Know Your Breed
The History of the Labrador Retriever
Labradors are retrievers; bred to bring game back to the hunter. The Labrador has a dense, short, double layered coat that repels water and provides great resistance to the cold. The Labrador is a medium sized dog with a sturdy, athletic build and a "gentle" mouth for retrieving game.
Eyes, Tail, and Feet of a Labrador
The eyes of a Labrador range from dark to mid-brown depending on the coat color. Labrador Retrievers have a distinctive broad head, with a wide muzzle and thick nose. The otter tail and webbed feet are distinctive features of this dog breed resulting in their being strong swimmers.
Labrador's are extremely intelligent and very good with children and the elderly, making them ideal family pets and service companions. They are good-natured and "people pleasers" making them easy to train. They are protective by nature but not aggressive.
Height and Weight
Labrador Retrievers are strong and sturdy in build, and traditionally adult males weigh around between 65-80 pounds, with adult females between 55-70 pounds.
The height of an adult male is generally around 22-24 inches, with adult females at around 21-23 inches. This is the breed standard. There may be larger (taller) dogs in the Field Lines but, even that "type" should be within the standards for height and weight in a responsible breeding program. Labradors should NOT have a large "tuck" in their belly; their center of gravity is different than other breeds who were not bred to work in water. Some may call a Labrador without a tuck "overweight" or "fat"; this is untrue. They should have a waste and no extra fat around the ribcage.
Weight and height guides are approximate and may differ from one dog to the next depending on the parents. Our Kona weighs 85 pounds in working condition (see photo to the left); while Dreama weighs only 65 pounds in the same condition. They are approximately the same in height. (Photo: Angus and Kona)
As with people, individual dogs will have different requirements but in general, they are energetic dogs and do need regular exercise. Their love for company and people means that interactive play such as Frisbee, fetch etc. can provide them with mental stimulation as well as much-needed exercise. A typical Labrador will love having a "job" such as carrying the mail or the newspaper into the home, picking up their toys to place in a basket, or whatever their owner trains them to do!
Originally Black was the preferred color for a Labrador Retriever; breedings were perfecting the process of producing dogs with solid color coats. The earliest photograph of the Labrador Retriever (St. Johns Water Dog) shows white spots in her coat. Because of this ancestry, the Breed Standard allows for white on the chest area but too much would disqualify the dog from Conformation competitions. Before the era of genetically testing coat colors, Labradors with with spots were often mistaken for "mutts"; today we know that this is not the case. The "white spotting" gene need only be passed on from one parent to express. Occasionally, a dog appearing to be solid Black will have white tufts of hair on the pads of the feet; these are said to be descendants of English Dual Champion Banchory Bolo. Photo of our Murphy! More Information
The first Chocolate Labs were born in 1892 although they were referred to as "liver" colored. The original St. Johns Dogs upon which Labradors were founded carried Chocolate as a recessive gene; breeding two Blacks with this recessive gene produced "liver" or Chocolate puppies within the litter. Chocolates were typically homed as pets because breeders were selectively breeding to achieve a solid Black coat. In 1932 the first 'liver colored' Labrador was registered by the AKC. Over time, Chocolates became popular and breeders began to breed Chocolate to Chocolate to deliberately produce this color. More Information
In 1899 the first recorded yellow Labrador was born at the kennel of Major C.J. Radclyffe and named Ben of Hyde; Ben was not the Yellow or Whitish Labrador we see today, he more closely resembled what today is called the "Fox Red". In 1929 a dog named Kinclaven Lowesby was the first yellow to be registered in the AKC stud book; he was registered as the color 'golden'. Shades of "Yellow" range from almost white, through pale cream and butterscotch, through to what is known as the fox red Labrador. The popularity of the Yellow Labrador, originally culled from a breeder's program through homing as pets, can be tied to the Kleenex commercials beginning in 1972. More Information
Why "No to Silver Labs"?
Silver is not a recognized color of the Labrador although at this time, they are registered with the AKC as Chocolate. Silver Labradors, carry a "dilute" gene and unlike the yellow and chocolate (or liver) colors, have not been recorded in Stud Books since the 1800's. Efforts to trace the origin of this color have resulted in the claim that the lines connect back to a Breeder of both Labs and Weimaraner's in the 1940's - the Weimaraner being the only breed known to carry the "dilute" gene universally (they do not carry the dominant "D" gene, getting one from the Dam and one from the Sire). This kennel was also known for the "rare pointing lab", pointing being a trait of the Weimaraner. It is possible that a breeding took place introducing the gene to certain lines of Labradors. While it is also possible that recessive gene was hidden until generations of inbreeding allowed two recessive carriers to breed, the controversy still rages as to whether or not Breeders should strive to produce a Silver Labrador in tradition of improving the breed.
Silvers were not seen in New Zealand and the UK until 2006 and were the offspring of imported Labs from the U.S.A.; New Zealand and Australia have issued "high alert" notices regarding health issues, including epilepsy, for the Silver Labs. The very fact that the breed is seen worldwide and had no dilute Silver ever registered or recognized until recently supports the belief that these are not purebred Labradors and that the dilute gene, carried universally by the Weimaraner, was introduced through cross-breeding by an American breeder.
Some breeders of Silver Labs claim that "ethical breeders admit to killing silver puppies" implying that this practice continues today; in reality, todays' breeders would have sold them on limited registration and required these puppies be spayed or neutered to avoid passing on the dilute gene just as they would any puppy that doesn't "improve" the breed according the the Breed Standard. And in fact, many breeders are now testing to confirm their breeding stock doesn't carry the dilute gene to completely avoid the passing on of it.