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Dark Golden Retriever: Facts, Origin, Pictures & History

Written by: Kit Copson

Last Updated on May 1, 2024 by Dogster Team

A happy Golden Retriever adult male dog relaxing in a park

Dark Golden Retriever: Facts, Origin, Pictures & History

Golden Retrievers are one of the most beloved dog breeds in the world. Famed for their loyalty, gentleness, and, not to mention, beauty, Golden Retrievers are the ultimate family dog. The AKC accepts three Golden Retriever coat colors as part of its standard—light golden, golden, and dark golden.

Breed Overview


21 – 22 inches


55 – 75 pounds


10 – 12 years


Cream, yellow, golden, red

Suitable for:

Active families, service roles, therapy, hunting, companionship


Loyal, attentive, affectionate, active

Dark Golden Retrievers’ coats are of a darker yellow shade closer to a caramel, brown, or reddish color, though they’re considered distinct from red-tinted Golden Retrievers. The latter has more red around the ears than dark Golden Retrievers, which is how they’re distinguished in dog shows. This dark coat color was likely passed down by the Retriever’s relative, the Irish Setter.

Dark Golden Retrievers, like Retrievers of other colors, date back to 19th century Scotland, and in this post, we’re going to unpack this history. We’ll also discuss what Golden Retrievers are like as pets for those interested in adopting one.

Golden Retriever Characteristic

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.


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The Earliest Records of Dark Golden Retrievers in History

An aristocrat called Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks (born 1820) was responsible for breeding the first Golden Retrievers in 1868, 3 years after he adopted Nous, a cobbler’s dog with a wavy coat. Despite both of Nous’ parents being black in color, Nous was golden-colored.

He was mated with a Tweed Water Spaniel—a now extinct breed—called Belle with the intention of producing capable hunters. Marjoribanks had by this point acquired a vast country estate called Guisachan, which meant that there were plenty of grouse, partridges, and deer waiting to be hunted out in the nearby forest. Guisachan is now famous for being the birthplace of the Golden Retriever.

The pups considered to have been the world’s first Golden Retrievers made up the litter—their names were Cowslip, Crocus, and Primrose. It seems very likely that Crocus was later mated with a Red Setter (also known as the Irish Setter) called Sampson, which accounts for the darker-colored Golden Retrievers today.

How Dark Golden Retrievers Gained Popularity

In the beginning, Marjoribanks kept the existence of his prized Retrievers under wraps, only entrusting them to family and friends. They eventually started to see the wider world when Marjoribank’s son, Archie, took two Golden Retrievers to North America, and another to Canada soon afterward. The dog taken to Canada was later returned to Britain, where she mothered more litters.

It was in Britain that Golden Retrievers were first registered and from there, they began to grow in popularity. Winifred Charlesworth, a breed enthusiast and advocate, was largely responsible for the breed’s formal recognition and its increase in popularity. Judging by a photo of Mrs. Charlesworth dating back to the 1910s, she owned a dark-colored Golden Retriever herself.

Golden retriever beautiful lovely pair
Image Credit: Rala3030, Shutterstock

Formal Recognition of the Dark Golden Retriever

The Kennel Club in the U.K. first recorded Golden Retrievers in 1903 as “Flat-coats”. They were first shown in 1908 and 1911, a breed club was formed and led by Winifred Charlesworth. In 1913, this club was formally recognized by The Kennel Club. This club has been known as The Golden Retriever Club ever since. They were first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1925.

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Top 4 Unique Facts About Dark Golden Retrievers

1. Golden Retrievers Are Great Rescue Dogs

As fantastic sniffers and trackers, it’s not uncommon to see Golden Retrievers making up part of a rescue team. Their keen noses also mean they’re often recruited as sniffer dogs for the police force.

red golden retriever
Image Credit: irinaorel, Shutterstock

2. Golden Retrievers Have a Special Fondness for Food

All dogs love a good meal, but Golden Retrievers are renowned for their gobbling capacities. They’re not picky, either, and for this reason, they’re prone to obesity—something to watch out for if you’re a Retriever parent yourself!

3. Golden Retrievers Are the Perfect Therapy Dogs

As a patient, affectionate, and gentle breed, Golden Retrievers are often recruited as therapy dogs and emotional support dogs. For this reason, you might spot a Golden Retriever in a hospital, hospice, school, or even in some workplaces comforting and calming people.

wet red golden retriever dog outdoors
Image By: Ron Jungwirth, Pixabay

4. Golden Retrievers Are Number 3 on the AKC’s Most Popular Dogs List

On the list, they’re just behind Labrador Retrievers and French Bulldogs.

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Does the Dark Golden Retriever Make a Good Pet?

Golden Retrievers, regardless of color, make fantastic pets. Cheerful, fun-loving, devoted, and gentle are but a handful of the Golden Retriever’s personality traits, making them the perfect family dog. They’re typically great with children and other pets as long as they’ve been properly socialized.

Golden Retrievers also love to play and will likely very much enjoy trips out to the park or local playing field to play fetch, or to the nearest lake, river, or beach for a swim—most Golden Retrievers absolutely love swimming.

In terms of caring for a Golden Retriever, they’re not the highest maintenance dog breed but they’re not the lowest, either. They’re super smart and eager to please, so typically take well to training but they’re also very active dogs that require around 2 hours of exercise per day, which is best spread out over a few sessions (morning walk, afternoon walk, etc.).

Golden Retrievers are also big shedders, so make sure you arm yourself with a decent hoover and grooming tool to keep that under control! In terms of health issues, they can be prone to obesity as a result of overeating and also conditions like hip dysplasia and eye problems.

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To recap, dark Golden Retrievers originated in Scotland in the 19th century and were bred—like Golden Retrievers of all colors—to hunt grouse, partridges, and deer at a baron’s country estate.

The darker/reddish coloring in some Retrievers is believed to have come from a Red Setter (Irish Setter) that was mated with one of the offspring from the first-ever Golden Retriever litter. Today, Golden Retrievers are faithful family dogs and excellent working and emotional support dogs around the world.

Featured Image Credit to: Neelsky, Shutterstock

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