The Labrador Retriever originated in Newfoundland, an island off the northeastern coast of Canada. The breed was initially called the St. John’s dog, after the capital of Newfoundland, and in the 1700s, these dogs were companions to fishermen. Labradors helped to retrieve fish who escaped the fishing lines, then accompanied their owners home. The loyalty and industriousness of the breed were so remarkable that visitors to Newfoundland brought a few Labradors back with them to England for use as hunting dogs.
It was in England that this dog breed earned its current name, and despite the breed’s incredible popularity in modern times, by the 1880s, Labs were almost extinct. In Newfoundland, the breed died out due to tax laws and government restrictions. Only one dog was allowed per family, and owners of female dogs were taxed at higher rates; eventually, the breed disappeared from the island altogether. The Earl of Malmesbury and other English supporters of the breed worked hard to save the Labrador, and their efforts resulted in the Labrador being formally recognized as a distinct breed in 1903 by the English Kennel Club. By 1917, the American Kennel Club had accepted the Labrador breed, and in the 1920s and 1930s, the breed was imported to America.
After World War II, the Labrador’s popularity in America skyrocketed. By the early 1990s, the breed had claimed the title of the most popular dog registered with the American Kennel Club. The Labrador retriever has retained that position since that time and has become one of the most popular dogs worldwide. Labradors are popular not only as family dogs and companions, but also as working dogs in police departments, search and rescue, therapy, emotional support, and guide and assistance dogs for people with disabilities. The Labradors are also excels at hunting and agility competitions when he is not winning ribbons in the show ring.