The story is that Labradors are called after their place of origin, the Labrador peninsula in Canada. Is that really the case?
Spend a day out in the field on a shoot and the chances are that somebody, somewhere will have a Labrador.
But despite being such a popular gundog, some think that Labradors are from Canada originally, rather than being a European breed.
It’s said that fishermen in this bleak peninsula bred the dogs to help them pull up nets from the sea across the beach. Which is why Labradors are strong swimmers, love water and have a waxy coat that repels water.
A reader recently wrote in saying that his Labrador, ever since it was a small puppy, has always retrieved dummies from water by grabbing the throwing string attached to the eye rather than by grabbing the body of the dummy. Could this be a throwback to the behaviour of Canadian ancestors?
What’s the reality?
So Labradors are from Canada?
The ancestry of the modern Labrador is not clear and though we refer to dogs brought over from the area of Labrador and Newfoundland, it is not certain whether they were a pure breed or, more likely, those dogs were crossed with our existing retrievers, of which there were quite a variety of different types, to produce the modern Labrador.
In Britain, before the Labrador was recognised as a breed, there were smooth, curly, wavy and flatcoated retrievers, and probably many of these had derived from the odd setter that was used to retrieve as well.
A phenomenal retrieving gundog
Selective breeding, using those imported dogs from North America over many decades, has produced what we recognise as the Labrador retriever today and, of course, what is a fact is that the breed is a phenomenal retrieving gundog and the most popular.
The right training develops natural instincts
With the right training this natural desire can be developed to the highest level and most Labradors can be taught to retrieve just about any object the trainer wishes it to.
In answer to the reader’s question above, I’d say that the throwing string on the dummy is carrying the owner’s scent, which would encourage the dog to grip and retrieve it. I doubt that it is a throwback to the Labrador’s distant ancestors who may have worked with fishermen.