Posts Tagged ‘“white” golden retriever’

Gipsy, a "white" wavy-coated retriever.

From an article in Country Life (29 February1908):

It is very unusual to find a distinct type of dogs which are true bred and yet owe their origin to nothing more than descent from an ancestor which was merely a freak in a true and pure bred class of retrievers, remarkable when we find two such distinct breeds of existing to-day in the same kennels. On the estate of Mr. C. J Radclyffe, at Hyde in Dorsetshire, a visitor may see a pure white breed of the old-fashioned… wavy-coated retrievers. Mr. Radclyffe has kept for more than forty-five years a well-known breed of these wavy-coated dogs, which until a certain date were all black. A matter of ten or twelve years ago, in certain of the litters sired by one particular dog, one or more of the puppies were born pure white in colour. This dog was a purebred scion of the old breed, and there was no chance of there being any mongrel blood in his veins. The owner carefully preserved all… white puppies, and in course of time hoped to perpetuate a breed of white dogs by breeding from his favourite white dog Gipsy. But out of the first forty-six puppies sired by this clog from black mothers not one of the pups was white. On the other hand, some of the white bitches had whole litters of white puppies. And, by breeding from white dogs and bitches, which were of necessity in the first instance rather closely related to each other, Mr. Radclyffe has been able to establish a breed of these dogs, which it is hoped in future will breed descendants true in colour to their white parents. Naturally, it may be presumed that occasionally certain puppies in some litters will throw back to the black colour of their ancestors.

In the same kennels at Hyde may also be seen the rare sight of a breed of pure yellow’ Labradors. These dogs are owned by Captain C. E. Radclyffe, and, like the above-mentioned white retrievers, they owe their origin to a freak. In one litter sired by a celebrated black Labrador owned by Captain Radclyffe there were two yellow puppies, a dog and a bitch. By breeding from this yellow dog, named Ben, his owner has now collected a splendid kennel of yellow dogs; and, curious to say, unlike the white retriever, Gipsy, quite 75 per cent, of the puppies by this yellow Labrador are true to the colour of their sire, even when he is mated with a black bitch. Their owner has not been experimenting long enough to prove whether or no by interbreeding with the young yellow Labradors he will be able to perpetuate the breed, but he has every confidence that such will prove to be the case. In support of this theory he quotes an instance of where a light – coloured and almost white Labrador bitch, owned by the Hon. Francis Dawnay, was mated with the yellow dog Ben, and all the puppies were either yellow or white in colour. It is noteworthy that none of these white or yellow dogs is an albino as regards the colour of its eyes, etc., and,- moreover, they are as good workers in the field as were their black ancestors. It seems a pity that these dogs cannot be exhibited on the show bench, in order that the sporting public may see how very picturesque and handsome they are in appearance; but it is understood that some rule prohibits judges from awarding prizes to any such dogs unless they are black in colour. It is believed that these two breeds of retrievers are unique, and, needless to remark, their respective owners consider them to be priceless, consequently none of them has ever been sold (pg. 305).

The author has the genetics a little wrong. The “white” dogs were very likely just pale yellows, and the recessive nature of the e/e genotype that causes this coloration is now well-established. The “white” wavy-coats resulted from breeding a black dog that carried this recessive gene with a bitch that carried that gene. That particular gene cannot be traced to a single sire in the way that this article suggests. However, Mendelian genetics was not well-known at this time, so both the breeder and the author can be forgiven for this misunderstanding.

Radclyffe’s yellow Labradors would become better known than his “white” wavy-coats. Ben of Hyde, the dog mentioned in this article, is the first “official” yellow Labrador and the source for most of the yellow Labradors that exist today. This article contains a much better photograph of Ben than I have previously posted on this blog:

Ben is a relatively dark yellow dog, but because it was easier to establish the yellow coloration in Radclyffe’s line of Labradors, it is very likely that yellow was much more established in black Labrador lines before Ben was born.

These dogs were not the result of “freaks,” as this article suggests. Rather, they are just recessive yellows  that popped up in Labrador and wavy-coated retriever lines. Radclyffe was just one of the first breeders to select for this color over the more traditional black color.

I don’t know if Radclyffe had been aware of yellow wavy-coats at Guisachan or if this this dog named Gipsy traces its roots to that breeding program. He was obviously not the first person to select for yellow in wavy-coats, but he was the first to select for it in Labradors.

Tramp, a "white" wavy-coat.

These white wavy-coats are quite intriguing. Very light-colored golden retrievers were virtually nonexistent in the early lines of that breed, but within the foundational pedigrees of golden retrievers, there are dogs of unknown parentage. Perhaps some of these “white” wavy-coats were behind these anomalous goldens, and they are the source for the cream-colored dogs that are commonly associated with “English type” golden retrievers. Because we do not have records of the pedigrees of these anomalous goldens, we can only conjecture.

This close-up of Gipsy’s head does show a retriever that looks very much like a golden:

However, we simply do not have the records.

But the photographs are so beguiling.

Perhaps Radclyffe’s kennels were not just the source for the yellow Labrador. His breeding program may have been the source for the “white” golden retriever, too.

I find it particularly interesting that Radclyffe didn’t realize that his “white” wavy-coats were caused by the same recessive genes as the yellow Labradors.  This article suggests that he was at least considering this possibility when one of the yellow Labradors produced at his kennels was quite pale. Perhaps if it had been born fully white, he would have realized that he was dealing with the same gene in both breeds.

He could have been better able to establish the color in his wavy-coats if he had been willing to breed his yellow Labradors into this strain.

Retriever history is forever revealing such unusual stories.

All golden retriever fanciers known of the 1st Baron Tweedmouth’s breeding program for yellow wavy-coated retrievers at Guisachan. Virtually all Labrador fanciers know of Ben of Hyde as the first official yellow Lab.

But the story of the “white” wavy-coats has been ignored. I just discovered this story today, and I am amazed that I have never encountered it in my quests through retriever history. It is a story that should be examined more closely, for it is possible that these “white” wavy-coats contributed to the foundational golden retriever bloodlines and are a potential source of the cream-colored dogs that are now so popular. These wavy-coats existed at a time when the golden retriever was becoming established as a distinct breed– 1908 is when the Kennel Club recognized yellow as an official color for flat-coated retrievers– and there are so many dogs within the foundational pedigrees that are total unknowns. These unknown dogs could have been some of these “white” wavy-coated retrievers.

The fact that anyone tried to establish lines of these dogs point to a simple reality: Humans are quite visual creatures. From the account in this Country Life article, these retrievers were great workers, but Radclyffe just preferred the yellow and white color.

White wavy-coated retrievers and yellow Labradors. Radclyffe had to have been a bit of a maverick, for even liver was a controversial color for retrievers in those days. Most people wanted a black retriever, whether it was a wavy/flat-coat, a curly-coat, or a Labrador.

Dogs of such unusual colors definitely would have been conversation pieces.

Never mind that they were competent working dogs!

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You can see from this litter of golden puppies with a dark golden mother and cream sire what the inheritance is. These puppies’ ears tell us that most of them will mature fairly dark in color, though probably not as dark as their mother:

One of these puppies will likely be a light gold, but the rest will be middle to dark gold in color.

Cream is not dominant over the dark colors in terms of inheritance.


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This is the first conformation champion in the golden retriever breed, Ch. Noranby Campfire (b. 1912) :

Check out BOB Crufts 2002.

And check out this stud dog that is producing European show line goldens in the US. He is of Swedish lines. He’s not anything like Noranby Campfire at all. Not even close.


They both have feathering, drop-ears, and brown eyes. Both are e/e’s  and likely BB or Bb in terms of color and genotype.

They are both large dogs.

But that’s where the similarities stop.

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How can we say that kennel clubs have preserved golden retrievers, when they once looked like these dogs:

The second dog from the right is Ch. Noranby Diana. You'll never see a dog like her in the British show ring for goldens today.

The second dog from the right is Ch. Noranby Diana. You'll never see a dog like her in the British show ring for goldens today.

Now look like this:

European-type golden retriever.

European-type golden retriever.

Or this? :


American show golden.

The answer is dog shows and kennel clubs are not about preserving breeds. Some breed clubs, like the one for the flat-coated retriever in this country, are very concerned about making sure their dogs still have functional conformation and don’t have wide swings and divergences from the original functional type.

In the show-ring, the golden shifted from being a functional retriever to being an art piece. These dogs are an accumulation of silly standard revisions and the accumulation of  “fancy points” in the breed.

Someone in Britain started breeding the very light colors. I still have yet to find who that was. In the 1936 standard revision for the KC, the golden received a two inch height reduction at the shoulder– 20 1/2 inches– and the color was changed to allow cream. My guess is the original intent was the allow for cream shadings on a light gold dog.

However, that’s not how judges interpreted it, and by the late 1950’s, very light colored dogs began to appear in the bloodline. These dogs were also quite heavily built, which one would expect from a standard that had a height reduction and no adjustment for weight.

In North America, the breed ring began to favor dogs with lots of feathering. As late as ten years ago, most American goldens had functional conformation, except that they had too much feathering. All I have to do to explain the golden’s need for a reduction in feathering are the words of the great retriever man James Lamb Free when he said the golden swimming with that much hair was “like [a person] going swimming in a coonskin coat.”

Now you can still find goldens that are built nicely and resemble the old type.


But now, most people think such a dog is a “setter-golden mix” or a “puppy mill” golden. Why? Because goldens are supposed to be “red.”

The truth is they are all “red,” even the palest “white” ones. The gene that makes that coloration is the recessive red to yellow color (e/e). The darkest dogs on that spectrum are mahogany, and Irish setters are that color, too.


The only problem with these “old-fashioned” or “working-bred” dogs is that they don’t have much genetic diversity. Try to find a golden from these lines that doesn’t have this dog in its pedigree:  AFC Holway Barty.

Barty is the Wiston Cap of working golden retrievers in this country.

It is very hard to find a border collie of trial stock in any part of the world that doesn’t have Wiston Cap in its pedigree. He and Barty were what we would call most-used sires.

With goldens, it is a bit better. However, most European working lines are also partially derived from Holway dogs, so you have real problem in trying to increase genetic diversity.

Because of this problem, some breeders, like this one in Sweden, are crossing with the “fancy” dogs. Her F1 cross with these dogs produces puppies with rather difficult to predict working characteristics. She calls these her “lost generation.” (BTW, she is a bit wrong about calling the show dogs the “old-fashioned” type. The “old fashioned” type is working type.)

So here is the problem with working golden retrievers: we have a narrow gene pool but to broaden it we have to breed away from the original, more athletic type to include dogs that are slower on both the land and the water and very often don’t have retrieving instinct.

And that’s why I say the golden retriever is very much in trouble.

I wish we could go back to the dogs that lived 15 years, retrieved from land and water as well as any Lab, and never thought of biting anyone. But in order to go back to that time, we are going to have to some reform of our canine institutions. And the breed is going to have to lose some of its popularity so it can be rehabilitated.

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This dog comes from Ingrid0804’s Photostream.

This dog, as you can see from the other photos, has some retrieving instinct and an althetic frame. This dog is quite atypical of the “white” goldens I see in the US, and the “white” goldens I saw in Hyde Park.

Such dogs should not be ignored from a performance line breeding program. Indeed, they could be a source of new blood that these lines desperately need.

I go by a simple adage: no good dog is of a bad color.

I’m not opposed to “white” dogs because they are “white.” I’m opposed to them because they are usually built so coarsely that they lumber around like bears and they are too mellow to get excited about anything. But a “white” dog that is smart and active and healthy is a really good asset to a breeding program, every bit as much as the reds and mahoganies and those with white markings that also have that good conformation and drive.

Those of you who usually read this blog may be a bit surprised that I wrote such a post, but it’s what I think. When I’m talking about “white” goldens, I’m talking about “white” goldens that don’t have the drive or conformation to do anything but lie around.

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They start out as cute little “white” puppies:


Unlike field bred golden puppies, they aren’t nearly as active or obsessively intelligent and driven. The first dog I had of this type I actually thought there was something medically wrong with puppy, because she never wanted to play or get silly. Most consumers of dogs don’t really want the real drivey temperament in a puppy, so that puppy doesn’t cause that much trouble (at least by comparison).

Then they mature into dogs that run like draft horses. Have you ever ridden a draft horse? They may have once carried knights in full armor, but compared to a saddle horse, they are lump and choppy in their gait. You get the same out of a blocky English goldens. (Here’s an example of coarse English goldens running with that choppy, lumbering gait.)

Compare the gait of these dogs with some working bred dogs.

Here’s a video of “Shuttle” (The dog in the header). She moves very quickly and fluidly. I don’t see any lumbering around with this dog.

Now, you might like a cute dog that lumbers around. You aren’t going bird hunting, and you don’t want to work a dog. Well, I have a simple statement: Don’t get a golden retriever and stop accommodating breeders who are breeding in poor working conformation and mellow temperaments in the dogs. If you can’t handle the working temperament, you need another breed.

I hate to be blunt here, but I’m tired of seeing my breed destroyed by the caprices of a fickle public, one that wants a mass-produced animal that is not only good- natured and very trainable but also “white,” bear-like, and calm. To get those other three characteristics, you have to fundamentally change the other two.  And people who like retrievers as retrievers and not playthings do not want those  first two characteristics to change.

Further, a lot of these “white” dogs develop food possession for some reason. The one thing this breed always had going for it was its incredible temperament. It might have a relatively high cancer rate. It might not be as good a trial dog as a Labrador. But its gentle temperament was its asset. If that goes, this breed deserves to lose its popularity.

I hope it does. And I say this as someone who is absolutely in love with the golden retriever as a retriever and dog.

*I have yet to be challenged by any “white” golden fans out there. I’ll just tell you this– I don’t have any good scientific studies on the two separate lines of golden and their behavior and health. However, it’s been my experience dealing with this breed most of my life.

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This early light-colored dog from the 1950's or 1960's is still darker than the legions of "white" dogs that swarm European lines.

This early light-colored dog from the 1950's or 1960's is still darker than the legions of "white" dogs that swarm European lines today.

In North America, our lines of golden have largely been immune to what I call the “‘white’ dog craze” that has already rocked Europe. Our show dogs were a bit heavy in the bone and heavy in the coat, but they largely weren’t coarsely built dogs that lumber around like bears.

Those days have changed.

All you have to do is go on youtube and type into the search function “white golden retriever,” and a plethora of European show-style golden breeders have videos on there. I don’t mind promoting you dogs online, but I wonder if these breeders are doing health checks and screening of their stock?

Never mind that European show goldens can’t work as long or as well a field type. Never mind that possessive aggression appears to be heritary in these lines. (A recent episode of the Dog Whisper had one with that issue. Although I don’t much like the show, this dog was the first golden I’ve ever seen snarl.) Never mind that the breed’s founders, including the 1st Baron Tweedmouth, always bred for darker dogs. Mrs. Charlesworth, although a proponent of the Russian circus dog hoax, refused to breed any dogs that were very pale in color. And in her day, they weren’t “white.” They were light golden dogs with some cream shadings.

Of course, none of this matters to people who want to sell you a dog for exorbitant profits. They tell you that the dogs are much calmer than the American and certainly more so than the field types. Then they quote the KC (of the UK) standard, which doesn’t allow for dark dogs (however, that standard is not the standard we use here.) Then they claim, although somewhat correctly, that the first litter that the 1st Baron Tweedmouth bred from Nous and Belle were creams. They were creams or really light golds, but they weren’t “white.” And it’s pretty obvious that the 1st Baron Tweedmouth did try to darken up his dogs quite a bit by adding “red setter” (probably Irish) blood to his strain.

Breeding “rare white goldens” that are “calm” is not really a breeding strategy for the best dogs. It is breeding for a market.  A market that is highly susceptible to fads. In fact, it is based on nothing more than fads. We want “white goldens.” Why? Because Oprah has some!

My advice is not to refuse to buy a light colored dog, but if it lacks working conformation or refuses to work itself. Don’t buy it. Do  you really want a white furry rug that lies around the house all day?

If you do, then really don’t want a golden retriever. You just want the idea of having a golden retriever. And you really don’t need one. There are plenty of very low energy nonworking breeds that you can buy. Plus, there are lots of good mongrels that have those characteristics.

Those little “Knut” polar bear golden puppies might be really cute, but this is what they mature into. A dog that lies around all the time, and when it does move, it’s really slow. Generally, their lumbering gait gets slower by age 5 and, by 10, they don’t want to move much at all. It’s nice if you want a dog to just lie around all day. It’s not very nice if you want a real golden retriever.

In British trials, you do see some of these light lumbering dogs around, but their field lines are very much like ours. Check this out, if you’d like to see it in practice. The dog in the top picture is the only European show type dog doing anything. And I’m sure that after about an hour of hard work, it will be down and out, exhausted or in pain.

Read this before you comment.

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They’ve been replaced.

By a fad.

The cream-colored Newfoundland, posing as a golden.


Would you pay $1,000 and up for a dog that is likely to have no retrieving instinct, a surly temperament, seizures, and truncated (10-12 year) lifespan?

And here’s a lie that is being promulgated: the original goldens were this color. WRONG.

Ada was not a cream-colored dog! She was light gold!

Ada was not a cream-colored dog! She was light gold!

Ada was one of four bitch puppies born to a breeding between Belle. a Tweed water spaniel/water dog, and Nous, a dark gold wavy-coat. Belle had to have been a lighter colored dog than Nous, who was quite dark. The 1st Baron Tweedmouth bred this litter as a foundation stock of yellow or reddish wavy-coats.

Anyway, it’s pretty obvious that he did not prefer this color because he used a lot of red setter in the outcrosses to darken his dogs and given them stronger bird sense and stamina.

I’ve read this line about the cream being the original color too many times. It’s simply not true. The original color was light gold to golden red. Cream shadings were allowed. The light color was in the Tweed water dog, but it was not common among the dogs at Berwick-upon-Tweed, where the ancestors of the golden came from. It was only as the Tweed water spaniel died out that light colors began to predominate, perhaps through some ill-advised crossings with scent hounds.

If you can find me one of this light color that can work as well as the ones specially bred for work, I’ll drop my complaint. I’ve never seen one.

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Unless we are careful, the golden retriever will become an ivory-colored Newfoundland.

Unless we are careful, the golden retriever will become an ivory-colored Newfoundland.

 This dog is an exaggerated “English-type” dog.   It is the future of the golden retriever, and it is nothing like what the Marjoribankses, Mrs. Charlesworth, or anyone else who founded the breed had in mind.

I feel like I’m one of those “original intent” constitutional scholars or jurists with whom I actually disagree.

But there is no way this type of dog is as fast or as healthy as the more lithe dogs that were once bred and can be still found in the working lines. My experience with this type is they are also lacking in intelligence, a statement their owners always take as offensive.

Well, working type retrievers have been bred for biddability almost entirely. They have the prey drive, which comes across as a mouthing behavior that eventually is matured and trained into a mouth and return behavior.  The dogs I have had were almost obsessive in their desire to retrieve.  They also learned their commands (the simple ones) in less than 10 (often less than 3) repetitions. I’ve yet to see one of these show types from English extraction really behave as a retriever is supposed to. (I don’t even think they look like golden retrievers, to be honest.)

The Labrador people are laughing at this dog. They can condescend that a golden isn’t a working dog, because this is the type of dog that they associate with the breed. It is not what I associate with the breed at all.

If someone offered me one for free, I’d take it, have it spayed or neutered, and rehome it.  But they are nothing like the field bred dog, and they are nothing like the original breed.

Unless like-minded golden retriever people say no to this type dominating our breed, this is what we’re going to be stuck with.  The golden retriever will have become an Ivory Newfoundland.

And for now on, that’s what  this blog is going to call this type of golden. It is the Ivory Newfoundland!

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I found this photo of an early “cream” golden. I don’t know the dog’s name or where it comes from, but I’m assuming that it’s British and dates to sometime in the 1950’s or 1960s, just 20 or 30 years after the very dark colored and lightly built dogs dominated the breed. It’s not that cobby or blocky, as you would find today in European lines of golden. Think of this dog as a transition from that type to the very cobby creams that exist today in Britain.


Compare this dog with Culham Brass (b. 1904)


And compare with what’s in vogue in the European show golden set:


It’s almost like a different breed, isn’t it? It reminds me of another breed, not a retriever but a livestock guardian breed.

The Kuvasz:


I think someone could make a lot of money selling Kuvaszok as “white golden retrievers.” They have about as much retrieving instinct and working ability as a retriever as most European show goldens!

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