10 Friendly Facts About the Golden Retriever

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iStock

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.)

Why Are There No Snakes in Ireland?

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iStock

Legend tells of St. Patrick using the power of his faith to drive all of Ireland’s snakes into the sea. It’s an impressive image, but there’s no way it could have happened.

There never were any snakes in Ireland, partly for the same reason that there are no snakes in Hawaii, Iceland, New Zealand, Greenland, or Antarctica: the Emerald Isle is, well, an island.

Eightofnine via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Once upon a time, Ireland was connected to a larger landmass. But that time was an ice age that kept the land far too chilly for cold-blooded reptiles. As the ice age ended around 10,000 years ago, glaciers melted, pouring even more cold water into the now-impassable expanse between Ireland and its neighbors.

Other animals, like wild boars, lynx, and brown bears, managed to make it across—as did a single reptile: the common lizard. Snakes, however, missed their chance.

The country’s serpent-free reputation has, somewhat perversely, turned snake ownership into a status symbol. There have been numerous reports of large pet snakes escaping or being released. As of yet, no species has managed to take hold in the wild—a small miracle in itself.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Intense Staring Contest Between a Squirrel and a Bald Eagle Caught on Camera

iStock.com/StefanoVenturi
iStock.com/StefanoVenturi

Wildlife photographers have an eye for the majestic beauty of life on planet Earth, but they also know that nature has a silly side. This picture, captured by Maine photographer Roger Stevens Jr., shows a bald eagle and a gray squirrel locked in an epic staring match.

As WMTW Portland reports, the image has been shared more than 8000 times since Stevens posted it on his Facebook page. According to the post, the photo was taken behind a Rite Aid store in Lincoln, Maine. "I couldn't have made this up!!" Stevens wrote.

Bald eagles eat small rodents like squirrels, which is likely why the creatures were so interested in one another. But the staring contest didn't end with the bird getting his meal; after the photo was snapped, the squirrel escaped down a hole in the tree to safety.

What was a life-or-death moment for the animals made for an entertaining picture. The photograph has over 400 comments, with Facebook users praising the photographer's timing and the squirrel's apparent bravery.

Funny nature photos are common enough that there's an entire contest devoted to them. Here are some of past winners of the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.

[h/t WMTW]

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