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10 Facts About the Golden Retriever

Rebecca OConnell
Golden retrievers are one of the most beloved dog breeds.
Golden retrievers are one of the most beloved dog breeds. / Goodwolf Studio/iStock via Getty Images
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It’s no mystery why these fluffy pooches are so popular. The well-mannered, fun-loving dogs are a hit with children and adults alike. Learn more about their history.

1. As their name suggests, golden retrievers were bred to retrieve.

Dudley Marjoribanks, first Lord Tweedmouth, in Scotland is credited for creating the golden retriever. The lord wanted a dog with a natural love of the water and inclination to retrieve the game he shot while hunting. In 1865 he purchased Nous, a yellow dog in a litter of black wavy-coated retrievers. He bred Nous with Belle, a Tweed water spaniel he acquired from his cousin. After two litters, the couple produced four yellow retrievers—Crocus, Primrose, Cowslip, and Ada—that would become the ancestors of the dogs we know today. Later on, red setters and tan-colored bloodhounds were also introduced to the bloodline.

2. Eggs are safe with them.

Goldens have “soft mouths,” meaning they can carry things in their chops without damaging them—an important skill for canines tasked with retrieving their masters' hunting trophies. They’re so gentle, in fact, that some can be trained to hold a raw egg in their mouths without breaking it.

3. Golden retrievers could give Emily Post a run for her money.

Golden retrievers are some of the most mild-mannered and obedient dogs around. The first three dogs to ever achieve the AKC obedience champion title were all golden retrievers. 

4. The dogs do well in leadership roles.

The small town of Idyllwild, California, is non-incorporated and has no human mayor. In 2012, the organization Idyllwild Animal Rescue Friends (ARF) sponsored an election to put either a cat or dog in charge. Each vote came in the form of a $1 donation to the ARF. The good people of Idyllwild had to choose between 14 dogs and two cats to be their furry leader.

Max (Maximus Mighty-Dog Mueller), a 12-year-old golden retriever, was sworn into office. Sadly, the old dog passed away in his sleep from cancer in 2013. He was replaced by a stuffed animal until they could find a Max II. When this second Max stepped in, he was accompanied by his entourage: two other dogs named Mikey and Mitzi. The triumvirate is affectionately known as the "the Mayor and the spares" or simply "the Mayors of Idyllwild." 

5. Golden retrievers know how to party.

In 2006, the Golden Retriever Club of Scotland hosted a festival to mark their 50th anniversary. Nearly 200 golden retrievers from all over the world came to enjoy the festivities, making it the largest group of the dogs ever photographed in one place. That record was broken in 2013 when 222 dogs appeared for that year’s ceremony. Dogs and owners alike were able to frolic and enjoy each other’s company. You can see some highlights from the event here. In 2018, the club gathered 361 golden retrievers at the Guisachan Estate—where the first litter was born in 1868—to celebrate the breed’s 150th anniversary.

6. They're popular.

Golden Retriever
Who could resist this face? / Jamie McCarthy/GettyImages

According to the American Kennel Club, as of 2021, the golden retriever is the third-most popular dog breed in the U.S., right behind the Labrador retriever and French bulldog. It’s not hard to see why: These friendly dogs are great with families and don't bark much.  

7. Turkey once considered golden retrievers a status symbol.

It's easy to become infatuated with the allure of the golden retriever—its silky, gold fur and elegant frame suggest luxury. But at the end of the day, they're dogs who need to be loved and cherished—not an accessory that can be worn or thrown away.

For a time, golden retrievers were a status symbol in Istanbul, Turkey, but the dogs were frequently abandoned when the novelty wore off. As a result, shelters in Turkey are working with U.S. shelters and nonprofits to help relocate goldens given up by their families to forever homes.

8. They make great actors. 

Golden retrievers are well behaved and easily trained, so they’re naturals on set. One particularly talented pooch named Buddy stole the hearts of millions in the ‘90s by playing both Comet on Full House and Buddy in 1997's Air Bud.

9. Golden retrievers are smart.

Based on these official rankings, the golden retriever is the fourth-most intelligent dog breed—right behind the German shepherd and just ahead of the Doberman pinscher

10. They're right at home in the White House.

President Ford and Liberty.
President Ford and Liberty. / David Hume Kennerly/GettyImages

While living in the White House, President Gerald Ford had a golden retriever named Liberty. She came from Minneapolis, and was originally named Streaker. The pampered pooch had a live-in trainer and even gave birth inside the White House. Liberty received a lot of fan mail, which was answered by Ford’s daughter Susan (she also answered fan mail sent to their Siamese cat Shan). Eventually, Ford’s secretary began mailing back “signed” pictures of the president and his dog with an inked paw print on the side. The paw print signatures were originally the real deal, but as requests increased, they had to switch to a rubber stamp. (It's hard work being the First Dog.)

A version of this story originally ran in 2015; it has been updated for 2022.

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