English Labrador. American Labrador. What’s the difference, anyway?
Join us as we explore the distinctions between English and American Labradors – it’s more than just geography.
IMPORTANT: There is no official distinction between the two, they are both genetically Labrador Retrievers.
The subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) variations lie in the dog’s appearance and temperament.
If you have done any research into labradors, you will see the phrases “American Labradors” and “English Labradors” pop up often. This can lead to some confusion for a lot of people, so let me try to help a little.
There is no official distinction between “American Labradors” and “English Labradors” as recognized by various kennel clubs, including the AKC. So what gives?
A brief history lesson in breeding:
For decades, Americans and the English alike loved labradors. (I mean, doesn’t everybody?) But many, many years ago they began choosing specific traits to breed into (and out of) their programs, and, not surprisingly, they had slightly different goals.
The American breeders and buyers were primarily looking for high-drive labradors, bred for sport and work. American style labradors are known for long, narrow snouts and tall, lean bodies. They tend to be more active and have a high need to exercise and love to hunt and hike, etc.
The English, however, were breeding more for show than sport. Interested primarily in beauty (after health, of course) they bred what they believed to be the best looking of the labradors. They gave us the nice wide, “blocky” heads, otter tails, and barrel bodies that many of us instinctively associate with attractive labradors. They also tend to be shorter to the ground, calmer in temperament and more “sophisticated”.
Please keep in mind that whether they look “American” or “English” that neither of those automatically means high-quality. You need a well-educated breeder, who is an expert in their breed, and is dedicated to the improvement of the Labrador line through careful selection of breeding females and their mates.
Please also keep in mind that variations come in all forms of biology and reproduction. While the sire and dam’s appearance and temperament are the very best predictor of a pup’s future, some variation is always possible. (Ever met a quiet and shy father with an active and ambitious son?)
Knowing what we know of the breed and the different goals, we are looking to breed what we believe to be the best of both worlds. Exemplary in every way – an example of what we believe to be the best aspects of the breed. We prefer our labs to have the blocky heads, strong bodies and thick “otter” tails, but we also want to breed puppies slightly taller than their traditionally English counterparts. When I read the unofficial distinctions of these Labradors, I see things I want in a puppy from both sides. That’s why we have chosen the girls we have, and why we have made sure to use only a few very trustworthy sires.
A good breeder will know the strength of their dams, and have in mind exactly what they are aiming to breed into (or out of) their lines. Raising High-Quality Labradors is not easy, but it is rewarding.