The Chesapeake Bay Retriever descended from two unrelated St. Johns Newfoundland puppies that were shipwrecked off the coast of Maryland in 1807.  They were smaller and shorter coated than today’s modern Newfoundland. The dog became known as Sailor and the bitch as Canton.  Sailor was a dirty red color with some white on his face and chest.  His coat was smooth and extremely thick and coarse with a full long haired tail.  His large head & longer muzzle showed the typical light colored eye that is still seen in the breed today.  He was a large broad muscular dog built for strength and agility.  Canton was black, not as large but also had the very thick coat.  Both dogs earned great reputations as retrievers of waterfowl, showing great endurance and courage working the rough icy waters of the Bay for which they are named.

Although Sailor and Canton are given the credit of being the foundation for the development of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, it is not known that they were ever bred together.  Numerous breeds are believed to have been used in the creation of the Chesapeake breed.  Various dogs were chosen for their working ability.  Some of the breeds thought to have been used, were Water Spaniels, Pointers, Setters, Flat Coated retrievers and even Coon Hounds.  Given the variety of breeds involved in developing the Chesapeake, there were various qualities relating to coat, size and color.  However they all had the common traits of great strength, courage, endurance, and marking ability in the rough conditions found in the Chesapeake Bay. A definite type of dog had been developed by 1885 and to bring uniformity to the breed, the first written standard for the Chesapeake was adopted in 1890.  Nearly all written breeding records pertaining to the Chesapeakes origins were destroyed in a fire at the Carroll Island Gun Club, where members did much of the early breeding of the Chesapeake.

              Early Chesapeakes were highly valued by the market hunters of that era, as they were required to retrieve 200 or more birds in a single day. They had a superior natural instinct to mark many fallen birds, common sense to bring the cripples in first and to guard the hunter’s equipment at night.  They never let the harsh weather conditions of the bay deter them from their task.

These same traits of strength, determination and loyalty still prevail in the breed today.

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