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Fact File: Golden Retriever | Vanity Fur Magazine
Golden Retriever

Fact File

Origin Scotland
Other Names Flat-coated Retriever, Golden Yellow, or Golden Retriever
Foundation Stock Flat-coated Retriever, Tweed Water Spaniel, Red Setter, Bloodhound, Labrador Retriever
Height Dogs: 56-61cm
  Bitches: 51-56cm
Weight 25-34kg
Colour Any shade of gold or cream
Life Span 12-13 years
Fact File: Golden Retriever | Vanity Fur Magazine
Fact File: Golden Retriever

A brief history

The Golden Retriever is a Scottish breed of retriever dog of medium size. It is characterised by a gentle and affectionate nature and a striking golden coat. It is commonly kept as a pet and is among the most frequently registered breeds in several Western countries. It is a frequent competitor in dog shows and obedience trials; it is also used as a gundog, and may be trained for use as a guide dog.

The breed was created by Sir Dudley Marjoribanks at his Scottish estate Guisachan in the late nineteenth century. He cross-bred Flat-coated Retrievers with Tweed Water Spaniels, with some further infusions of Red SetterLabrador Retriever and Bloodhound. The breed was recognised by the Kennel Club in 1913, and during the interwar period spread to many parts of the world.


The Golden Retriever has a broad head with a well-defined stop, with dark eyes set well apart, a wide and powerful muzzle, a large black nose, dark-pigmented and slightly drooping flews, and ears of moderate size set high and hanging with a slight fold. The neck is muscular and fairly long with loose-fitting skin, the shoulders well laid-back and long bladed, and the body deep through the chest with well-sprung ribs. The back is usually level from withers to croup and the long, straight tail is usually carried flat, roughly in line with the back. The forelegs are straight with good bone, the hind legs are powerful with well bent stifles and muscular thighs, and the feet are cat-like.

The double coat is a recognisable and striking feature: the outer coat is long, flat or wavy and has good feathering on the forelegs, while the undercoat is dense and provides weather resistance. The coat can be any shade of cream, yellow or gold; the coat typically becomes paler with age. The Kennel Club breed standard prohibits red or mahogany-coloured coats, but a few white hairs on the chest are permitted. Originally only yellow or golden coloured examples were permitted, this excluded many outstanding cream-coloured dogs; to overcome this in 1936 the Kennel Club’s standard was amended to include the cream colour.


The Golden Retriever is considered an intelligent, gentle natured and very affectionate breed of dog. As is typical with retriever breeds, the breed is generally calm and biddable, being very easy to train and extremely keen to please their master. The breed is known to make excellent pets and family dogs, being generally extremely tolerant of children and keen to accompany any member of the family in a range of activities. Due to their affable natures, the breed is often completely devoid of guarding instincts. However, there have also been reports of some very aggressive Golden Retrievers in certain lineages. It has been suggested that these variations in aggression are partially caused by genetic factors.

The breed usually retains many of their gundog traits and instincts including an excellent sense of smell and a strong instinct to retrieve; even among those not trained as gundogs it is typical for Golden Retrievers to present their owners with toys or other objects. Compared to other retriever breeds the Golden Retriever is typically quite slow to mature.


Golden Retrievers are a generally healthy breed; they have an average lifespan of 12 to 13 years. Irresponsible breeding to meet high demand has led to the prevalence of inherited health problems in some breed lines, including allergic skin conditions, eye problems and sometimes snappiness. These problems are rarely encountered in dogs bred from responsible breeders.

The breed is unusually prone to cancer, with one United States study finding cancer to be the cause of death in approximately 50% of the population, the second highest in the study. Several European studies found a much lower prevalence (20–39%), which may reflect the significant genetic divergence between the American and European populations. They are especially prone to hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma, with an estimated lifetime risk of one in five for the former and one in eight for the latter. The high prevalence of cancer deaths among Golden Retrievers may partly represent a lack of other congenital diseases.

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