Dog trains man

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Blond Retriever Or Golden Hovawart?

They do look a like, the blond Hovawart and the Golden retriever. I always wondered if both could have an ancestor in common that we don't know of. Not all Golden retriever "types" do look like blond Hovawarts, a german Golden is unmistakenly not a Hovawart also because of its smaller size. But when you look at the large North American Golden retriever, it gets a lot more difficult to see who is who.

These photo's from retrieverman's blog set an excellent example, who is the retriever and who is the Hovawart?

125-pound golden retriever, photo courtesy of retrieverman

blond hovawart, photo courtesy of retrieverman

Of course Golden retrievers and Hovawarts might look a like, they are completely different dogs, mainly because of the different type of ancestors in their lines and how breeders have been selecting individuals. The hovawart is a guardian, tied to his family and his estate. The golden is a social dog, and therefore quite different. Or as retrieverman wrote a little more direct on his blog:
"Say that you’re a burglar, and you want to break into a house that has one of these dogs in it? Which do want to burgle?

You want to burgle the house with the 125-pound golden retriever. The hovawart will tear you up."
When I research - google - the history of the Golden retriever I can't find any common ancestor. The Tweed Water Spaniel, St. John's Water Dog, Irish Setter and Bloodhound were used to create the Golden Retriever, versus the Newfoundland, German Shepherd, Kuvasz, and "farm type" dogs for the Hovawart.

Surprisingly, neither the Golden Retriever nor the Hovawart had any blond dog in their ancestry. Although it was long believed that Russian trackers - also called "Russian Yellow Retrievers" - were used in Golden retriever breeding, which could account for the blond color. It turned out to be a myth, debunked by the full disclosure in 1952 of Majoribank's breeding records from 1835 to 1890.

So no common ancestors after all.

But wait, the Russian tracker was used for herding and guarding, and was around in the early 1900's - the start of the Hovawart - before it went extinct. That sounds and looks a whole lot like a Hovawart type dog to me, could Russian trackers be the missing link explaining blond Hovawarts?

Coming up next, could the Russian tracker be a Hovawart ancestor, and why Kurt F. K├Ânig, the mastermind behind the blond Hovawart, had his breeding records burned.



  1. amazing physical resemblance!
    Night and day difference in temperment.
    very interesting

  2. They do look very similar now that you mention it. Since we don't see many Hovawarts here (I don't think I've seen any actually!) I am sure I would mistake them for the wrong breed!

  3. Fascinating! I can't wait to hear more. They sure do look similar...

  4. Absolutely fascinating! They do look so similar that it is amazing. I often see some of your photos on FB and my brain automatically thinks "Golden" but that is because I have a very large golden.

  5. That Russian tracker was said to have been a Caucasian ovtcharka, but lots of German dogs have been called Russian by British dog fanciers. There was a dog called Saufinder, a kind of hunting Schnauzer, that was used to hunt wild boar in Germany. Many British texts called it a Russian terrier, and I think the Russians did, too, which is why their black guard schnauzer-airedale is called the Black Russian terrier.

    There are two theories on the Russian origin story:

    The fellow who had the yellow Russian retrievers, Col. Le Poer Trench, was a con-man, or he was conned by a Gaelic-speaking gamekeeper who once worked on Lord Tweedmouth's estate. Either one could have the source of disinformation. I would not put it past a working class Gaelic-speaking gamekeeper to try to pull a fast one over the English.

    However, I think the reason why it was believed so much is that it legitimized the split between golden and flat-coated retrievers. There were even inchoate moves to get yellow Labradors to be recognized as a separate breed at the same time, but these never went anywhere. However, the golden retriever as Russian dog, whether anyone knew it was false or not, really did give legitimacy to splitting off the strain, which actually wound up being a disaster for flat-coated retrievers. Most of their original diversity in genes and phenotype now resides in golden retrievers. I saw a phylogentic tree of a variety of different breeds, and it found that flat-coated retrievers actually nest within golden retrievers, and the only reason I can think of is that the golden retriever have much more genetic diversity (which isn't a lot) and the extant dogs we call flat-coats are derived from just a tiny set of founders.

    1. Hope they will never make that mistake with the Hovawart, to split them even further in colors, it is already ashame we "lost" some of the genes when a variety of colors was excluded from the lines that probably had more Leonberger.

      I'll have a try if I can find a phylogentic tree of the Hovawart.

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