The Labrador Retriever, one of the most popular breeds in the world, originated in Canada – not from Labrador – but from neighboring Newfoundland.
Labrador Retrievers were first known as “St. John’s water dogs” in the 19th century when they worked with Newfoundland fisherman to retrieve lines and lost fish. Wealthy landowners visiting from Britain were drawn to the dogs’ hard-working, eager to please nature and affinity for the water. The visitors began bringing Labs home to breed as hunting companions and game retrievers.
The first Labradors were black, until the 1890s when chocolate and yellow Labs were introduced by British breeders. The English Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1903, and the American Kennel Club in 1917. Ironically, the Lab’s forerunner, the St. John’s water dog, eventually disappeared in Newfoundland due to the decline of fishing and the rise of sheep farming and restrictive dog ownership laws. Labs of the 21st century are descended from British breeding stock.
Today, the versatile Lab is beloved as a family pet, hunting dog, show dog, and service dog.