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Labrador Retriever

Chapter 1

The History of Labrador Retrievers

In the Beginning´┐Ż

About sixty million years ago, a small mammal rather like a weasel or polecat clambered through the primeval forests. Its name was Miacis and it was the ancestor of the group of animals we call canids: the dog, jackal, wolf, and fox family.

Unlike Modern dogs that walk on their toes, Miacis was flat footed. It had a carnivore’s teeth and a smallish brain, but was more intelligent than its contemporaries, the creodonts, another group of primitive meat-eaters. The creodonts were much more common than Miacis, but gradually became extinct, the last one dying about twenty million years ago.

Canine Ancestors

By around thirty-five million years ago, Miacis had given rise to a variety of early canids. We know over forty types, some like bears, some like hyenas, and some like cats. Some, however, were like dogs: Cynodictis, for example, resembled a primitive Cardigan Welsh Corgi. These dog-like canids were the only ones to survive the evolutionary process, and some of them provided the basis for the domestic dog.

Dogs as we know them first came on the scene in Eurasia between 12,000 and 14,000 years ago. From what kind of animal did they directly spring? It was originally thought that their ancestor was a form of jackal or jackal/wolf cross. Scientists now believe, however, that it was the smaller southern strain of the gray wolf (Canis lupus pallipes) still to be found in India. During the period in question, the gray wolf (dispite its name, an animal with a wide variety of coat colors) was distributed throughout Europe, Asia and North America.

Other possible dog ancestors include the woolly wolf of northern India and Tibet and the desert wolf of the Middle East. It is, however, certain that all domestic dogs sprang from one of thse sources (or possibly more than one in parallel development), and that they are not genetically connected with any other species.

Dog Diversification

Because of their intelligence, versatility, and use of social co-operation within the pack, wild dogs spread quickly all over the world. The Dingo, however, which many believe was the basic type of Canis from which the modern dog evolved, was already domesticated when it was introduced to Australia thousands of years ago by the first immigrants. Wild dogs were probably domesticated in different ways in different parts of the world; some while scavenging for around human settlements, others when early man hunted dogs for food and took litters of puppies back to the homestead for fattening up.

From bones and fossils found around the world and dated back to about 6500 years ago, we can say that at that period there were five different types of dogs: mastiffs, wolf-like dogs, Greyhounds, Pointer-type dogs, and sheepdogs. Since then, thousands of breeds have been developed by both artificial and natural selection. But over the centuries many have been lost, and only about 400 remain today.

When the Europeans first arrived in North and South America in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, for example, they found at least twenty distinct dog breeds: now the Mexican Hairless, Eskimo Dog, and Peruvian and Chilean Wild Dogs are among the few surviving natives. Other ancient breeds include the Basenji, native to Africa, and, from the Middle East, the equally venerable Saluki and Afgan.


Enter the Labrador

Yellow Labradors

Chocolate Labrador

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

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