Working dog, gun dog, pet, guide dog, assistance dog, therapy dog; the Labrador is probably one of the most intelligent and versatile dog breeds. It’s also one of the most popular breeds in the UK. Mainstay of many country estates and rural homes, you’ll normally find that owners have always had a ‘Lab’ as did their fathers and theirs before. Most of the time you’ll even find an ancestry or lineage of the same Labradors in the same family. And perhaps this loyalty of the owners reflects the loyalty and qualities of the lab as a breed.
Whilst the Labrador takes its name from the Labrador region of Newfoundland, eastern Canada, the breed developed when the original dogs from that area were used to evolve a British variety. The retrieval instinct of these ‘water’ dogs appealed to British breeders looking for a hardworking, solid, yet agile hunting dog that could work alongside hunters to find and retrieve prey from thick undergrowth and woodland.
Still used as hunting and retrieval dogs today, the Labrador’s keen ear, gentle but strong jawline and biddable personality has seen it expand into many roles across society. At the end of the last century any assistance dogs, whether Guide Dogs or Hearing Dogs, were almost certainly Labradors. Having demonstrated their willingness and ability to help humans you’ll now find them working as all round assistance dogs, helping disabled owners around the home and even in schools and wellbeing centres as therapy dogs.
Famous Labrador owners
Almost two centuries later, the Labrador is almost as much of a British icon as the Royal family, who have been keen lab owners. The late Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III, Prince William and Harry and Meghan have all been known to have owned Labradors. Popular amongst world leaders, Labradors have popped up alongside presidents and politicians across the world. US President Bill Clinton was regularly pictured with his labs in the grounds at the White House and Camp David, and even Vladimir Putin is understood to have been a lab fan.
From footballers like Harry Kane and stars onf stage and screen including Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, to pop sensation Dua Lipa and ‘Queen of the Prawn Ring’ Kerry Katona, the lab breed has a star studded and universal appeal.
As well as being the sidekick of some well-known faces, there are plenty of Labradors that have achieved fame in their own right. David Blunkett’s Labrador, Lucy, served her time admirably in the House of Commons and would probably have been over shadowed in the fame game by her owner if not for the fact she memorably vomited in The House during a speech – perhaps a metaphor for how we all feel about politics sometimes!
Jennifer Aniston is another high-profile owner and her grandly named Labrador ‘Lord Chesterfield’ can easily be mistaken for the famous lab ‘Marley’ who appeared alongside her in the heart-warming film Marley and Me. Yet Marley was actually played by more than 20 dogs in total, with the one taking the bulk of the role named Clyde.
Probably the most famous Labrador is the one whose fame is earned exclusively on merit. Endal was a service dog, and with so many distinctions and honours he’s believed to hold the title as the world’s most decorated dog. From Dog of the Millennium and holder of the PDSA Gold Medal for Gallantry and Devotion to Duty, Endal achieved several notable ‘firsts’ including being the first dog to put a human in the recovery position and the first to use a chip and pin bank card. As a result of his achievements, Endal was a much sought after guest and interviewee on TV shows and in magazines across the country and internationally.
With so many quality personality traits and a pretty strong health profile, it’s little wonder that the Labrador has been a prominent choice when deliberate cross breeding (mixing the genes of two breeds in a bid to keep the best parts of both). Labradoodles, Boradors and Cockadors are amongst the most popular, and it’s once again a testament to their kind and gentle nature that they feature in many of the new names gracing the canine world.
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