The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a truly American breed, one whose birth took place quite by accident. In 1807 two Newfoundland puppies, one black, the other reddish brown, were rescued from a shipwreck off the coast of Maryland. They were bred to local mixed-breed retriever dogs, and probably later to Flat-Coated and Curly-Coated Retrievers, producing the "Chessie" type that appeared around 1884.
The Chesapeake has always had a cheery disposition but a seriousness of purpose toward his work. He faces the winter harshness with courage and an eagerness to perform his retrieving duties. He is a bold, strong, active dog, so he needs plenty of exercise every day. He especially likes swimming, so retrieving games are ideal throughout the summer and fall.
He has a fine, woolly undercoat for extra warmth. His coat resists water like a duck's feathers--when he leaves the water and shakes himself, his coat should be almost dry. Colors range from dark brown to tan to straw colored. A white spot on the chest, belly, or toes is allowed, but solid colors are preferred.
Feet are webbed; eyes are clear and pale, yellow to amber. The body displays power: His head is broad, his chest is deep, and his hindquarters are some-times slightly higher than the shoulders.
Excerpts from the Standard
General Appearance: A bright and happy demeanor and an intelligent expression and impressive outlines, denoting a good worker. Courageous, alert, with a love of water and a solid disposition.
Size, Proportion, and Substance: Height--males, 23 to 26 inches; females, 21 to 24. Weight--males, 65 to 80 pounds; females, 55 to 70.
By the late nineteenth century, the Chesapeake type had definitely developed, though it was not exactly the dog we know today. At that time, hunters wanting to sell ducks as food to markets would shoot guns over the Chesapeake Bay, day and night. The dogs were expected to retrieve as many as 100 to 200 ducks per hunt. They were strong, sturdy dogs with thick, dark brown coats who braved the rough and icy waters of the Chesapeake Bay, as is still true, but all had longer, thicker coats than those sported by today's dogs.
Excerpted from The Complete Dog Book For Kids © 1996, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.