They adapted to their environment, and by natural selection had evolved into two distinct types: one was the large heavy-coated dog which became known as the Newfoundland and the other, the smaller shorter-coated, was called the "black Water Dog," the "lesser Newfoundland," and later the "St. John's dog."
Both were excellent water dogs, had strong inherent hunting ability acquired from generations of living off the land and thick double coats which protected them against the elements.
In the early 1800s several keen sportsmen and members of the English nobility acquired a few of the smaller-type dogs that fishermen were bringing back to England. These were found to be excellent retrievers of fish and game. For many years the breed was kept pure, but difficulty arose in obtaining fresh breeding stock, so Labradors were crossed with other sporting breeds, in particular the Flat-Coated Retriever, the Tweed Water Spaniel, and the Curly-Coated Retriever. The Labrador, as we know it today, was thus a British development.
As a sporting dog the Labrador soon took over from the Flat-Coated Retriever as Britain's most popular gun dog, a position the breed has held up to the present time. In addition, the Lab has earned world-wide respect as a war dog, police dog and as a guide dog for the blind.
In 1903 the breed was officially recognized by The Kennel Club (England) and was first registered in Canada in 1905.