The Origin of the Breed

Guisachan (Gaelic for Place of the Firs)
Lord Tweedmouth's Scottish estate where the first Goldens were bred (photo taken 1993)

Until the discovery of Lord Tweedmouth's stud books in 1952 the breed was thought to have originated from a troupe of Russian circus dogs which Lord Tweedmouth saw performing in Brighton in 1858. These dogs were thought to be about 30 inches at the shoulder with thick wavy coats, varying in colour from cream to light biscuit. Lord Tweedmouth was said to be so impressed by their intelligence, looks and docility, that he purchased all 8 of them and had them transported to his Scottish Estate at Guisachan, where they were used for tracking deer.

However the sixth Earl of Ilchester, a great-nephew of Lord Tweedmouth, in 1952, dismissed the Russian theory, basing his evidence on a stud book meticulously kept from 1835 which recorded all the dogs kept at Guisachan and in which there was no mention of the Russian dogs. The entry of 'Nous' hitherto always thought to be one of the Russian circus troupe, reads 'Lord Chichester's breed - June 1864 - purchased at Brighton. Lord Tweedmouth's Grandson had stated that his Grandfather bought his first yellow dog from a cobbler in Brighton, who said it had been the one yellow puppy in a litter of black wavy-coated Retrievers, and was given to him by a keeper in payment of a debt. This puppy was Nous.

During the time from the first mating in 1868 to the last in 1889, some of the puppies bred were kept, some were given to keepers on neighbouring estates and others to friends and relations in England and Scotland, thus the early kennels were founded.

The first Golden Retrievers to be exhibited were in 1908.These belonged to Viscount Harcourt who started his 'Culham' line with stock from the Earl of Portsmouth. They were shown at Cruft's and the Crystal Palace, although at that time they were not officially recognised as a separate breed of Retriever. In 1906 Mrs Charlesworth obtained her first Golden, a bitch puppy without a pedigree, whom she named Normanby Beauty. She proved to be a highly intelligent and tireless worker. In 1908 she mated her to Culham Brass and in 1909 she joined Lord Harcourt as the only other exhibitor of the 'yellow' retrievers. In 1909 although there was still no separate classification for them, eight Goldens appeared at Cruft's, while ten appeared in 1910.