Goldens originated in the 1860's in Great Britain from foundation stock of a yellow Wavy Coated Retriever and a Tweed Water Spaniel (a breed believed now to be extinct). They were brought to America in 1890. All Goldens descend from this same foundation. According to the American Kennel Club, the breed ranks third in popularity among all dog breeds in the United States in 2019.
Golden Retrievers were first accepted for registration by the The Kennel Club (KC) of England in 1903, as Flat Coats - Golden. They were first exhibited in 1908, and in 1911 were recognized as a breed described as Retriever (Golden and Yellow) British Kennel Club (KC) . In 1913, the Golden Retriever Club was founded. The breed name was officially changed to Golden Retriever in 1920. Golden Retrievers were recognized by the American Kennel Club as a distinct breed in 1932. The cream color was added to the English standard in 1936. After years of selective breeding, these lighter specimens were given the name "English cream golden retrievers." Today, these light-colored specimens may also be called English golden retrievers, European golden retrievers, blond golden retrievers, light golden retrievers, white goldens, or platinum blond goldens.
Until around 1940 it is believed U.S., Canadian and English Goldens looked quite similar. The change in the breed did not materialize until around World War 2. Due to the negative impact of the war, dog shows in Great Britain were suspended while dog shows in North America where severely curtailed. As time went by the breed standards on each side of the Atlantic were modified independently, which may have further promoted the divergence in type. American fanciers assumed that the color alone eliminated it from consideration in the American show ring. Yet the rest of the world lighter shades are accepted and sometimes sought. European Golden Retriever are the original type, with the American and Canadian types diverging from during and after World War II. A Breeder's vision and how they interpret the breed standard in their country, combined with the types of Goldens they are used to seeing, greatly influenced breeding decisions.
Goldens, commonly referred to as English Cream in North America, remain unique in the Golden Retriever breed. The term "English/British/European Golden Retriever" does not necessarily indicate an English origin. It refers to the standard by which the breed is judged. In fact, even though the line is referred to as English Cream, the dog may have been bred in Scotland, Holland, Norway, Australia, Spain, or even Russia....and Not in England at all. The British KC standard is used in all countries except the USA and Canada. English/British/European Golden Retriever are the original type. The English Cream Golden Retriever is basically “a Golden Retriever bred to the KC standards with the American and Canadian types diverging during and after World War II. American Golden Retriever is “a Golden Retriever bred to the AKC standards.”
The health differences between the English Golden and the American Golden are staggering. It is the greatest reason why a serious dog seeker will consider purchasing an English Golden over an American Golden. The money saved in purchasing an American Golden pales in comparison to the vet bills accumulated over the dog's lifespan. Cancer was the cause of death for 61.8% of American Goldens according to a 1998 health study conducted by the Golden Retriever Club of America, making it the breed's biggest killer. The most common types of cancers in Goldens are hemangio sarcoma, followed by lympho sartcoma, mast cell tumor, and osteosarcoma. The incidence of cancer among English bloodlines is significantly lower than in the American lines. In fact the British Kennel Club (KC) did a very extensive study in 2004 found that cancer only caused the death of 38.8% of English Goldens. See our Health of Goldens page for more information.
The median age of an English Golden is 12 years and 3 months according to the study, but the median age of an American Golden is only 10 years and 8 months.
Differences Between the American Golden and the English Golden
The most obvious and eye-catching difference between the English/British Golden retriever and its American counterpart is the color of the coat. The English Golden Retriever can be cream in color and the American and Canadian Golden is much more red. Not all English Goldens are cream. Many very successful English Goldens have the same color coat as the American Golden. The American and Canadian Kennel Club breed standards golden color, the British standard specifically permits cream colored coats. However, there are many more important differences to be taken into consideration.
Topline & Hindquarters
AKC: 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.
KC: Calls for level top line. Loin and legs strong and muscular, good second thighs, well bent stifles. Hocks well let down, straight when viewed from rear, neither turning in nor out.
Amazingly these supposedly similar requirements give a different angulation in practice! This is very visible on these Champion pictures below. English Goldens have more level top line with legs more straight, American Golden Retrievers usually have slightly sloping top line with legs standing more out.
Intersting fininding from the Seeing Eye corporation in America. Seeing Eye has reduced its Congential Hip Dysplasia to zero in their Lab colony. Their Goldens are not quite there yet, and their German Shepard colony has proven the most difficult in which to reduce the Congential Hip Dysplsia. As the Seeing Eye has improved the hips in their colony's, the dogs also began to return to having a more level topline vs. what is seen in the American show ring. When one looks at photos of GSDs of early times, they also have the more level topline reflected in the Seeing Eye GSDs today. The more level the top line they are finding the dogs to be less likely to have Congential Hip Dysplsia. The Europeans Goldens are bred with a level top line VS the Americans with the sloping backline. To breeders this study became important, making sure you are using dogs with a level topline. This will help improved your hip scores buy trying to elimanate CHD in your lines. Times are changing and breeders in America are combining the two and finding there is merit to the level top line.
Head, Neck, Eyes & Ears
Head- 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.
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.
Neck- Medium long, merging gradually into well laid back shoulders, giving sturdy, muscular appearance. No throatiness.
Head and Skull- Balanced and well chiselled, skull broad without coarseness; well set on neck, muzzle powerful, wide and deep. Length of foreface approximately equals length from well defined stop to occiput.
Eyes- Dark brown, set well apart, dark rims.
Ears- Moderate size, set on approximate level with eyes.
Neck- Good length, clean and muscular.
In both standards there is no clear indication how big the head must be in comparison to the rest of the body. These different specs resulted somehow in a generally smaller head in American Goldens then in British Goldens. This is more visible for males then females usually.
British standard calls for a clean and muscular neck. It is perfectly understandable that for holding bigger head a dog need more muscular neck. Still there is no mentioning about any grooming, clipping whisker trimming in KC standard. And that is one of the fundamental differences. KC Standard concentrates on description of ideal specimen. The basic function of dog titles is to make its progeny to spread. Trimming, clipping and other procedures are irrelevant if offspring of this specimen is concerned. In America the way of showing the dog is frequently more important than the dog itself.
Another very characteristic difference is foreface and muzzle. AKC standard wants the muzzle to be straight but also states the foreface should be nearly the length of the skull. This resulted in smaller muzzle and more conical shape. Despite its more laconic form KC standard is more precise. It wants the length of foreface to be approximately length stop to occiput. English Goldens have definitely bigger and wider muzzles which influences stronger jaws.
Eyes– “Pure” American Goldens have their eyes very well apart usually while English type usually does not. Because US Golden Retrievers eyes are so well apart they tend to be slanted, narrow, triangular and detract from correct expression sometimes. In this their eyes are defying their own standard in contrast to the British Goldens (see pictures below).
Ears and specifically their position are another point of difference between the two types of goldens. AKC wants ears well behind and above level of eyes. KC wants them at the level of eyes. This causes two very different looks. See pictures above.
KC: The British KC standard is used in all countries except the USA and Canada.
English-type Goldens are bigger-boned and shorter, with a deeper chest . Uk fanciers feel they excel in head properties, balance and forequarter structure.
Males should be between 56 and 61 cm (22 and 24 in) at the withers.
Females slightly shorter at 51–56 cm (20–22 in).
KC: Is not specified. Stockier by nature they tend to be heavier in weight.
The Amercian-type Golden is somewhat lighter in weight. Many North America fanciers feel that they tend to excel in rear quarters and movement.
Males should stand 23–24 in (58–61 cm) in height at the shoulders.
Females should be 21½-22½ inches.
Males 65-75 pounds
Females 55-65 pounds.
British breeding can have a coat color of any shade of gold or cream;
Originally, cream was an unacceptable color in the UK standard, but the standard was revised in 1936 to include cream.
The UK Color Spectrum for Goldens
Amercian-type Golden Rich, lustrous golden of various shades (light, medium or dark golden). Predominant body color which is either extremely pale or extremely dark is undesirable. They will loss points in the show ring.
Goldens can have a flat coat or wavy one.
Conformation in the English Goldens
Amercian Shepard Champ
The temperament of the Golden Retriever is a hallmark of the breed and is described in the standard as "kindly, friendly and confident." They are not "one man dogs" and are generally equally amiable with both strangers and those familiar to them. Their trusting, gentle disposition therefore makes them a poor guard dog. The typical Golden Retriever is calm, naturally intelligent and biddable, with an exceptional eagerness to please. Whether the object is a thrown stick, tennis ball, or flying disc, retrieving can keep a dog of this breed occupied and entertained for hours, particularly if water is also involved. Goldens might also pick up and "retrieve" any object that is near to them upon their masters' arrival, all of this lending to their retriever name.
Golden Retrievers are also noted for their intelligence, and can learn up to roughly 240 commands, words and phrases. The Golden Retriever ranks 4th in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs, being one the the brightest dogs ranked by obedience command trainability. These dogs are also renowned for their patience with children.
By the time they reach maturity however, Goldens will have become active and fun-loving animals with the exceptionally patient demeanor befitting a dog bred to sit quietly for hours in a hunting blind. Adult Golden Retrievers love to work, and have a keen ability to focus on a given task. They will seemingly work until collapse, so care should be taken to avoid overworking them.
Other characteristics related to their hunting heritage are a size suited for scrambling in and out of boats and an inordinate love for water. Golden Retrievers are exceptionally trainable—due to their intelligence, athleticism and desire to please their handlers—and generally excel in obedience trials. In fact, the first AKC Obedience Trial Champion was a Golden Retriever. They are also very competitive in agility and other performance events. Harsh training methods are unnecessary - Golden Retrievers respond well to positive and upbeat training styles.
Golden Retrievers are compatible with children and adults and are good with other dogs, cats and most livestock. Golden Retrievers are particularly valued for their high level of sociability towards people, calmness, and willingness to learn. Because of this, they are commonly used as guide dogs, mobility assistance dogs, and search and rescue dogs. They are friendly and tend to learn tricks easily.
They are also known to become excellent surrogate mothers to different species. Kittens and even tiger cubs from zoos are well taken care of by golden retrievers. In some cases, a retriever may produce milk for its adopted even though it may not have been pregnant or nursing recently.
Golden Retrievers are very active dogs, and require a reasonable amount of exercise each day, although exercise needs may vary depending on the individual dog and its age. They are a breed that is prone to obesity, and as such the average Golden Retriever should never be treated like a sedentary small dog. Some dogs may be too active to be easily exercised by elderly owners. They should be taken on walks daily.
Goldens should be groomed at least once a week, and every day during heavy shedding. Their coats shed somewhat during the year, but are known to "blow coat" twice a year when they shed profusely. They also need to have their ears cleaned regularly, or otherwise an ear infection might occur. While shedding is unavoidable with Golden Retrievers, frequent brushing (daily to weekly) lessens the amount of hair shed by the animal. Severe shedding resulting in bald patches can be indicative of stress or sickness in a Golden Retriever.
Golden Retrievers are very attached to their owners. They are highly social house dogs, seek to sleep in the same room as their owners, and should not be put into kennels for protracted periods. Leaving them alone in a room can cause the dog to become anxious and distressed. The dogs like to have something in their mouth and carry things around and should for this reason be provided with a copious supply of favorite toys — the particular obsession of which depends upon the individual animal.