The Labrador Retriever Club of Canada
Because of the growing popularity of the Labrador Retriever in Canada, there was a need for a National Club for the breed. In late 1979, a group of dedicated breeders formed The Labrador Retriever Club of Canada, and the Canadian Kennel Club granted the Club recognition in 1980.
The first National Specialty was held in Winnipeg, Manitoba with Ch Bounderlane's Gold Digger, owned by R. and B. Ellis, awarded Best of Breed. The Labrador Retriever Club of Canada now holds
a yearly National rotated through 6 Regions: British Columbia/Yukon, Alberta/NWT & Nunavut, Saskatchewan/Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, the Atlantic Provinces. The LRCC also holds licensed Obedience Trial and Working Certificate tests in conjunction with the National. In keeping with the multi-purpose ability of the breed, a National Versatility Challenge is also offered at the National. Top honours is awarded to the dog gaining the highest number of points, based on a point system covering three disciplines of competition: conformation, obedience and working tests.
The Labrador Retriever: A Brief History
How these dogs arrived on the island is a matter of conjecture. Whether or not the aboriginal people (the Beothuks) had dogs is debatable. In all probability, the two breeds indigenous to the island, the Labrador Retriever and the Newfoundland Dog, originated from a fortuitous combination of European breeds brought to Newfoundland on the numerous fishing ships that plied the waters for cod and whales. As early as 1530, Basques were sending whaling expeditions to Newfoundland; in 1615 there were more than 250 ships from European countries fishing in island waters; in 1620 there were more than 300 English ships alone. Dogs from fishing ships in addition to those brought by English, Irish, and French colonists combined in the melting pot that was colonial Newfoundland to produce the provinces two indigenous breeds.
While early visitors to the island were constantly disappointed in their efforts to find a Newfoundland Dog, they found no shortage of a smaller black dog with a short coat that was “intelligent and useful” (Banks 1842). These dogs, known locally as ‘waterdogs’ were ‘prized’ because they were ‘energetic’ and ‘intelligent’ (Henri Herz 1866). W.E. Cormack described these dogs as “admirably trained as retrievers in fowling, and are otherwise useful” (1822). Seamen returning to England brought these waterdogs back for sale to both commercial hunters and the aristocracy. While commercial hunters bred their dogs indiscriminately, the aristocrats kept the breed pure as possible, and it is from these early aristocrats’ kennels that today’s Labradors are descended. The Labrador Retriever was recognized as a separate breed by The Kennel Club (England) in 1903, but as late as 1932, Labradors were still being exported from Newfoundland to aristocrats such as Sir John Middleton.
Back in Canada, the Canadian Kennel Club was formed in 1888 and, in 1892, the first two black 'retrievers' were imported from England and registered under the ownership of T.G. Davey-a noted Canadian sportsman and CKC President at the time. Born in 1891, these two dogs were 'Loyal', a male, and 'Beaver', a female.
The breed established itself first in western Canada. The first Labrador Retriever to be CKC registered was a black bitch, 'Berry', imported from the US by E.D. Adams of Calgary and bred by Austin Neame of California. Her parentage is marked as unknown, date of birth would have been most likely 1900, and she was granted her registration on the basis of her show wins. In 1906 the CKC allowed for exhibition of Labrador Retrievers as a separate breed from the general 'English Retriever' entry and, in 1908, there is documentation showing the registration of Labrador Retrievers separate from the rest of the retrievers. 1931 saw the first yellow, an English import, Mormond Trix(bitch) registered with the CKC, and in 1945 'Brown Bomber of Avandale'(male) became the first registered chocolate and was Canadian
The Labrador’s versatility is inherent. From the time of the breed’s origins and development as an all round fisherman’s dog in Newfoundland’s harsh environment, the breed was expected to earn its keep through a variety of tasks. Whether retrieving downed game, hauling wood in winter, retrieving nets, floats, or fish, the breed was viewed not as a pet, but as a valuable tool for survival in an environment that tested both men and dogs. Only the strong survived. Dogs scavenged for food and bred indiscriminately. The island, if early travelers are to be believed, was virtually overrun by “miserable half-starved dogs” (Sir Richard Bonneycastle, Newfoundland in 1842) whose owners’ primary focus was their own precarious survival.
The breed has had a steady climb in popularity due to its easy, biddable nature, its working abilities for game enthusiasts and, in the later half of the 20th century, showed its versatility in numerous new areas: guide dogs, tracking/bomb/rescue dogs, and beloved family companions. Today the breed not only tops registration numbers with the CKC and in the hearts of Canadians, but also has the distinction of being the world’s most popular breed.