"Types" of Goldens

American/English/Field Goldens

Goldens, Goldens, Goldens! Before I start, it is important to me to point out that the “English” golden is not really “English.” It is more of a European line. This bloodline comes from the UK, Russia, Australia, Poland, and other European countries.

However, it is important to remember that all Golden Retrievers descend from the same foundations that originated in Scotland in 1868 and were further developed throughout the United Kingdom. In the United States and parts of Canada, the breed has developed a somewhat different look than it did overseas. Over the years depending on breeder preferences, what the dogs are being bred for (show, pet, or sport), and what is going on in a specific region have all affected what a breed standard may be in a specific region.

The “English” Line

The first and most obvious difference between what is classified as English and what is classified as American is the color. However, this brings up another inaccuracy. I feel it is important to point out that not all “English” goldens are extremely light/white in color. Dogs from Europe can be found in every color that they can be found in the U.S. However, those that are imported into the US are usually lighter in color. In turn, “English Cream” is not a “type” of Golden, it is a color that was imported from European lines.

The main difference in the European lines is the focus on structure. The breed standard overseas focuses on a heavier-boned dog with a flatter croup (backend); broader skull; a deeper, wider muzzle; and often a wavier coat. In addition, these dogs sometimes have a slightly courser overcoat. Additionally, the UK show lines consider the “red” American field color as a fault. This does not change how much the dog sheds or the personality of the dog. All of these are still within the “normal” Golden traits.

The American Lines

When doing research on American Golden Retrieves, you may see references to the show lines and the field lines. What this means is that the breeders that focused on specific traits when breeding strengthened these traits within the Golden Retriever breed. For the show lines, most of the dogs are light to medium golden, longer coated, thicker coated, and thicker bone. For the field lines, these dogs seem to lean towards medium to dark in color, slightly lighter boned, a little taller, and a slightly thinner/shorter coat.

According to Bev Brown, a writer for AKC, “[t]he breed in the U.S. today has a variety of types, but is generally a less angulated and somewhat lighter weight dog, with a straighter and more profuse coat than its British cousin. Many North American fanciers feel that the overseas bloodlines excel in head properties, balance, and forequarter structure; while the American bloodlines tend to excel in rear quarters, movement, and showmanship.”

In the differences between the “field” golden and the “show” golden, you will easily find that most people generally agree on the differences. However, they all strongly stress that ALL Golden Retrievers are ONE breed, they are just bred for different purposes.

“Field” vs “Show” Goldens

The most important statement to make at this point is that MANY goldens have both field and show lines. The information below pertains to those Goldens who have primarily field or show lines. Nonetheless, each of these traits and/or body types can be found throughout the Golden lines. Which traits are passed on to the off-spring are best figured by looking at the parents of the pup.


Field goldens are built to work. They are bred to have a job. This job consists of running around in a field all day, swimming, and retrieving fowl. For this, there are specific traits that are beneficial which include an undercoat that is less dense and a slightly shorter overcoat. This allows the dog to dry a bit faster than their longer-coated show cousin. In addition, they are slightly lighter-boned and have more of a “wedge-shaped” head.

The biggest difference in the field lines vs. the show lines is their activity level. Remember that those lines that were bred to be hunting dogs need more stamina than those for show. As a result, pups with strong field lines must be intellectually stimulated through training and need to be able to get their energy out through exercise. Additionally, these pups tend to take a little longer to settle and need exercise. They were built for stamina and as a pet, they need exercise. Often these lines tend to be medium to dark red (mahogany) in color. A TRUE field golden will come from hunting lines and working parents. Just because a golden has field lines does not mean they are going to be more hyper than their counterparts. Remember…ALL goldens are retrievers and working dogs. They all have a good deal of energy that must be exhausted.


Show Goldens are usually stockier, bigger-boned, and heavier. They also tend to have boxier “block” heads. They usually have thicker undercoats and extremely long feathers. Due to the thicker coats, they may shed more than the field side. Do not be confused though, ALL Golden Retrievers shed…A LOT! The show Golden tends to settle a bit quicker, but do not underestimate them. They are still extremely active dogs. Coloring, due to the requirements of the show ring, range from a light gold (not white) to a medium gold (think honey color).

AKC Breed Standards

The standard for a Golden are as follows (these have been abbreviated):

General Appearance:

A symmetrical, powerful, active dog, sound and well put together, not clumsy nor long in the leg, displaying a kindly expression and possessing a personality that is eager, alert and self-confident.

Size, Proportion, Substance:

Males 23 to 24 inches in height at withers; females 21½ to 22½
inches. Weight for dogs 65 to 75 pounds; bitches 55 to 65 pounds.


Broad in skull. Muzzle straight in profile, blending smooth and strongly into the skull. Eyes friendly and intelligent in expression, medium large with dark, close-fitting rims, set well apart and reasonably deep in sockets, preferably dark brown; medium brown acceptable. Ears rather short with front edge attached well behind and just above the eye and falling close to cheek. When pulled forward, the tip of the ear should just cover the eye. Nose black or brownish black, though fading to a lighter shade in cold weather not serious.

Neck, Topline, Body:

Neck medium long, merging gradually into well-laid-back shoulders,
giving a sturdy, muscular appearance. Backline strong and level from withers to slightly sloping croup. Body well balanced, short coupled, deep through the chest. Chest between forelegs at least as wide as a man’s closed hand including thumb, with well-developed
forechest. Tail well set on, thick and muscular at the base, following the natural line of the croup. Pasterns are short and strong, sloping slightly with no suggestion of weakness. Dewclaws on forelegs may be removed, but are normally left on. Feet medium size, round, compact, and well knuckled, with thick pads.


Dense and water-repellent with a good undercoat. Outer coat firm and resilient, neither coarse nor silky, lying close to the body; may be straight or wavy. Untrimmed natural ruff; moderate feathering on back of forelegs and on underbody; heavier feathering on front of neck, back of thighs, and underside of tail. The coat on the head, paws, and front of the legs is short and even.


Rich, lustrous golden of various shades. Feathering may be lighter than the rest of the coat. Color classifications of Light, Medium, or Dark.

The Kennel Club (UK) Breed Standard

The standards for a Golden are as follows (these have NOT been abbreviated):

General appearance

Symmetrical, balanced, active, powerful, level mover; sound with kindly expression.


Biddable, intelligent, and possessing natural working ability.


Kindly, friendly, and confident.

Head and Skull

Balanced and well chiseled, skull broad without coarseness; well set on neck, muzzle powerful, wide, and deep. The length of fore face approximately equals the length from the well-defined stop to the occiput. Nose preferably black.


Dark brown, set well apart, dark rims.


Moderate size, set on approximate level with eyes.


Jaws strong, with a perfect, regular, and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws.


Good length, clean, and muscular.


Forelegs straight with good bone, shoulders well laid back, long in blade with upper arm of equal length placing legs well under body. Elbows close fitting.


Balanced, short coupled, deep through heart. Ribs deep, well sprung. Level topline.


Loin and legs strong and muscular, good second thighs, well-bent stifles. Hocks well let down, straight when viewed from the rear, neither turning in nor out. Cow hocks are highly undesirable.


Round and cat-like.


Set on and carried level with back, reaching to hocks, without curl at tip.


Powerful with good drive. Straight and true in front and rear. Stride long and free with no sign of hackney action in front.


Flat or wavy with good feathering, dense water-resisting undercoat.


Any shade of gold or cream, neither red nor mahogany. A few white hairs on the chest only, permissible.


Height at withers: dogs: 56-61 cms (22-24 ins); bitches: 51-56 cms (20-22 ins).


Size – The Kennel Club breed standard is a guide and description of the ideal for the breed; the size as described does not imply that a dog will match the measurements given (height or weight). A dog might be larger or smaller than the size measurements stated in the breed standard.


In all reality, although there are different “types” of Goldens, they are all Golden Retrievers. It is up to personal preferences when it comes to what “type” of Golden you prefer. Honestly, any breeder worth their weight will be able to help you find the best puppy for your household. If color and lines do not matter to you, this may be easier. However, discuss your needs/wants with your breeder and they should be able to help you choose your puppy.

Another article that may be helpful that relates to this topic is Gender Differences.

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