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10 Friendly Facts About the Golden Retriever

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It’s no mystery why these fluffy pooches are so popular. The well-mannered, fun-loving dogs are a hit with children and adults alike. Learn more about their history.

1. THEY WERE BRED TO RETRIEVE. 

Dudley Marjoribanks, first Lord Tweedmouth, in Scotland is credited for creating the golden retriever. The lord wanted a dog with a natural love of the water and inclination to retrieve the game he shot while hunting. In 1865 he purchased Nous, a yellow dog in a litter of black wavy-coated retrievers. He bred Nous with Belle, a Tweed water spaniel that he acquired from his cousin. After two litters, the couple produced four yellow retrievers—Crocus, Primrose, Cowslip, and Ada—that would become the ancestors of the dogs we know today. Later on, red setters and tan-colored bloodhounds were also introduced to the bloodline.

2. EGGS ARE SAFE WITH THEM.

Goldens have “soft mouths,” meaning they can carry things in their chops without damaging them—an important skill for canines tasked with retrieving their masters' hunting trophies. They’re so gentle, in fact, that some can be trained to hold a raw egg in their mouths without breaking it. 

3. THEY COULD GIVE EMILY POST A RUN FOR HER MONEY. 

Golden retrievers are some of the most mild-mannered and obedient dogs around. The first three dogs to ever achieve the AKC obedience champion title were all golden retrievers. 

4. THEY DO WELL IN LEADERSHIP ROLES.

The small town of Idyllwild, California is non-incorporated and has no human mayor. Instead, the organization Idyllwild Animal Rescue Friends (ARF) sponsored an election to put either a cat or dog in charge. Each vote came in the form of a $1 donation to the ARF. The good people of Idyllwild had to choose between 14 dogs and two cats to be their furry leader. In 2012, Max (Maximus Mighty-Dog Mueller), a 12-year-old golden retriever, was sworn into office. Sadly, the old dog passed away in his sleep from cancer in 2013. He was replaced by a stuffed animal until they could find a Max II. When this second Max stepped in, he was accompanied by his entourage: two other dogs named Mikey and Mitzi. The triumvirate is affectionately known as the "the Mayor and the spares" or simply "the Mayors of Idyllwild." 

5. THEY KNOW HOW TO PARTY. 

In 2006, the Golden Retriever Club of Scotland hosted a festival to mark their 50th anniversary. Nearly 200 golden retrievers from all over the world came to enjoy the festivities, making it the largest group of the dogs ever photographed in one place. That record was broken in 2013 when 222 dogs appeared for that year’s ceremony. Dogs and owners alike were able to frolic and enjoy each other’s company. You can see some highlights from the event here

6. THEY’RE POPULAR. 

According to the AKC, the golden retriever is the third-most popular dog breed in the U.S., right behind the German shepherd and the Labrador retriever. It’s not hard to see why: These friendly dogs are great with families, don’t have bad breath, and don't bark much.  

7. TURKEY ONCE CONSIDERED THEM A STATUS SYMBOL. 

It's easy to become infatuated with the allure of the golden retriever—its silky, gold fur and elegant frame suggest luxury. But at the end of the day, they're dogs who need to be loved and cherished—not an accessory that can be worn or thrown away. For a time, golden retrievers were a status symbol in Istanbul, Turkey, but the dogs were frequently abandoned when the novelty wore off. As a result, shelters in Turkey are working with Adopt a Golden Atlanta to help relocate goldens given up by their families to forever homes. So far, the organization has saved over 94 goldens. 

8. THEY MAKE GREAT ACTORS. 

Golden retrievers are well behaved and easily trained, so they’re naturals on set. One particularly talented pooch named Buddy stole the hearts of millions in the ‘90s by playing both Comet on Full House and Buddy in Air Bud. (Internet, consider this your official invitation to create the Full House/Air Bud mashup we never knew we needed.)  

9. THEY’RE SMART. 

Based on the AKC's official rankings, the golden retriever is the fourth-most intelligent dog breed—right behind the German shepherd and just ahead of the Doberman pinscher. 

10. THEY’RE RIGHT AT HOME IN THE WHITE HOUSE. 

While living in the White House, President Gerald Ford had a golden retriever named Liberty. She came from Minneapolis, and was originally named Streaker. The pampered pooch had a live-in trainer and even gave birth inside the White House. Liberty received a lot of fan mail, which was answered by Ford’s daughter Susan (she also answered fan mail sent to their Siamese cat Shan). Eventually, Ford’s secretary began mailing back “signed” pictures of the president and his dog with an inked paw print on the side. The paw print signatures were originally the real deal, but as requests increased, they had to switch to a rubber stamp. (It's hard work being the First Dog.)

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Animals
Where Do Birds Get Their Songs?
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Birds display some of the most impressive vocal abilities in the animal kingdom. They can be heard across great distances, mimic human speech, and even sing using distinct dialects and syntax. The most complex songs take some practice to learn, but as TED-Ed explains, the urge to sing is woven into songbirds' DNA.

Like humans, baby birds learn to communicate from their parents. Adult zebra finches will even speak in the equivalent of "baby talk" when teaching chicks their songs. After hearing the same expressions repeated so many times and trying them out firsthand, the offspring are able to use the same songs as adults.

But nurture isn't the only factor driving this behavior. Even when they grow up without any parents teaching them how to vocalize, birds will start singing on their own. These innate songs are less refined than the ones that are taught, but when they're passed down through multiple generations and shaped over time, they start to sound similar to the learned songs sung by other members of their species.

This suggests that the drive to sing as well as the specific structures of the songs themselves have been ingrained in the animals' genetic code by evolution. You can watch the full story from TED-Ed below, then head over here for a sample of the diverse songs produced by birds.

[h/t TED-Ed]

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Animals
Watch the First-Ever Footage of a Baby Dumbo Octopus
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Dumbo octopuses are named for the elephant-ear-like fins they use to navigate the deep sea, but until recently, when and how they developed those floppy appendages were a mystery. Now, for the first time, researchers have caught a newborn Dumbo octopus on tape. As reported in the journal Current Biology, they discovered that the creatures are equipped with the fins from the moment they hatch.

Study co-author Tim Shank, a researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, spotted the octopus in 2005. During a research expedition in the North Atlantic, one of the remotely operated vehicles he was working with collected several coral branches with something strange attached to them. It looked like a bunch of sandy-colored golf balls at first, but then he realized it was an egg sac.

He and his fellow researchers eventually classified the hatchling that emerged as a member of the genus Grimpoteuthis. In other words, it was a Dumbo octopus, though they couldn't determine the exact species. But you wouldn't need a biology degree to spot its resemblance to Disney's famous elephant, as you can see in the video below.

The octopus hatched with a set of functional fins that allowed it to swim around and hunt right away, and an MRI scan revealed fully-developed internal organs and a complex nervous system. As the researchers wrote in their study, Dumbo octopuses enter the world as "competent juveniles" ready to jump straight into adult life.

Grimpoteuthis spends its life in the deep ocean, which makes it difficult to study. Scientists hope the newly-reported findings will make it easier to identify Grimpoteuthis eggs and hatchlings for future research.

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