IT has long been one of the most popular dog breeds.

Now plans to erect a statue to commemorate the Highland birthplace of the golden retriever have been given the green light by planners.

The statue will be around 5ft 6in tall and will stand on a plinth of more than 3ft high at the Guisachan Estate at Tomich in Strathglass to the west of Loch Ness.

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It will be sited near to an existing monument to Lord and Lady Tweedmouth. Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, Scottish businessman and a Liberal MP from 1853 until 1880, was the first Lord Tweedmouth who is credited with starting the breed.

But there appeared almost a century of confusion surrounding the introduction of the golden retriever. Until the discovery of Lord Tweedmouth's stud books in 1952 the breed was thought to have originated from a troupe of Russian circus dogs which the Lord saw performing in Brighton in 1858.

He was said to have been so impressed by their intelligence, looks and docility, that he purchased all eight of them and had them transported to his Scottish Estate at Guisachan, where they were used for tracking deer.

But the Golden Retriever Club of the UK say: "The sixth Earl of Ilchester, a great-nephew of Lord Tweedmouth, in 1952, dismissed the Russian theory, basing his evidence on a stud book meticulously kept from 1835 which recorded all the dogs kept at Guisachan and in which there was no mention of the Russian dogs.

"Lord Tweedmouth's Grandson had stated that his Grandfather bought his first yellow dog from a cobbler in Brighton, who said it had been the one yellow puppy in a litter of black wavy-coated Retrievers, and was given to him by a keeper in payment of a debt. This puppy was Nous."

In 1868 this dog was mated to a Tweed Water-Spaniel from Ladykirk. Lord Tweedmouth is then said to have methodically line-bred down from this mating.

The plans for the statue come from the Friends of Guisachan. It will cost around £18,200 but donations have already helped raise more than £14,000.