Where the breed derived its name is contested, with some theorising that 'Labrador' comes from the Spanish word for 'labourer,' while others recognise its earlier usage as a fishing dog, utilised off the coast of Labrador and neighbouring Newfoundland in Canada. Here it assisted the Portuguese fishermen in trawling, retrieving fish and retracting the nets. For this reason, popular belief is that the Labrador originated in Newfoundland, where it was highly valued for its willingness and resilience - capable of bracing icy, North Atlantic waters in order to retrieve for the fishermen. The modern Labrador was developed in 19th century England by the efforts of careful breeding under the Duke of Buccleuch's program, and has become one of the most popular breeds in England and the United States. Officially recognised by the Kennel Club in 1903.
Typically a proportioned and sprightly-looking breed, the Labrador Retriever boasts strong legs, a broad head, medium-sized pendant ears, and wide-set eyes. The coat is hard and short without feathering, coloured black, chocolate or yellow. Whilst the English Labrador is typically quite heavy in appearance, the American Labrador possesses a certain athleticism. The breed has webbed feet to aid in swimming and water crawling. Despite being a country squire at heart, the modern Labrador is adaptable to new situations and people, and is capable of many working fulfillments. Today the breed is observed in hunting, tracking, retrieving, military and police work, search and rescue, competitive obedience, agility and as a guide dog to the blind.
Described as 'the best all-round dog' by the Kennel Club, the Labrador Retriever has enjoyed great popularity throughout its existence, both as a domestic pet and service dog. Inherently gentle, affectionate and obedient, the Labrador is well suited to the home setting, providing its needs for regular exercise, human companionship and mental enrichment are met. A great lover of people, the Labrador is never aggressive, highly strung or an incessant barker, making this the ideal breed choice for families or dedicated sole owners. On average, a healthy Labrador Retriever at full maturity will weigh 25-35 kg depending on its gender, with a life expectancy of 10-12 years.
Relatively healthy, the Labrador Retriever is prone to certain afflictions, ranging from mild to more serious. Mild conditions include skin allergies and easy weight gain, to hip and elbow dysplasia and associated orthopedic complaints, progressive optical disorders, exercise-induced collapse, epilepsy and panosteitis - a condition defined by growing pains.