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Chesapeake Bay Retrievers

Chesapeake Bay Retriever Country of Origin: United States
Height: 21–26 inches
Weight: 55–80 pounds
Coat: Water-resistant double coat with short, harsh, thick, oily outercoat and woolly, dense, fine undercoat
Colors: Any color of brown, sedge (red-gold), or deadgrass (straw to bracken); white markings acceptable
Registries (With Group): AKC (Sporting); UKC (Gun Dog)


Early settlers to the United States marveled at the richness and diversity of life in and along the Chesapeake Bay. Ducks have always been especially plentiful, and sportsmen with able retrievers have enjoyed great success there. So valued was the right kind of retriever that over time, a special dog was developed—one who could withstand the icy water and rough waves of the saltwater bay.

The breed’s development happened over much of the 19th century and had multiple influences. Two shipwrecked Newfoundland-type dogs, a black female named “Canton” and a red male named “Sailor,” are credited with founding the breed, but since these dogs were never bred to each other, it is likely that other breeds were also used. It is believed that Red Winchesters from Ireland and possibly the Irish Water Spaniel contributed to the Chesapeake Bay Retriever. Records show that some of these dogs could average a thousand ducks each fall, and the tougher the hunting conditions, the more they seemed to like it.


Today’s Chesapeake Bay Retriever (“Chessie”) is as constitutionally “tough” as are his forebears, able to hunt in harsh conditions and deliver for the hunter. This stick-to-itiveness can be intimidating to inexperienced dog owners. For those who can handle a dog with a mind of his own, the Chessie makes an exceptional sporting companion. He is intelligent and affectionate, good with children, and easy to care for. He excels in sports like hunting, tracking, obedience, and schutzhund and makes a formidable watchdog.


  • Exercise: Relatively inactive indoors, the Chessie loves being outside, and one of his favorite activities is swimming—no matter what the weather.
  • Grooming: The coarse, thick, and almost oily coat of the Chessie is self-maintained and needs only an occasional brushing with a firm bristle brush.
  • Life span: is 10 to 12 years.
  • Training: A firm and fair trainer will get the most out of a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, who is smart enough to quickly figure things out to his advantage. Particularly responsive and adept in hunting and retrieving situations, and certainly capable of much more, the Chessie will excel under the guidance of someone who can handle him.

Find a Nylabone chew, treat, or toy for your Chesapeake Bay Retriever or large dog!

Excerpt from World Atlas of Dog Breeds, 6th Edition. © 2009 TFH Publications, Inc.

World Atlas of Dog Breeds

World Atlas of Dog Breeds Book

Other Books on this Topic:
Chihuahuas (Animal Planet™ Pet Care Library)
The Chihuahua (Terra Nova)

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