The history of the Golden Retriever began in Scotland during the nineteenth century. It was during this time that several British gentry were developing a perfect hunting dog. Fanciers built their strains of dogs and guarded them jealously. Aristocrats had strains named after them; Lord Lovat’s Beaufort Setters, The Southesk Setters, The Earl of Seafield’s own, and Lord Ossulton’s Black Setters. Hunting provided both sport and sustenance on Scottish estates. The original breeders demanded not only practicality, but also handsome animals that would be trustworthy, friendly family companions.
Sir Dudley Marjoribanks, a British aristocrat, who later became the first Lord Tweedmouth, from Brook House, Park Lane, London, lived on his estate at Guisachan, near Loch Ness, southwest of Inverness, Scotland, during the middle to late 1800’s during the long parliamentary recess from government. He was an avid hunter and developed Guisachan into a grand estate. Together with his wife, Isabel Lady Tweedmouth, who was like a mother to the people on the Guisachan property, moved in the highest echelons of Victorian society.
The location of Guisachan had a direct bearing on the program used by Lord Tweedmouth to produce the characteristics he desired in a hunting dog and companion animal. In 1865 Lord Tweedmouth purchased a yellow retriever named ‘Nous’ (Gaelic for Wisdom) from a cobbler in Brighton, England. ‘Nous’ had been the only yellow pup in an unregistered litter of black Wavy-Coated Retrievers of Lord Chichester. Wavy Coated Retrievers were developed from cross breeding the St. John’s Newfoundland with the Irish Setter. ‘Nous’ was an excellent swimmer and adapted very well to hunting at Guisachan. In 1868 ‘Nous’ was mated to a Tweed Water Spaniel, which Lord Tweedmouth had obtained from David Robertson who lived at Ladykirk on the River Tweed, named ‘Belle.’ The mating between ‘Nous’ and ‘Belle’ produced four yellow female puppies which Lord Tweedmouth named ‘Ada,’ ‘Primrose,’ ‘Crocus,’ and ‘Cowslip.’
The Tweed Water Spaniel was a very hardy dog used for retrieving. The dog was descended from the ruggedly built water dogs which had been used for years by British seacoast families who depended upon the courage, intelligence and ability to retrieve under all sorts of harsh seacoast conditions. The now extinct Tweed Water Spaniel is credited with contributing to the temperament, intelligence and retrieving skills of the modern Golden.
‘Crocus’ was given to the Honorable Edward Majoribanks, and ‘Ada’ was given to the Earl of Illchester, Lord Tweedmouth’s nephew. ‘Ada’ was to start the Illchester breed of Goldens called, Melbury.
Lord Tweedmouth kept ‘Cowslip’ and ‘Primrose’ and methodically line bred and out crossed from 1868-1889. In 1872 Lord Tweedmouth mated another Tweed Water Spaniel with ‘Cowslip’ from Ladykirk which produced ‘Topsy.’ Lord Tweedmouth then wanted to improve the hunting instincts by outcrossing ‘Topsy’ with a black Wavy Coat Retriever, ‘Sambo,’ from Sir Henry Meux which produced ‘Zoe’ in 1877. To improve upland hunting ability, a Red Setter from the Honorable Edward Majoribanks was mated with ‘Cowslip’ which produced ‘Jack’ and ‘Gill.’ ‘Jack’ was mated with ‘Zoe’ and in 1884 produced ‘Nous II’, one of four yellow puppies. The names Cowslip and Tweed appear three times in four generations. An additional outcrossing was made with a sandy colored Bloodhound to improve the tracking ability. ‘Gill’ was mated with another Wavy Coated Retriever, ‘Tracer’ and in 1887 produced ‘Queenie,’ one of ten black puppies. ‘Nous II’ and ‘Queenie’ were then mated and two yellow puppies resulted named ‘Prim’ and ‘Rose’ in 1889. ‘Prim’ and ‘Rose’ were the last registered retrievers in the breed book by Lord Tweedmouth in 1889. In 1894 Lord Tweedmouth passed away.
Lord Harcourt was a regular guest of the hunt at Guisachan when the second Lord Tweedmouth lived there, and later after Lord Portsmouth had purchased the estate. Lord Harcourt was a family friend of the Tweedmouth family due to their political involvements. In 1904 he purchased two puppies from Guisachan who were descendents of ‘Lady,’ the daughter of ‘Prim’and ‘ Rose.’ These puppies, first in 1898, ‘Luna’ and then in 1902, ‘Glen’ and ‘Haddow’, a grandson of the Majoribank’s ‘Lady’ and great grandson of ‘Rose,’ became the foundation of the Culham Kennels. Culham Brass, one of the first dogs from Culham Kennels became one of the great Golden Retrievers of the kennel.
‘Normanby Beauty’ was the first Golden owned by Mrs. Winifred Charlesworth in 1906 and in 1908 ‘Normanby Beauty’ was mated with ‘Culham Brass.’ At the time, Lord Harcourt, Mrs. Charlesworth and the Earl of Shrewsbury were the only exhibitors of the Golden. Mrs. Charlesworth championed the cause of the breed and such famous dogs as ‘Normanby Sandy’, ‘Normanby Campfire,’ and 'Normanby Destiny.' Through the buying in of the Earl of Shrewsbury’s Ingestre breeding with 'Normanby Dandelion,' the breed established itself during the 1920s and 1930s. She was one of the greatest forces in developing the Golden Retriever in the United Kingdom over the course of fifty years until her death in 1954. Mrs. Charlesworth’s prefix, Normanby, was from her birthplace, Normanby Hall. Following a handwriting mistake the word Normanby became Noranby.
In 1903 the Kennel Club of England accepted the first Goldens for registration. They were called Flat-Coats-Golden at this time. In 1904 the first Golden placed at Field Trial and by 1908, ‘Culham Brass’ and ‘Culham Copper’ were the first Goldens to place first in Bench Competition. They were shown at Cruft’s and the Crystal Palace. In 1911 the Golden Retriever Club of England was formed and Goldens were recognized as a separate breed.
The first Goldens in America are thought to have been imported in or around 1890 but it wasn’t until 1893 that the first Golden was documented in the United States. The youngest son of Lord Tweedmouth, the Honorable Archie Marjoribanks, brought ‘Lady’ to the United States, to Rocking Chair Ranch in Texas, when he came to America to run the family ranch.
Travelers had taken some dogs with them on visits to America. Goldens from Great Britain and Canada were brought to both coasts in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Ottershaw Kennels, which exported some dogs to America during the 1930s, was established in 1915. The Ottershaw Kennels was based on ‘Normanby Balfour’ from the mating of ‘Culham Brass’ and ‘Normanby Beauty.’ The first registration of a Golden Retriever, named as a separate breed of Golden Retriever and not as a retriever with some description to color, was in November 1925 by the American Kennel Club. This dog was Robert Appleton’s ‘Lomberdale Blondin.’
It wasn’t until 1933, however, that serious interest in the breed developed. Gilnockie kennels, which had been founded by Bert Armstrong in Winnipeg, Canada, in 1918, was combined with Rockhaven kennels by Colonel Samuel Magoffin on the death of Bert Armstrong. From Rockhaven Kennels in North Vancouver and Gilnockie Kennels, which was relocated to Denver, Colorado, Colonel Samuel Magoffin imported ‘Speedwell Pluto.’ American and Canadian Champion Speedwell Pluto, born May 26, 1929, became the first Golden Retriever Champion in the United States. Within a few years, ‘Pluto’ headed an array of quality offspring including Canadian Champion ‘Rockhaven Lassie.’
For his foundation breeding stock, in addition to ‘Pluto,’ Colonel Magoffin selected two female Goldens, ‘Saffron Chipmunk’ and ‘Saffron Penelope’ both sired by the English Champion ‘Halustone Dan.’ From these female Goldens came the background for Rockhaven Kennels. In addition to the first American Champion, ‘Pluto,’ Colonel Magoffin also had the second and third as well, with ‘Wilderness Tangerine,’ imported from England and ‘Rockhaven Harold.’
Today’s Goldens possess traits much the same as those recorded more than one hundred years ago. The Golden Retriever can be found worldwide, and has gained acceptance as an excellent "all around dog." They are highly intelligent, very versatile, excelling in obedience, tracking, field, show, and assistance. The reasons for the popularity of the Golden Retriever are not difficult to understand. The Golden is a beautiful, solid dog with a face that seems to smile without loss of dignity. The Golden takes to training, accepts responsibility, is not quarrelsome and naturally bonds to adults and children. The Golden is endlessly affectionate and has a huge heart to readily share with anyone. A typical Golden has the temperament of a teddy bear and looks as stunning as the Hollywood star. Certainly the Golden Retriever of today is a dog that Lord Tweedmouth would be proud to own!
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