Lesser Newfoundland, Lesser St. John's Water Dog, St. John's Water Dog
Before developing as a gundog the Labrador Retriever was kept by fisherman. They were used to bring fish-laden nets back to the shore by either swimming out to the net or by jumping off boats. As a retriever it brings back shot birds from both land and water when hunting. Although many gundogs can retrieve, the category of retrievers are more specialized at the task of finding drowned waterfowl. Today the Labrador is an extremely popular companion and holds the highest registrations in both the United States and United Kingdom.
History of the Labrador Retriever
Although the Labrador Retriever is often listed as a English breed it actually began life on the Newfoundland shore where they were known as the Lesser St. John’s Dog (the Greater being today’s Newfoundland). When English ships would come to port they would occasionally obtain one of these dogs and take them back to England where they were slowly developed into a gundog. The first kennels in Europe were kept by the Earl of Malmesbury and it was he that gave them their modern name. These exchanges continued throughout the 19th century and as the demand for them grew so did the price the fisherman were able to receive, making them far easier to purchase. Soon there were more dogs abroad then in Canada, but eventually a British quarantine put a stop to all imports. Simultaneously new dog taxes in Canada caused the numbers there to decline past a point that the old-style fishing dogs were lost. Meanwhile, in England new blood was still needed to strengthen the line and other retrievers were added, which included the Curly and Flat Coated Retrievers and the now extinct Tweed Spaniel.