A brief history of the Golden Retriever 

How it all began

In the 1800s in Scotland and England, hunting was both a sport and a practical way of obtaining food. Retrievers became popular when the breechloading shotgun demanded an efficient retrieving dog for both waterfowl and upland game. All retriever breeds can trace back to the waterloving St Johns dog of Newfoundland, ancestor of the wavycoated retriever which contributed to both the FlatCoat and the Golden.

The most complete records of the origin of the Golden Retriever are included in the record book kept from about 1840 until 1890 by Dudley Marjoribanks, first Lord Tweedmouth, at his Guisachan estate in the Scottish Highlands. These records were made public in 1952 by Lord Tweedmouth's greatnephew, the sixth Lord Ilchester. Further information and additional pedigree research was published by Elma Stonex. In 1865 Dudley Marjoribanks bought "Nous", the single yellow pup in a litter of black wavycoated retrievers. Photos of Nous show a handsome, sturdy dog with a wavy coat, quite recognizably a Golden. Nous was bred with Belle, a Tweed Water Spaniel, resulting in four yellow pups that became the foundation of the breed. Through several generations of clever breeding, Marjoribanks created a consistent line of exceptional working retrievers. To the main line from Nous and Belle, he added another Tweed Water Spaniel, a couple of black wavy-coated retrievers, and a red setter, retaining primarily the yellow pups. Working ability and retrieving aptitude were paramount, requiring a strong, biddable dog that could withstand cold and cope with the demanding terrain of the Highlands.

The now extinct Tweed Water Spaniel was native to the east coast of southern Scotland, particularly in the area of the Tweed River near Berwick, and was used both to retrieve game and to assist fishermen. The Tweed spaniels were "light liver" in color, with a fairly short, closecurled coat only slightly feathered. "Liver" at that time could be used to describe anything from dark brown to light sandy color. Stanley O'Neill, the FlatCoat historian, described them as more retriever than spaniel in appearance.

Some of the Tweedmouth retrievers were given to friends and relatives, but the strain remained largely unknown until after 1900. The winner of the first field trial for retrievers, in 1904, was sired by a Tweedmouth dog. A few "yellow retrievers" were registered with the Kennel Club as "Retrievers (Wavy or FlatCoated)", but did not appear in dog shows until 1908, in classes for FlatCoats "of any other color". One of the earliest exhibitors, Mrs. W. M. Charlesworth, was nearly singlehandedly responsible for recognition of the "Goldens" in their own right, in 1913.

While some Goldens were brought to North America between before either the American Kennel Club or the Canadian Kennel Club officially recognized the breed, the first Golden was registered by the AKC in 1925. But the real foundation sire of the Golden Retriever here was Am. Can. Ch. Speedwell Pluto, whelped in 1929 in England and imported by Col. Samuel Magoffin (Rockhaven Kennels) to British Columbia. Through further importations and family connections, Goldens became established before World War ll in several areas of the USA, and after the War, grew steadily in popularity, with a pronounced surge of registrations in the 1970s.

While the Golden's kindly expression and distinctive "double" golden coat are appealing, his natural qualities of amiable temperament, trainability, willingness, useful size, and sturdy physique have equipped him for a variety of practical uses in addition to that of personal hunting dog; among them, guide dog for the blind, assistance/service dog, Search and Rescue, and tracking and scenting specialist. In organized dog sports the breed is widely popular in Obedience Trials (the first three Obedience Trial Champions were Goldens), Hunting Tests and Agility. Registrations of Goldens have remained in the "top ten" of all breeds for years, attesting to their popularity as companion as well as a worker.

Breed standards

AKC and FCI standards 

AKC Breed Standard


General Appearance

A symmetrical, powerful, active dog, sound and well put together, not clumsy nor long in the leg, displaying a kindly expression and possessing a personality that is eager, alert and self- confident. Primarily a hunting dog, he should be shown in hard working condition. Overall appearance, balance, gait and purpose to be given more emphasis than any of his component parts. Faults--Any departure from the described ideal shall be considered faulty to the degree to which it interferes with the breed’s purpose or is contrary to breed character.

Size, Proportion, Substance

Males 23-24 inches in height at withers; females 211⁄2-221⁄2 inches. Dogs up to one inch above or below standard size should be proportionately penalized. Deviation in height of more than one inch from the standard shall disqualify. Length from breastbone to point of buttocks slightly greater than height at withers in ratio of 12:11. Weight for dogs 65-75 pounds; bitches 55-65 pounds.


Broad in skull, slightly arched laterally and longitudinally without prominence of frontal bones (forehead) or occipital bones. Stop well defined but not abrupt. Foreface deep and wide, nearly as long as skull. Muzzle straight in profile, blending smooth and strongly into skull; when viewed in profile or from above, slightly deeper and wider at stop than at tip. No heaviness in flews. Removal of whiskers is permitted but not preferred. Eyes friendly and intelligent in expression, medium large with dark, close-fitting rims, set well apart and reasonably deep in sockets. Color preferably dark brown; medium brown acceptable. Slant eyes and narrow, triangular eyes detract from correct expression and are to be faulted. No white or haw visible when looking straight ahead. Dogs showing evidence of functional abnormality of eyelids or eyelashes (such as, but not limited to, trichiasis, entropion, ectropion, or distichiasis) are to be excused from the ring. Ears rather short with front edge attached well behind and just above the eye and falling close to cheek. When pulled forward, tip of ear should just cover the eye. Low, hound-like ear set to be faulted. Nose black or brownish black, though fading to a lighter shade in cold weather not serious. Pink nose or one seriously lacking in pigmentation to be faulted. Teeth scissors bite, in which the outer side of the lower incisors touches the inner side of the upper incisors. Undershot or overshot bite is a disqualification. Misalignment of teeth (irregular placement of incisors) or a level bite (incisors meet each other edge to edge) is undesirable, but not to be confused with undershot or overshot. Full dentition. Obvious gaps are serious faults. 

Neck, Topline, Body

Neck medium long, merging gradually into well laid back shoulders, giving sturdy, muscular appearance. No throatiness. Backline strong and level from withers to slightly sloping croup, whether standing or moving. Sloping backline, roach or sway back, flat or steep croup to be faulted. Body well balanced, short coupled, deep through the chest. Chest between forelegs at least as wide as a man’s closed hand including thumb, with well developed forechest. Brisket extends to elbow. Ribs long and well sprung but not barrel shaped, extending well towards hindquarters. Loin short, muscular, wide and deep, with very little tuck-up. Slab-sidedness, narrow chest, lack of depth in brisket, excessive tuck-up to be faulted. Tail well set on, thick and muscular at the base, following the natural line of the croup. Tail bones extend to, but not below, the point of hock. Carried with merry action, level or with some moderate upward curve; never curled over back nor between legs. 


Muscular, well coordinated with hindquarters and capable of free movement. Shoulder blades long and well laid back with upper tips fairly close together at withers. Upper arms appear about the same length as the blades, setting the elbows back beneath the upper tip of the blades, close to the ribs without looseness. Legs, viewed from the front, straight with good bone, but not to the point of coarseness. Pasterns short and strong, sloping slightly with no suggestion of weakness. Dewclaws on forelegs may be removed, but are normally left on. Feet medium size, round, compact, and well knuckled, with thick pads. Excess hair may be trimmed to show natural size and contour. Splayed or hare feet to be faulted.


Broad and strongly muscled. Profile of croup slopes slightly; the pelvic bone slopes at a slightly greater angle (approximately 30 degrees from horizontal). In a natural stance, the femur joins the pelvis at approximately a 90-degree angle; stifles well bent; hocks well let down with short, strong rear pasterns. Feet as in front. Legs straight when viewed from rear. Cow-hocks, spread hocks, and sickle hocks to be faulted.


Dense and water-repellent with good undercoat. Outer coat firm and resilient, neither coarse nor silky, lying close to body; may be straight or wavy. Untrimmed natural ruff; moderate feathering on back of forelegs and on underbody; heavier feathering on front of neck, back of thighs and underside of tail. Coat on head, paws, and front of legs is short and even. Excessive length, open coats, and limp, soft coats are very undesirable. Feet may be trimmed and stray hairs neatened, but the natural appearance of coat or outline should not be altered by cutting or clipping.


Rich, lustrous golden of various shades. Feathering may be lighter than rest of coat. With the exception of graying or whitening of face or body due to age, any white marking, other than a few white hairs on the chest, should be penalized according to its extent. Allowable light shadings are not to be confused with white markings. Predominant body color which is either extremely pale or extremely dark is undesirable. Some latitude should be given to the light puppy whose coloring shows promise of deepening with maturity. Any noticeable area of black or other off-color hair is a serious fault.


When trotting, gait is free, smooth, powerful and well coordinated, showing good reach. Viewed from any position, legs turn neither in nor out, nor do feet cross or interfere with each other. As speed increases, feet tend to converge toward center line of balance. It is recommended that dogs be shown on a loose lead to reflect true gait.


Friendly, reliable, and trustworthy. Quarrelsomeness or hostility towards other dogs or people in normal situations, or an unwarranted show of timidity or nervousness, is not in keeping with Golden Retriever character. Such actions should be penalized according to their significance.


Deviation in height of more than one inch from standard either way. Undershot or overshot bite.

Approved October 13, 1981 

Reformatted August 18, 1990 

FCI Breed Standard


General Appearance

Symmetrical, balanced, active, powerful, level mover; sound with kindly expression.

Behavior and Temperament

Biddable, intelligent and possessing natural working ability; kindly, friendly and confident.


Balanced and well chiselled.

Cranial Region

Skull - Broad without coarseness; well set on neck.

Stop - Well defined.

Facial Region

Nose - Preferably black.

Muzzle - Powerful, wide and deep. Length of foreface approximately equals length from stop to occiput.

Jaws/Teeth - Jaws strong, with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws.

Eyes - Dark brown, set well apart, dark rims.

Ears - Moderate size, set on approximate level with eyes.


Good length, clean and muscular.



Back - Level topline.

Loins - Strong, muscular, short-coupled.

Chest - Deep through heart. Ribs deep, well sprung.


Set on and carried level with back, reaching to hocks, without curl at tip.


Forequarters - Forelegs straight with good bone.

Shoulder - Well laid back, long in blade.

Upper arm - Of equal length as the shoulder blade, placing legs well under body.

Elbow - Close fitting.

Forefeet - Round and cat-like.

Hindquarters - Hind legs strong and muscular.

Stifle - Well bent.

Lower thigh - Good.

Hock - Well let down, straight when viewed from rear, neither turning in nor out.  Cow-hocks highly undesirable.

Hind feet - Round and cat-like.

Gait and Movement

Powerful with good drive. Straight and true in front and rear. Stride long and free with no sign of hackney action in front.


Hair - Flat or wavy with good feathering, dense water-resisting undercoat.


Any shade of gold or cream, neither red nor mahogany.  A few white hairs on chest only, permissible.

Size and Weight

Height at withers -    Dogs       56 - 61 cm (22-24 ins);

                                Bitches   51 - 56 cm (20-22 ins).


Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog and on its ability to perform its traditional work.

          Disqualifying Faults

Aggressive or overly shy.

Any dog clearly showing physical or behavioral abnormalities shall be disqualified.


N.B.: Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

Date of publication of the original valid Standard – July 28, 2009