Currently Accepted Theory:
As early as 1929 the idea that Goldens were descended from Russian dogs was formally challenged by Jacqueline Cottingham in an article published in February 1, 1928 edition of The American Kennel Club Gazette. An article appeared inThe Field, an English dog magazine on June 17, 1939. Written by A. Coxton, it challenged the Russian theory and instead stated that a later Lord Tweedmouth, a grandson of the first, had said that the Golden Retriever breed started with a dog purchased by the first Lord Tweedmouth from a cobbler in Brighton. This dog was the only yellow in a litter of black Wavy-Coated Retrievers. Of course, this is the currently accepted theory. Other Golden breeders challenged the circus dog theory as well.
A New Theory:
Without question, there was a dog remarkably similar to today’s Golden Retriever in existence well before Lord Tweedmouth began breeding Yellow Retrievers in the 1860’s. That Lord Tweedmouth refined and improved the breed of dog known today as Golden Retrievers is beyond question. But it appears just as clear that others, perhaps even including Lord Tweedmouth himself, had been working with a similar breed of dog, quite possibly a Setter, for some time prior to the 1860’s. Whether these dogs are the “liver-colored” Setters referred to in the old dog books or some other breed is a question that may not be answered with any certainty, but it seems likely based on the available evidence. Since it is known for certain that Lord Tweedmouth crossed his Retrievers with at least one Setter, it seems quite possible that our Goldens owe much more of their heritage to Setters than had been thought previously.
Image above: Setters and Spaniels by Reinagle from Daniel’s Royal Sports 1802.
Original copperplate engraving by J. Scott.
Upper right-The Old English Setter: Lower left-The Setter
(Featherstone Castle breeding-not Irish). Courtesy R. Page Elliott
Excerpts from article by Jeffrey Pepper https://www.grca.org/about-the-breed/breed-history/the-origins-of-the-golden-retriever-revisited/