Development in England
Being a seafaring dog, the Little Newfoundland eventually made its way to England. It is believed that the Englishmen, who settled the St. John's area of Newfoundland, brought these dogs to England through the port of Poole in the county of Dorset. And it wasn't long before they came to the attention of the second Earl of Malmesbury, who thought they would be perfect for the hunting on his estate, which was surrounded by swampy lands. He called the dogs Little Newfoundlanders, and in 1822 arranged to import more of them.
The dogs that probably contributed the most to the development of the modern Labrador Retriever were Buccleuch's Ned, Buccleuch's Avon, A. C. Butter's Peter of Faskally, and Major Portal's Flapper.
A Noble Breeding Program
Carrying on the family tradition, the third earl began a serious breeding program. It was he who affixed the name Labrador to the breed. In an 1887 letter to a friend, he wrote: “We always call mine Labrador dogs, and I have kept the breed as pure as I could from the first I had from Poole, at that time carrying on a brisk trade with Newfoundland. The real breed may be known by its close coat, which turns the water off like oil and, above all, a tail like an otter.” The earl gave the dogs to many of his friends, and they rapidly spread throughout England, becoming known as peerless swimmers and efficient retrievers.
Working Toward Consistency
As yet, however, the breed had little consistency in type. Historical factors came into play that changed this, though. The first was a high tax on dogs in Newfoundland, followed by the introduction of the British quarantine law, both of which effectively put a halt to imports of the dogs. English breeders turned their attention to perfecting the breed, keeping written records of pedigrees (a line of ancestors or lineage), and entering the dogs in the newly popular dog shows. They drew up a breed standard (a written description of what the breed should be), and England's Kennel Club officially recognized the Labrador Retriever — by that name — in 1903.