Fun Facts About The Controversial Black Golden Retriever

Black Golden Retriever

As a veterinarian and a geneticist the topic of “Black Golden Retrievers” is fun to discuss. A Golden Retriever purist will tell you that they don’t exist but there are 2 sides to that story. Here I’ll explain and give you 3 possible explanations for a dog that appears to be a Black Golden Retriever. Since my residency training and current job are in genetics, I give you fair warning that this may get a little nerdy.

Do Black Golden Retrievers Exist?

There is no dog breed that is a Black Golden Retriever. An AKC registered, 100% purebred, Golden Retriever cannot be black because their color is a result of two recessive alleles on a chromosome. In fact the AKC Golden Retriever standard only allows shades of gold.

Genetics is the main reason a 100% purebred Black Golden Retriever does not exist. All Golden Retrievers have the e/e recessive genotype for coat color; therefore, it is impossible for a Golden to pass on the dominant E allele because they don’t have it. The Flat-Coated Retrievers or mixed breeds have the dominant E allele which produces the black or liver color in skin or fur. The recessive e allele will always produce a coat that is yellow or red in color.

But it is possible to have a nearly purebred black Golden Retriever that looks and acts like a golden retriever except for the black color. See #1 below for the explanation as well as some other ways for a dogs to appear to be a black Golden Retriever.

Find Black Golden Retriever

#1) The Black Golden Retriever is from an Outcrossed Line

Because the genetics of a black coat are so simple, it is possible for a breeder to have outcrossed many generations ago and have dogs today that fit the Golden Retriever Type but have a black coat. Although these dogs are not 100% purebred and won’t be registered in the AKC they may be close enough if a black Golden Retriever is what you really want.

For example, a breeder may have crossed a Golden Retriever with a Flat Coated Retriever, then bred the black puppies back to Golden Retrievers. They then kept breeding successive generations of only the black puppies back to Golden Retrievers until the type and personality matched the Goldens Retriever again (except for the black coat). This is how many breeds were created in the first place. So the black Golden Retrievers being advertised may or may not be exactly like a Golden Retriever based on how many generations ago the outcross happened.

Breeder Warning!

If a breeder tries to tell you they are selling AKC registered Black Golden Retrievers, then you should look for another breeder. Either the dog is not actually registered, or somewhere in the pedigree there is a “fake” parent. Listing the wrong dog as a sire or dam is very unethical.

A breeder may tell you that their black golden retriever dogs are purebred but not registered. This is controversial as the meaning of purebred is difficult to define. Some consider an outcross more than 5 generations back to be unimportant. They may be right because a single ancestor, 6 generations back likely only contributed 1/64th of the DNA of the dog.

While some of these breeders are ethical, others may be trying to sell a mixed breed dog as a “rare black Golden Retriever” just to make a few extra bucks. While it is ok to purchase these dogs, I would avoid paying extreme prices for what may be a mixed breed dog. An ethical breeder will be happy to explain how the black gene entered their Golden Retriever gene pool.

Very, very, rarely a “e” allele gene can mutate back to a “E” allele gene but this usually happens in only a single cell when a puppy is developing in the womb. Which means, if this type of genetic mutation occurs in a Golden Retriever it will show up as a black patch on the skin or fur, not the whole coat. Check out this facebook photo of a Golden like this. If you are interested, the “E/e” gene is explained more in depth on AnimalGenetics website.

#2) The Black Golden Retriever Was Actually a Different Breed

Many breeds of Retrievers look and act the same. Sometimes it can be challenging to tell the different breeds apart.  In this article we will discuss why the Flat-Coated Retriever and the Golden Retriever are similar, but different breeds. We will also look at the science behind these two breeds and discuss some other breeds that are very similar.

If you are looking to purchase a Black Golden, then there are a few breeds to consider. Below we will cover some dogs that appear to be a Black Golden Retriever, but are not. Here are 4 possible breeds that can be mistaken for a black Golden Retriever.

Flat Coated Retriever

Flat Coated Retriever

It is possible you are seeing a Flat-Coated Retriever. They may look and act remarkably like a Golden Retriever, but they are their own breed. They can only be black or liver in color. Check out our article on Flat Coated Retrievers vs. Golden Retrievers.


Hovawart Dog

A Hovawart looks like a mixed breed of a Golden Retriever and a Rottweiler or Doberman, but they are their own breed. They are larger than a Golden and have about the same body and shape. 


Newfoundland Dog

A Newfoundland is like the Golden Retriever. They have the same blocky head and similar facial expressions. The big difference is they are twice the size and shed twice the amount of fur than Golden Retrievers.

#3) The Black Golden Retriever was Really a Mixed Breed

Mixed breeds can absolutely appear to be a Black Golden Retriever but are not full blooded Goldens. They are a mix of a Golden Retriever and another breed. 

Common Black Colored Mixed Breeds:

  • Black German Shepherd and Golden Retriever
  • Black Lab and Golden Retriever
  • Mixed Labrador and Golden Retriever mix
  • Many other possible combinations

How To Find A Black Golden Retriever? 

Whether you are looking to purchase a Flat-Coated Retriever, Golden Retriever, or a Mixed Breed Retriever make sure that you are using a reputable breeder that knows the genetic and health background of the parents and the puppy. If they do not have a lot of knowledge about the breed or puppy, it would be best to find another breeder.

Flat-Coated Retriever

Flat-Coated Retrievers almost went extinct in the 1900’s due to the growing popularity of the Golden Retriever and Labrador, so they are a bit harder to find. They are still out there, but you may have to do a little more research to find one. Find a reputable breeder that can give you useful information about the dog’s health and temperament. 

Mixed Breed Retriever

Mixed Breed Retrievers are easy to find. There are some dogs that are a mix of Golden Retriever and another breed. Be sure the breeder provides you with all the necessary information about the different breeds involved as well as health and temperament information.

Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers are the third most popular breed in the United States. It will not be hard to find one. Be sure to find a reputable breeder that can provide you with information about the dog’s health and temperament.

Other options for finding a Golden would be to check your local Golden Retriever Rescues or Adoption Agencies. There are many Goldens out there that need some love.


Golden Retrievers come in many colors and types. However, the infamous “Black Golden Retriever” does not really exist as a 100% purebred dog. There are many options if you are looking for a Golden Retriever type of dog with a black coat. Your options would be a Flat-Coated Retriever, Hovawart, Newfoundland, or a Mixed Breed.

If you would like to learn more about the types and colors of Golden Retrievers, check out our article Types and Colors of Golden Retrievers.

Dr. Anne Traas

Anne Traas, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACT is a veterinarian and the new President of Golden Retriever Society. She is board certified (a specialist) in canine reproduction. In her day job, she is a leader in a small biotech where she and a team of veterinarians and scientists work to develop new medications for pets. She enjoys sharing her knowledge of this wonderful breed of dogs. She and her husband have 2 children, 3 dogs and one cat. They love camping and hiking and she can often be found with her head in a good book.

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