During the 19th century, the British Gentry were attempting to develop the perfect hunting dog. Hunting provided both sustenance and sport on their large estates. The aim was to breed a handsome hunting animal that would also be a trustworthy, friendly family companion.
The first Lord Tweedmouth, Sir Dudley Marjoribanks bred the first Golden Retrievers in Scotland, late last century on his estate, Guisachan. The Golden Retriever was a gundog developed to hunt and retrieve wildfowl on land or water in the harsh conditions of the Scottish highlands.
At this time yellow puppies occasionally appeared in the litters of black wavy coated retrievers. These black retrievers were originally developed from crosses of the Lesser St John's Newfoundland and several types of setters. Lesser newfoundlands were used by fishermen in Canada, but were a different breed to the Newfoundland we know today.
Lord Tweedmouth obtained one such wavy coated yellow retriever called Nous from a cobbler in Brighton in 1865. Nous was an excellent swimmer and well adapted for hunting at Guisachan. In 1868, Lord Tweedmouth mated Nous to a Tweed Water Spaniel named Belle.
The Tweed Water Spaniel was a very hardy dog used for retrieving. This breed descended from the rugged water dogs used for years by British seacoast families who depended on their courage and intelligence and ability to retrieve under all sorts of harsh seacoast conditions. The early water spaniels were a cross between various spaniels and early water dogs. Water spaniels were known for their superior retrieving abilities, high intelligence and excellent swimming skills. The Tweed Water Spaniel is now extinct, but was described as similar to a small retriever, with a curly, liver coloured coat. The Tweed Water Spaniel is credited with providing the temperament and intelligence of the modern Golden Retriever.
The original mating from Nous and Belle produced four yellow puppies, Cowslip, Primrose, Ada and Crocus. Cowslip and Primrose remained on Lord Tweedmouth's estate. Lord Tweedmouth methodically line bred these yellow retrievers back to his original mating, using outcrosses of another Tweed Water Spaniel, two black retrievers and an Irish Setter. Ada was given to the Earl of Ilchester and started the Ilchester line of Golden Retrievers.
For many years, Lord Tweedmouth's retrievers were thought to have originated from a troupe of Russian circus dogs. However Lord Tweedmouth's private studbook and notes, first brought to light by his great-nephew in 1952, have shown this to be incorrect. Research has established that Lord Tweedmouth's yellow retrievers were the foundation of the modern Golden Retriever.
(Continued on next page)