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Curly Ancestors of the Golden Retriever

Updated: Oct 8, 2019

Some of the most important Golden Retrievers in history trace back to two Curly-coated Retrievers--the famous Tiverton Best Lad and his son Rajah.

Illustration of curly coated retriever Tiverton Best Lad.
Curly coat Ch. Tiverton Best Lad Illustration. Born 1895 in England.

Tiverton Best Lad and Rajah not only appear in some of the most notable golden's pedigrees but they often appear on both sides of the pedigree. Curly-coats appear in the pedigree of the first U.S. Best in Show golden and one of the most important field goldens. Let's take a look at some pedigrees. The first golden to go best in show in the United States was a dog named Speedwell Pluto. Born in the UK, Pluto was registered by the UK Kennel Club in 1929 and later exported to the U.S. where he was AKC registered in 1932. By 1933, Pluto won an AKC Best In Show and is in the Golden Retriever Club of America Hall of Fame.

Ad for golden retriever stud dogs including Speedwell Pluto.
Golden retriever Speedwell Pluto in an ad for the Rockhaven Golden Retriever Kennel, North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Pluto's lineage traces back to father and son curly-coats Best Lad and Rajah on BOTH sides of his pedigree.

Pluto's paternal great-grandfather Triumph, born in 1913, is the great-grandson of Rajah, the curly-coat, the great-great-grandson of Tiverton Best Lad, and, of course, the ancestor of all of the registered curly-coats behind Best Lad. (We can trace Best Lad's lineage from his birth in 1895 all the way back to the first UK studbook listings in 1874.)

On Pluto's dam's side is his great-grandmother Whestead Russet. She can be traced back to Paxhill Brian who is a grandson of Rajah and great-grandson of Best Lad.

Paxhill Brian is just a starting point when researching the curly-coated retriever influence on golden retriever breeding. Brian has five littermates found in golden pedigrees and, obviously, all those littermates also have the curly-coat Rajah as grandsire.

Pedigree of golden retriever Speedwell Pluto
Golden Retriever Speedwell Pluto's pedigree.

In the right hand column of this pedigree, you can see the dog Triumph and the bitch Wherstead Russet. Both go back to Rajah and Tiverton's Best Lad.

The following is the pedigree of the golden Triumph, born in 1913. Note the curly coat Rajah is his great-grandfather.

Pedigree chart of Triumph, a golden retriever born in 1913.
Golden Retriever Triumph pedigree. Rajah the curly coated retriever is Triumph's great-grandfather.

Now here is the pedigree of Wherstead Russet, a female found in Pluto's pedigree. Russet is Triumph's grand-daughter and found on the maternal side of Pluto's pedigree.

As you can see, Russet goes back to Paxhill Brian, grandson of curly-coat Rajah.


One of the most important dogs as a foundation for field goldens is the UK-bred Holway Barty. Exported to the U.S. in the 1970s, Barty is an ancestor of many of the top modern-day field goldens. Turns out Barty can be traced back to our two curly-coats many, many, many times through the famous Yeo goldens. A very quick and cursory study of Barty's pedigree indicates perhaps 7-8 ancestors going back to Rajah and Best Lad. In view of my limited knowledge of golden retriever pedigrees, I probably should conduct a more extensive study as to the extent of the curly ancestry. However, I would not be surprised if half of all golden retrievers alive today have this curly ancestry. In some pedigree databases, there are questions as to whether Rajah and his sire, Tiverton Best Lad, were indeed curly-coated retrievers. I can tell you unequivocably they were both curly-coated retrievers and registered as such by the English kennel club. Tiverton Best Lad was a big winner on the English bench show circuit and I have Rajah's registration right here. (More about Best Lad in a future post.)

While Rajah's dam is listed as unknown, the English kennel club told me Rajah would have been registered as a crossbred or interbred if he was a mixture of two breeds. (An interbred back in the early 1900s was a dog bred from what was considered two related breeds, such as two retrievers or two setters. A crossbred would be a dog bred from two unrelated breeds, such as a terrier bred to a hound.) A fascinating tidbit about early golden retriever pedigrees is several Beechgrove dogs listed as ancestors with their parents usually listed as unknown. Beechgrove bred many types of dogs including curly-coated retrievers! Hmmmmmmmm. There are other interesting tidbits regarding goldens and curlies and Labrador retrievers we will explore in future posts. For an article about the curly-coated retriever foundation for Labrador retrievers, see my article

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