Last Updated on May 16, 2024 by themubbi63

What exactly is a red Golden Retriever, you might ask. Isn’t that a misnomer? Doesn’t the name ‘golden’ retriever mean that all Golden Retrievers must be exactly that – golden? Well, yes and no. There’s a lot of controversy about the whole issue of red Golden Retrievers. But there is absolutely no doubt that they are Golden Retrievers. Their color is just a little different from the others of their kind. Let’s see where they came from and what experts have to say about them.

What Exactly Is a Red Golden Retriever?

A red Golden Retriever is a Golden Retriever that is on the darkest end of the color spectrum. Their coats are a vibrant reddish gold in color. In fact, their coats are so dark that they look red more than gold. And while they may look different from the pale gold or true yellow gold of most Goldens, it doesn’t mean that they’re any less purebred. 

No, red Golden Retrievers are one hundred percent purebred. They don’t have any mix of other dog breeds incorporated into their bloodlines. But they aren’t accepted into dog shows because of their unique color. Nor does the American Kennel Club have a specific color category for them, since kennel clubs don’t accept any color except golden for Golden Retrievers.

Different Kinds Of Golden Retrievers

Golden Retrievers are one of the most popular dog breeds around the world. Known for their lovable, friendly, goofy nature, Goldens have yet to meet a person or animal that they can’t befriend. They may have been bred as working dogs but now they truly personify why exactly dogs are called man’s best friend. Take a Golden Retriever into your family and we guarantee that you’ll never be lonely again.

Having said that, did yoy know that there are three official ‘types’ of Golden Retrievers? (Not breeds. They all belong to the same breed – Golden Retriever). These three types are American Golden Retrievers, British Golden Retrievers and Canadian Golden Retrievers. The differences between the three are practically negligible. They come in the same size, have coats that vary from light gold to a darker, richer gold and have the same affectionate temperament.

However, beyond this, there are five unofficial types that are recognized. These five types aren’t officially categorized but color and size differences play into this. One of these is the red Golden Retriever which is known for its bright coat. Other variations include the English cream (very light cream coat) and the show and field lines.

Finally, there are the mini Golden Retrievers and black Golden Retrievers. But these are crossbreeds, often crossed with Cocker Spaniels or Labrador Retrievers. Thus, we can’t really take them into account.

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History of Red Golden Retrievers

First, let’s look at the history of Golden Retrievers as a whole. Where did this popular breed come from? Scotland in the 19th century. They were bred when a lord called Lord Tweedmouth decided to breed a good hunting and retrieving dog. These dogs should be able to retrieve both by land and by water and should be good, friendly family companions on top of that. 

He crossed the Wavy Coated Retriever with the Tweed Water Spaniel (now extinct) and created the Golden Retriever of the modern day. The Golden Retriever also has some infusion of Irish Setter and Bloodhound genes, which is what makes it great with smells. All of this combined to create an affable, friendly dog with excellent retrieving capabilities and a love for the water.

Golden Retrievers today are used extensively as service animals, for search and rescue operations and to detect drugs and contraband. This is in addition to being good hunters and magnificent family dogs. Intelligent and versatile, Goldens can be easily trained with positive reinforcement.

But where did the red Golden Retriever come from? Well, it’s a color variation that naturally crept up due to a genetic difference between them and other Goldens. Just like with redheaded people, red is a recessive color that shows up in less than one percent of the population. It’s due to a gene mutation in the melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) on chromosome 16. Inactive MC1R leads to red coloring of hair follicles and even skin. (Some people believe that the red came from its Irish Setter blood since mahagony is a common color among that breed.)

Alas, Golden Retrievers is one of eight dog breeds that are registered with a color within their name itself. When first registered with the AKC in 1925, the red color was never specified. Thus, even now, red Golden Retrievers have to be registered as ‘dark gold’ with kennel clubs and show dogs aren’t acceptable. This led to many dog breeders culling red pups from their litters back in the 20th century and is why reds have become even more rare over time.

Field and Show Lines

Now, as we have mentioned before, there are two distinct categories within Golden Retrievers of field and show lines. Show lines include dogs bred to perfect precision so that they can take part in competitions. Red is not a color that is acceptable within this category. Show Golden Retrievers must be the traditional gold color and they are larger-boned and broader than the Goldens that come from field lines. 

Field lines are more like the original Golden Retrievers from 1800s Scotland. They have shorter or medium length coats and can range in color from darker gold to red. Working dogs that are highly motivated, they are ideal for outdoorsy families. They are smaller in size and are lighter.

Most modern red Golden Retrievers are remnants from the field lines. These reds weren’t culled or bred out because the color doesn’t matter in this case. Their dogs are bred for athleticism, drive and obedience. A red Golden Retriever can do just as well as any other kind in these categories.

When And How Did They Become Popular?

If red Golden Retrievers really were that unpopular then why have they become popular now? While rare, they aren’t unheard of. You might come across a red Golden Retriever nowadays and there are breeders who carefully breed them to possess that very color.

Well, there’s no denying that red Golden Retrievers are beautiful dogs. The unique and stunning shade of their coats started catching the eye of dog lovers in the latter half of the 20th century. This meant that more people wanted red Golden Retrievers. Anyone who wasn’t looking to enter their dogs into competitions wanted one.

The fact that most red Golden Retrievers were descended from field lines also meant that they were especially willing to work. An eager to please dog is a highly trainable dog. They weren’t as inbred as show Golden Retrievers are which means that they’re generally healthier. 

All of these reasons combined made the red Golden Retriever quite popular in the last few years. They weren’t the breed standard but many people don’t care about such classifications at present. Breeders have started breeding red Golden Retrievers with their more typical golden counterparts and this has resulted in more reds in recent years.

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What Does the AKC Have To Say About Reds?

The AKC registers red Golden Retrievers in the category ‘dark gold’. Very light or very dark coats, such as pure white or red, aren’t acceptable to the AKC. After all, they have named the breed ‘golden retriever’ and that requires a rich, lustrous, gold coat.

Other dogs that are bred for color are the Kerry Blue Terrier, West Highland White Terrier and Black Russian Terrier. It’s there in the names themselves. Any color variations within these dogs won’t be tolerated the same way that it will be in other breeds.

A contrast would be the Labrador Retriever. There are generally three color variations found within Labs – yellow, black and chocolate. However, a fox red Labrador Retriever is possible. Though rare, when they do emerge, they’re registered as red. They also weren’t bred out or culled the way red Goldens were.

Size and Appearance of Red Golden Retrievers

As with other types of Golden Retrievers, red Golden Retrievers are medium to big dogs with long, silky fur. They have double coats that are water resistant (since they were bred to be water retrievers) and have a strong, muscular physique. 

Red Golden Retrievers, since they are primarily from field bred dogs, aren’t as big and heavy as show dogs. Males stand at a height of 22 – 23 inches at the shoulder while females are slightly smaller, at 21 – 22.5 inches. Males can weigh between 65 and 75 lb while females weigh between 55 and 65 lb. Red Goldens might actually be the smallest of the breed.

With a glossy dark red (mahogany) coat and floppy ears, the red Golden Retriever is a handsome beast. They usually have dark eyes and a flattened head. Their tails are bushy and they have webbed feet, both of which help them to swim.

Temperament and Behavior of Red Golden Retrievers

The temperament of a red Golden Retriever is affectionate, lively and loyal, just like other Golden Retrievers. As a hunting breed, they’re extremely athletic dogs and need a lot of exercise. They’re a good fit for a young and athletic family. Regular walks and playtime is a must for your Golden, otherwise it will get bored and destructive.

Due to its attached nature, this breed does suffer from separation anxiety. It isn’t a breed that can be left to its own devices for long stretches of time as they get lonely and start missing their family. However, they’re excellent pets for people who can afford them time and energy.

Goldens are very easy to train. They are eager to please and their history as working dogs means that they are literally bred to follow commands. They’re highly intelligent and they respond well to positive reinforcement. Cuddles, treats and praise will go a long way when you wish to teach your red Golden Retriever anything.

Health and Grooming of Red Golden Retrievers

Reds are generally healthier than most show Golden Retrievers. However, they do suffer from some of the same health issues that most Goldens suffer from. These are hip and elbow dysplasia (a common concern for many big dog breeds), eye problems like cataracts, glaucoma and progressive retinal atrophy, heart problems, cancer and skin allergies. 

While careful breeding might help eliminate some of these concerns, it’s important to schedule regular visits to the vet. Regular grooming, sufficient exercise and properly regulating their diet may help curb some of these illnesses. But potential health problems are common to all breeds. If you think that you’ll be getting a dog that is not predisposed to any health issues, you’re wrong.

Grooming red Golden Retrievers is less difficult than grooming show Goldens but not by much. The fur of the red Golden Retriever is just slightly shorter. However, it needs regular brushing to prevent tangling and matting. You should bathe your Golden with a gentle dog shampoo every one or two months. Trimming the nails of your dog, gently cleaning out ears so there is no infection and brushing out their teeth every few days with a dog-safe toothpaste are the basics needed for grooming. 

A well-groomed dog is that much less likely to catch infections or fall sick. Many aspects about a dog’s care is about prevention rather than cure.


The Red Golden Retriever is a stunning variation within the beloved Golden Retriever breed. While not universally recognized by kennel clubs, their friendly temperament and eagerness to please make them excellent companions. Before welcoming a red Golden Retriever into your life, consider their exercise needs, potential health concerns, and the limitations on showing them. Remember, a loving home is more important than fur color!


Can I show my red Golden Retriever?

No, not in most competitions. Red isn’t an accepted color according to kennel club standards.

Are red Golden Retrievers healthier?

Maybe! Since they descend from field lines bred for work, they might have fewer health issues compared to show Golden Retrievers.

Are red Golden Retrievers purebred?

Absolutely! Their red coat is a natural color variation, not a mix with another breed. However, kennel clubs don’t recognize the color and classify them as “dark gold.

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