The existence of the Labrador Retriever in South Australia can be traced, through old Show records, to 1947.  Their introduction to this State prior to World War II is unrecorded and therefore acknowledgement of an existence in South Australia prior to the mid 1940’s would be purely speculative.

An examination of entries in the 1947 Adelaide Royal Show reveal that “Peggy Leaner”, whelped 23.9.45, owned by Mrs P. Tinney of Stirling, South Australia, was entered in the open bitch class, thus becoming the first recorded Labrador exhibited in South Australia. Mrs Tinney registered the first Labrador Kennels in this State under the “Kilchoan” prefix.

Subsequent Royal Show records indicate a gradual increase in the number of entries with Victorian exhibitors commencing their involvement. Mr J. Dawson and Mr F. Keys are recorded as the first interstate enthusiasts to exhibit Labradors at Adelaide in 1949-50.  Mr W. Giles of Mt. Barker, entered Nicholas Mahara Hara in 1949-50, and Rover of Gundale was also exhibited by Mr K. Bridgewater of Goodwood, S.A. in 1951.

Indications are that South Australian breeding stock was procured from Victoria. A claim was made in 1962 by a then professional duckshooter, Mr H. Mincham of Meningie, S.A., that he introduced Labradors into South Australia in 1945 is unsubstantiated. However, research has verified that yellow Labradors were working duck in the Meningie area in the mid 1940’s.  Mr Mincham’s prefix “Gundale” was prominent in show catalogues in the early 1950’s, which indicates he certainly was one of the first to establish the breed in this state.

The late 1950’s saw a proliferation of the breed nationwide.  The advanced development of the breed in Victoria, and the importation from the United Kingdom of some excellent stud dogs, also had a marked influence on the breed in South Australia.

It is interesting to note that early judges’ critiques were critical of the size of the dogs together with poor toplines and straight stifles.  The photographs of the dogs of the time, and before, support this view of the Labradors in S.A.  In his critique of the Labradors at the Adelaide Royal Show in 1962, the Judge, Mr R. Mitchell (Victoria) said

“Although there was a strong entry of Labs, they were generally mixed.  The winning dog, Aust. Ch. Sandylands Tan, was the type breeders should be looking for. Among the others, too many had swampy backs and were straight in stifle.”

The importation of prominent dogs like Sandylands Tan and Wendore Jonah influenced and improved the overall standard of the breed in South Australia.

Breed numbers had increased markedly by the late 1950’s and consequently the Labrador and Retriever Club was formed in 1960, with Mr. J. Styles and Mrs M. Allen being elected President and Secretary respectively.  The Club catered for the needs of all retriever breeds and continued as such until the name was changed to the Labrador Retriever Club in 1966.

From the formation of the Club, the breed established itself as a popular show and working dog.  Royal Show entries indicate a rise in entries from 26 in 1962 to 98 in 1970.

Mid 1960 saw the emergence of Aust. Ch. Karnmore Ruler. This black dog which was bred in Victoria and purchased by Mr R. Clarke, dominated the show scene.  His wins included Royal Show Challenges in five states and multiple Best in Show awards, including Best Exhibit Perth Royal in 1969.

Probably the most potent stud dog produced by Karnmore Ruler was Aust. Ch. Roycourt General.  Whilst not the most successful show dog, he produced many champions and their influence is still being felt today.  Other dogs to influence the breed in this State were the imported dogs, Aust. Ch. Diant Jaysgreen Jasper and Aust. Ch. Pinchbeck Nokeener Harvest Home, who produced 23 champions, three retrieving champions and one Field Trial champion.  Mrs R. Clarke imported three bitches from the United Kingdom, Eng. Sh. Ch. Sandylands Troubella, Sandylands Greta and Wendover Mynora.

Aust. Ch. Roycourt General sired two of the most successful exhibits in this state.  Aust. Ch. Roycourt Bob (Aust. Ch. Roycourt General X Aust. Ch. Duffton Stary Sky), owned by Mrs. R. Clarke dominated shows in the early 1970’s.  He amassed Royal Show Challenges in three states and was a multiple Best in Show winner.  Aust. Ch. Raymel As You Like It (Aust. Ch. Roycourt General X Kirala Tinker Bell) is the state’s most successful exhibit. In the late 1970’s and early 80’s she amassed over 1300 challenge points and was also a multiple Best in Show and Group winner.  A producer of only 10 puppies, of which 6 have become champions, with one a Dual Champion; between them they have been awarded four Adelaide Royal Challenges and two Melbourne Royal Challenges.

The 1960’s and 1970’s also saw the establishment of many kennels which have influenced the breed in South Australia.  Carrette, Southvalley, Sanderland, Tuxmore, Raymel, Hiedelvale, Brinmede, Kiandor have all played their part in establishing a true representative of the standard.

During the 1970’s and 1980’s we were also fortunate to have imported dogs available with compatible blood-lines, and to date they have combined well with the South Australian stock and are producing specimens of excellent type and soundness, capable of winning in the ring and field.

The Labrador has not only achieved considerable distinction in the show ring, but his overall versatility has been avidly displayed in the field.  Presently in South Australia the Labrador is an active and successful competitor in both Non-Slip Retrieving Trials and Spaniel and Retriever Trials.

Since the inception of these trials in this State, the Labrador has been well represented at all levels.

The first sanctioned Non-Slip Retrieving Trial was held at Langhorne Creek on July 19th 1964. This trial was conducted by the Labrador and Retriever Club of South Australia.  18 dogs were entered in the Novice Stake and 12 contested the Open.

South Australia’s first Retrieving Trial Champion Labrador was Rt. Ch. Fleetway Goldilocks.  This bitch was owned and trained by Mr I. Ellis.  The first dog to attain the Retrieving title was Rt. Ch. Bramall Captain (imp. UK) owned and trained by Mrs C. Lloyd.  Many dogs have since achieved this title.  The one and only South Australian Labrador to win a National Retrieving Trial was Kaldara Proud Miss, owned by Mr G. Jenner.  This feat was achieved in 1973 when the National was held in South Australia.

The dual purpose attributes of the breed were acknowledged when the first Dual Ch. Labrador attained his title.  Dual Ch.(R) Kirala Ranger Three, owned and trained by Mr W. Edwards, achieved this distinction in 1978.  Dual Ch., (R) Kinsydal Midnight, owned by Mr M. Strawbridge, became the first Dual Champion bitch in 1981.  Since then three other Labradors have successfully attained this high accord.  Dual Ch.(R) Roycourt Kristina, Dual Ch.(R) Kinsydal Hero and Dual Ch.(R) Raymel Honour Thy Name.

The introduction of Spaniel and Retrieving Trials into South Australia presented the Labrador with another opportunity to demonstrate its tractability, responsiveness, and natural ability.  The Labs quickly adapted to this type of work and the trials soon became an established part of the dog scene.

South Australias first Field Trial Title was awarded to Rt. & Ft. Ch. Warrakimbo Pandell owned and trained by Mr R. Ashenden.

Many of the Labs which are worked in South Australia have proven dual purpose qualities, a glance through any trial catalogue will list a number of dogs who have gained their Show title. Of the final seven dogs which finished the 1983 National Retrieving Trial, three were South Australian Labradors with their Show Titles.

The present day Labrador in South Australia is a trifle small, but has excellent hindquarters and top-lines, but sadly we have lost a little in coat.  No doubt a contributory factor to coats is the climate.  Some breeders still have trouble with top-lines and a shortness in front leg and upper arm.  The breed is small numerically in the show ring at this time, but the quality is not diminished. Our Labradors are winning Best in Show awards at All Breeds Shows and performing creditably at the Retrieving and Field Trials.

We have got back to the original concept of dual purpose dogs in this State. Initially the Club aimed for a balance between shows and field characteristics, but over the years the myth was perpetrated that good trial dogs do not come from show stock.  Unfortunately this untruth caused the breeding of good workers that were very poor conformation specimens.  It is of interest that the successful workers now are produced by “show kennels”.

Regardless of the numbers being exhibited, the Labrador Retriever continues to be one of the most popular breeds, his lovable and pleasing nature being a definite attraction.

This article is reprinted from the May 1987 Labrador Review.  It was written by Mick Strawbridge, a Life Member and past President of the Club.