Breed Information

Labrador Retrievers: The History Of America’s Most Beloved Breed

It is not hard to see why Labs are so widely loved and held in high regard.  Labradors are known for their obedient and loving dispositions and active lifestyles.  They also happen to be gorgeous animals, with compassionate eyes and a strong, sleek body.  They are one of the favorite pets in the country and families all over America have loved Labs for about 100 years.  But, they were not recognized as a breed until the beginning of the 20th century.

This brief history of everyone’s favorite breed will shed some light on why and how they became the beloved dogs that they are today.  Their breeding accounts for some of their amazing features and personality traits.  But, exactly where and when they originated is a bit up in the air.


Labs love sunshine, exercise and the great outdoors.

Labrador retrievers love to be outdoors and are very active – sometimes they do not know their own limits. It is important to keep an eye on them in hot weather as they will overheat themselves.

Labs are believed to have originated sometime in the 1700’s or 1800’s and have always been regarded as great dogs with a lot of personality and a sportsmanlike fitness and energy.  Their unbridled energy is like that of a young child let free to run after a long school day.  They run, jump, bound, chase and stretch their bodies revealing lean muscle and a sturdy frame as they move.  In fact, it may be their energy that allowed them to become a recognized breed at all. There have been many times when they have almost gone into extinction but lovers of the breed have managed to save the breed and its popularity has soared in recent history.

Labs were first acknowledged as a breed in England in 1903.  They were first registered by the American Kennel Club in 1917.   They were originally referred to as “St. John’s Dogs” or St. John’s water dogs, as they were a breed mix of water dogs and Newfoundlands.  The name Labrador was first coined in 1887.  At the time, many in England considered Newfoundland, Labrador and the entire surrounding area all to be “one” and the dogs gained the name based on that confusion, or lack of understanding.

The St. John’s dogs, that were the genetic ancestors of the Labrador Retriever, were hard working and incredibly obedient.  They thoroughly enjoyed retrieving tasks. But, from early on, people realized what fantastic pets they made, as well. They would fish all day with the men and then go home to play with the children.  They provided a dual purpose – work and sport use as well as companionship and play.

Most Labs are black because their genetics are dominant but yellow and chocolate labs were discovered and bred in the early 19th century. The recessive gene popped up in litters over time and the two other colors were eventually accepted by the kennel clubs.  But, for a time, they were considered “off colored” and not desirable to breeders. However, over time, chocolate and yellow Labs were accepted as equals. To this day, you will hear people say that black Labs are the best Labradors. But, that is more a matter of opinion and preference than anything else.

Top 6 Things You Probably Don’t Know About The History of Labs:

1. The “original” Labrador Retriever died out in Newfoundland as dog taxes skyrocketed.

2. Despite what some people think, and the name suggest, Labs did not originate in Labrador, but in Newfoundland.

3. Today, it is the most popular breed in the US!

4. Chocolate labs used to be called “Liver color.” The first recorded birth of one of these brown beauties was in 1892.

5. They originated from “water dogs” and, over time, the breed became known as great hunters of water fowl.

6. The first yellow Lab birth to be recorded was in 1899.

Labradors In America Timeline:

1917 – Accepted as a breed by the AKC.

1928 – AKC article “Meet the Labrador” introduces Americans to the breed and they become well-known.

1931 – Labrador Retriever Club is established in the US.

1938 – First cover photo of a dog for LIFE Magazine is a beautiful, black Lab.

1940’s – 1990’s – The breed blows up in America and becomes a family fave.

The New Millennium – They are considered to be one of, if not THE, favorite pet in the country.


Hopefully, this brief history shed some light on the amazing past of this awesome breed.  If you love your Lab, and who doesn’t?, then be proud to know that they have become a favorite and adored family pet in a relatively short period of time and that, for hundreds of years, they have been considered to be a top notch dog breed.  They are prime choices for police dogs, seeing eye dogs and rescue dogs because they are smart, obedient, hard-working and have an even keel disposition.


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