The Labrador is a moderate dog, not extreme in any way. It is square or slightly longer than tall, of fairly large bone and substance. Its broad head and strong jaws should enable it to carry the largest game birds, such as Canada geese. Its heavy body set and strong legs enable it to swim and run powerfully. Its coat, which is short, straight and dense with a soft undercoat, is weatherproof and helps to protect it from icy waters. The Lab is a working retriever and should possess style without over refinement and substance without clumsiness.
Few breeds so richly deserve their popularity as the Labrador retriever. Devoted, obedient and amiable, the Lab is good with children, other dogs and other pets. It will be a calm house dog, playful yard dog and intense field dog, all on the same day. It is eager to please, enjoys learning and excels in obedience. It is a powerful breed that loves to swim and retrieve. It needs daily physical and mental challenges to keep it occupied, however; a bored Lab can get into trouble.
The original Labradors were all-purpose water dogs originating in Newfoundland, not Labrador. Not only did the breed not originate in Labrador, but it also was not originally called the Labrador retriever. The Newfoundland of the early 1800s came in different sizes, one of which was the “Lesser” or “St. John’s” Newfoundland — the earliest incarnation of the Labrador. These dogs — medium-sized black dogs with close hair — not only retrieved game but also retrieved fish, pulled small fishing boats through icy water and helped the fisherman in any task involving swimming. Eventually the breed died out in Newfoundland in large part because of a heavy dog tax. However, a core of Labradors had been taken to England in the early 1800s, and it is from these dogs, along with crosses to other retrievers, that the breed continued. It was also in England that the breed earned its reputation as an extraordinary retriever of upland game. Initially breeders favored black Labs, and culled yellow or chocolate colors. By the early 1900s, the other colors had become acceptable, although still not as widely favored as the blacks. The breed was recognized by the English Kennel Club in 1903 and by the AKC in 1917. The popularity of this breed has grown steadily; it became the most popular breed in America in 1991 and remains so today.