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10 Labrador Retriever Facts You May Not Already Know

10 Labrador Retriever Facts You May Not Already Know

If you own a Labrador Retriever, you chose one of the most popular dog breeds in the world. And, they’re popular for a good reason: Labradors are friendly, outgoing, and eager to please, making them perfect for families and first-time dog owners alike. 

But how much do you really know about these popular dogs?

Whether you’re a seasoned owner or are considering adding a Lab to your family, read this compilation of Labrador Retriever facts first so you can get a good idea of what to expect as a Labrador breed owner. 

In this list, we’ll cover some lesser-known details and facts about Labrador Retrievers that you may or may not already know. And, you might just learn a new fact about your favorite breed in the process.

Labrador Retriever Fact #1: The Name “Labrador” Is a Misnomer

The Retriever aspect of the breed’s name couldn’t be more accurate, since these dogs excel at “retrieving” game. But, the Labrador part of their name is actually a misnomer: When Labs first came from Canada, many people assumed that they had come from the region of Labrador.

World Atlast map of labrador origins

Image Source

However, they were actually bred with Newfoundlands and local water dogs on the island of Newfoundland, which sits a few miles south of Labrador, off the eastern coast of Canada. 

This general area is also known to have produced several related Retriever breeds, like the:

  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever (though this breed traces its roots to the Chesapeake Bay area of Maryland, it also has a claim to the Newfoundland as one of its genetic ancestors). 
  • Flat-Coated Retriever
  • Curly-Coated Retriever
  • Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Labrador Retrievers’ ancestors were originally called St. John’s water dogs before they developed into the Lab breed we know today. As you can tell, the name was never amended to be geographically correct. So although the more accurate name for Labs is Newfoundland Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers roll off the tongue just a bit more.

Labrador Retriever Fact #2: Labradors Almost Went Extinct in the 1800s

The Labrador breed’s history is vibrant, but the breed nearly went extinct several times throughout the 19th century. 

When the Labrador’s genetic ancestor, the St. John’s water dog, was imported to the United Kingdom from Canada in the 1800s, they were highly sought after by aristocrats, like the Earl of Malmesbury. 

However, due to a new dog ownership tax and six-month-long quarantine periods as required by the English government, the number of St. John’s dogs was dwindling quickly.

Black and white photo of St. John's water dog

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St. John’s water dog

Unfortunately, the St. John’s water dog eventually became extinct in the 1980s. But thanks to careful breeding efforts in England, the water dog’s ancestor breed, the Labrador, survived.

It was a close call, though: If it weren’t for the kennels around England and the personal interest in the breed by wealthy breeders, then the odds are that the Labrador breed we know and love wouldn’t have made it to the present day. But, we’re very glad the breed survived.

Labrador Retriever Fact #3: The World’s Oldest Lab Lived to Be 29 Years Old

Most labs have a lifespan of 10 to 12 years, but the oldest recorded Lab is said to have lived to be 29 years old. This particular pup, named Bella, was a Labrador-mix who was adopted when she was three years old in 1982.

Chart of dog life expectancy

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Average life expectancy for different breeds

The dog owners, David Richardson and Daisy Cooper, kept her for the next 26 years until she passed away in 2008. 

While it’s awe-inspiring that Bella lived to be almost 30 years old — which is about three times the average Lab lifespan — her age becomes even more impressive when you consider that, in human years, this made Bella 203 years old. 

Labrador Retriever Fact #4: One Lab Was Elected Mayor… And Another Went to Jail

You’ve probably heard stories about how towns incorporate their animal residents in one way or another. Istanbul has a statute dedicated to a local cat named Tombili. Cincinnati Zoo celebrates their shepherd caretaker, Blakely, every October.

In 1981, a black Lab named Bosco won the honorary mayoral election in Sunol, California. He was elected over two people, remained the honorary mayor until he died in 1994, and is still fondly remembered today by residents.

Statue of Bosco the mayor dogPhoto of Prep the prison dog

Image Source (Bosco the Mayor Dog) / Image Source (Prep the Prison Dog)

But in 1924, a black Lab named Pep didn’t seem as lucky. Pep was “sentenced” to ten years in prison after disturbing a cat at the historic Eastern State Penitentiary. But don’t worry: This wasn’t actual sentencing. 

Pep was a very good-natured and friendly puppy, so his presence was simply a way to boost the prisoners’ morale. The sentencing was just a playful way to get Pep into the jail. 

Labrador Retriever Fact #5: Labs Have a Thick Double Layer Coat That Makes Them Waterproof

Labrador Retrievers have an extraordinary coat that sets them apart from many other dogs’. They were intentionally bred to do water work like retrieving fish, fetching nets, and other materials around the water. 

Over time, Labs developed an impressively hardy waterproof coat to withstand cold water—and even have webbed toes and webbed feet that help them swim effortlessly.

Explanation on how a dog’s double coat works

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Explanation of how a dog’s double coat works

A Lab’s double coat also allows them to remain comfortable in cold and hot temperatures. Labs will typically shed throughout the year, but they have two shedding seasons in the spring and fall that prepare them for hot summers and cold winters. 

Because of this, Labs require frequent grooming and shouldn’t be shaved, since doing so could destroy the way their hair grows or ruin their waterproof coats.

Labrador Retriever Fact #6: Labradors Are One of the Fastest Dog Breeds

There’s a reason Labradors are famous sporting dogs: They can run 12 miles per hour within 3 seconds and have a typical running speed of 20 miles per hour. With the proper training and exercise, some Labs can quickly reach a running speed of 30 miles per hour. 

These speeds are no match for the Greyhound—which can reach speeds of 45 miles per hour. But if you enjoy jogs around the block, their natural agility makes Labs excellent running partners.

Labrador Retriever Fact #7: Labradors Are Incredibly Intelligent 

You already know that Labs are very intelligent. After all, they’re highly trainable, obedient, and love to keep stimulated and learn new tricks or commands. 

But there’s a science to theory: In the early 1990s, renowned professor of canine psychology, Stanley Coren conducted one of the most in-depth canine-based studies in the world.

His study was published in the 1994 book, The Intelligence of Dogs, where he explains his theories about the differences in intelligence between various breeds of dogs. Over the next few years, Dr. Coren conducted more research on more breeds and released a second edition in 2006.

According to his findings, Labrador Retrievers are among the top 10 most intelligent dogs in the world. Ranking in seventh place, they come in behind the Border Collie, Poodle, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Doberman Pinscher, Shetland Sheepdog in terms of overall intelligence. 

In this top 10 list, they also ranked above the Papillon, Rottweiler, and Australian Cattle Dog.

Chart of the top ten most intelligent breeds of dogs

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Dogs in this group are classified as “the brightest dogs.” Typically, they can learn up to 250 words, signs, and signals, learn new commands in fewer than five repetitions, and obey a command 95% of the time or better.

There are many breeds on this list. So, as number 7 out of 79 on Dr. Coren’s list of intelligent dogs, it’s safe to say that Labradors are among the smartest pooches in the world. 

Labrador Retriever Fact #8: Labradors Are the Most Common Breed Used for Service Dog Jobs

Service dogs assist 80 million people in the country or around 12% of the entire American population. And among those dogs are a few different breeds, like German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Poodles—but most of them are Labrador Retrievers. 

The American Kennel Club lists show that Labrador Retrievers are at the top for being the most popular service dogs since they’re so friendly, easy-going, devoted, and eager to please. 

The Guide Dogs of America says that their breed ratio is 70% Labrador Retriever, 15% Golden Retriever, and 15% German Shepherd.

Most labs are an excellent choice for any type of service dog work, whether that’s helping people with disabilities, working as search and rescue dogs, participating in bomb and drug detection, or simply providing some much-needed therapy dog work. 

No matter what role needs to be filled, Labs are almost always a perfect fit.

Labrador Retriever Fact #9: The Official Labrador Breed Only Comes in Three Colors

While you might fawn over silver or fox-colored Labs, the American Kennel Club only recognizes three official colors for these dogs, which are chocolate, black, and yellow.  Yellow labs that are very light in color are referred to as White Labs.  Although they may be white in color they are still registered as yellow labs.

Three labrador retriever puppies sleeping on grass

So, where do red or silver Labs come from? 

There are color variations within their genetic makeup. Understanding how a dog’s color genes work can be confusing, but to make it simple, all you have to know is that Labs have Ee, Dd, and Bb genes that help determine their coat colors. 

The Dd genes have the potential to override all of the other colors—but only subtly. So if two dd genes are paired together, they’ll dilute the coat from the original color that most labs have. 

These genetic makeups may produce silver Labradors from chocolate Labs, charcoal from black Labs, and white or even fox red coloring from yellow labs!

Lab Fact #10: Labs Have Been America’s Favorite Breed for More than Three Decades

This fact may seem like a no-brainer.

As one of the most intelligent dogs and most popular breeds used for service jobs, it feels obvious to state that Labradors are America’s favorite dog, but they’ve been officially people’s favorites for the past three decades.

Infographic of the 2012 American Kennel Club Dog Registration Statistics

Image Source

That’s right: For the past 30 years, Labradors have proudly held the number-one ranking above all other breeds in America—and they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.

Conclusion

Labrador Retrievers are the most popular breed in America for a reason: They’re loyal, friendly, and intelligent companions that make great family pets. And hopefully, these facts about Labrador Retrievers showed you exactly how unique this distinct breed truly is.

If you’re thinking about adding a Lab puppy to your pack, be sure to get one from a reputable breeder who can provide you with all the information you need about the breed. And don’t forget to keep up with their training. Labs love to learn and need plenty of exercise to expend their endless energy.

Snowy Pines White Labs

Adding a dog to your family is not a task you should take lightly. It’s a serious commitment, so evaluate your lifestyle preferences to see if Labradors are a good match for you. 

The good news is that Labradors are a good match for almost any type of family—especially ones with children or other dogs and pets. But when the time comes to adopt a Lab, you want to be sure that you work with a reputable breeder.

Reputable breeders dedicate their lives to studying, understanding, training, and caring for the Labrador Retriever breed. They get their litters registered with the American Kennel Club, provide necessary vaccines and training, and make time for plenty of exercise and playtime. 

Ultimately, a high-quality, trusting breeder treats their puppies like their own and can provide the paperwork to prove it. 

That’s where Snowy Pines excels: With decades of experience breeding Labrador Retrievers, you won’t find more dedicated staff to this breed in the United States. Our Labs roam freely on our 125-acre property nestled in the Ozark Mountains, where they can play, swim, and run as much as they please. 

And the best part is that we welcome visitors anytime—so come visit to see our Labs in action or contact us for more information.

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About the Author

tom-massey

Tom Massey

Tom Massey has owned and operated Snowy Pines Labradors for over a decade. They have become the leaders in English Labradors in the US. He and his team serve customers all over the US and Europe. They house their "dog family" in a state of the art facility on a large farm in the Ozark Mountains. With an obsession for genetics and temperament they raise and train dogs known across the globe for health and personality. Tom serves the pet industry in many forms campaigning for ethical breeding, training, and pet ownership.

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