Description
Originally one of the smaller variants of the old St.John's Water Dog, developed in the region off the Greenland coast and Newfoundland in Canada, the Labrador Dog was, alongside its larger cousin, the Newfie, used to help the fishermen by swimming out in the frozen waters and collecting their fishnets, as well as to pull smaller boats and retrieve fish that fell out of the net. The original incarnation of the Labrador wasn't as popular as the Newfoundland or other large St.John's dogs and this variety, known as the Lesser St.John's Dog or Small Water Dog at the time, was rapidly declining in numbers in the late 1700's. The modern Labrador Retriever breed was created in the early 19th century, when a number of surviving specimens was introduced to the Pole harbor in Dorset, aboard the trade ships delivering salted codfish and other merchandise from Canada. In England, hunters crossed these rugged water-loving dogs with a variety of common working and hunting breeds, resulting in an attractive, resilient and obedient stock of reliable gundogs that served as the foundation for the development of the famous breed we know today as the Labrador Retriever. It is uncertain which exact breeds were used in the Labrador's creation, but Gordon Setters, smaller specimens of the early British stock of Newfoundlands and old English Water Spaniels, as well as the Ca de Bestiar, Laboreiro Cattledog and even some varieties of local bulldogges had been suggested. The introduction of the Norwegian Elkhound, Rottweiler, Irish Setter, Golden Retriever, English Pointer and modern Newfoundland blood is believed to had taken place in the middle of the 20th century and is used to explain certain odd features in some bloodlines, such as non-Standard colourings, coat thickness, overall size and inconsistency regarding temperaments. Whatever its true ancestry may be, the Labrador Retriever has been universally hailed as one of the most intelligent, friendly and obedient breeds ever created.

An excellent fowl retriever, the Labrador also became an immensely popular family companion and Show Dog in Britain in the first decade of the 20th century, after receiving official recognition by the English Kennel Club in 1903. It wasn't very long before the breed conquered the United States and was recognized by the AKC in 1917. The Labrador retriever has enjoyed great worldwide popularity throughout the 20th century and has remained the favourite breed of American families to this day. This is an agile and resilient breed, posessing impressive working abilities, which, when coupled with its willingness to please and trainability rarely matched in the canine world, make the Labrador an ideal choice for a service dog, a role that the breed has been fulfilling for many years when employed by the Police or the Military as a drug and explosive detecion dog.

When bred properly, the Labrador Retriever is one of the most rewarding family pets and working dogs in the world, but the breed's popularity has resulted in a decline in quality, due to overbreeding and the appearance of bloodlines of questionable origin, especially in America. Uncharacteristic specimens are commonly encountered, slowly destroying the breed's well-deserved good reputation. Various health problems and unstable temperaments have been plaguing the Labrador for quite some time now, but there are still dedicated and serious breeders to be found, doing their best to preserve the true nature and proper type of this wonderful breed. A true Labrador is a rugged and solid dog of the light mastiff type, known for its massive, but muscular and athletic body, with a wide chest and sturdy legs. The muzzle and jaws are powerful and the proper head type is elegantly broad, known as the "Blockhead". However, there are too many untypical specimens with narrow heads and lightly built bodies, as well as being too tall and having shorter coats than preferred. In recent years, there has also been a growing number of aggressive examples reported, which many believe is a sure sign of poor breeding at best and proof of crossbreeding at worst, but while that very well may be the case, another thing to take into consideration is the longstanding practice of misguided pet owners and rescue workers labeling dogs as members of a certain breed relying on sheer guesswork, with basically any black puppy being presented as either a Lab or a Lab cross.

When raised properly, the Labrador Retriever is an affectionate and playful urban pet, tolerant of other dogs and an obedient and even-tempered companion.

The coat is moderately short, flat and very dense. Originally accepted only in solid black, the Labrador eventually became allowed in yellow and brown colourings during the WW1 years. Still the most popular one, the black variety should be uniformly black in colour, although a small white patch on the chest is acceptable. Yellow dogs can range from very light cream to almost red shades, while the brown type varies from liver to dark chocolate solids. Apart from the shades prescribed by the Standard, there are also black-n-tan, gray, brindle, piebald and white coats still encountered in the breed, with such colourings believed to be remnants of the initial crosses in Labrador's early history. The ideal height is around 23 inches, but taller examples exist.

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23.02.2003 (23.02.2003)
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