DID YOU KNOW??? Labrador Retrievers hail from Newfoundland, Canada not Labrador!
In the 1700s early Newfoundland dogs were bred with small water dogs and resulted in the St. John’s water dogs (now extinct). Those early Lab forefathers looked like today's Labs, but with white feet and faces.
New taxes on dogs in Canada and an English dog quarantine stopped the import of the St. John's Water Dog. This caused their extinction in Canada, but the breed survived in the United Kingdom, thanks to early imports and a group of dedicated Scottish fanciers.
The Labrador's lineage traces back to this now extinct dog called the lesser Newfoundland or St. John's Water Dog. It was bred for strictly utilitarian purposes - to help fishermen pull their nets in and work. There was absolutely no consideration given to how the dogs looked...this was form following function at its most pure.
It is assumed that random dogs of English, Irish and Portuguese fisherman who settled in St. John's, Canada were used in breeding these dogs. With a dash of the Newfoundland dog we know thrown in every now and then.
In his book Excursions In and About Newfoundland During the Years 1839 and 1840 Vol. 1, the geologist Joseph Beete Jukes describes the St. John's water dog with both bemusement and admiration: "A thin, short-haired, black dog came off-shore to us to-day. The animal was of a breed very different from what we understand by the term Newfoundland dog in England. He had a thin, tapering snout, a long thin tail, and rather thin, but powerful legs, with a lank body, – the hair short and smooth." wrote Jukes. "These are the most abundant dogs in the country...They are no means handsome, but are generally more intelligent and useful than the others... I observed he once or twice put his foot in the water and paddled it about. This foot was white, and Harvey said he did it to 'toil' or entice the fish. The whole proceeding struck me as remarkable, more especially as they said he had never been taught anything of the kind." -from Wikipedia