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Why Are Some Golden Retrievers White?

When you picture Golden Retrievers, chances are you think of their classic yellow coat or ever-popular deep-red fur. But did you know a third colorway occurs in this timeless breed? 

Near-white Golden Retrievers (also known as English Golden Retrievers) are increasingly sought-after by dog-lovers because of their stunning sheen and easy-going temperament. 

Still, why do some Golden Retriever puppies pop out nearly white while others remain a traditional golden-yellow? And are lighter variants legitimate to the history of the breed? The short answer bears good news: White-coated Golden Retrievers are true to the breed because the American Kennel Club does officially recognize them.

However, the long answer requires more digging into their genetic makeup and breeding background to understand the DNA differences between each coat color, so let’s look into the Golden Retriever dog breed and its unique coat colors.

What is an English Golden Retriever?

When it comes to understanding the difference between white and yellow Golden Retrievers, looking back at the breed’s history is an excellent starting point. The latter color is typically associated with American Golden Retrievers, while the former links back to English lineage

Though bloodlines become blurry with time and cross-breeding, most genetic experts can trace light-golden Retrievers back to the U.K. That said, it’s important to note that American and English Golden Retrievers can produce all three coat variants: Gold, red, and white.

golden retriever coat colors

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Still, white Golden Retrievers are more common among their English counterparts. The exact differences between white Golden Retrievers and American Golden Retrievers comes down to bloodline and breeding standards controlled by high-quality breeders. 

Regardless, all three coat colors meet the breed standard, meaning a white Golden Retriever is the same breed as a true Golden Retriever.

Are White Golden Retrievers Legitimate to the Breed?

Despite differences in lineage, both English and American are legitimate, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC), falling under the broader umbrella of the Golden Retriever breed. 

While English and American Golden Retriever puppies meet the breed standard across the board, slight genetic differences have developed over time, creating unique DNA makeups for each variant.

Though English Golden Retrievers may seem white to the untrained eye, their actual coat color — and registered AKC code — is technically labeled light-golden (Code 119). Sellers often market English Golden Retrievers as white or cream to avoid confusion and cater to buyers without extensive knowledge of AKC official codes. 

However, new buyers should be on the lookout for illegitimate breeders and scams claiming that their English lines are “rare” or “foreign,” as white Golden Retriever puppies are not a rarity. 

In fact, white Golden Retriever puppies have risen in popularity over the past decade, closing the gap between traditional yellow Golden Retrievers. So, when scouting out a white Golden Retriever, it’s crucial to seek breeders who value transparency, are AKC-registered, and prioritize genetic testing and tracking for top-quality pups.

The Science Behind the White Golden Retriever

Whether you’re new to the Golden Retriever dog breed or a long-time Golden-lover, you may have limited knowledge of genetic makeup and breed background. Luckily, it’s never too late to learn.

Though genetics is a complex science, you don’t need to understand every nitty-gritty detail to gain insight into the DNA makeup of a Golden Retriever. 

At first glance, coat color genetics can seem intense and sophisticated. However, a little digging will reveal two primary components that make up fur variations: Eumelanin and pheomelanin.  

Both eumelanin and pheomelanin are pigments that influence the coat color of Golden Retrievers. The former is the black gene, while the latter is the red gene. 

You may be thinking, “But Golden Retrievers aren’t black or red, so how are these the primary pigments?” Though white, red, and true golden coats may lack outward tones of black and red, these two pigments show up in unique ways. 

For example, both pigments are modified by other gene variations, effectively diluting and enhancing each baseline color to create different coat colorways. 

Modifiers and Variations

The Golden Retrievers dog breed has three primary genes (B, E, and C) that determine whether they have red, golden, or white coats. 

These three genes — also known as regions — are located on the chromosome and host pairs of alleles that dictate coat color and intensity. 

Because each litter receives chromosomes from the dam and sire, long lines of health-tested, well-bred dogs produce the finest offspring.

The B Region

Site B hosts the black colorway in Golden Retrievers, which is why Goldens will have a black nose and paw pads except for mutation or health conditions regardless of their coloring. However, it becomes trickier once you look further into coat color genetics.

Punnett chart for labrador retrievers

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Though it may seem confusing at first glance, all golden retrievers have BB allele pairs. Typically, a dominant B would indicate black or brown fur. However, Golden Retrievers have a unique relationship to the B region due to a recessive masking e gene. 

The E Region

The E site indicates yellow versus non-yellow variants in canines, with all Golden Retrievers exhibiting ee pairings. Although dominant alleles usually overpower recessive genes, yellow pairings are on a different section of the chromosome, enabling the e gene to mask the B gene.

Golden retriever color types

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A homozygous (or identical) ee pairing results in the yellow or red variants in Golden Retrievers, despite any conflicting dominant genes in the B region.

The C Region

Though the B and E regions impact coat colorations in unique ways, the C region is what ultimately differentiates between red, gold, and white Golden Retrievers. The pairings at this site determine pigmentation in non-black dogs, allowing for intense shade variations. 

When looking at a white Golden Retriever puppy, in particular, the C gene pairing will be the determining sequence, with lighter Golden Retrievers having cc pairings. On the other hand, yellow Goldens exhibit Cc pairings, and darker Goldens display CC alleles. 

If this sounds complicated, it’s because it is: Producing a near-white Golden Retriever requires careful and responsible techniques from ethical breeders willing to uphold high breeding standards and understand genetics.

Difference Between English and American Golden Retrievers 

The white Golden Retriever is unique to the English variant, and although coat color alone doesn’t indicate structural and personality differences in Golden Retrievers, the English and American bloodlines do have evident distinctions. 

Genetic differences are associated with coat color; the same goes for English and American Golden Retrievers.

Though both bloodlines can produce all three AKC registered coat colorations, established English lines often have distinguishable differences physically and personality-wise due to years of strict breeding. 

Physical Differences

The most noticeable differentiation between American and English Golden Retrievers is physical, with lighter-colored pups showcasing the following traits:

  • Shorter, generally lighter coat with more wave
  • Stockier, slightly shorter build, and bulkier head
  • Level topline slope
  • Ears remain level with eyes (which are rounder)
  • A more prominent, trimmed neckline

Though there may be variations from litter to litter, you can reduce the risk of significant deviation by seeking high-quality breeders with a long line of consistent English cream Golden Retrievers

That’s why vetting your white Golden Retriever puppy’s genetic history and checking for breed standards is key to bringing home a healthy dog.

Personality Differences

The great thing about a purebred Golden Retriever is that no matter which coat color you select, any well-bred pup will be intelligent, loyal, and mild-mannered. 

In fact, Golden Retrievers are highly trainable, whether you opt for a field or show line. Both traditional Golden Retrievers and white-coated pups are energetic, intelligent, and quick to catch on to fundamental instruction, especially when using a balanced approach!

Still, while the differences may be slight, there are still relevant personality offshoots coinciding with American and English bloodlines – especially with their activity levels and temperaments. 

Breaking Down the Differences in Activity Level and Temperament  

White English Golden Retrievers tend to be calmer than their American counterparts, making them perfect show and family dogs. 

But remember that, despite their mellow temperament, English Golden Retrievers still require consistent physical and mental stimulation to remain healthy and happy. 

On the other hand, American Golden Retrievers have a history of fieldwork and hunting, with many quality breeders producing top-of-the-line pups with retrieving instincts built into their genetic disposition. As a result, the traditional American yellow and dark Golden Retrievers often have higher-energy personalities than their lighter-colored cousins.

Regardless of color, you can train any Golden Retriever to fit your needs with the proper methods and attention to your pup’s unique personality. After all, white Golden Retrievers still have built-in Retriever instincts, and you can bring out their drive with dedicated and responsible training!


Though there may have been confusion in the past about the legitimacy of these light-colored pups, the English Cream Golden Retriever and the American Golden Retriever are, in fact, the same breed. 

Through a shallow dive into canine genetics, you can see that white, gold, and red Golden Retrievers have discernable DNA sequencing ripe with valuable information. And between coat coloration variations, personality differences, and structural distinctions, English and American Golden Retrievers are still considered two sides of the same coin. 

Genetics and bloodline are the most important factors when searching for a white Golden Retriever dog – so make sure you seek high-quality breeders like Snowy Pines to ensure your puppy matches up to the Golden Retriever breed standards!

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About the Author


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.


Calm Tempered, AKC Purebred, and Certified Genetics.