Wondering about the differences between English vs. American golden retrievers?
Here’s the truth: they’re both golden retrievers that descended from the same original golden retrievers over 150 years ago.
However, since then a few different styles of goldens have evolved in different regions, largely depending on what the goldens were bred for.
Within these styles some differences have appeared, including differences in:
- Energy levels
- And even price
In this article, you’ll learn how English and American golden retrievers stack up against each other, what their main differences are, and what their similarities are.
Let’s dive in!
English vs. American Golden Retriever Overview
Before we get into the differences and similarities of these two types of goldens, it’s important to know why we’re even having this discussion in the first place.
Isn’t a golden retriever a golden retriever no matter where it comes from?
Well, sort of…
In the mid-1800s, golden retrievers were first bred in Scotland by crossing a Tweed water spaniel and a wavy-coated retriever.
Sir Dudley Marjoribanks created the breed to retrieve gunned down birds in fields and marshes.
Obviously, they made it over here to America, but then some differences started to evolve.
- The fact that North America and Europe are different continents separated by a big pond caused dogs on these continents to mostly breed with just each other.
- The AKC and Kennel Club (UK’s kennel club) actually have slightly different breed standards, so breeders trying to adhere to these standards prioritized different things.
- Different qualities were preferred by breeders who bred for different purposes (usually for hunting or for the show ring), so they produced dogs with noticeable differences.
So yes, a golden retriever is a golden retriever, but depending on where it comes from and what the breeder’s purpose was, you will find differences between them.
However, what these differences are, and how pronounced they are, depends on who you ask.
If you ask an English Cream golden retriever breeder, they’ll tell you that English Creams are healthier and calmer.
If you ask the Golden Retriever Club of America, they’ll tell you that the term “English Cream golden retriever” is a marketing ploy and goldens are all the same breed.
And to muddy the waters even further… most “English” golden retrievers aren’t even from England.
Most of the “English” golden retrievers in America were actually imported here from countries such as:
- New Zealand
- The Netherlands
Later in this article, we’ll talk more about these differences, but here’s something to keep in mind: if a breeder breeds happy and healthy dogs together, they’ll likely produce happy and healthy dogs, so choosing a breeder might actually your most important decision.
On the flip side, there are breeders of all breeds and types out there looking to make a quick buck and not caring about you, the breed, or their puppies, so be sure to avoid them.
In this article, we’ll mostly be talking about dogs bred for show and to be family companions, but you can check out this article if you want to learn more about differences between field and show golden retrievers.
Now, let’s get into some of the similarities of these two styles of goldens!
English vs. American Golden Retriever Similarities
Golden retrievers of all shapes, sizes, and colors shed.
If you want a golden (or any type of dog, really), you’ll have to get used to shedding.
There’s a thin layer of golden fur covering just about everything in my house, but if you ask me, or any other golden retriever owner, that’s a low price to pay for the love and joy of owning a golden retriever.
All golden retrievers are loving, loyal, and sweet dogs.
The AKC describes them as, “friendly, reliable, and trustworthy,” while the Kennel Club describes them as, “kindly, friendly, and confident.”
When it comes to getting a family pet, it’s tough to beat a golden retriever.
According to Dr. Stanley Coren’s book, The Intelligence of Dogs, golden retrievers are the fourth smartest dog breed out of 138 tested breeds (nerds, amirite?).
He didn’t specify whether he tested an English or American golden retriever, so we’ll just assume they’re both pretty smart!
They love working with people and love the challenge of learning new things.
They respond best to positive reinforcement, so be sure to bring the treats, toys, and praise!
They Love To Eat
As I mentioned in the article above, golden retrievers love treats.
But it’s not just treats they love — they love all food!
Goldens do have a tendency to become obese if given the option to eat too much, which can lead to other health issues, so be sure to talk to your vet about how much to feed them.
English vs. American Golden Retriever Differences
In this section, we’ll talk about the differences between these two styles of goldens.
As I said earlier, how pronounced these differences are depends on who you ask, as well as who the dog’s parents were.
I’ve included studies when possible, but some of these differences are just trends people have noticed.
Also, these are generalities.
Each dog is an individual — so take these differences with a grain of salt.
And finally, many of these differences are because of the breeders’ trying to conform to different breed standards, which you can find here:
One of the biggest differences talked about between these two is the differences in their health.
Here’s a quote from the Mercola article:
“Their genes are significantly different, which suggests the risk of cancer in American Goldens is the result, in part, of a fairly recent gene mutation.”
Here’s how big golden retrievers should be, according to these two countries’ breed standards:
American golden retrievers:
Males: 23-24 inches tall at the withers (tallest part of their shoulder blades) and 65-75 pounds
Females: 21.5-22.5 inches tall and 55-65 pounds
English golden retrievers:
Males: 22-24 inches tall
Females: 20-22 inches tall
As you can see, Americans allow taller goldens, while the English allow shorter goldens.
Weight is not noted in the English standard.
English golden retrievers are known for being shorter and stockier, while American golden retrievers are known for being slightly taller and lankier.
English goldens typically have blockier heads, with ears that sit a little lower than the American goldens.
American goldens often have more of a sloping topline (back), where their shoulders are a little taller than their hips.
English goldens have more of a straight topline (as you can see in the picture of the Crufts winner below).
The color difference is the most noticeable difference between these two styles of golden retriever.
Usually, when people in America think of English golden retrievers, they think of light golden or cream-colored dogs (hence the name, “English Cream golden retriever”).
Here’s what the breed standards say about color:
AKC: “Rich, lustrous golden of various shades… Predominant body color which is either extremely pale or extremely dark is undesirable.”
KC: “Any shade of gold or cream, neither red nor mahogany.”
So in America, they prefer dogs that are actually gold, while in England, they accept gold or cream-colored dogs.
Here’s a picture of Daniel, the golden retriever who won the Sporting Group at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (which is an American show) in 2020:
And here’s a picture of the Cruft’s (an international dog show held in England) 2019 winner:
As you can see, the dog who won the Sporting Group in America is much darker than the one that won the Sporting Group in England.
Many English golden retriever owners and breeders say that they are calmer than their American counterparts.
My golden retriever, Oliver, is a two-year-old American golden retriever and he has the most energy I’ve ever seen in a dog.
Another thing to consider when getting a golden retriever and thinking about their energy levels is whether they were bred for show or field.
Typically, dogs bred to work in the field have more energy than those bred to trot around a show ring.
With puppies, you usually get what you pay for.
English golden retrievers are often more expensive than American golden retrievers, but there are a lot of factors that go into that besides just style of dog.
Are the breeders feeding their dogs Walmart dog food or a high-quality dog food?
Are they spending a lot of time socializing them and preparing them for life with you, or are they already thinking about the next litter when their pups are born?
Do they live in California, where everything is more expensive, or do they live in Florida, where the cost of living isn’t as expensive?
No matter what type of golden you get, you’ll need to scope out the breeder to see what they’re really about.
Check out this article on how to choose a reputable golden retriever breeder.
Which Type Of Golden Retriever Is Better For You?
To answer this question, you need to ask yourself why you want a golden retriever.
Do you want a hunting partner? (Then get a field golden retriever.)
Do you want to compete in dog shows? (Then get a dog bred for show for the standards you’ll be judged by.)
Do you want to compete in dog sports?
Or do you just want a family companion?
Whatever type of dog is best for you and your family, try to get a dog that was bred for it.
If you’re looking to be competitive in the field or show ring, you’ll probably want to carefully choose a breeder that breeds dog for this specific purpose.
But if you’re looking for a family pet, you can either rescue a golden (here’s a list of golden retriever rescues by state) or get one from a breeder that breeds goldens for family companions (here are some tips on how to choose a golden retriever breeder).
Studies show that English golden retrievers are less likely to get cancer than American golden retrievers, and many people say they’re calmer.
English golden retrievers are also typically lighter than American golden retrievers, especially English Cream golden retrievers.
If this appealing to you, then you’ll probably have to pay a little more for an English golden, but it could be worth it.
However, keep in mind that who the dog’s parents are will have a huge impact on what the puppies are like, so choose a good breeder that breeds dogs that represent what you’re looking for.
What type of golden retriever do you have?
Let me know down in the comments!
And if you want to learn more about golden retrievers, check out this Complete Guide To Golden Retrievers.