A golden St. John’s water dog

Golden retrievers, like all modern retriever breeds originating in the British Isles, descend from dogs that assisted cod fishermen who fished on Newfoundland’s Grand Banks.

This breed, called the St. John’s water dog, the lesser Newfoundland, the Labrador, the lesser Labrador, or (more accurately) “the true Newfoundland,” was used to haul nets, set lines, and even catch fish off of hooks.

It’s not every day that one reads of a descendant of one of these dogs doing something that its ancestors would have done on a routine basis.

But such is the case with Becky.

Becky is a golden retriever from Leiston, Suffolk, in East Anglia.

Her owner was walking her at Minsmere Sluice.

Like many golden retrievers, she enjoys swimming in the surf and fetching objects from the water.

Her owner has seen her retriever driftwood and even jellyfish from the sea, but he was quite shocked to see her haul out a five-pound cod.

Becky’s ancestors underwent intensive selective breeding once they arrived from Newfoundland.

For decades, they were selected for heightened biddability and docility.

They were largely meant to be retrievers of land-based game, such as pheasants and partridges and hares and rabbits.

But even after all that selection, there are still plenty of retrievers that would relish the chance to be fishing dogs once again.

Becky is one of these dogs.

Her breed may be “improved” and “refined,” but the truth is there are plenty of them that are still rough around the edges, still wild enough to charge into frigid water and dive among the breaking waves.

Retrievers are good dogs because they are nice and smart.

But they are still rugged animals.

In their ideal state, they are dogs without exaggeration or much evidence of artifice.

They are dogs with certain marine mammal adaptations and a penchant for carrying things in their mouths.

They must never become something else.

If they do, they will cease to be retrievers.

They might as well be stuffed animals.

 

 


The Retriever, Dog, & Wildlife Blog

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