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The physical and temperamental breed traits, so familiar today to millions of devotees around the world, recall the Lab’s original purpose. A short, dense, weather-resistant coat was preferred because during a Canadian winter longhaired retrievers would be encrusted with ice when coming out of the water. In its ancestral homeland, a Lab would be assigned to a fishing boat to retrieve the fish that came off the trawl. Accordingly, in addition to having natural instincts as a retriever, the dog required a coat suited to the icy waters of the North Atlantic.
Jack Vanderwyk traces the origins of all Chocolate Labradors listed on the LabradorNet database (some 34,000 Labrador dogs of all shades) to eight original bloodlines. However, the shade was not seen as a distinct colour until the 20th century; before then, according to Vanderwyk, such dogs can be traced but were not registered. A degree of crossbreeding with Flatcoat or Chesapeake Bay retrievers was also documented in the early 20th century, prior to recognition. Chocolate Labradors were also well established in the early 20th century at the kennels of the Earl of Feversham, and Lady Ward of Chiltonfoliat.
^ Candille, Sophie I.; Kaelin, Christopher B.; Cattanach, Bruce M.; Yu, Bin; Thompson, Darren A.; Nix, Matthew A.; Kerns, Julie A.; Schmutz, Sheila M.; Millhauser, Glenn L.; Barsh, Gregory S. (2007). "A β-Defensin Mutation Causes Black Coat Colour in Domestic Dogs". Science. 318 (5855): 1418–23. doi:10.1126/science.1147880. PMC 2906624. PMID 17947548.
The Labrador Retriever is the traditional waterdog of Newfoundland, long employed as a duck retriever and fisherman’s mate. The breed began its steady climb to supreme popularity in the early 1800s, when Labs were spotted by English nobles visiting Canada. These sporting earls and lords returned to England with fine specimens of “Labrador dogs.” (Exactly how these dogs of Newfoundland became associated with Labrador is unclear, but the name stuck.) During the latter half of the 19th century, British breeders refined and standardized the breed.
Friendly, gentle, intelligent and eager to please, the Labrador Retriever is an ideal hunting companion and family dog. Developed in 19th-century Newfoundland as a water dog, the Labrador Retriever has a stable temperament and a kindly, outgoing nature. He is highly adaptable and trainable and thrives with active owners. His dense, water-resistant coat sheds seasonally and needs regular grooming.
“The best gift I’ve ever received as a dog lover was from my mom, for my oldest dog Buster who’s currently 14 years old,” says Fraser, a dog trainer. It’s “a cozy, personalized blanket embroidered with Buster’s name on it,” and it’s a great gift for both dog and owner. “He loves having comfy blankets around to snuggle, and I love knowing that it’s a keepsake I’ll have for years and years to come.” We at the Strategist are not immune to the charm of a personalized gift, and have recommended this L.L. Bean plush blanket in the past.
Labs are famously friendly. They are companionable housemates who bond with the whole family, and they socialize well with neighbor dogs and humans alike. But don’t mistake his easygoing personality for low energy: The Lab is an enthusiastic athlete that requires lots of exercise, like swimming and marathon games of fetch, to keep physically and mentally fit.