The Labrador Retriever
Group: Group 3 (Gundogs)
History: Labradors were originally found, not in Labrador as the name implies, but in Newfoundland, where they were used in many capacities by cod-fishermen. With their short but exceptionally dense coat, they were well suited to cope with freezing salt spray, snowy and icy near-Arctic winds, and with their willingness to help and please which persists to this day, they must have been the most useful helpers. They were expected to retrieve the fish that slipped out of the net and flapped on the icy surface of the sea. They had to carry the rope end from the boat to the shore in the strongest of tides and stormiest weather. They were strongly built so that they could pull a heavy sled carrying firewood, barrels of fish, and other necessities of life in a place where horses would be useless.They had to survive and indeed thrive and breed, on the scantiest of food – probably half frozen fish guts, a piece of dried meat, and a surreptitious chew at their own leather harness. All these activities took place in terrible weather conditions, needing the dense waterproof coat which had to be short enough not to ball up in the snow and freezing salt spray. As the work was done in water and on land, in forests, snow drifts and over slippery rocks, an extremely active, well made and balanced dog was required without any structural weakness in its frame, and free from exaggeration anywhere.
The Labrador of today still works in strong tides, and on slippery rocks, in woods and on snow and ice, and exactly the same type of dogs are required today as was used by the fisherman of the cod banks. In the early 1880’s, in the north of England, a few landowners mated together a handful of Labradors that had survived from an earlier importation. These landowners were quick to realise the value of the dogs as a sporting and working dog, and a breeding strain was soon established. Most early Labradors were black, the yellow making its appearance when, in 1889, Hyde Ben was whelped in a litter of blacks from black parents. The odd yellow continued to turn up in black litters, but were regarded with great suspicion by breeders and were mostly drowned until one or two people saw their possibilities and proceeded to establish the colour. They did it to such effect that today yellows out number blacks. Chocolates were well known in England at the turn of the century and today form an integral part of the breed.
In 1916 the Labrador Club (Eng) was formed to ensure purity of the breed, and it was they who drew up the Standard. The Standard as it is today, has as its keynote soundness and activity, coupled with strength and build. Great stress is placed on three points: the head, the coat and the tail. These are not fancy points but in a subtle way lead to the correct type of dog. In England in 1924 the Yellow Labrador Club was formed to protect the colour and provide classes and Trials for the yellows. In the early 1930’s, a Mrs Austin imported the first Labradors into Australia.
General Appearance: Strongly built, short coupled, very active; broad in skull; broad and deep through chest and ribs; broad and strong over loins and hindquarters.
Characteristics: Good tempered, very agile (which precludes excessive body weight or substance). Excellent nose, soft mouth, keen love of water. Adaptable, devoted companion.
Temperament: Intelligent, keen and biddable, with a strong will to please. Kindly nature, with no trace of aggression or undue shyness.
Head And Skull: Skull broad with defined stop; clean cut without fleshy cheeks. Jaws of medium length, powerful not snipey. Nose wide, nostrils well-developed.
Eyes: Medium size, expressing intelligence and good temper; brown or hazel.
Ears: Not large or heavy, hanging close to head and set rather far back.
Mouth: Jaws and teeth strong with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. Upper and lower teeth are set square to the jaws.
Neck: Clean, strong, powerful, set into well-placed shoulders.
Forequarters: Shoulders long and sloping. Forelegs well-boned and straight from elbow to ground when viewed from either front or side.
Body: Chest of good width and depth, with well-sprung barrel ribs (this effect not to be produced by carrying excessive weight). Level topline. Loins wide, short-coupled and strong.
Hindquarters: Well-developed not sloping to tail; well turned stifle. Hocks well let down, cowhocks highly undesirable.
Feet: Round, compact; well-arched toes and well-developed pads
Tail: Distinctive feature, very thick towards base, gradually tapering towards tip, medium length, free from feathering, but clothed thickly all round with short, thick, dense coat, thus giving 'rounded' appearance described as 'Otter' tail. May be carried gaily but should not curl over back.
Gait/Movement: Free, covering adequate ground; straight and true in front and rear.
Coat: Distinctive feature, short dense without wave or feathering, giving fairly hard feel to the touch; weather resistant undercoat.
Colour: Wholly black, yellow or liver/chocolate. Yellows range from light cream to red fox. Small white spot on chest permissible.
Sizes: Height: Dogs 56 - 57 cms (22-22.5 ins) at withers. Bitches 55 - 56 cms (21.5 - 22 ins) at withers
Faults: Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog, and on the dog’s ability to perform its traditional work.
Labrador Copyright © 2013 Australian National Kennel Council Ltd