The relentless quest by the British gentry during the 19th century for the perfect hunting dog led to the development of most of today’s retrievers and hunting dogs.  On his Scottish estate, Guisachan, Sir Dudley Marjoribanks, the first Lord Tweedmouth, aspired to create a breed of dog to retrieve waterfowl that was more powerful than previous retrievers whilst retaining their gentle, easily trained nature.

The Russian Myth
According to legend, the yellow retrievers at Guisachan originated from a troupe of Russian circus dogs purchased at Brighton and taken back to the estate.  This tale was accepted as fact for many years until 1952, when the sixth Earl of Ilchester published his research into his great uncle Lord Tweedmouth's kennel record book in Country Life.  Meticulously kept from 1835 to 1890 these records showed the true details of the origin of the Golden Retriever.

The First Golden Retrievers
In 1865 Lord Tweedmouth purchased his first yellow retriever at Brighton, a dog named Nous, bred by the Earl of Chichester.  Nous was the only yellow puppy in an unregistered litter of black Wavy-Coated Retrievers.  In 1867 he was given a Tweed Water Spaniel, Belle, by his cousin Mr David Robertson, MP of Ladykirk on the Tweed.  Nous and Belle produced four yellow puppies in 1868 at Guisachan, named Crocus, Primrose, Ada and Cowslip.  These were the foundation of the Golden Retriever as a breed.  From this litter, Lord Tweedmouth retained at Guisachan the two bitches Cowslip and Primrose.  The other bitch Ada was given to the fifth Earl of Ilchester and founded the Ilchester strain, in which black crosses were often used.  The only dog, Crocus, was given to the second Lord Tweedmouth, then the Hon Edward Marjoribanks.  Lord Tweedmouth consistently line-bred his strain of yellow retrievers back to this original mating, though he occasionally resorted to an outcross.

During the period from the first recorded mating in 1868 to the last in 1889 some of the puppies bred were kept and others were given to keepers on neighbouring estates or given to friends and relatives in England and Scotland.  No records of the dogs bred at Guisachan were kept after the death of the first Lord Tweedmouth and this left a gap in the knowledge of the breed between 1890 and 1901, when the first pedigrees were recorded.  However through the research of Elma Stonex (former Chairman of the Golden Retriever Club UK), positive links have been established with the ancestors of present day Golden Retrievers and the dogs Lord Tweedmouth thoughtfully bred at Guisachan between 1868 and 1889.  The roots of the breed lie in Scotland and the border country.

The Golden Retriever Club (UK) was formed in 1911 and the club and the breed were recognised by the UK Kennel Club in 1913 when given the separate register – Retrievers (Golden or Yellow).  The first champion in 1921 was Ch Noranby Campfire bred by Mrs Charlesworth, sired by Lord Harcourt’s dog Culham Copper ex Noranby Beauty.  The first Dual Champion made up both his titles in 1922 and was Dual Ch Balcombe Boy, bred by Lord Harcourt from Culham Tip and Culham Amber II.

Australian Golden Retrievers
Although there is a report of a dog and bitch being bought to Australia in 1914, the first official registration of Golden Retrievers imported to Australia was in 1937 when the dog Grakle of Tone (Noranby General - Silence of Tone) and the bitch Temeraire (Stubbings Golden Hidalgo - Stubbings Golden Calypso) arrived from England.  Temeraire was to become the first Golden Retriever KCC Champion, Grakle of Tone gaining his title soon after.  The first recorded Australian Golden Retriever litter was from these imports, two dogs and two bitches which were registered on 26th December 1938.  Grakle of Tone is thought to have died of distemper during the early years of the Second World War.

From left Dual Ch Balcombe Boy, Noranby Crash and Ch Noranby Campfire Ch Noranby Campfire
Keepers and Dogs at Guisachan. Nous is on the left Keeper with Nous
Gathering in 2006
Guisachan in Scotland The Golden Retriever family reunion, Guisachan in Scotland, in July 2006
Pedigree of Prim and Rose 1889