In 1964, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, named after the famous Bay region of the breed's origin, was declared the official dog of Maryland (Chapter 156, Acts of 1964; Code General Provisions Article, sec. 7-304).
Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Annapolis, Maryland, March 2001. Photo by Elizabeth W. Newell.
A working dog bred to recover waterfowl for hunters, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is one of only a few breeds actually developed in the United States. Nonetheless, the history of this dog is unclear. Legend tells of an English vessel shipwrecked off the coast of Maryland in the early nineteenth century. Among the survivors were two young dogs of a Newfoundland breed. Supposedly bred to local coonhounds, they evolved into the present-day Chesapeake Bay Retriever.
Chesapeake Bay Retriever. Photo courtesy of American Chesapeake Club, Inc.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) registered its first Chesapeake Bay Retriever in 1878. By then, a definite type had evolved with characteristics suited to the often rigorous duckhunting conditions around Chesapeake Bay. Dogs of the breed are intelligent with powerful bodies of moderate size and strong jaws. Their double coats, with a coarse, wavy outer coat and a fine woolly undercoat containing lots of natural oils, protect them from icy waters. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers may be brown, sedge, or deadgrass, colors which blend with their hunting environment.
Retrievers are characterized by their versatility, strength, endurance, and loyal devotion. These dogs excel in field and obedience trials. As service dogs, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are found working with drug enforcement agencies, and visiting hospitals and nursing homes. Some are trained for search and rescue work, even as avalanche or sled dogs.
Since 1966, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever has been the official mascot of the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
© Copyright September 29, 2015 Maryland State Archives