old treatises and articles on gun dogs make it clear that yellows
and livers were evident and even common before any recorded breeding
was the rule. Spaniels, Poodles, Setters, Retrievers, and even pointers
occasionally displayed yellow and liver coloring. In fact, calling
a dog “liver” one or two hundred years ago could mean any color
from yellow to red to liver or brown.
the earliest years of the Labrador, yellows were simply culled.
The first registered yellow was Ben of Hyde, out of two black dogs,
themselves from import stock. Ben produced many yellows when bred
to black bitches; if the genetics were the same then as now, this
indicates that many blacks were actually heterozygous for black.
Oddly, his yellow littermate Juno produced few if any yellows when
she was bred to blacks. However, bitches produce few puppies compared
to dogs so chance probably stepped in with homozygous dominant black
mates for Juno.
anti-yellow sentiment was so strong that in the 1920’s experienced
breeders reported being directed to the Golden Retriever ring! At
this point, dogs of this color did suffer a wide variation of incorrect
type — it’s easy to find pictures of old yellow Labradors with
very houndy features. A separate standard was briefly drawn up to
address this problem, but eventually it was felt that yellows should
simply adhere to the same standard as blacks. Today, you will find
as many, if not more, yellows as blacks of the same quality. Only
in some hunting circles will you still find the erroneous opinion
that “blacks make better hunters.”