Posts Tagged ‘yellow flat-coated retriever’


This dog looks a lot like my first golden retriever.

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This one is a bit darker in color than the yellow flat-coats I’ve seen, and he looks a lot like a golden retriever.


(The black dog is a curly/Labrador cross.)

The yellow pup looks a lot like this working strain golden:


The similarities exist because golden and flat-coated retrievers both descend from the old wavy-coated retriever. Until 1908, goldens were considered liver flat-coats. Then a special color variety was made for them called “Flat-coats (yellow).” However, this variety failed to be popular at shows, so the yellow and red retriever lovers moved to separate the breed from the black dogs. However, in order to do that, they had to make up a fanciful story about how the yellow dogs came from Russian circus dogs and were in no way related to those black ones. Never mind that the yellow dogs all had the best black flat-coat bloodlines behind them, and never mind that the one of the early top trial retrievers (Don of Gerwn) was a liver flat-coat with a golden retriever father. And also never mind that the three founding lines of golden retriever all were heavily interbred with black flat-coats. In the literature of the day, it is very hard to find any mention that these two breeds are close relatives.

I’d be the first to admit that the two breeds are different today, but they aren’t as different form each other as much as they are a theme and variation of a similar type. There are still blocky flat-coats and lithe goldens. It’s just that now the gene pools of both breeds have a tendency towards one form or the other.

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While doing some research on the history of wavy coated retrievers, I found a description of Don of Gerwn. Previously, I said that he was a black dog that carried the yellow gene. I was wrong. He is described as a “sandy liver,” which a dark gold dog. His grandsire, Lucifer, was a cream-colored dog from Tweedmouth’s strain. Don’s dam, Rust,  daughter of Lucifier, is often thought of as an early golden retriever field trial champion (one of my golden retriever books claims her).  Her color is self-explanatory– golden red.  Dark colored dogs can carry the gene that produces pale gold puppies, which will make sense when you think of the color of yellow flat-coats. 

Don of Gerwn’s progeny would later be used in the development of a standard breed that became the flat-coated retriever. This piece comes from The Complete English Wing Shot by George Teasdale Teasdale-Buckell. If you read on to the next few pages, Don was lightly built and competed better against the heavier bodied wavy-coats, which were common in some lines of the breed. He was “easily” the winner of an early trial.

This heavy body comes from the use of heavily bodied Newfoundlands– the ancestors of the modern Newfoundland dog– to produce new strains of the wavy/flat-coat breed, which became necessary when the smaller Newfoundland (St. John’s water dog) became rather rare after the Newfoundland government began to promote sheep farming over commercial fishing. The big Newfoundland was being hawked on the street as a fashionable pet at the this time. So it was used in some of those crosses. Again, the even big Newfoundland was much more retriever-like than its modern descendants, but it was not the same breed of dog used by fisherman in Newfoundland in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The author argues for a body type more like Don of Gerwn and away from the heavily bodied dogs.  Perhaps we should follow this advice. I mean these early retriever people knew a lot more about retriever working conformation than dog show enthusiasts!

 A.T. Williams, Don’s owner, was an early patron of the British Retriever Society, and Don was one of the founding dogs of the flat-coat/golden retriever line. In The History of Retrievers by Charles Eely, Don’s son, Quis of Gerwn, becomes a well-kown field trial flat-coat and is actually referred to as a flat-coat. His color is not mentioned, so I am assuming that he is black. A black dog carrying the genes for both gold and cream could easily pass these onto his progeny, and this explains why most yellow flat-coats are light yellow and not golden red. From Lucifer, they get this pale gold coat. (If you read this book, politically incorrect names exist for several black dogs. Just be forewarned!)

Quis and Don were being trialed just as a growing movement appeared to make the golden retriever a separate breed.  Everyone with a brain knew that goldens were just a color variety of flat or wavy-coat, not Russian retrievers. And they were registered as such. Eventually, they were separated into different studbooks and registries. But black dogs carrying yellow genes still point to the common ancestry of the two breeds.

This post has been corrected. However, it is likely that his dam was a dark gold dog, and his grandsire was a Tweedmouth dog. Therefore, he did carry the yellow color.

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