Description & History

The Victorian era brought about a change in game shooting due to the advent of the percussion shotgun and later the breechloader. Their greater range meant that birds often fell out of sight of the gun and a dog was required that could locate and retrieve without the assistance of man. Retriever breeds were evolved for this purpose and it is believed that the Flat-coated Retriever - originally known as the Wavy-coated Retriever - was created by crossing a number of sporting dogs.

The strains thought to have been used were Labradors, setters, spaniels and sheepdogs.

From the early Labrador they acquired their original wavy coat - in time, selective breeding produced the flat coat - also their ability to retrieve.

The setters gave them their superb scenting qualities, and spaniel blood a mixture of all these attributes.

Sheepdogs - probably rough- and smooth-haired collies - added intelligence, obedience and stamina.

The breed was gradually developed and perfected by a number of dedicated sportsmen including Mr S E Shirley, founder of the Kennel Club. By the beginning of the twentieth century the Flatcoat had become extremely popular and was in great demand among sportsmen and gamekeepers. This popularity lasted until shortly before the Second World War, when their numbers gradually declined. Nowadays the breed, although not sought after as much as some retriever breeds, has a strong following and is greatly respected.

The exceptional quality of the Flatcoats in the shooting-field has always been greatly valued. They are independent, self-reliant, bold fast workers with a natural ability to hunt, find and retrieve. For those who regularly use the Flatcoat - whether in filed trials, working tests or on ordinary shooting days - there is loyalty and respect for a gundog which is considered by them to be the best in the world.

The breed is a popular competitor in the show ring and an ideal family companion. A country abode is best for this breed as it requires plenty of exercise.

Rosamund Walters.

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