Chesapeake Bay retriever

Chesapeake Bay retriever

Chesapeake Bay retriever, breed of large sporting dog developed in the United States. It stands about 24 in. (61 cm) high at the shoulder and weighs about 65 lb (29.5 kg). Its thick, short double coat ranges in color from a very dark brown to the faded tan called deadgrass. Webbed feet, powerful shoulders and hindquarters, and an oily outercoat that tends to shed water, combine to make the Chesapeake a very efficient retriever in the iciest water. Although bred to retrieve ducks, it is also widely used to hunt on land and has been trained as a guide dog. See dog.
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a breed of dog that was developed along the Chesapeake Bay. It hunts under adverse weather and water conditions, even if having to break ice during the course of many strenuous multiple retrieves. The breed can be protective of its people and property. Many owners refer to this breed as the "Chessie".



Distinctive features include eyes that are very clear, of yellowish or amber hue, hindquarters as high or a trifle higher than the shoulders, and a double coat that tends to wave on shoulders, neck, back and loins. This "waterproof" coat feels slightly oily, which is often associated with a slight musky odor. Three basic colors are generally seen in the breed: brown, which includes all shades from a light to a deep dark brown; sedge, which varies from a reddish yellow through a bright red to chestnut shades; and deadgrass in all its shades, varying from a faded tan to a dull straw color. The breed standard states that white may also appear, but it must be limited to the breast, belly, toes, or back of the feet. The head is round and broad with a medium stop and muzzle. The lips are thin. The small ears hang down. The tail is 12-15 inches (30-37 cm) long. The forelegs should be straight with good bone. The hindquarters are especially strong and the toes webbed since excellent swimming ability is important for the Chesapeake. This breed is also known for their large, and powerful chests; used to break apart ice when diving into ice-layered water while duck hunting.


The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is valued for its bright and happy disposition, intelligence, quiet good sense, and affectionate protective nature. Some of them can be quite vocal when happy, and some will 'smile' by baring their front teeth in a peculiar grin - this is not a threat but a sign of joy or submissivness.

Chesapeakes are naturally dominant and although they won't usually start a fight, they will defend their position as the alpha dog. Obedience training is a must with this breed.

Although Chesapeake Bay Retrievers can make good family dogs, they tend to gravitate towards one person in its family. Willful, they can be prone to dominance problems if not properly trained and socialized. Chesapeakes are not like other retrievers, they can be more assertive and willful and are typically reserved with strangers. They may be combative with other dogs. These are strong dogs and have a tendency to be territorial, so they require firm training and good management. Chesapeakes are usually slow to mature.


Training is a necessity with this breed.

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a very intelligent breed and learns at a high speed. Once a Chesapeake learns what is expected, he will act accordingly from that point on.

There is a phrase: "You can order a Labrador; ask a Golden; but you must negotiate with a Chesapeake."


The breed is subject to a number of hereditary diseases. These include, but are not limited to:


Chesapeake Bay Retrievers trace their history to two Newfoundland dogs -- the male "Sailor" and female "Canton" -- who were rescued from a foundering ship in Maryland in 1807. They were to breed with various dogs creating the line.

George Law who rescued the pups wrote this account in 1845 which appears on the website of the American Chesapeake Bay Retriever Club:

In the fall of 1807 I was on board of the ship Canton, belonging to my uncle, the late-Hugh Thompson, of Baltimore, when we fell in, at sea, near the termination of a very heavy equinoctial gale, with an English brig in a sinking condition, and took off the crew. The brig was loaded with codfish, and was bound to Pole, in England, from Newfoundland. I boarded her, in command of a boat from the Canton, which was sent to take off the English crew, the brig's own boats having been all swept away, and her crew in a state of intoxication. I found onboard of her two Newfoundland pups, male and female, which I saved, and subsequently, on our landing the English crew at Norfolk, our own destination being Baltimore, I purchased these two pups of the English captain for a guinea apiece. Being bound again to sea, I gave the dog pup, which was called Sailor, to Mr. John Mercer, of West River; and the slut pup, which was called Canton, to Doctor James Stewart, of Sparrow's Point. The history which the English captain gave me of these pups was, that the owner of his brig was extensively engaged in the Newfoundland trade, and had directed his correspondent to select and send him a pair of pups of the most approved Newfoundland breed, but of different families, and that the pair I purchased of him were selected under this order, The dog was of a dingy red colour; and the slut black. They were not large; their hair was short, but very thick-coated; they had dew claws. Both attained great reputation as water-dogs. They were most sagacious in every thing; particularly so in all duties connected with duck-shooting. Governor Lloyd exchanged a Merino ram for the dog, at the time of the Merino fever, when such rams were selling for many hundred dollars, and took him over to his estate on the eastern shore of Maryland, where his progeny were well known for many years after; and may still be known there, and on the western shore, as the Sailor breed. The slut remained at Sparrows Point till her death, and her progeny were and are still well known, through Patapsco Neck, on the Gunpowder, and up the bay, amongst the duck-shooters, as unsurpassed for their purposes. I have heard both Doctor Stewart and Mr. Mercer relate most extraordinary instances of the sagacity and performance of both dog and slut, and would refer you to their friends for such particulars as I am unable, at this distance of time, to recollect with sufficient accuracy to repeat.

Mercer is said to have described Sailor:

. . . he was of fine size and figure-lofty in his carriage, and built for strength and activity; remarkably muscular and broad across the hips and breast; head large, but not out of proportion; muzzle rather longer than is common with that race of dogs; his colour a dingy red, with some white on the face and breast; his coat short and smooth, but uncommonly thick, and more like a coarse fur than hair; tail full, with long hair, and always carried very high. His eyes were very peculiar: they were so light as to have almost an unnatural appearance, something resembling what is termed a wail eye, in a horse; and it is remarkable, that in a visit which I made to the Eastern Shore, nearly twenty years after he was sent there, in a sloop which had been sent expressly for him, to West River, by Governor Lloyd, I saw many of his descendants who were marked with this peculiarity.

While there is no record the dogs Sailor and Canton ever breeding, the dogs from both shores of Chesapeake Bay were recognized as the Chesapeake Bay Ducking Dog in 1877.

In 1964, it was declared the official dog of Maryland

It is the mascot of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County


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