Page 346 - ShowSight - November 2019
P. 346

Vice President, The Labrador Retriever Club, Inc, Health Chair, The Labrador Retriever Club, Inc
The Labrador Retriever is the most popular dog in the United States where it has maintained its popularity as number one in registration for the past 20 years. This is certainly due to their phenomenal temperament and
trainability which allows the Labrador unusual versatility. The breed dates back to a least the 1830s when it was introduced from ships trading between the Labrador region of Canada and Poole in Dorchester. Early fans of the breed include the Earl of Malmesbury, the Duke of Buccleuch, the Earl of Home and Sir John Scott. At first the dogs were not referred to as Labradors. The first Labrador was described as not being larger than the English Pointer, more often black than other colours, long in its head and nose with a deep chest, fine legs, short and smooth coat and did not carry its tail as highly as the Newfoundland. In 1887, the Earl of Malmesbury wrote a letter, “We have always called mine Labrador dogs and I have kept mine as pure as I could from the first that I had from Poole.” There is a stud book of the Duke of Buccleuch’s Labra- dor Retrievers which make it possible to work out pedigrees of the two dogs that contributed most to produce today’s Labradors. The Labrador was first recognized as a separate breed by the English Kennel Club in 1903. The American Kennel Club registered its first Labrador Retriever in 1918 Brocklehurst Nell who was import- ed from Scotland. The first yellow Labrador on record was born in 1899 (Ben of Hyde). Chocolate Labrador Retrievers appeared in the late 1800s with brown puppies documented at Buccleuch kennels in 1892.
From the Labrador Breed Standard, the essence of the breed can be described as follows:
General Appearance
The Labrador Retriever is a strongly built, medium-sized, short- coupled dog possessing a sound, athletic, well-balanced conforma- tion that enables it to function as a retrieving gun dog; the sub- stance and soundness to hunt waterfowl or upland game for long hours under difficult conditions; the character and quality to win in the show ring; and the temperament to be a family companion.
Physical features and mental characteristics should denote dog bred to perform as an efficient Retriever of game with a stable
temperament suitable for a variety of pursuits beyond the hunting environment. The most distinguishing characteristics of the Labra- dor Retriever are its short, dense weather resistant coat; an “otter” tail; a clean-cut head with broad back skull and moderate stop; powerful jaws; and its “kind” friendly eye, expressing character, intelligence and good temperament.
Above all, a Labrador Retriever must be well balanced, enabling it to move in the show ring or work in the field with little or no effort. The typical Labrador possesses style and qual- ity without over refinement, and substance without lumbering or cloddiness. The Labrador is bred primarily as a working gun dog; structure and soundness are of great importance.
It is inappropriate to judge Labradors strictly on the ever nuanced idea of type. Movement is a critical element of the Labra- dor Retriever given the emphasis in the Labrador standard on struc- ture and soundness. There are differences in the breed standard from country to country. In the United States, as in many other Sporting breeds, there has been a divergence in physical appearance and in energies and aptitudes. Conformation Labradors or as John Q Public identifies them: “British” Labradors tend to be bulky, and stockier with broader heads, heavier coats, big otter tails and calmer dispositions. Our conformation bred dogs need to be differentiated from the British field dog which is an additional style that is heavily marketed in the United States—these dogs are smaller than their US counterparts—tend to have longer bodies, longer muzzles and very slick coats. These dogs are famed for their natural hunting skill and low energy as family pets. Our “American” Labradors: i.e. dogs from field and performance pedigrees tend to be lankier, lighter framed, longer muzzled and often do not have the classic “otter” tail. These American dogs have tremendous intelligence and stamina, a great work ethic and great courage. They tend to have more energy than the typical conformation bred dog. It has been many years since the last Dual Champions, i.e. a dog that is both a Show Champion and a Field Champion. The differences seen today in our Labradors make it very unlikely we will see one again.
In the United Kingdom dogs bred for hunting and field trial work are selected first for working ability, whereas the conformation >
 “The first Labrador was described as not being larger than the English Pointer, more often black than other colours,
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