Origins of the Breed
The origin of the Golden Retriever is not completely clear, but most experts agree that the ancestor of the Golden was a hunting companion bred mainly for its ability to retrieve game. Some experts think that the Golden descended from Water Spaniels, the original retrieving dog used by hunters to retrieve downed duck, goose, and pheasant. Later records show that the early Golden Retriever descended from the Flat-Coated Retriever, originating from the liver-colored variety. The Wavy-Coated Retriever (now know as the Flat-Coated Retriever) and the Labrador Retriever have a closely interwoven history, and it is believed that the Golden Retriever was derived from these breeds. There is also a made-up story of the Golden Retriever being descendants of a troop of Russian circus dogs, which is entirely fictional.
The modern Golden Retriever was first registered as a liver-colored Flat-Coated Retriever, and it was not until the 1920s that it came to be called a Golden or Yellow Retriever. The person most influential in creating the Golden Retriever was the First Lord Tweedmouth (Dudley Marjoriebanks), who was fascinated with creating the ultimate hunting companion. Crosses to other breeds were commonly done as an attempt to improve the abilities of the breed. There are records showing that there were outcrosses made to a light-colored (yellow) Bloodhound and later to an Irish Setter. The crosses to these and other dogs were used to improve the Golden's ability to track as well as to influence the coat texture and color, which ranged from light cream-colored to a deep red.
Most of the Golden's ancestors can be traced back to England and were probably influenced by the breeds commonly used for hunting. Many of Lord Tweedmouth's dogs were given as gifts to friends and relatives who were interested in their hunting ability and some of these people went on to breed and develop their own lines.