History of Goldens in Canada

Most of the text material was originally published in the GRCC Hall of Fame book, First 60 years 1927-1988, Supplement, June 1988. © Carol Ann Lee for the GRCC
Additional material, minor updating and editing and photos supplied by Ainslie Mills.

It wasn’t until 1927 that any reference of the Golden Retriever can be found in the C.K.C. stud book. It certainly seems possible that Goldens existed in Canada prior to that but at that time the retriever breeds were registered together as Retrievers.

According to very old records the Hon. Archie Majoribanks, breed founder Sir Dudley Majoribanks son, imported Goldens from Great Britain as early as 1881. They were imported to Coldstream Ranch in British Columbia, which was owned by the Marquis of Aberdeen, brother-in-law to Majoribanks. The Marquis was Canada’s Governor General from 1893-1898.

The first Golden Retriever registered with the Canadian Kennel Club was a bitch, Judy of Westholme, born May 8, 1926, by Buckham ex Hersham Primula, owned by B.M. Armstrong of Manitoba, and bred by G.A.S. Wylys.

The first champion of record was Ch. Foxbury Peter. He was imported by Mrs. Alex MacLaren to Quebec from Great Britain. Foxbury Peter was by Eng. Ch. Balcombe Boy ex Wonder Duchess. The first FTCH was Stalingrad Express a female owned by Charles E. Snell.

In 1922 one of the first Golden kennel names was registered with the C.K.C. as Gilnockie Kennels. It was owned by Mr. Bart M. Armstrong of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Upon Mr. Armstrong’s death in 1932 the kennel name was transferred to Col. Samuel Magoffin of Vancouver, BC. Col. Magoffin operated Rockhaven Kennels on Vancouver’s North Shore, and was a very important figure in the history of the breed in both Canada and the U.S. He later transferred the Gilnockie prefix to his brother, John Magoffin in Colorado.


Col. Samuel Magoffin at Rockhaven KennelsCol. Samuel Magoffin at Rockhaven Kennels

Col. Magoffin was assisted by his friend, Christopher Burton, in purchasing Speedwell Pluto from England (DOB June 26, 1929), bred by Mrs. K. Evers, Swindell. Speedwell Pluto is regarded as the foundation sire of the breed in North America and was first Best in Show Golden in North America. Soon after acquiring Pluto, Col. Magoffin purchased two bitches from E. N. Vernon of England, Saffron Chipmunk and Saffron Penelope, whelped April 28,1930. Col. Magoffin developed a large kennel, owning as many as 14 brood bitches at one time. Charles Bunker trained many of the Rockhaven dogs, while the management and care of the kennels, located in a different area from Magoffin’s ocean-side Rockhaven estate, was the responsibility of Mr. Randolph Hall. The Rockhaven dogs were worked in field and many held bench championships.


Rockhaven ad 1934
an ad for Rockhaven Kennels from the February 1934 issue of Kennel and Bench, the CKC magazine


British Columbia has long been a major stronghold of the Golden Retriever breed in Canada and has played a major role in the history not only in Canada but in North America.

As previously stated, Col. Samuel Magoffin imported from Britain, the dog (Am. & Can. Ch. Speedwell Pluto OS) that was to establish his Rockhaven Kennels in North Vancouver. Col. Magoffin’s intention was simply to breed superior gun dogs for himself and his friends. In the initial stages, he could not know what an impact he and Pluto would have on the breed. Several Goldens followed the initial import and Rockhaven became the premier Golden Retriever kennel in Canada for many years. The Rockhaven dogs not only competed on the bench, but were regularly hunted and competed in field trials, for this is where the major interest in a good gun dog lay in the early days. Ch. Speedwell Pluto was the first Golden to earn Best in Show in North America – in 1933 at Puget Sound Kennel Club in Washington State.


BIS Am.Can.CH. Speedwell Pluto OS
BIS Am.Can.CH. Speedwell Pluto OS

It was not until the mid-50’s that the Golden Retriever’s popularity began to increase, and it became known as not only a good dog for field, but as a beautiful conformation dog, a very trainable obedience competitor, and a loving companion.

A couple of people who were very influential in British Columbia, beginning in the ’50s, were Jack Reid, Goldrange Kennels, who established his kennel working with stock from the Rockhaven line for field and for hunting. Goldrange also imported several influential dogs from the United Kingdom and produced a number of top winning Goldens. Evelyn Smith was a Golden pioneer in the ’60s, and owned and trained the first champion UDT in Canada! Although not a breeder as such, Ev enjoyed great success in the conformation ring, obedience ring, and in the field.

In January 1970, G.R.C.C. regional director Jack Reid received a letter from G.R.C.C. approving the formation of G.R.C.C. (B.C. Chapter). The club was originally largely field oriented. The early 1970’s saw tremendous growth of new Golden Retriever kennels in British Columbia. In 1974 the chapter moved to change its name to the Golden Retriever Club of British Columbia and became a separate entity. This was accepted by G.R.C.C. and C.K.C. and approved December 18, 1974. The GRCBC has grown substantially from the first 12 members, to an organization holding licensed events in field, tracking, obedience and conformation, plus educational meetings for its members.

As in the past, Goldens continue to be well represented in all facets of the fancy in B.C.

Mr. Christopher Burton became a lifetime member G.R.C.C. at a director’s meeting September 1970, and was also Life Member of G.R.C.A., GRCBC and G.R.C. of England. Jack Reid became a lifetime member 1973.


Jack Reid and Christopher Burton
Jack Reid and Christopher Burton



Manitoba’s golden heritage of record can be traced back to Mr. B. Armstrong of Winnipeg and his Gilnockie Kennel, the first Golden Kennel registered in North America. After Mr. Armstrong’s death about 1932, the name of the Golden connection moved to West Vancouver, B.C. to Col. Magoffin. He later gave the Gilnockie name to a Golden kennel (ed.note: belonging to his brother John Magoffin) that he had set up at Denver, Colorado. In the years since, an extensive exchange of stock, information and ideas has continued between Golden fanciers in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario and the neighbouring states of Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

One of the province’s early Golden breeders, Mrs. Armstrong (no relation to B.M. Armstrong), using Goldens obtained from a brother-in-law, bred for the breed’s hunting skills and produced not only many good hunting Goldens, but bench champions that combined English and American lines.

It was during this time that W.D. Nixon (Woodcrest Kennels) developed his kennel with his first Golden bred specifically for the breed’s hunting ability. The Nixon enthusiasm for Goldens, extending over 35 years, is being continued by his granddaughter, Debbie Williamson.

Manitoba’s star performer in the Walton-Nixon-Croll period continues to be Ch. Stonegate’s Golden Tamarack. Whelped in 1956, he won his Field Championship in a field of 17 that included the dog named 1960 National Champion. Owned by Dr. Duncan C. Croll of Winnipeg, he is the only Manitoba Golden to achieve the status of Field Trial Champion. His record still stands: Canadian Dual Champion (meaning both Conformation Champion and Field Champion); Canadian Amateur Field Champion, Companion Dog (Canadian and American).

Gloria Delorme’s Golden brought a new honour to Manitoba in 1983 by becoming the first of the breed in the province to capture a Tracking Dog (TD) and, in 1984, won the same title in the U.S.!

Proof that Manitoba must be considered of some consequence in its contribution to the development of the Golden Retriever in Canada can be found in the quality of the Goldens who regularly excel in field, obedience and conformation. Manitoba has a very active club, dedicated to the improvement and welfare of the breed.

The Golden Retriever Club of Manitoba was established January 16, 1971, thanks to the drive and enthusiasm of Pat Walter (Briarlea Kennels). The G.R.C. of Manitoba is today a very active part of Golden development in Manitoba.


It was in 1966 when Paula Edwards emigrated to Canada and settled in Alberta. Paula tells the story that there were a record number of dogs emigrating on that trip and the Captain called for a dog show to celebrate. Paula and “Juno” won, and she was hooked! Between 1968 and 1970 there were very few Goldens being shown in Alberta but Paula and a few others persevered. Brenda Roberts got involved with Goldens through her “pet” and because of the looks and temperament of the breed, she bought her first “show” bitch in 1977 and has been an active competitor since. Julie Jellis imported several dogs from Britain in the ’60s and presently is concentrating on a dual line for field and show. Alberta has the distinction of having the FIRST Best In Show Golden Female, Ch. Glynspur Skybird!

Int. Field & Am. Can. National Ch. Oakcreek’s Van Cleve was one of the most outstanding Goldens in retriever history 1946-61. His sire Victorious of Roedare was owned by Des Roe of Red Deer. “Van” was owned by Charles Bunker. He amassed the most number of field trial points every achieved by a Golden Retriever at that time.


Goldens caught the enthusiasm of a few notable people in Ontario during the early 1940’s. At that time many of these fanciers were unable to find more than one or two Goldens entered at shows. It’s hard to believe now that the Golden is quite often the largest entry and well represented in obedience. It was through the efforts of these people that the G.R.C. of Ontario and later in 1960 the G.R.C.C. was formed (See History of G.R.C.C. Section).

1958 – G.R.C.O. 1st Specialty – March 21, 1958
In conjunction with Canadian National Sportsman Dog Shows Entry – 26

Best of Breed, Best Canadian Bred in Breed – Ch. Shadywell Sir Knight “Bunker” Also Won Field Class & Received Carling Challenge Trophy

1959 – G.R.C.O. 2nd Specialty – October 11, 1959
Location – Kinkyle Farm, King City, Ontario Judge – Mrs. A. Sturdee Entry – 35

Best of Breed – Northland’s Castor Owner Dr. T. DeGeer
Best of Opposite Sex – Satinway Wildmagic Owner Mr. M.J. Seguin Best Canadian Bred Puppy – Kerrdail Sweet Melody Owner – Dr. J. Erd

There were several people who were original developers and promoters of the Golden Retriever in Ontario, who, thanks to their efforts, have made the Golden and the Club what it has developed into today.

Mr. N.C.MacDonald “Cliff” first established his kennel “Shadywell Kennels” in 1944 and primarily showed American Cockers until 1949 when he acquired his first Golden “Des Lacs Temptation”, purchased from B. Foster “Des Lacs Kennels” Winona, U.S.A. In 1950 she whelped a litter by Dual Ch. Loreleis Golden Rockbottom Am.UD. In 1957 Shadywell purchased a male, Ch. Golden Knolls Gold Nugget and in 1968 Ch. Ambassador of Davern and in 1969 Ch. Symbol of Yeo, both from England, and both destined to become Outstanding Sires, and as such very influential to the breed. Shadywell was active for many years.

Roger Drysdale and Mark Sequin were very influential in field development of the Golden in those early years. Mark Seguin owned Irish FTCH. Stubblesdown Vanda imported from Mr. Jim Cranston, who was owner of Int. Dual Ch. David of Westley. Mark also imported Karl of Felsberg “Chum” from MacDonald Daly who later became Can.AFTCH. In 1958 Mr. Seguin imported two more Goldens from Ireland, Buidhe Dara and Conquest of Anbria a bitch and a dog followed by Satinway Wild Magic (See G.R.C. Ont. Specialty 1959). In 1959 Irish FTCH. Stubblesdown Vanda was imported, in whelp to Int. Dual Ch. David of Westley.

H.V.P. “Bumpy” Lewis was the prime promoter of indoor retriever trials at Canadian National Sportsman Dog Show, and owned and trained his Can. FTCH. King’s Ransom II.

Another early promoter of field work with Goldens in Ontario was Dr. Tom Dales from Goldendale Kennels and had to his honor FTCH. Am. FC Goldendale’s Rufus winner of the Gold Whistle at the Sportsman Show indoor retriever trials.

Also well known in Sporting dog circles was W. Frank Morley owner of Dual Ch.Byrcober Sir Alexander.

John McNichol, original owner of Skylon Kennels, and first President, of G.R.C.C., was active in shows and based his original lines on Goldens imported from Janville Kennels in England. Skylon Kennels was later sold to Brian & Judy Taylor and is still active to-day.

Mr. George Mehlenbacher was a contributor to Golden popularity with his Mel-Bach Goldens. Mr. Mehlenbacher was a licensed Obedience and Conformation judge.

The 1960’s saw the arrival of new faces and kennels as golden popularity continued to grow. Carolee Kennels (registered in 1966) operated by Shirley Goodman began their kennel with their first Golden Ch. Goldendale’s Belle CD. purchased from Dr. Tom Dales. To date this kennel has produced a dual champion and many show & obedience titled Goldens.

Skylon Kennels was purchased from J. McNichol by Mr. & Mrs. B. Taylor and produced Can.Bda.Ch. Skylon Lancelot – Top Golden in Canada for three consecutive years and sire of Can.Bda.Ch.Nanno Chrys-Haefen Son of Skye CD.(Junior), an outstanding sire and Best of Breed Winner at the National Specialty show. Junior was owned by Mr. & Mrs. I. McAuley (Chrys-Haefen Kennels). Chrys-Haefen Kennels has been a consistent producer of top sporting dogs in Canada and many National Specialty Show Best of Breed winners.

Ontario now has two functioning Golden Retriever clubs. The Golden Retriever Club of Ottawa Valley and the Golden Retriever Club of Greater Toronto which is an affiliate member of the G.R.C.C. Both clubs are actively promoting the development of the breed.


Quebec has many interested people in the breed but much of the trouble with organizing a breed club has come from distances. Thanks to the efforts of Diane Dumont and Diane Partington, Goldens are being well represented and promoted in Quebec. The Golden Retriever Club of Quebec was formed in 1988 and host a number of CKC sanctioned events each year.

Quebec holds the honor of having the first Golden Retriever Champion of record Ch. Foxbury Peter, owned by Alex McLaren and imported from England.


Goldens only gained popularity in this area in the 1960s, but the interest in the breed has steadily grown. In the Maritimes, one Golden stands out for promoting the breed’s appeal with the public which was responsible for the Goldens increasing popularity. His name was Ch. Will Scarlet “Joe” owned by Arlene Holder and handled by Logan Arsenault.

In the late 1980s, Maritime fanciers and breeders formed the Maritime G.R.C. Although the club is small it is actively pursuing training seminars, specialties & booster shows and publishes a bi-monthly newsletter, as well as hosting CKC sanctioned events.

The strength and longevity of the Golden Retriever across Canada is equal to the strength of the breeders. The Golden has been nurtured and developed from a virtual unknown to one of Canada’s most popular breeds.


Rockhaven Kennels Breeder`s Group circa 1946/47
Rockhaven Kennels Breeder’s Group circa 1946/47