The history of the breed.
The history of labradors comes from the beginning of the 19th century. At this time on the island of Newfoundland, there was a so-called “small Newfoundland”, which was a loyal assistant to fishermen. The Englishman Peter Hawker introduced several such individuals to the UK, whom he called “St. John’s Breed of Newfoundland. From the crossing of these dogs with a curly-haired retriever and, possibly, a foxhound and a setter, a Labrador appeared.
The first breed standard was established in 1887. In 1903, only black Labradors were recognized by the British Kennel Klub, but at the end of the 20th century, fawn was another acceptable color, and later – chocolate.
On the territory of the former USSR, the first Labradors appeared in the late 60s – early 70s. 20th century.
The origin of the Labrador is not entirely clear. There are many versions and fabulous legends about the origin of this breed. For example, the legend of the romantic “love” of a dog and an otter, which resulted in a dog with waterproof, tough hair, a round tail and a great passion for water. Of course, this is nothing more than a myth. Fortunately, there is a lot of eyewitness testimony confirming that the roots of the breed are located on Newfoundland.This information dates back to the 19th century and describes in detail the dogs of St. John’s, making a clear distinction between large Newfoundlands and smaller dogs.
We will try to consider the main versions associated with the origin of the breed.
It is believed that the first time an ancestor dog Labrador saw in working with sailors of Newfoundland. Then these dogs were called small Newfoundland dogs, or St. John’s (St. John) dogs. At that time, two types of dogs were bred on the island: large massive thick-haired (Newfoundlenders), from whom the modern Newfoundland originated, and smaller and less powerful, from which, it is believed, the modern Labrador.
The relationship between the two varieties of the St. John’s dog (and in the 19th century, some specialists had not two, but four such varieties) is also not entirely clear: we do not know the chronology of their occurrence, or the degree of their relationship.
With a great degree of confidence, we can say that Labradors came to England from the island of Newfoundland, but this is where the ancestors of the St. John’s dog came from – less clear. Consider the basic version.
1. Labradors are descendants of water dogs brought by sailors from Portugal to the island of Newfoundland. By the way, the exact origin of the Portuguese water dogs themselves is also unknown. According to one version, they came to Portugal from Central Europe approximately in the V century; according to another, they were brought with them from North Africa by the Moors in the 7th century. In the XIV – XV centuries, the Portuguese, gathering for fishing to the shores of Newfoundland, took these utility dogs with them to sail. In The Dog Book (edited by Brian Vezey-Fitzgerald, Nicholson and S. Watson, 1948) Clifford Hubbard writes: “At the beginning of the 14th century, the Portuguese had a special breed of dogs that were bred and trained to help fishermen. In the Middle Ages, these dogs were distributed throughout the coast of Portugal and were famous for their remarkable ability to swim … There is almost no doubt that on the large ships of the Great Armada sailed from Lisbon on May 18, 1558 (that is, in the greater half of the fleet Portugal), there were Portuguese water dogs specially trained for rescue work at sea … Their work is unique. They were used as retrievers, bringing fish jumping out of the nets and tackle and rigging washed away overboard. The popularity of Portuguese water dogs was so high that sailors who retired sold them to anyone in areas where there were practically no dogs. At night, they guarded the boats and nets and showed themselves to be quite serious watchdogs … “.
Anyway, the functions performed by the Portuguese water dogs are similar to the tasks that the St. John’s dog faced: pulling nets and boats out of the water, diving after escaping fish, pulling out everything that fell into the water, including sinking people. Even in temperament, and in some features of the exterior, there is a similarity between these two breeds.
2. The ancestors of the St. John’s dog were the dogs of North American Indians. However, this theory seems unlikely, since, according to archaeological research, these dogs were of spitz-like type with small ears, a tail curved on its back, a wedge-shaped head and a sharp muzzle.
3. The ancestors of the St. John’s dog on the island of Newfoundland brought the Vikings. There is a theory that the dogs of the ancient Scandinavians who arrived there a thousand years BC and the dogs of the Basques who lived on the Labrador peninsula from the 1500s to the 1700s took part in the formation of the breed on Newfoundland. However, this version also seems unlikely to most researchers.
It is possible that all these theories are right, each in its own way. The fact is that even in the XVI century, the major maritime powers were engaged in the development of the New World.