The Golden Retriever was originally bred in Scotland in the mid-19th century. At that time, wildfowl hunting was a popular sport for the wealthy Scottish elite, but the existing retriever breeds were inadequate for retrieving downed game from both water and land. Retrieving from both land and water was necessary because the hunting grounds of the time were pocketed with marshy ponds and rivers. Consequently, the best water spaniels were crossed with the existing retrievers, resulting in the establishment of the breed today known as the Golden Retriever. The Golden Retriever was first developed near Glen Affric in Scotland, at "Guisachan", the highland estate of Dudley Marjoribanks, 1st Baron Tweedmouth. For many years, what breeds were originally crossed was disputed, but in 1952, the publication of Marjoribanks' breeding records from 1835 to 1890 dispelled the myth concerning the purchase of a whole troupe of Russian tracker sheepdogs from a visiting circus, instead it details a careful line-breeding program.
The original cross was of a yellow-coloured retriever, 'Nous', with a Tweed Water Spaniel female dog, 'Belle'. The Tweed Water Spaniel is now extinct, but was then common in the border country. Marjoribanks had purchased Nous in 1865 from an unregistered litter of otherwise black wavy-coated retriever pups. In 1868, this cross produced a litter that included four pups; these four became the basis of a breeding program which included the Irish Setter, the sandy-coloured Bloodhound, the St. John's water dog of Newfoundland, and two more wavy-coated black retrievers. The bloodline was also inbred and selected for trueness to Marjoribanks' idea of the ultimate hunting dog. His vision included a more vigorous and powerful dog than previous retrievers, one that would still be gentle and trainable. Russian sheepdogs are not mentioned in these records, nor are any other working dog breeds. The ancestry of the Golden Retriever is all sporting dogs, in line with Marjoribanks' goals. The Golden Retriever was active and powerful and had a gentle mouth for retrieving games while on hunts. Organisations other than clubs are dedicated to Golden Retrievers, such as breed-specific adoption sites. One such organisation is the Golden Retriever Club of Scotland, which in August 2013 assembled 222 Golden Retrievers at the historical home of the first Golden Retrievers.
In England. Golden Retrievers were first accepted for registration by The Kennel Club of England in 1903, as Flat Coats – Golden. They were first exhibited in 1908, and in 1911 were recognized as a breed referred to as Retriever (Golden and Yellow). In the United States. It took another 14 years for the breed to be recognized in America, and in 1925, the American Kennel Club did so. In 1938, the Golden Retriever Club of America was founded. Golden Retrievers are ranked number two for American Kennel Club Registrations. As of the year 1999, 62,652 have been registered and the only breed above them is the Labrador Retriever.
In Canada. The Honourable Archie Marjoribanks took a Golden Retriever to Canada in 1881, and registered 'Lady' with the AKC in 1894. These are the first records of the breed in these two countries. The breed was first registered in Canada in 1927, and the Golden Retriever Club of Ontario (GRCO) was formed in 1958. The cofounders of the GRCO were Cliff Drysdale, an Englishman who had brought over an English Golden, and Jutta Baker, daughter-in-law of Louis Baker, who owned Northland Kennels. The GCRO in later years expanded to become the Golden Retriever Club of Canada. In Scotland. In July 2006, the Golden Retriever Club of Scotland organized a gathering of Golden Retriever enthusiasts at the ancestral home, Guisachan House.