Originally bred as superior hunting dogs, golden retrievers have become immensely popular as family pets. Their beautiful, shiny coats make them some of the most attractive dogs around, and their temperament – easy-going, trainable, and affectionate – makes them outstanding family dogs.
There are a number of sub-breeds within the Golden Retriever family, and one of the most notable is the English Cream Golden Retriever. You may or may not have met one of these dogs face-to-snout, but if you’ve looked into the information offered up by professional Golden Retriever breeders you’ll have seen the English Cream Golden Retriever, sometimes wrongly called the White Golden Retriever, described as a superior breed. What makes it so?
The English Cream Golden Retriever Defined
The vital characteristic that sets the English Cream Golden Retriever apart from other retrievers is the exceptionally pale color of its coat. This is as close to being a white Golden Retriever as it can be – although it’s important to note that a true absence of color isn’t possible. (Barring the possibility of albinism.)
The coats of golden retrievers that are noticeably pale are often described as “cream.” This term is more or less unofficial in the United States – it’s not recognized by the American Kennel Club -but English and Canadian authorities do recognize the cream Golden Retriever as a distinctive subset of the breed.
The Professionals’ Experience
Breeders who have invested their time and money into English Cream Golden Retrievers are quick to tout their many benefits beyond their glossy fur. English Cream Golden retrievers are supposedly healthier than darker retrievers, and breeders say they live longer. The truth of the matter is that any evidence backing up such claims is strictly anecdotal.
While English breeders have concentrated on breeding pale retrievers for long enough to create a genetic predisposition towards cream coats, this rare coloration doesn’t imply anything about the other qualities of a given bloodline. A dog’s health is still primarily determined by its ancestors’ health and how it’s cared for – especially when it’s young.
Take all breeders’ claims regarding English Cream golden retrievers with a healthy dose of salt. You should steer well clear of breeders who advertise white Golden Retrievers or platinum Golden Retrievers, as these terms have no objective definition set by any breeding authority.
Selling The English Cream Golden Retriever: Buyer Beware
For the time being, the differences between English Cream Golden Retrievers and those with darker fur is simply too minor for any breeding club to recognize them as separate breeds. Anyone who refers to these dogs as white Golden Retrievers, “rare whites” or other such terms is simply engaging in marketing. (It’s not particularly ethical marketing, either!) Lighter-colored golden retrievers do often fetch a premium price due to their beauty and rarity. This is why they’re popular with the rich and famous; Oprah Winfrey is a celebrated owner of English Cream Golden Retrievers. Any added cost applied to the price of a Golden Retriever due to its pale fur is simply due to desirability and rarity, not some inherent “superiority” of the breed.
Many of the Cream Golden Retrievers sold in the United States are imported. They’re reared in Canada or England, but not in quite the same way as their cousins in the United Kingdom. They’re bred towards the ideal qualities recognized by the American Kennel Club rather than the English Kennel Club. This means they’re more slender and they don’t always have the characteristic barrel chest of English Golden Retrievers.
Speaking very generally, the English Golden Retriever do tend to be slightly healthier. This has nothing to do with the coat and everything to do with bloodlines and physical characteristics. Cancer rates are very slightly lower in English Golden Retrievers, and the average lifespan is about a year longer – just over 12 years as compared to less than 11 years.
The American Kennel Club is not enthusiastic about English Cream Golden Retrievers. They’ve seen too many of these dogs sold at premium prices that are, in their expert opinion, unjustifiable. Exercise extreme caution in dealing with any breeder who wants you to pay extra for a cream retriever.
In fact, an extremely pale coat can count against a Golden Retriever when it’s judged by the standards of the AKC. Fur which has little or no pigmentation is actually considered to be a serious flaw by all of the world’s kennel clubs.
If you’re looking at a Golden Retriever as a breeding investment, coat color is simply not a priority. Temperament, health history, and physical build should always take precedence. The risk of buying a retriever from a breeder who has pushed to make her dogs more pale is that she may have neglected these other important points in order to do so.
The Golden Retriever Breed As A Whole
Golden retrievers were first bred in Scotland in the latter half of the 19th century. The original goal was to combine the best traits of many different hunting breeds. Kennel clubs began registering flat-coated golden retrievers at the start of the 20th century. It would take another few decades for this new breed to take root in the US. The country’s enthusiasm for all things British in the 1920s helped to popularize golden retrievers. The American Kennel Club recognized the growing population of these dogs by making the Golden Retriever an official breed in 1932.
Canadian authorities have long been more discriminating about coloration in retrievers, and they introduced the first formal definition of “cream” for golden retrievers in 1936. This is a descriptive term rather than an independent breed, used simply to contrast paler retrievers with those called “red” or “mahogany.”
The Bottom Line
If you’re interested in buying an English Cream Golden Retriever, you needn’t worry yourself unduly about the overall quality of the dog. There aren’t any real deficiencies lying in wait for unwary buyers. Exercise some common sense regarding any claims of superiority made by breeders, and don’t be too quick to pay more for lighter fur or a more white Golden Retriever. Feel free to contact your country’s kennel club to discuss any concerns you might have about a particular breeder before purchasing an English Cream Golden Retriever.