Labrador History: A Brief History of a Great Breed

There’s no doubt that America’s favorite dog is the Labrador. There isn’t a more regal, family-friendly pup out there. And we can learn a lot about Labradors and their temperaments from their storied history.


You might think that the Labrador was originally bred in Labrador, and you would be partially correct. The breed first made its appearance in modern-day Newfoundland and Labrador, specifically on the island of Newfoundland. According to the American Kennel Club, small water dogs, native to the area in Newfoundland, mixed with Newfoundland pups, and the first ancestor of a new breed was born. These pups were referred to as St. John’s Water Dog, a direct ancestor of modern-day Labs.

The first St. John’s dogs were bred to help early settlers in Northern Canada with tasks like fishing and hunting. Their thick coats would repel water, keeping the dogs warm in icy temperatures and waters, according to Labrador Training HQ. These dogs helped settlers with a variety of tasks, from pulling boat ropes and helping fishermen pull nets in from the water to retrieving fish that had escaped from nets. The fishermen loved the loyal, brave and hardworking temperament of the new breed.

In the early 19th century, some St. John’s dogs were sent from Newfoundland to England, and eventually aristocrats and wealthy Brits noticed the dogs. Thinking that their loyalty and skill could be useful in hunting waterfowl – one of their most beloved pastimes – the Earl of Malmesbury opened a kennel, which promoted and maintained the breed in England and helped start the crossbreeding with other species which ultimately resulted in the development of what we now call the Labrador retriever.

Sadly, St. John’s Dogs eventually became extinct in the 1980s, but left us with the lasting gift of the beautiful, loyal and smart Labrador breed. The Kennel Club recognized the Labrador retriever as an official breed in 1903, and the American Kennel Club followed suit in 1917, according to The Labrador Site.

If you simply love this breed, like so many people across the U.S. and the world, you can adopt a beautiful pup from KT British Labs. Learn more about our available KT British Labrador puppies online, or give us a call today at 218-685-5103 to learn more about adding a furry member to your family!

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