If you have arrived here you are probably interested in Labrador Retrievers or your search for the word “Parbuckle” brought you here rather erroneously! (More on the Parbuckle later, but if you are an engineer you might want to check that wiki page now!)
Now we had better clear this one. Parbuckle is our Kennel Club name or “affix”. Yes it might appear an odd one for a breed of Labrador retrievers but I will explain how we ended with this name. First excuse is that it is very hard to find a name when you register with the United Kingdom Kennel Club and that is why many breeders have rather esoteric Kennel Names. After much searching and deliberation we decided on Parbuckle for a mixture of reasons which I will explain!
I have always been fascinated at the origins of the Labrador retriever breed and the fact that historically they were fishermans dogs from Newfoundland and Labrador on the Atlantic coast of Canada. Originally they were essentially dogs that lived by the sea, on board fishing boats with their masters and on land where communities started to develop to process fish.
In 1497 the navigator John Cabot in his ship Matthew made landfall, somewere on this barren coast; the first Europeans to arrive in America since the Vikings 500 years before (also in Newfoundland). On arriving back in Bristol his report stated “”the sea there is full of fish that can be taken not only with nets but with fishing-baskets” . This discovery started an annual summer migration of fishing boats that came from all over Europe to fish the rich grounds of Newfoundland, Labrador and the Grand Banks. In particular fisherman came from Portugal, Galicia (North Spain), Brittany and the Atlantic Coast of France and in particular boats from the South West of England, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset.
Along with the fishing fleets came communities of men and women to process the fish and salt them ready for the long sea journey back to markets in Europe. Salt cod was the lucrative commodity they were processing; a vital and highly transportable food source in Middle ages Europe. These fishermen and communities brought their dogs; a vital asset in survival in the harsh frontier settlements.
In the early stages of this annual fishing migration (in the 1500’s) Portuguese and Spanish fishermen were a significant group and some think the labrador type evolved from crossing the Mastiffs common in the Iberian peninsular with other dogs brought from other parts of Europe. The Mastiff does indeed have many similarities with the modern Labrador so there may be some credence to this theory.
After the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 the Iberian Fishing fleets were largely replaced (but not entirely) by English and French Fishing fleets. At least the communities who stayed ashore to process the fish were principally of these two countries with the English settling on the Eastern shores of Newfoundland and the French on the South and West side of the island. From 1600 onwards settlements started to become more permanent. St Johns on the East Coast became the largest settlement where merchant companies for the fish processing started to set up bases. Other significant early settlements were, Cupids, Ferryland, and Harbour Grace.
Over time a specific black water loving dog evolved with a thick oily coat and an otter like tail to assist in swimming and steering in the water. They were prized for retrieving in water, this meant going after a dying fish that had fallen out of a net or picking up a piece of boats gear that had washed through the scuppers. They were seen in the busy fishing harbours of Newfoundland and Labrador when the boats came in and when fish dropped out of the nets and baskets when offloading the catch.