Labrador Retrievers have been a part of our lives and our society for quite awhile and hence no one really tends to think about the name. Heck, most people do not even know what Labrador even is (hint: its a place!). Most people also don’t even give it a second thought as to why they were given the name Labrador when the breed did not even originate in Labrador. So why then are these dogs called Labrador Retrievers?
The answer to that is actually simple. One of the people central to importing the ancestor of the Labrador Retriever, the St. John’s water dog, to England called them Labrador dogs. The 2nd Earl of Malmesbury was the first to import the St. John’s water dog and it was his grandson who is given credit with calling them Labrador dogs, though some believe that the term was already in use. It seems that the English may not have been good with geography either.
Or maybe not. The dogs originated in the territory of Newfoundland and Labrador and there was already a breed of dog known as the Lesser Newfoundland. Those dogs were bred with other breeds of working dogs including the St. John’s water dog and eventually the Labrador Retriever as well to create what is known today as the Newfoundland. The name could have been given simply to avoid confusion with an existing breed even if it never set eyes on the Labrador coast.
The name Labrador is appropriate for the breed. Portuguese explorers called the land lavradores, which means worker. Newfoundland was given the name Terra Nova or new land. The Portuguese were probably responsible for introducing working dogs to the territory as they were the first settlers and given the dog’s role as a working dog in their society it is only appropriate.
Perhaps there is a third and more convenient reason. Labrador Retriever is much easier to say than Newfoundland Retriever is. One can also shorten it to just Lab, something that one cannot do with a Newfoundland (Newfie?) as easily. Linguistically it may have just been more convenient in the English speaking world.