21 Facts You Didn’t Know About Labrador Retrievers, Every Child’s Favorite Dog

via Flickr - Greg Westfall
via Flickr – Greg Westfall

It takes a certain something to be voted the most favoritest dog in all of America for twenty four years straight while simultaneously capturing hearts worldwide. Here’s just a few facts about the Lab that you may not know.

1. The Labrador Retriever is a pretty young breed of dog. Bred into its current form primarily by English royalty, the first “official” recognized member of the breed appeared in 1899 and was named ‘Ben’. However, there are records of dogs referred to as Labradors going back decades previous to that. [Source]

Ben, most likely a 'very good boy' via wiki commons
Ben, most likely a ‘very good boy’ via wiki commons

2. Prior to being bred into its current form, the Lab was known as the St. John’s water dog and was used as a sporting dog in Newfoundland in Canada. They look like this.

St. John's water dog via wiki commons
St. John’s water dog via wiki commons

3. The St. John’s Water Dog was what’s known as a ‘land race’ meaning it was never an official breed but was created using selective breeding. I say was because the St. John’s Water Dog is now extinct as a breed and has been since the 1980s.

4. However, it has tons of descendants. The St. John’s Water Dog was used as a foundational breed for a number of other common and beloved dog breeds including the Newfoundland, the Cape Shore Water Dog, and the Chesapeake Bay Retriever

5. The St. John’s Water Dog’s ancestry can also be seen in some modern labs in the form of a white patch of hair on the chest which was characteristic of many St. John’s Water Dogs. The dogs were used to retrieve fish and fishing nets and loved to swim just like Labradors. [Source]

6. Here’s how the St. John’s Water Dog was described by one new observer:

“These are the most abundant dogs in the country…They are no means handsome, but are generally more intelligent and useful than the others… I observed he once or twice put his foot in the water and paddled it about. This foot was white, and Harvey said he did it to ‘toil’ or entice the fish. The whole proceeding struck me as remarkable, more especially as they said he had never been taught anything of the kind.”

7. Here’s a video homage to the St. John’s Water Dog and all the wonderful breeds that came from it.


8. The Lab itself, as I said, isn’t from Labrador at all but Newfoundland. It’s called the Labrador Retriever because they were used as working dogs in the Labrador Sea. Here’s a map of it complete with ocean current maps. [Source]

Labrador Sea via Wiki Commons
Labrador Sea via Wiki Commons

9. The Lab is an extremely social breed and basically loves everyone. The one thing it’s not great at is spending a lot of time alone which, if you’ve ever owned a Lab, you probably already know. [Source]

10. The Lab and its ancestors were originally “working breeds” as were most dogs. This is different from “sporting dogs” which is what Labradors are mainly used as today. Today, Labs, in addition to being great pets, are used as sporting dogs to retrieve waterfowl and even flush out game. However, their ancestors were used to literally make a living, helping do the actual work of gathering fish for sale which was no leisure activity.

11. From those “sporting breed” beginnings, the Labrador Retriever has moved into other areas that firmly reassert it’s “working breed” legacy such as working as bomb sniffers in war zones.

via wiki commons
via wiki commons

12. They also make amazing search and rescue dogs. A Black Lab named “Jake,” one of only 200 certified rescue dogs in the nation, became famous after aiding the search for survivors at Ground Zero post September 11th for 17 days. He also aided in recovery efforts after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and spent his later years as a therapy dog for the elderly and for burn victims.

This is amazing but it’s even more amazing considering Jake was abandoned as a pup and was found with both a dislocated hip and a broken leg. [Source]

13. The British Lab “Endal” is considered to be the most “decorated” dog in the world due to the number of commendations he’s received for his role as a service dog to British Naval veteran Allen Parton and was able to recognize and follow hundreds of commands in sign language. Endal could do almost anything including rolling his master into a recovery position if needed, shopping in the supermarket, and even doing the laundry in washer and dryer like a person.

Endal was another Lab who beat the odds. Despite suffering from a joint condition from birth he was able to become the model of a perfect service dog through “sheer intellect. and problem solving ability.” [Source]

14. 10-year-old Sabi, a Black Lab and Australian bomb disposal dog, disappeared in Afghanistan during her second tour of duty when the unit she was with was ambushed. During the battle she disappeared. A year later she wandered up to a U.S. soldier who knew the Australians were missing a bomb dog. After giving it some commands which it followed, the soldier contacted the Australian military who were elated to have Sabi back, especially her handler who claims he always believed she was still alive. Here’s the reason why Sabi managed to stay alive during that year on her own:

“They are so outgoing and social and they have this real character about them, just because of the fact that they want to go and chase things and have a fantastic character,” he said.

“That would have endeared her to the person that was looking after her or the family or the village.

“I’d imagine that the fact that she is alive now means that she has been looked after and her character would have carried her through that.”[Source]

15. Adjutant, another English Lab, lived to be the seventh oldest dog in known history at age 27. [Source]

16. A Chocolate Lab named Hawkeye, received a lot of attention in 2011 after his owner,Jon Tumilson, a Navy SEAL, died in combat and was transported back to the U.S. During the funeral, Hawkeye walked up to the casket and lay down in what was seen as gesture of mourning and loyalty. [Source]

via YouTube
via YouTube

17. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s favorite dog was Koni, a Black Lab given to him as a gift in 2000. He was so fond of her that he used to take her to meetings with world leaders. She was also notoriously bad about being without Putin and was known to even sneak on stage with him while he was giving speeches. The below photos of Putin and Koni show that the affection of a Lab can make even the most stoic people relax, or something like that.

via wiki commons
Oh you! via wiki commons
Good dog is good. via wiki commons

18. In 1938, the first dog ever to appear on the cover of Life magazine was a Lab named “Blind of Arden.”

Screenshot via Life Magazine
Screenshot via Life Magazine

19. Labs have a tendency to put things in their mouths and are even known to gently put their owners arms and feet in their mouths as a way of holding on to them. They have such gentle mouths largely as a result of breeding so that they could gently pick up game birds shot by their masters but genetically this trait goes back to the St. Johns Dog which were required to use their mouths for a variety of working tasks every day.

Labs have such control that they’re able to pick up an egg with their mouths and carry it without breaking it. [Source]

20. During the Vietnam War, all combat dogs, including Labradors, were classified as “expendable equipment.” When the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam, the remaining 200 plus dogs were either euthanized or left in Vietnam. In 2000, Bill Clinton signed a law enabling future combat dogs to be brought back home and adopted by either civilians or military personnel so that this wouldn’t happen again. [Source]

21. Despite a very real penchant for eating dog meat among some members of Vietnam’s population, Labs are popular dogs in Vietnam even if their owners sometimes have to lock them up to keep them hidden from dog thieves. The punishment for stealing a dog is being tied up, placed in a public area, and being beaten by passersby. Vietnam takes its Lab love seriously.

Here’s some Lab pics just because. Enjoy. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

via Flickr - scott1346
via Flickr – scott1346
via Flickr – Paul David
via Flickr – Manuel J. Prieto
via Flickr – Pete Markham
via Flickr – smerikal

About the author

Daniel Hayes

Ask me anything as long as it’s safe for all ages and just fantastically interesting.

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