Skip to Content

English Golden Retrievers

Are English Golden Retrievers All That Different?

There are three primary types of Golden Retrievers, English Golden Retrievers, American Golden Retrievers, and Canadian Golden Retrievers. There are also breeds that are found in other countries, predominantly in Europe, but these for the most part would be considered belonging to the English breed. So what is it that sets the English Golden Retriever apart form the others?

To start with, the English Golden Retriever is the original breed, all other breeds having evolved from it. In fact, when the Golden Retriever was first introduced into the United States, via Canada, it was basically the English breed. The first Golden Retriever to win Best In Show honors in the US (in 1933) was a Retriever named Pluto, who was also Canadian champion, and had bloodlines originating in British kennels. At the time Golden Retrievers were recognized by the American Kennel Club, and a parent organization, the Golden Retriever Club of America had been formed, the breed was essentially still the English Golden Retriever.

World War II was the catalyst that resulted in the English Golden Retriever and the American Golden Retriever to begin to diverge as breeds. Breeding began to take place between American kennels, rather than relying on bloodlines from English kennels. During the war, keeping the English bloodlines going at all was a difficult proposition. So over time, the American breed began to diverge from its English cousin, becoming a somewhat lighter (in weight) and leaner animal.

The English Golden Retriever is heavier and stockier than the American counterpart.  It has a broader skull, and more muscular forequarters. While generally lighter in color than its American counterpart, color has become less and less a defining characteristic of the breed. The British Breed Standard specifies that the Retriever’s color should be (“- any shade of gold or cream, neither red nor mahogany”). The American Standard, which states (“- rich, lustrous golden of various shades.”), and the Canadian Standard (” – lustrous golden of various shades”) are not much more specific, and it would seem that a “typical” Retriever could fit within any of the three standards. The breeds are in reality distinguished from one another primarily by their respective conformations. They are all “Golden” to one degree or another.

The question arises from time to time why the breed is referred to “English” and not “British” or “UK”. While you will at times hear the terms British Golden Retriever, and even European Golden Retriever, the term English Golden Retriever is by far the most commonly used, partially through custom, and partially because it is embedded in standards and breeding documents, and entrenched in our conversation and in books about the breed.

Because of the popularity of the Golden Retriever, a blending process among breeds is an ongoing thing, and breed differences are becoming more and more fuzzy. There will no doubt always be breeders however, not only in the UK, but in the United States and other countries as well, who will strive to adhere to the English Golden Retriever Standard, and preserve the breed as we have known it for the past 100-plus years.

Related Resources: