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The History of The English Labrador

The history of the English Labrador is a fascinating journey through time, tracing the evolution of one of the most beloved breeds in the world. Known for their gentle nature, intelligence, and distinctive appearance, English Labradors, often referred to as English Labrador Retrievers, have captured the hearts of dog enthusiasts globally. Their story is intertwined with human history, reflecting our own societal changes and the evolving roles of dogs in our lives.


The tale begins in the early 19th century on the island of Newfoundland, off the east coast of Canada. Here, smaller water dogs were bred with Newfoundlands, resulting in a breed known as the St. John's Water Dog, a forebear of the modern Labrador Retriever. These dogs were admired for their hardworking nature, being used by local fishermen to haul in nets, retrieve fish, and perform other tasks around the water. They were known for their dense, water-resistant coats, otter-like tails, and a keen ability to swim in cold waters.

The breed first came to England in the 1830s when the Earl of Malmesbury imported a few of these dogs for use as gun dogs. They were excellent retrievers in both water and on land, making them ideal companions for shooting sports, which were popular among the British aristocracy at the time. Malmesbury and other English breeders were impressed by the dogs' work ethic and their amiable, loyal temperaments. It was in England that the breed was refined and officially came to be known as the Labrador Retriever.

The Kennel Club of England

However, by the early 20th century, the breed was close to extinction in Newfoundland due to government-imposed restrictions and tax laws. Thankfully, the breed had gained significant popularity in the UK, and the efforts of British breeders kept the line alive. In 1903, the Labrador Retriever was officially recognized by The Kennel Club of England

, marking a pivotal moment in the breed's history.

English vs. American Labrador

As the breed developed in England, two distinct types of Labradors emerged: the English Labrador and the American Labrador. The English Labrador, which this article focuses on, is characterized by a heavier, more robust build, a broader head, and a more pronounced "stop" (the point where the muzzle meets the forehead). They are generally stockier with shorter legs and a denser coat compared to their American counterparts, which are leaner and more agile.

During the 20th century, English Labradors became renowned not only as hunting and retrieving dogs but also as show dogs due to their conformation and temperament. They excelled in dog shows, and their popularity in the show ring helped to standardize the breed's characteristics. The temperament of the English Labrador is often described as more laid-back and easygoing compared to the more high-energy American type.

Beyond their role in hunting and shows, English Labradors have made a significant impact as service and therapy dogs. Their intelligence, trainability, and gentle disposition make them ideal for roles such as guide dogs for the blind, assistance dogs for people with disabilities, and therapy dogs in hospitals and schools. This adaptability reflects the breed's intelligence and desire to please their human companions.

Today, the English Labrador is one of the most popular dog breeds in the world, known for its friendly nature, loyalty, and versatility. They are beloved family pets, valued for their calm demeanor and affectionate nature. Their history, deeply entwined with human companionship and service, showcases the extraordinary bond between humans and dogs.

If you’re searching for a reputable English Labrador Breeder in the United States, contact Tried & True Labradors today.

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