Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

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    History & Overview

    The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever (Toller) was developed in Nova Scotia, Canada, in the early 19th century to toll and retrieve waterfowl. “Toll” comes from the Middle English word tollen, which means to lure or entice. The history of this breed is still a mystery, but current thinking is that the underlying stock was the red decoy dog, probably brought to Nova Scotia with the early settlers from Europe. Crosses with other breeds: possibly spaniel and setter-type dogs, retriever-type dogs, and farm collie produced today’s Toller.

    Formerly known as the Little River Duck Dog after the district of Yarmouth County, or as a Yarmouth Toller, the Toller has bred true for generations. However, there is no authentic record of the development of the Toller.3 The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever has been recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club since 1945 and declared the Nova Scotia Provincial Dog. The breed was registered with the American Kennel Club (Sporting Group) in 2001.


    This is a medium-sized, powerful, compact, balanced, well-muscled dog. The breed has been valued for his agility, alertness, endurance, and determination. A strong and able swimmer, he is a natural and tenacious retriever on land and from water. His strong retrieving desire and playfulness are qualities essential to his tolling ability.

    The Tolling dog runs, jumps and plays along the shoreline in full view of a flock of ducks, occasionally disappearing from sight and then quickly reappearing, aided by the hidden hunter, who throws small sticks or a ball for the dog. The dogs playful actions arouse the curiosity of the ducks swimming offshore, and they are lured within gunshot range. The Toller is subsequently sent out to retrieve the dead or wounded birds.


    According to the breed standard, the Toller’s outer coat may have a slight wave on the back, but is otherwise straight, while the undercoat is short and dense. Some winter coats may form a long, loose curl at the throat. Featherings are soft at the throat, behind the ears and at the back of the thighs, and forelegs are moderately feathered.

    Color is various shades of red or orange with lighter featherings and underside of the tail, and usually at least one of the following white markings: the tip of tail, feet, chest and blaze. A dog of otherwise high quality is not to be penalized for lack of white. Some dogs are solid red.

    The Toller is the smallest of the retrievers. The ideal height for males is 19 – 20 inches, for females 18 – 19 inches. The weight should be in proportion to the height and bone of the dog, between 43 and 51 pounds.

    Video Credits: CTV News


    1. FCI standard #312
    2. Chris Dorsey – 150 Waterfowling Tips, Tactics & Tales
    3. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Club (USA)


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