This world that the twentieth century has left behind is a strange one. It may be wealthier and more technologically advanced.

But it’s certainly lost a lot.

Especially the old water spaniels.

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This is a South Carolina golden retriever:

You very rarely see one that is this curly.

There are actually two sources for this type of coat in golden retriever. One is the Tweed water dog or Tweed water spaniel, which was sort of a regional type of “unrefined” curly-coated retriever that was endemic to the Scottish Borders and Northumberland.

The other is the actual refined show curly, and at least one of the breed’s very prolific sires had a well-known show curly ancestor.

This golden retriever is probably the closest thing we’ll ever see of a modern-day Tweed water dog.

This dog even has the “conical”  head shape that early writes mentioned the breed having.

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I don’t have the date of this photo, but it would be in the late part of the nineteenth century or the very early part of the twentieth century. The photo is by a George Jaeger. If someone has any information about this photographer, I’d be quite interested.

This dog is definitely a retriever-like Newfoundland dog, which were common in the United States during the time period. When you read of “Newfoundlands” doing remarkable things in the nineteenth century, a lot of them were more like large wavy-coated retrievers than the giant Newfoundlands we see in the show ring:

girl with Newfoundland dog Philadelphia

Photo courtesy of Nara U.

This dog looks like a large black golden retriever, which just shows you how conservative we’ve actually been in choosing which dogs we have made popular. This retriever-crazed era is just simply history repeating itself.  The retrievers, with the exception of the toller, are just modifications on these old Newfoundland dogs.

At the time, Newfoundlands were being challenged for popularity by St. Bernards, which traditionally looked more like Greater Swiss mountain dogs, and they were always popularly portrayed with a flask of brandy on their collars. This Newfoundland is wearing a decorative flask, which wealthy people would use to adorn their St. Bernards. I guess the owners thought their Newfoundland needed one for the photo!

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Painting by Richard Ansdell:

(c) Walker Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Before retrievers began to be categorized into breeds, there were dogs like this one.

This dog shows characteristics of St. John’s water dogs and water spaniels.

It’s a sort of rougher version of the curly-coated retriever, though this dog may have been bred into strains that gave rise to either the standardized wavy-coated retriever or curly-coated retriever.

It’s rougher sort of dog because in those days there were no purebred retrievers. Retriever was just a job description, and lots of different dogs did the job.

It was just that shooting sportsman of the middle part of the nineteenth century began to desire dogs of Newfoundland (St. John’s water dog) extraction.

My reading of what the “Tweed water spaniel” that is mentioned in the golden retriever pedigrees is that this dog was very much like the dog in this painting.

The only difference was that it was yellow or liver in color.

Tweeds were often mistaken for curly-coated retrievers, and perhaps the best way to understand what they were was that were a sort of rough form of curly-coated retriever that just happened to occasionally come in yellow.

For this reason, I’m some what leery of calling this dog a water spaniel.

It was more of what we’d think of as a retriever than a water spaniel.


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I know of only one case in the history of the modern dog fancy in which a fanciful story of a dog breed origin was rejected.

And that is with the golden retriever.

For first half the twentieth century, golden retrievers were said to have the following origin:

The Golden Retriever is a descendant of an old breed of dogs known as trackers, which are native to Asiatic Russia. Russian trackers are huge dogs measuring about 30 inches at the shoulder and often weighing 100 pounds. The breed serves man in a variety of ways in its homeland, among which, it is reported, is to guard isolated flocks of sheep in winter with great steadfastness and courage. According to the American Kennel Club, the circumstances leading to the development of the Golden Retriever breed primarily from tracker stock are as related below.

In 1860, Sir Dudley Marjoribanks watched the performance of a troupe of Russian tracker dogs at a circus in Brighton, England. He was impressed by the intelligence shown by these dogs and, reasoning that this could be put to good use in the field, he purchased the entire troupe of eight dogs and took them to his seat in the Guischan deer forest in Scotland. Here they were bred without out-crossing for 10 years, but there was no game in Scotland suitable to their size, and in about 1870 plans were abandoned to establish the breed in its original form.

The Golden Retriever is a powerfully built dog with a rich, golden-colored coat. Fine retrievers and agreeable companions, dogs of this breed are gaining in popularity in Illinois and the Middle West.

At this time the Russian trackers were crossed with Bloodhounds. There is no record of crosses with other breeds, and only one generation of Bloodhound crosses is reported, but the descendants appear, on the basis of photographic records and notes, to have soon developed into the present Golden Retriever type, whose characters included smaller size than the tracker, as well as intensification of scenting ability, refinement, and a slight darkening of the color of the coat.

–Ralph Yeater, “Bird Dogs in Sport and Conservation” (1948).

The dog in called the Russian tracker is actually some sort of ovtcharka, perhaps a Central Asian or a Caucasian. (Tracker may be an English corruption of the word  “ovtcharka.”)

These dogs are not bird dogs.

They never have been.

They are about as unlike a golden retriever as another dog can be, but for some odd reason, people thought that this breed was an ancestor of the golden retriever. Golden retrievers are very social dogs. Ovtcharkas are very bonded to their families and flocks. Golden retrievers have been bred for pretty high prey drive. Ovtcharkas have been bred to have less prey drive.  Golden retrievers have been bred to be agreeable with other dogs, including strange ones. Ovtcharkas have been bred to kill strange dogs that come too near their flocks.

Crossing a bloodhound with an ovtcharka will not magically create a golden retriever. It will not make the ovtcharka smaller or darken the coat.

All you will get a is an ovtcharka/bloodhound cross, which might be nice if you want a sheep dog than can track down missing sheep.

Despite the real problems with this story fitting what we already know about golden retrievers and those particular breeds of dog, people readily believed that story.

It was only rejected when the true story was revealed:

However the true history of the breed was first published by Lord Ilchester in 1952 in an article in the Country Life entitled “The Origin of the Yellow Retriever”. This was based on over ten years of research by Mrs Stonex and in 1959 she and Lord Ilchester put their findings to the Kennel Club.

In 1960 the Crufts catalogue carried the true origins of the breed as approved by the Kennel Club:

“Description of the Golden Retriever

‘The origin of the Golden Retriever is less obscure than most of the Retriever varieties, as the breed was definitely started by the first Lord Tweedmouth last century, as shown in his carefully kept private stud book and notes, first brought to light by his great-nephew, the Earl of Ilchester, in 1952.

In 1868 Lord Tweedmouth mated a yellow Wavy-Coated retriever (Nous) he had bought from a cobbler in Brighton (bred by Lord Chichester) to a Tweed Water Spaniel (Belle) from Ladykirk on the Tweed. These Tweed Water-Spaniels, rare except in the Border Country, are described by authorities of the time as like a small Retriever, liver-coloured and curly-coated. Lord Tweedmouth methodically line-bred down from this mating between 1868 and 1890, using another Tweed Water-Spaniel, and outcrosses of two black Retrievers, an Irish Setter and a sandy coloured Bloodhound. (It is now known that one of the most influential Kennels in the first part of the century which lies behind all present day Golden Retrievers was founded on stock bred by Lord Tweedmouth.)”

From this description it can be seen that all Golden Retrievers go back to the yellow retriever Nous who himself was obviously the produce of Flat – coated Retrievers. Many canine authorities of the day including Rawdon Lee in his Modern Dogs (1893) referred to brown retrievers including pale chocolate coloured dogs being bred from black parents.

In the pedigree of Prim and Rose, the last two yellow retrievers recorded in Lord Tweedsmouth’s records, one can see the influence of both the Flat-coated Retriever and the Tweed Water Spaniel in the development of the Golden Retriever.


Lord Ilchester was Lord Tweedmouth’s nephew, and he knew the dogs when he was young boy.

I am still very skeptical that bloodhound was ever used in the cross because there have never been any smooth-coated golden retrievers. Smooth coats in dog breed are almost always dominant over long coats, and they certainly are when golden retrievers are bred to scenthounds.

Bloodhounds are very unlike golden retrievers in that they are not particularly disposed to take direction, and golden retrievers are notoriously easy dogs to train. The mention of the bloodhound in them may be nothing more than a bit of lore from the old implausible Russian tracker story that filtered into the actual historiography.

The Irish setter in the cross is also somewhat misleading. The original record said “red setter,” which most likely meant red Gordon setter, which were quite common in region around Inverness at the time Lord Tweedmouth began breeding his dogs.

The golden retriever’s origins are with the wavy/flat-coated retriever, which is derived from the St. John’s water dog, an import from Newfoundland. Labrador retrievers are derived from the same stock, and for a time it was not unusual for smooth and long-coated pups to be born in retriever litters, even when they were being standardized into wavy-coated retrievers.

Why were people so willing to believe the nonsense about golden retrievers being ovtcharka/bloodhounds?

Well, for one thing, this story gave legitimacy to separating the color variety from the wavy/flat-coated retriever type.

Yellow and red dogs had a very hard time winning prizes at dog shows, so there was a pressure for them to leave.

However, if the dogs were nothing more than a color variety of the flat-coated retriever, then there would be no good reason to split the breed.

At the time flat-coated retrievers were the most common retriever in the UK. Almost all of them were black. Black was the color that every British gentleman wanted in his retrievers.

And that was the color that won at shows. It didn’t matter if the dog happened to have been a flat-coat or a curly-coat. Black dogs won over the other colors.

But if you have this story that claims that the golden retriever has some sort of exotic origin, then you have legitimacy in your move to split the variety from the black dogs.

Golden retrievers actually got the better deal out of the split than their black relatives, who often appeared in the same litters with them.

Flat-coated retrievers became quite rare during the Interwar years, but golden retrievers became more and more popular, particularly after the Second World War.

What amazes me most about this entire story, though, is how quickly the official golden retriever organizations accepted the true story and began dropping the Russian origins nonsense.

With so many other breeds, you can show the documentation about the actual origins, and they will simply deny it all.

Chinese crested dogs are from China. Dalmatians are from Croatia.

No evidence for either origin story exists.

But people want to believe it.












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Red and white retriever

This painting is by Edward Armfield (1817 – 1896), and the bird it is retrieving is a gray partridge, which in North America has the unfortunate name of “Hungarian partridge,” even though it is almost always called the “English partridge” in the United Kingdom. (Some Americans call it a “Hun,” a term that, as German-America, find pretty offensive. We don’t turn Belgian babies into soap!)

The dog looks to be of St. John’s water dog extraction. It has the robust build of that breed, and like many that were imported into the UK during the early nineteenth century, it has feathering.

Of course, the dog likely isn’t of “pure breeding.”

Through much of the nineteenth century, retrievers were the gentry’s equivalent of the poacher’s lurcher. Each shooting nobleman bred retrievers by crossing different types of dog. As we’ve seen, this tradition heavily conflicted with the British dog fancy that came later, which demanded that every retriever be a black dog.

This dog is particularly interesting because it’s red and white. It doesn’t appear to be a liver and white dog at all. The red coloration is the same that appears on golden retrievers and Irish setters. However, it’s also a particolor, which is unlike any golden retriever living today.

But if this dog had been bred to solid black dogs, the recessive red coloration would be carried, and the chances are good that one of its descendants would have been a solid red or gold dog.

I don’t know any specifics about this retriever. I don’t know its name or where it lived. All I know is that it’s a British retriever from the early to middle nineteenth century. If anyone knows any more details, please pass them along.

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Chesapeake duck dog

From a piece by George Norbury Appold in The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine (1885):

It is sincerely to be regretted, in view of his exceptionally valuable qualities, that suggested a close relationship to the otter-dog. His ability as a retriever emphasized this supposition. His superior qualities in this direction were so manifestly phenomenal that the few original specimens were eagerly purchased from their foreign owners by the gunners of Chesapeake Bay. The ability of this dog to withstand cold and exposure was far beyond that of the Irish retriever [Irish water spaniel]. Within a brief period he entirely superseded the last-named animal as a water-dog. For some unknown reason the Chesapeake duck-dog never became numerous; hence the owner of a pure-blooded specimen could hardly be induced to part with him at any price. In time this dog so identified himself with the waters of Chesapeake Bay as to be known by no other name than that borne by this estuary.

Twenty five years ago he was at the apogee of his fame. Nearly every family living in the bay counties of Maryland owned one or more of untainted blood. Through carelessness the breed was allowed to deteriorate; in consequence, to-day few, if any, of pure blood are in existence. A small number, however, remain of sufficient purity of race and perfection of training to almost equal in efficiency their distinguished and untainted ancestors. There were, in reality, two varieties of this dog, the long and the smooth coated, the latter not so popular as the former. The Chesapeake duck-dog is of the same size as the small Newfoundland [St. John’s water dog], head broad, nose sharp, eyes small and bright, ears somewhat insignificant and set high; coat in color dark sedge, strong and tigtlyy curled, with a peculiar under fur, so thick that the dog can remain in the water a long time without his skin becoming wet. The hair on the legs is not so long. It is particularly short about the nose and eyes. The Chesapeake duck-dog is used by sportsmen who shoot wild fowl either from points or from “booby blinds” set in the water a short distance from the shore.This dog so closely resembles the color of sedge-grass as not to be distinguishable except very near by. He remains in concealment until ordered to “fetch.” At the command he springs into the water, breaking his way even through ice of considerable thickness. The wounded birds he first retrieves. When these are all gathered in, he secures the dead. Ducks in the Maryland waters generally fly in long strings. It often happens that the gunner, armed with a breech-loader, puts in several shots while the gang of birds is passing. In this case the well-trained and sagacious dog has much hard work to do, particularly if the weather be rough. His endurance, however, is remarkable, and he never seems to tire at his task. This continuous immersion in the water would be impossible to any animal not provided with the thick and almost water-proof under fur of the Chesapeake duck-dog.

With his affectionate disposition, great intelligence, strength, and the peculiar physical qualities which he possesses, adapting him to the retrieving of wild fowl beyond any other known breed, it is a great misfortune that closer attention has not been given to the preservation of the purity of the race (pg. 36-37).

The Chesapeake Bay retriever is derived from the St. John’s water dog, as are all the other large retrievers.

This type of “Newfoundland” dog would have been commonly available in the United States, but it was only Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay that anyone attempted to turn this dog into a strain of retriever.

Unlike the St. John’s water dog-derived retrievers bred in the British Isles, the Chesapeake Bay retriever was selected for liver and yellow to red coloration. In Britain, virtually every gentleman had to have a black retriever for driven shoots.

American ducks, however, were always heavily gunned, and there was always a belief that one needed a brown or yellow retriever for camouflage.

Most Americans used water spaniels for retrieving ducks and retrieving setters to pick up land-based game birds, but on Chesapeake Bay there was a retriever culture that was very distinct from that in the British Isles.

In some ways, it was a southern equivalent of the Newfoundland culture which used those rugged water dogs to haul in nets and lines, hunt waterfowl and sea birds, and guard the home.

The Marylanders used their dogs in almost the same way, but a great many of these people were also involved in market hunting, a sort of American equivalent of the African bushmeat trade.  Hunters would go out and kill as many ducks and other waterfowl as they could, which they would then sell to restaurants and markets in the growing cities.

It was bad for our wildlife, but the culture that thrived upon this slaughter created this dog.

In some weird way, the Chesapeake Bay retriever is a bit of a museum piece.

As the outports of Newfoundland have begun to dwindle away, the St. John’s water dog slowly disappeared.

But its descendants have wound up conquering the world. The Labrador retriever is the most common purebred dog in the world. Golden retrievers are also quite popular.

But only the Chesapeake Bay duck dog was essentially kept in much the same way as the dogs of Newfoundland.

This Chesapeake retriever culture got started in 1807, when two St. John’s water dogs were rescued from a British ship that had been working off the coast of Newfoundland. The dogs were placed in the homes of different owners, and one of these dogs wound up in the hands of Maryland Governor Edward Lloyd, a wealthy planter who was into importing improved breeds of domestic stock from Europe. The dog was actually traded for Merino ram at a time when America’s sheep industry was booming and everyone was trying to get Merino stock.

Like our Vermont strain of Merino, the Chesapeake Bay retriever became our variant of the St. John’s water dog.

Today, it’s not as common as its British cousins, the golden and Labrador retrievers, which were derived from St. John’s water dogs selected for estate shoots.

But it still has a devout following.






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Golden retrievers, like all modern retriever breeds originating in the British Isles, descend from dogs that assisted cod fishermen who fished on Newfoundland’s Grand Banks.

This breed, called the St. John’s water dog, the lesser Newfoundland, the Labrador, the lesser Labrador, or (more accurately) “the true Newfoundland,” was used to haul nets, set lines, and even catch fish off of hooks.

It’s not every day that one reads of a descendant of one of these dogs doing something that its ancestors would have done on a routine basis.

But such is the case with Becky.

Becky is a golden retriever from Leiston, Suffolk, in East Anglia.

Her owner was walking her at Minsmere Sluice.

Like many golden retrievers, she enjoys swimming in the surf and fetching objects from the water.

Her owner has seen her retriever driftwood and even jellyfish from the sea, but he was quite shocked to see her haul out a five-pound cod.

Becky’s ancestors underwent intensive selective breeding once they arrived from Newfoundland.

For decades, they were selected for heightened biddability and docility.

They were largely meant to be retrievers of land-based game, such as pheasants and partridges and hares and rabbits.

But even after all that selection, there are still plenty of retrievers that would relish the chance to be fishing dogs once again.

Becky is one of these dogs.

Her breed may be “improved” and “refined,” but the truth is there are plenty of them that are still rough around the edges, still wild enough to charge into frigid water and dive among the breaking waves.

Retrievers are good dogs because they are nice and smart.

But they are still rugged animals.

In their ideal state, they are dogs without exaggeration or much evidence of artifice.

They are dogs with certain marine mammal adaptations and a penchant for carrying things in their mouths.

They must never become something else.

If they do, they will cease to be retrievers.

They might as well be stuffed animals.



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Tip was an imported “Labrador” whose descendants were top field trial flat-coated retrievers, Pitchford Marshal and Monk.

He was born in 1832 and was imported.

His coat, if one looks closely,  might have been feathered. I note a plumed tail, rather than the more typical brush tail of the St. John’s.

I could be wrong  about what I’m seeing (and I do NOT want to have a discussion about it).

It’s just very unusual that we see depictions of the ancestral St. John’s water dogs that went onto found strains of retriever. Normally, we find out through some unusual scholarship that a particular retriever was an import, but normally, this information isn’t provided.

This image comes from The Complete English Wing Shot (1907) by George T. Teasdale-Buckell.

And Teasdale-Buckell does provide depictions of his descendants, and they are clearly flat-coated retrievers, though much more robust than the current incarnation.

So he may have been a feathered dog.

One aspect of retriever history that has been overlooked is that St. John’s water dogs came in both smooth and feathered varieties. At least at one point, they did. The settlers were eager to get rid of the feathered dogs, so they very readily exported them, where they were used to found strains of retrievers. This explains why the long-haired wavy-coated retriever was the most common retriever in the British Isles through much of the nineteenth century.

Unfortunately, most of the research on retriever history that has examined these water dogs and their role in founding retrievers has been performed by Labrador retriever historians, and at least subconsciously, they have tended to ignore the feathered variety.  If they mention them at all, they assume they must have been crosses with collies, setters, or spaniels, but when one reads of feathered retriever-liked dogs actually being born in Newfoundland, this assumption doesn’t appear to have much validity.

It’s true the Newfoundlanders preferred smooth-coated dogs, and the last remaining “pure” St. John’s water dogs were smooths.

But that doesn’t mean that they always were this way.

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The notion that the Newfoundland dog originated from a more retriever-like ancestor may seem like a bit of heresy, but I think I’ve found some more evidence that this certainly was the case.

The above illustration is from Neptune; or, The autobiography of a Newfoundland dog (1869).

The author, a Mrs. E. Burrows, creates an anthropomorphic story about a Newfoundland dog named Neptune.  Neptune was her childhood dog, and he would have lived in the earlier part of the nineteenth century.

As to be expected from any autobiography, Neptune is the narrator in the text, and very early on, Neptune makes us aware of  his pedigree:

On my father’s side I come of an old and noble family, his ancestors having been considered for many hundred years past as being amongst the best bred dogs in Newfoundland. He was himself born in that country, but came to England when he was quite a puppy. Possibly this may account for his having lost something of that exclusiveness for which our family have always been remarkable, and which has led them to imitate the example of certain royal families, and refuse to marry except with their own near kith and kin. Be that as it may, my father allowed his affections to get the better of his pride, and formed a matrimonial connexion with my beloved mother, a dog who was far more remarkable for her beauty and intelligence than for her relationship to aristocratic families, and I am afraid, if the truth must be told, there were some of my cousins who were decidedly vulgar (pg. 4-5).

He was at least half “pure” St. John’s water dog, and the illustrations on the text portray him as more of retriever-type dog. He was a large dog, but he was clearly not a giant.

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