Black golden retrievers are surrounded by numerous misconceptions. Are they an actual golden retriever variety or a myth?
You may be sure that the gorgeous black dog you saw was a rare golden retriever, but this likely isn’t true.
Black golden retrievers are adorable and beautiful. They are friendly, outgoing, confident, fluffy, and fun – but they aren’t golden retrievers.
Yes, you can’t buy a black golden retriever, but who cares about the breed written on the registration certificate?
Other dogs resembling golden retrievers can make equally great family dogs, so if you want a “black golden retriever” and don’t care about the formal recognition, consider alternatives.
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Are Black Golden Retrievers a Myth?
The breed’s name, golden retriever, presumes that these dogs should have golden fur. Even English cream golden retrievers commonly marketed as “rare platinum golden retrievers” aren’t platinum or cream but very light gold.
The same applies to red field golden retrievers – they have mahogany undertones, but the color is lustrous and warm anyway, resembling antique gold or copper.
A logical question to ask is – do black golden retrievers exist or are they a hoax invented by talented marketers? Yes, golden retrievers with black fur exist.
But black color in purebred golden retrievers results from a genetic mutation that manifests as patches resembling birthmarks.
Golden retrievers with a genetic mutation may have black markings on the nose, ears, legs, or other body parts but are never entirely black.
Such defects exclude a dog from participating in dog shows or breeding but don’t affect its overall health state or temperament.
A golden retriever with a black marking is equally friendly, sociable, affectionate, and energetic as its golden relatives.
There’s no difference other than coat color, but breeders sell black-marked golden retrievers for less.
Most black dogs that look like golden retrievers are either mixed or entirely different breeds. There’s no way a purebred golden retriever can have a completely black body.
So, if you come across a breeder claiming they’re selling a “rare black golden retriever,” be careful.
There’s nothing wrong with mixed dogs, but a breeder making such a statement is either lying on purpose or doesn’t know their job.
The Science Behind Golden Retriever Coat Color
Many sources online claim that black golden retrievers are real goldens. To understand why this isn’t true, we should get a bit nerdy and dive into the science behind golden retriever coat color.
The color of a golden retriever’s fur is determined by a gene MC1R, also known as E-locus. It controls melanocyte production in skin and hair cells.
Dogs with black coat color have E/E color gene. “E” is a dominant allele, so a dog with a black coat color is highly likely to pass the color to its puppies.
When a dog’s genes have a recessive allele “e,” its coat turns red or yellow. All purebred golden retrievers have the recessive e/e color genotype, so they can’t pass on the dominant “E” allele to their puppies.
Which Breeds Look Like Black Golden Retrievers
Since purebred golden retrievers can’t be black, you may be wondering which dog breeds look like black golden retrievers.
The most plausible options are flat-coated retrievers, black Labrador retriever and golden retriever mix, black German shepherd and golden retriever mix, Newfoundland, and Hovawart.
The resemblance of flat-coated retrievers to golden retrievers isn’t surprising because these dogs are relatives.
Golden retrievers result from a flat-coated retriever, Tweed water spaniel, Irish setter, and Newfoundland mix.
Like golden retrievers, flat-coated retrievers have feathering on the legs and tail, moderately long coats, and blocky heads.
They also bear behavioral resemblances – flat-coated retrievers love to play, need much exercise, and have a tendency to chew.
Flat-coated retrievers are slightly taller and leaner than goldens. A Labrador and golden retriever mix can be nearly indistinguishable from a golden retriever, whereas a German shepherd and golden retriever mix may have slightly different ears.
Distinguishing between a Newfoundland and a golden retriever is a lot easier.
Newfoundlands are taller, bulkier, and have denser, fluffier coats. Male Newfoundlands reach 28 inches in height and weigh 130-150 pounds on average.
They resemble teddy bears, both visually and temperament-wise. These dogs aren’t as energetic as golden retrievers but also aren’t as trainable. Like golden retrievers, they don’t bark a lot and get along well with kids.
The primary difference between Hovawart and golden retriever breeds is temperament. Hovawarts are stubborn and free-minded. They are sometimes hard to handle, especially for inexperienced dog owners.
Hovawarts are also larger – males typically are 26 to 28 inches tall and weigh up to 90 pounds. These dogs can be black, golden, or two-colored.
Black Golden Retriever Formal Recognition
Because black golden retrievers aren’t purebred, they can’t participate in dog shows or be mated with purebred golden retrievers.
According to the golden retriever breed standard published by the American Kennel Club, golden retrievers should have lustrous coat ranging from light to the darkest shades of gold, but extremely light or dark color is undesirable.
British breed standard also states that golden retriever color should range from light to dark gold, but judges at British dog exhibitions favor lighter shades.
Canadian golden retrievers are typically darker than American and English, ranging from mid to dark gold, but they aren’t black either.
Black markings on the fur are considered a severe fault in purebred golden retrievers and disqualify a dog from participating in the competition.
No kennel club will register a dog as a black golden retriever because it simply goes against the breed standard and is impossible genetically.
In contrast, red field golden retrievers and golden retrievers with black patches due to genetic mutation are recognized as purebred golden retrievers by the American Kennel Club but cannot participate in shows.
Flat-coated retrievers, Newfoundlands, and Hovawarts are recognized by the American Kennel Club and Kennel Club of Canada as official dog breeds, and such dogs can participate in shows unless they have any faults.
If a breeder attempts to sell you an American Kennel Club-registered black golden retriever, look for a different breeder. Either the dog is not actually registered, the pedigree has fake parents, or the document is fake itself.
How Rare Are Black Golden Retrievers?
We’ve determined that golden retrievers can’t be black, so the correct answer to how rare are black golden retrievers would be “one in a billion” or rarer.
However, any of the breeds resembling a black golden retriever is far less common than goldens. According to American Kennel Club, golden retrievers are in the top-three most popular dog breeds in the United States.
In contrast, Newfoundlands are only 45th, and flat-coated retrievers are in the 93rd position by 2021 data. And Hovawarts? They aren’t even on the list. Golden retriever and black Labrador retriever mix are relatively common.
So, you are much more likely to encounter a Newfoundland or a black lab and golden retriever mix than a flat-coated retriever or Hovawart.
How Are Black Golden Retrievers Different?
Now, let’s paraphrase it – how are flat-coated retrievers, the breed bearing the most prominent resemblance to goldens, different from golden retrievers, apart from the color?
Both dogs have feathering on the back of the legs, moderately long ears, and athletic build. But flat-coated retrievers have slightly longer, narrower muzzles and amber rather than dark brown eyes.
As the name suggests, flat-coated retrievers don’t have a dense, two-layer coat like golden retrievers. Their fur lies flat and doesn’t have as excellent water-repelling properties as the golden retriever coat.
Flat-coated retrievers have a shorter lifespan than golden retrievers, 8-10 years.
Although the similarities in these breed temperaments outweigh the differences, flat-coated retrievers aren’t as good for families with kids because they are a bit too wild.
Flat-coated retrievers originated not long before golden retrievers in 19th century England. They are a combination of Newfoundland, sheepdog, Irish setter, and Tweed water spaniel.
Another dog that strikingly resembles a black golden retriever is a mix of a black Labrador retriever and a golden retriever. Obviously, these dogs inherit some traits from labs.
They may have broader snouts, shorter, sleeker coats, and pointy rather than fluffy tails. When it comes to temperament, a mix of black lab and golden retriever doesn’t differ from a purebred golden retriever.
So, if you’re looking for a black golden retriever, consider a mix of lab and golden because it will be the most similar to purebred goldens.
Newfoundlands, Hovawarts, and a German shepherd-golden retriever mix are different from purebred goldens in terms of temperament, so they aren’t the best choice if you want a black golden retriever because of the personality.
However, if you want a black golden retriever because of its appearance, each of these dog breeds deserves your attention. They are different yet all equally wonderful.
Mixed dogs tend to cost less than purebred dogs because they can’t be registered by a kennel club. Flat-coated retrievers, Newfoundlands, and Hovawarts cost about the same as golden retrievers, $1,200-$3,000 on average.