Book Review | Labrador by Ben Fogle

A social history of Labradors, and how they have become the world’s most beloved dogs, by writer, presenter and long-time dog lover Ben Fogle, whose beloved black Labrador, Inca, famously accompanied him on numerous journeys and adventures.

Labradors are the most popular breed of dog in the world. Not only a great family companion, they also excel at hunting, tracking, retrieving, guiding and rescuing. But where did the breed originally come from? How did it develop? When did black, yellow and chocolate Labradors first appear? Did they really all come from Labrador in Canada and are they really all related to just one dog?

In this first history of the Labrador, Ben Fogle goes in search of what makes Labradors so special. Their extraordinary companionship, intelligence, work ethic and loyalty is captured by Ben as he weaves the story of the breed into his own story of his beloved Inca.

Ben visits Canada, discovers hair-raising stories of early Labrador exploits and uncovers stories of RNIB Labradors and Labradors at war, Labradors as working dogs and every other manifestation of the Labrador’s character. Exploring their origin, early characteristics, their use as gun dogs, as therapy dogs, as police dogs, as search and rescue dogs and last – and absolutely not least – as family pets, Ben tells the story of a dog breed which has captured our imagination and love for hundreds of years.

– Blurb from GoodReads

Labrador has such a wonderful premise, I was so excited to read this book, especially with a book by Ben Fogle (aka a great presenter who I watched when I was younger). Unfortunately, it kind of fell flat.

The history is clearly well researched (especially as it is, apparently, very hard to find) but it wasn’t delivered very well. Don’t get me wrong, it was very interesting, and I did enjoy finding out that Labradors actually come from Newfoundland and Newfoundlands come from Labrador. However, it was written very confusingly. Fogle repeats himself a lot, and throughout, so I was reading the same piece of information two or three times. The history was full of names that didn’t particularly mean much to me, and I don’t really know what was happening.

On the other hand, the anecdotes of Ben and his dog Inca were wonderful and written brilliantly. This book has probably made me cry more than any other book I have ever read. Honestly. I was weeping, I even had to put the book down to wipe away my tears. It was written so beautifully, that basically you couldn’t help but burst into tears. ONLY A NON-FEELING BRICK WOULDN’T EVEN TEAR UP I’M TELLING YOU.

Ben has written a wonderful book of beautiful Labrador anecdotes through history, with some actual history thrown in… but I would dearly like to attack this book with a red editing pen. I’m sure dog lovers would really enjoy it, but beware that it is rather confusing, and not entirely what I was expecting. Fogle is obviously more secure writing lovely anecdotes and stories over histories, so I would still like to read more of his books in the future!

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