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Thread: How Labradors are Supposed to Look? (pics)

  1. #161
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    No doubt there was confusions in there early years between the breeds and varieties of the Newfoundland dogs. Fortunately, here is the "Larger Newfoundland," from the same text for comparison, 1859.
    Newf.jpg
    The Labrador today can carry the "long hair gene" which you can even have DNA tested to see if it there. The Flat-coat originally was likely nothing more than a longer haired lesser St. John's dog (later crossed with setters etc..). The tail...we have all seen much worse curls in some of the finest field bred Labradors.

    The biggest problem with looking at and talking about the original stock from whence came the Labrador is that from all accounts, it is a very diverse population of dogs with a wide range of varying characteristics. There was not one consistent "type" but rather two broad general categories, Big ("Larger") and Small ("Lesser"), which were later separated into "Breeds." Within each of those two categories there was a lot of variation in coat, tail, weight, height, temperament, intelligence, strength, head, color, etc... What we have today are standardized breeds based on what those that developed the breed liked for their own purposes. In the case of the Labrador, the Britts and Scotts utilized the traits they liked from the Lesser St. John's Dogs and then bred in and out traits they wanted or disliked, respectively, to meet their ideals. The idea that the "original Labrador" from the shores of Newfoundland is the same as the Labrador today, or even of the early 1900's is foolhardy. So, to answer the OP question, a Labrador is supposed to look like a Labrador. As easy as that sounds, it is overly simplistic. We have a breed standard (now loosely based on the original one from the UK (that is being generous)), but we have just as wide...if not a wider variance in Labradors today than was present in the early 1900's and possibly even greater than what the St. John's Dog itself had before imported and turned into the Labrador breed. If anyone wants to claim that the Lab is the same as the St. John's dog, then they ought to embrace any and all variable characteristics that present themselves in the genepool...as long as the animal is not too "Large."

  2. #162
    Senior Member RJW's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angie B View Post
    Only when my bitch is a carrier for the same disease... If she was clear I would use Alley all day long..

    An awesome dog!!

    Angie
    People that know me give me fits for being one of Ali's biggest stalkers. But anyway, if you could indeed breed to Ali, is that the little black girl you have that we have talked about in the past? IF so, that would/should be an awesome litter if it could have happened. I also agree, Ali is really something on all levels. Has he been able to pass his great looks on in his offspring?

  3. #163
    Senior Member Mike W.'s Avatar
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    Great posts Ironman and Swack, very interesting.

  4. #164
    Senior Member Swack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ironman View Post
    No doubt there was confusions in there early years between the breeds and varieties of the Newfoundland dogs. Fortunately, here is the "Larger Newfoundland," from the same text for comparison, 1859.
    Newf.jpg
    The Labrador today can carry the "long hair gene" which you can even have DNA tested to see if it there. The Flat-coat originally was likely nothing more than a longer haired lesser St. John's dog (later crossed with setters etc..). The tail...we have all seen much worse curls in some of the finest field bred Labradors.

    The biggest problem with looking at and talking about the original stock from whence came the Labrador is that from all accounts, it is a very diverse population of dogs with a wide range of varying characteristics. There was not one consistent "type" but rather two broad general categories, Big ("Larger") and Small ("Lesser"), which were later separated into "Breeds." Within each of those two categories there was a lot of variation in coat, tail, weight, height, temperament, intelligence, strength, head, color, etc... What we have today are standardized breeds based on what those that developed the breed liked for their own purposes. In the case of the Labrador, the Britts and Scotts utilized the traits they liked from the Lesser St. John's Dogs and then bred in and out traits they wanted or disliked, respectively, to meet their ideals. The idea that the "original Labrador" from the shores of Newfoundland is the same as the Labrador today, or even of the early 1900's is foolhardy. So, to answer the OP question, a Labrador is supposed to look like a Labrador. As easy as that sounds, it is overly simplistic. We have a breed standard (now loosely based on the original one from the UK (that is being generous)), but we have just as wide...if not a wider variance in Labradors today than was present in the early 1900's and possibly even greater than what the St. John's Dog itself had before imported and turned into the Labrador breed. If anyone wants to claim that the Lab is the same as the St. John's dog, then they ought to embrace any and all variable characteristics that present themselves in the genepool...as long as the animal is not too "Large."

    Ironman,

    To suggest that the only significant difference between "Lesser Newfoundlands" and "Greater Newfoundlands" was the matter of size is a gross misunderstanding of the canine situation in Newfoundland IMHO.They were not variations of the same dog. They had very different roles that required a different animal. In the book The Labrador Retriever, the History . . . the People . . . Revisited Richard Wolters makes a very good argument that the smaller waterdog version would have been needed earlier and that the larger version would have been developed latter as a draught animal as the population of settlers grew and resources (mainly wood for fuel and construction) needed to be hauled from farther inland.

    I also disagree with your assertion that there was a lot of diversity in the population of waterdogs on Newfoundland. They were bred for a specific job in an isolated region over a period of about 300 years. The best type of animal for the job wasn't left for dog show or field trial judges to decide. The proof was in the pudding. The watermen relied on their dogs for their livelihood. The dog's worth was based on fish in the dory and game on the table. Resources were scarce, inferior dogs didn't hang around long. The best were bred to the best for 100 dog generations. Form followed function. A type would have been established just as it has been for countless breeds of working dogs in similar circumstances. IMO that type is exemplified in the photographs of Nell and Avon and described in the quotes I shared with you earlier from Col. Hawker and the 3rd Earl of Malmesbury.

    The greatest degree of diversity in the early Labrador genepool came once the dog was returned to Great Britain which in the 19th century was experiencing a great enthusiasm for dog breeding. There was an influx of different breeds of dogs from across the British Empire and much diversity to muddle the waterdog's genepool. A retriever in that day and age was a dog that would retrieve. There was little effort to keep bloodlines distinct until much later. So, as you have stated, it is foolhardy to believe that today's Lab is the same as the "original Labrador" that was developed on the shores of Newfoundland. And I believe it is just as foolhardy to suggest that if a trait such as long hair or curled tails or a tall lanky dog occur in today's Lab it is just a variation of the original Lab. It is more likely that those variations are due to the muddling of those who have introduced genes from other bloodlines into the now very diverse Labrador genepool.

    Swack

    Last edited by Swack; 12-21-2012 at 09:27 AM.
    Jeff Swackhamer

  5. #165
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    Take your pick:

    “Almost everybody has heard of the Newfoundland Dogs. I myself was desired to procure some of them and when I set out, for the country firmly believed that I should meet with a sort of dogs different from any I had seen, whose particular excellence was taking the water freely. I was therefore the more surprised when told that there was no distinct breed. Those I met were mostly curs with a cross of the mastiff in them some took to water well; others not at all."
    The Niger Diary of Joseph Banks 1766

    “In Newfoundland the dogs are commonly their own caretakers.”
    Aaron Thomas Journal 1795

    Description of "Sailor," shipwrecked St' John's dog, believed to be in part the foundation of the Chesapeake breed (1807).
    "he was of fine size and figure— lofty in his carriage, and built for strength and activity; remarkably muscular and broad across the hips and breast; head large, but not out of proportion; muzzle rather longer than is common with that race of dogs; his colour a dingy red, with some white on the face and breast; his coat short and smooth, but uncommonly thick, and more like a coarse fur than hair; tail full, with long hair, and always carried very high."

    Cormack's 1822 description of a short-haired dog being preferred over the long-haired kind is a good example of how inference leads to error. In this case there is no mention of size or purpose other than both the short and long-haired varieties can retrieve from water. It would be just as correct to say that one was a long haired St Johns Dog and one was a short haired St John's Dog as it would be to say one was a Lesser Newfoundland (Lab) and one was a Greater Newfoundland (Newf).

    "There are several varieties of the Newfoundland Dog which differ in size, character of fur, and marking."
    History of the British Quadrupeds 1837

    "Newfoundland is one of the worst places in the world for getting a good, or at least good-looking Newfoundland dog. In St.John’s and its neighborhood they are the most ill-looking set of mongrels that can be conceived. In the more distant ports however, the breed is better preserved. A thin, short-haired black dog belonging to George Harvey came off to us today. This animal was of a breed different from what we understand by the term Newfoundland in England. He had a thin tapering snout, a long thin tail, and a rather thin but powerful legs, with a lank body, the hair short and smooth. These are the most abundant dogs of the country, the long-haired curly dogs being comparatively rare. They are by no means handsome, but are generally more intelligent and useful that the others.
    Excursions in and about Newfoundland 1839

    "During winter, for want of horses, dogs are used for the purpose of conveying all sorts of produce to and from the bays, as well as for pleasure. Some are trained as retrievers, watch, house, and water dogs. Still they are all of the same breed. The retriever is well known in England, but I fancy the duty of the Labrador watch-dog is little if at all understood…The dogs sent to England, with rough shaggy coats, are useless on the coast; the true-bred and serviceable dog having smooth, short hair, very close and compact to the body. I sent to England a fine specimen of these, but unfortunately the vessel which bore it had the misfortune to be wrecked on the north coast of Ireland, and all hands were lost."
    De Boilieu, Recollections of Labrador Life 1861

    "A nearly parallel case is offer by the Newfoundland dog, which was certainly brought into England from that country, but which has since been so much modified that, as several writers have observed, it does not now closely resemble any existing native dog in Newfoundland."
    The Variation of Animals and plants under Domestication Darwin 1868

    "There is the smooth-coated dog of the same family, and as useful an adept. The flat and shaggy, and the smooth-coated—I mean as short in the hair as a Mastiff—are sometimes found in one litter, and one of the best I ever saw was thus bred from Mr. Drax’s keeper’s old “Dinah” (imported), the father being also…”
    The Dog 1872

    "The usual teams of Shaggy and Mongrel dogs were lying about and set up a terrific howl. Every House had at least 7 or 8 dogs, some with well over 20 attached to them."
    Ecclesiastical History Of Newfoundland 1888

    The pedigrees of the Dogs Malmesbury gifted to Buccleuch (1894) had only one ancestor even called “Labrador,” the others were called “Newfoundland,” “Smooth-coated,” Long-coated Newfoundland,” and “Straight-coated.” Malmsbury is the one that said he kept his as “pure” as he could from the first he had imported. If they were pure, they were certainly of a differing enough type that they each merited their own descriptive type name.

    From Directory of Shooting (Thornhill 1804) to Book of the Dog (1881), “the writer finds no mention of a Labrador breed showing any resemblance of the present bearer of the name. The name Labrador is sometimes recorded as a synonym for the small Newfoundland or St. John’s Dog, but the accounts and illustrations of this dog show no trace of relationship to the Labrador as we now know him.”
    History of Retrievers Eley 1921


    Swack, I am not saying that there were not possibly some St. John’s Dogs that looked and acted somewhat similar to today’s Labrador, there apparently were a few that were close. However, the historic evidence indicates that there was dramatic variance in the gene pool of the Dogs of Newfoundland that we claim as progenitors to the the Lab. So much so that for centuries there was not a consistent naming convention to describe the differing types and when the names were used, they often mixed them and reversed them. Indicative of a breed(s) with great variations. No doubt the gene pool of the dogs on Newfoundland was regularly mixed, at least within locality. Unless one is to assume that one type would not breed with another out of race or ethnic distinctions, especially when, for at least part of the year, these dogs were left to care for themselves and were known to be kept in large groups....


    It is too easy in Labrador history to say X was a fact and Z was not. We know too little of a breed that is now extinct and unavailable for study to speak with full conciseness. The histories we have act as a guide, but one should take care not to limit one’s perspective to fit only with their bias. Until time travel is invented, this debate will not end. Some will say the population was very diverse and dramatically different than today’s Labs, others will claim that Today’s Labs could be directly interchangeable with the St. John’s Dog, never missing a beat. Both are right…both are wrong, each has historical reference and accompanying dialog that can support one claim and refute another.

    Following the Breed standards, there are four key features that are diagnostic of the breed. Head, Tail, Coat, and Temperament. Each Form is inseparably tied to a Function making this the greatest retriever the world has ever known. So, a Labrador is supposed to look like a Labrador...cover the 4 bases and you have it. The rest is icing on the cake and we all like our icing in our own way. That is part of the allure of the breed, it can take so many widely differing embodiments and still be a Labrador and look like a Labrador.

  6. #166
    Senior Member Swack's Avatar
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    Ironman,

    Thanks for the exhaustive research on the progenitors of the modern Labrador retriever. I appreciate your thoroughness and thoughtful commentary. The history of the development of the St. John’s waterdog on Newfoundland and the Labrador retriever in Great Britain are a passion of mine. It’s nice to converse with someone who shares this passion!

    You started your last post by asking me to "Take my pick", so I will. Here goes!


    De Boilieu, Recollections of Labrador Life 1861

    "The dogs sent to England, with rough shaggy coats, are useless on the coast; the true-bred and serviceable dog having smooth, short hair, very close and compact to the body."

    This quote seems to indicate that there is a marked difference between the two types. He even goes so far as to state "the true-bred and serviceable dog", as if to say there are those that ARE NOT true bred.


    "There is the smooth-coated dog of the same family, and as useful an adept. The flat and shaggy, and the smooth-coated—I mean as short in the hair as a Mastiff—are sometimes found in one litter, and one of the best I ever saw was thus bred from Mr. Drax’s keeper’s old “Dinah” (imported), the father being also…”

    The Dog 1872

    This is a later quote from Great Britain which only confirms the dilution of St. John's waterdog genes once they arrived in England, in my opinion.


    "Newfoundland is one of the worst places in the world for getting a good, or at least good-looking Newfoundland dog. In St. John’s and its neighborhood they are the most ill-looking set of mongrels that can be conceived. In the more distant ports however, the breed is better preserved. A thin, short-haired black dog belonging to George Harvey came off to us today. This animal was of a breed different from what we understand by the term Newfoundland in England. He had a thin tapering snout, a long thin tail, and a rather thin but powerful legs, with a lank body, the hair short and smooth. These are the most abundant dogs of the country, the long-haired curly dogs being comparatively rare. They are by no means handsome, but are generally more intelligent and useful than the others.
    Excursions in and about Newfoundland 1839

    This statement supports my contention that the true waterdog type was found in more isolated areas of Newfoundland and that those describing dogs in and around the population centers would not have been talking about the same animal. He also confirms that there is a difference between what most Englishmen called a Newfoundland and the waterdog which is a completely different type of dog, not a different size dog of the same type.



    I think one of the greatest obstacles to learning the truth on this subject from historical writings is the inconsistent usage of the names attached to the variations of the dogs found on Newfoundland (Greater or Lesser Newfoundland, and Labrador). You have concluded that this is evidence of the great variation in the type of dog found on Newfoundland. I believe it is due to a lack of knowledge (ignorance) on the part of the authors and a lack of consistency in terminology to describe dogs of different type. Therefore, it is impossible for one to know whether the author is describing the waterdog or the draught animal.

    I also contend that quotes from authors speaking of dogs from Great Britain after the early 1800's may simply be commentary on the results from interbreeding with animals on the British isles, not an evaluation of the waterdog as he occurred on Newfoundland. In fact, commentary from Newfoundland after the early 1800's, especially around the urban area of St. John's, is likely misleading as well. The true variety of water dog would likely have been sequestered in isolated coastal areas where they served their masters. After the early 1800's the advent of the barbed fishing hook along with other changes in the fishing industry caused the St. John's dog to become much less useful to the fishermen and so I fear that the driving force for the continued development and preservation of the St. John’s waterdog was lost. Also, the increasing population on Newfoundland following the early 1800’s brought more canine diversity to dilute the type which had been so useful for the past 300+ years.

    For clarification, the point which I have attempted to make is definitely NOT that the St. John's waterdog (as I prefer to call him) would look like most current day Labrador retrievers. However, I do believe that the original Labrador standard attempted to describe the best traits of the dog that was developed on Newfoundland from 1500 - 1800 to assist English fishermen.

    I agree that there is no way to know for certain what the St. John's waterdog was really like in the years before he came back to England. There is no photographic record from that time and place and very little written record, which as we've seen can be confusing at times. If you get that time machine perfected let me know. I'd like to hitch a ride with you to the Avalon peninsula of Newfoundland in about 1800 to shop for a few good waterdogs!

    Swack
    Jeff Swackhamer

  7. #167
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    You did a great job of demonstrating the point, by Cherry Picking.
    De Boilieu clearly stated that these diverse dogs were of the same breed. What he considered representative or "true" in his opinion was indeed the "dog having smooth, short hair, very close and compact to the body." That does not eliminate the clear statement about the long hair-variety being the same breed.


    "There is the smooth-coated dog of the same family, and as useful an adept. The flat and shaggy, and the smooth-coated—I mean as short in the hair as a Mastiff—are sometimes found in one litter, and one of the best I ever saw was thus bred from Mr. Drax’s keeper’s old “Dinah” (imported), the father being also…”
    The Dog 1872

    This is a later quote from Great Britain which only confirms the dilution of St. John's waterdog genes once they arrived in England, in my opinion.

    Except the litter here described is from imports, not the crossbred animals of the gamekeepers in the UK. This is a description of a litter of St. John's Dogs, not the later Labradors.



    Here are the points you missed in this passage that point to an animal that is pretty different than the romanticized St. John's Dog.

    "Newfoundland is one of the worst places in the world for getting a good, or at least good-looking Newfoundland dog. In St. John’s and its neighborhood they are the most ill-looking set of mongrels that can be conceived. In the more distant ports however, the breed is better preserved. A thin, short-haired black dog belonging to George Harvey came off to us today. This animal was of a breed different from what we understand by the term Newfoundland in England. He had a thin tapering snout, a long thin tail, and a rather thin but powerful legs, with a lank body, the hair short and smooth. These are the most abundant dogs of the country, the long-haired curly dogs being comparatively rare. They are by no means handsome, but are generally more intelligent and useful than the others.
    Excursions in and about Newfoundland 1839
    I am not saying that there were not a few St.John's Dogs in obscure areas that were very similar to some of today's Labradors in Type. Considering the diverse population, there likely were...but there were apparently many many more of widely varying characteristics within the same "breed": lanky, stout, small, large, short-coated, long-coated, otter tail, feathered tail, curled tail, straight tail, broad head, narrow head, light eye, dark eye, whole colored, brindled, thick coated, thin coated, etc, etc, etc, etc...

    I'll let you know on the time machine. Should be a wild ride.

  8. #168
    Senior Member Swack's Avatar
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    Ironman,

    The fact that the quote from The Dog 1872 refers to imports from Newfoundland doesn't disprove my contention at all. I've already discussed the issues of foreign dogs into Newfoundland after 1800. Also a factor was the changes in the fishing industry long before 1872 which reduced the need for a waterdog's services. Additionally, in 1780 Governor Edwards of Newfoundland passed a law limiting the ownership of dogs to one per household in an effort to encourage sheep raising. (I might have to change the date for our time travel to 1750!) These factors would have had a devastating effect on the waterdog population and its purity. The DeBoilieu quote is also from the late date of 1861, long after these factors have affected the waterdog population.

    The problem seems to be that all written accounts come late in the game from the standpoint of the St. Johns waterdog's prime years and the terminology used to denote the dogs is unclear. Also, the waterdogs were likely never in abundance outside of the small groups of fishermen in remote areas.

    I believe that the true St. John's waterdogs would not have been a diverse lot of dogs. By virtue of his task there would have been some consistency of type. This is true in many remote areas where a dog breed was developed to perform a task. The waterdog would have been a stocky dog rather than lean and lanky because a stocky dog has a lower ratio of surface area to volume, thus making him less prone to heat loss. Compare an Arctic Fox to a Desert Fox. Nature made those selections. The fishermen would have observed which dogs could withstand the frigid waters of the North Atlantic best and would have unwittingly made similar selections. The same goes for a close waterproof outer coat and a dense undercoat. Size would have been regulated by their task as well; big enough to do the job, but not too large to haul in the dory. If these selections are made for a period of 300 years (about 100 dog generations) there would be a trend toward a uniform type.

    I believe the diversity you find comes from influences outside of this closed system at a time when the system itself was likely in decline. No doubt some of this "diversity" came to England and had to be sorted out of the Labrador genepool over several decades of selective breeding, but I believe the St. John's waterdog genepool would have been purer at the source during the mid-1700's than it was in later years (after 1800) in other locations (anywhere outside of the small fishing village).

    I think we may have to agree to disagree. There is no way for either of us to prove our point is the correct one (without your time machine). However, I have enjoyed our discussion. I have a picture in my mind's eye of what a proper Labrador retriever should look like and a good idea how I believe he should act. I can't put it all into a post. If I ever get my book written I might be able to give you an idea of my ideal. Each of us may have their own ideal depending on our goals. I'd like to produce Labs that are great companions and superb hunting dogs who are easy to train for the average person. I'd also like them to resemble my ideal in terms of conformation. It's way to late to "preserve" the St. John's waterdog. He's been gone almost before he got to England. However, if I can get a bit of Nell and Avon's type into my Labs I'd be happy!

    Swack
    Last edited by Swack; 12-21-2012 at 03:46 PM.
    Jeff Swackhamer

  9. #169
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    Damn these marathon retorts. Get each other's number or something.

  10. #170
    Senior Member Swack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jacob Hawkes View Post
    Damn these marathon retorts. Get each other's number or something.
    Jacob,

    Sorry if we overloaded your circuits! I know you'd have to be interested in the topic to persevere. Please excuse our exuberance!

    Swack
    Jeff Swackhamer

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