What is the ancestry of the modern Labrador?
Q: I read that Labradors originated from dogs used by fishermen in North America and were used for helping to retrieve nets from the sea and estuaries in their country of origin. Interestingly my own dog, 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. Do you think this is a throwback to its ancestors all those years ago? Were Labradors from Newfoundland?
Modern Labrador origins
A: 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.
If you wanted to start an argument at a game fair, you couldn’t go far wrong with initiating a discussion…
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. The throwing string is carrying your scent, which would encourage your dog to grip and retrieve it — I doubt that it is a throwback to its distant ancestors that may have worked with fishermen.