Dog Portrait of a Golden Retriever
Oil on board
British School, circa 1900
8-1/2 x 8-1/2 inches (15-3/4 x 15-3/4 in frame)
Ex. Burn Hall Manor, Durham England
Improvements in guns during the 1800s resulted in more fowl being downed during hunts at greater distances and over increasingly difficult terrain. This led to more birds being lost in the field. Because of this improvement in firearms, a need for a specialist retriever arose, as training setter and pointer breeds in retrieval was found to be ineffective. Thus, work began on the breeding of the dog to fill this much needed role. Duck hunting was considered a "Gentleman's Sport" due to the cost of firearms and owning and training an appropriate retriever. Therefore, Golden Retrievers were long known as the "Gentleman's Dog". Historically developed as gun-dogs to retrieve shot waterfowl such as ducks and upland game birds, they were bred to have a soft mouth to retrieve game undamaged and have an instinctive love of water. The golden retriever has a dense inner coat that provides it with adequate warmth. The outer coat is sleek and water repellent, and lies flat against the body.
The breed's intelligence and versatility suit the dogs well for a variety of roles in addition to a hunting companion, including service dog, drug detection dog, or search and rescue dog.
In 1868, a cross between a Tweed Water Spaniel and a yellow-colored retriever produced a litter that included four pups; these four became the basis of a breeding program which included the Irish Setter, the sandy-colored Bloodhound, the St. John's water dog of Newfoundland, and two more wavy-coated black retrievers. The bloodline was also inbred and selected for trueness to the idea of the ultimate hunting dog. This vision included a more vigorous and powerful dog than previous retrievers, one that would still be gentle and trainable.
Because of their loyal and gentle temperament, golden retrievers are also popular family pets.