Which Labrador Colour is the Best? Complete Labrador Guide

So, you are thinking of getting a Labrador, but you are wondering what colour is the best? Many prospective Labrador owners wonder what the difference between the colours are and in this article we hope to answer that question.

How Many Labrador Colours are there?

First, let’s take a look at just how many different colours of Labrador there are. According to the American Kennel Club there are three main different colours of Lab:

  • Black
  • Brown/Chocolate
  • Yellow/Golden

However, while these are the three main recognised Labrador colours, there are some other coat colours which we will later in this article.

Labradors in the above colours tend to have a metallic-looking sheen to their coats. The colours are often linked to a skin disease known as Colour Dilution Alopecia.

A Labrador’s coat colour is determined by a set of genes, with the D gene being responsible for the strength of the colour. It is possible for a Labrador to carry two recessive copies of the gene (dd), which will lead to a silver, charcoal or champagne coat colour. This can occur if two Dd genotype Labradors are bred together.

Labrador Colours Explained

Black Labradors

Black Labs have been the most common variation of the breed for centuries. The reason for this is largely down to genetics as they have the dominant “B” gene. Black Labradors are supposed to be solid black in colour, but a small white spot on their chest is okay.

They are descended from the St. John’s dog of Newfoundland. It was originally thought that they were first found working with fishermen in Newfoundland and were taken from there to England in the 19th century where they developed into the Labrador breed we know today.

However, it is now known that the story of the Labrador starts much earlier than that in the 18th century. These early Labradors excelled in working in icy, cold water. They also looked a bit different with longer coats and more upright ears. Many of the dogs also had a white patch on their coats, which is still common in black Labradors today.

Chocolate/Brown Labradors

chocolate or brown Labradors are that colour because they have the recessive gene. If a Labrador does not possess the dominant black gene they can get this colouration. chocolate Labs tend to vary in colour from light brown to deep chocolate. Like with black Labradors, tan markings or brindle striations are not accepted by the American Kennel Club.

The first known recordings of the chocolate colour were in 1892, when two “liver coloured” puppies were produced by the Earl of Buccleuch’s dogs. However, it wasn’t until the 1930s that chocolate coloured Labradors become more prominent.

Yellow/Golden Labradors

Interestingly, the genetics of a yellow Labrador are a bit different from those in a black or chocolate Lab. Yellow or Golden Labradors can essentially “switch off” the black and chocolate genes thanks to the presence of the “E” locus gene. A Labrador with the recessive “e” gene will only produce phaeomelanin pigment and will be yellow regardless of the “B” gene.

Yellow Labradors have the greatest variation of the three main coat colours. They are often seen in colours ranging from fox-red to light cream in colour. Yellow Labs can also have shading on their ears, back and belly.

Up until the start of the 20th century there were no yellow Labradors. The first two yellow puppies appeared in a litter bred by Captain (later Major) CE Radcliffe in 1902. One of the puppies was called Ben, while the other was a female. It is generally believed that all yellow Labradors are descended from Ben and his son Neptune.

Silver, Charcoal Champagne Labradors

A Labrador’s coat colour is determined by a set of genes, with the D gene being responsible for the strength of the colour. It is possible for a Labrador to carry two recessive copies of the gene (dd), which will lead to a silver, charcoal or champagne coat colour. This can occur if two Dd genotype Labradors are bred together.

Labradors in these colours tend to have a metallic-looking sheen to their coats. The colours are often linked to a skin disease known as Colour Dilution Alopecia. Silver, charcoal and champagne colours are not officially recognised by the American Kennel Club, however, the are becoming more popular with breeders.

Are Different Coloured Labradors Used for Different Jobs

In a word yes. Black Labradors are the most dominant colour in the world of hunting and trials. According to “The Best of the Best”, a history of the IGL retriever championship it was found that 1,790 black Labradors qualified to run, compared to just 367 yellow ones from a period form 1909 – 2011.

While yellow Labradors aren’t so desirable for hunting, they are without a doubt the most popular colour for guide and service dogs. They are also incredibly popular as show dogs and are often used to advertise charity literature.

Chocolate or brown Labradors aren’t really known for any particular role, but they can sometimes be found in the showring. They are also used for hunting and as service dogs, but not as much as black or yellow Labradors.

Silver, charcoal or champagne coloured Labradors are not commonly used for work as they are a relatively new creation and there are limited numbers of them. Additionally, they are not used as show dogs because they are not recognised by the American Kennel Club and other dog clubs around the world.

Which Colour Labrador is the Healthiest & Longest Living?

For a long time it was believed that the colour of a Labrador’s coat had no effect on its health. Recently however, it has been found that there are some differences between the coat colours.

The American Animal Hospital Association performed a study in October 2018 that compared the veterinary patient records for over 33,000 Labrador Retrievers. They found that chocolate coloured Labradors experienced a higher risk of health related problems than black or yellow Labs. Additionally, they also found that chocolate Labradors on average tend to have shorter lifespans.

For example, they discovered that the lifespan of the other two colours was around 12.7 years, whereas chocolate Labradors only lived until about 10.7 years, a difference of more than 10 percent.

Which Labrador Colour is the most Intelligent?

This is a commonly asked question about Labradors. Many prospective owners want to know what the most intelligent colour is and then base their decision around that. Some people believe that black and yellow Labradors are more intelligent than chocolate ones as they are more commonly used as working dogs.

The truth is that there really isn’t any difference in intelligence between the different colours. A Labrador’s intelligence is based on its breeding, not the colour of its coat.

However, if you have noticed that chocolate Labradors are less intelligent or less well-behaved it may not be your imagination. Many chocolate Labrador breeders are what’s called “backyard” or “irresponsible” breeders. These breeders are often focused on getting the colour at detriment to the dog’s intelligence, temperament and even health (this may explain why they have shorter lifespans).

A well-bred chocolate Labrador that is trained properly will be just as intelligent as a yellow or black Labrador.

Which Colour Labrador has the Best Personality?

Once again, many Labrador owners believe that there is a difference in personality between the different colours. Some say that yellow Labs are the sweetest and kindest, while black Labradors are the calmest and most patient, and chocolate Labs are the most boisterous and wild. Studies have been conducted to see if any of these beliefs are true, but to date there is no scientific evidence to back up any of these claims.

Which Colour Labrador is the Best?

In truth, there is no best colour of Labrador. Yes, chocolate Labradors can sometimes seem like they are less intelligent and more boisterous, but this is largely down to poor breeding. We’ve had yellow and black Labradors and loved them equally, so choose the colour that you want.

If you do want to enter your dog into shows then avoid silver, charcoal or champagne coloured Labradors as they are not usually recognised by kennel clubs around the world.

The most important thing to consider when purchasing a Labradors is the breeder and not the colour. Are they well reviewed and experienced? If they are not try to find someone who is. Don’t go to backyard breeders as they often over-breed or have inbred dogs that have more health problems.

Which Colour Labrador Do You Like the Most?

Let us know in the comments below which Labrador colour you like the most!

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