Does a lab’s coat color matter

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Lab Puppy Playing In The Grass

Do Labrador Coat Colors Matter?

Coat colors have very little to do with a Labrador’s personality and temperament. Some Labrador owners swear that there is a very discernable difference between a red fox Labrador and a yellow Labrador, but it’s hard to truly say there’s a major difference.

This is just one example of the myths and misunderstandings that surround a Labrador’s coat, so let’s take a look at the differences in colored coats of Labradors.

Whether these claims scientifically hold up or not is often not enough to convince Labrador owners. However, owners will consult with other families who have white or black Labradors to learn if their personalities truly vary widely. For example, a pervasive myth is that black Labradors are far more superior for hunting when compared to white Labs that are more gentle and docile.

But the coat-based personality myth simply doesn’t stand up. Black-coated Labs may be “good at hunting” simply because their darker coats give them a better advantage for camouflaging while stalking their prey. White Labs, on the other hand, may stand out more noticeably because of their bright, brilliant colors.

Of course, anyone can see that this is an incidental advantage but certainly not a causal one.

All Labradors have very similar, overarching personality traits and temperaments, especially if they’re not bred primarily as hunting dogs. In general, you’ll find that Labradors are:

  • Playful and intelligent
  • Food-loving (so you’ll need to give them
  • plenty of regular exercise!)
  • Energetic and easygoing
  • Easy to train and very agreeable
  • Kind and demonstrate curiosity
  • Loyal and a family-loving

American Versus English Labs

If all Labradors display the same kind of personalities and behavioral tendencies, why are there differences between American and English Labradors? The two breeds still fall under types of Labradors, but they were historically bred for different purposes.

This specialized breeding contributes to some of the differences between an American and English Lab, across traits like energy levels, temperament, personality, and physical appearance. They might be subtle to the untrained eye, but line them up side-by-side and you won’t be able to deny their specific differences.

Breed standards

The AKC single breed standard features only the Labrador Retriever. The body doesn’t necessarily differentiate between American and English sub-types. However, the reason behind breed specializations for American versus English Labs is that the former is bred for field trials and hunting, while the latter does well at shows.

According to the AKC, American Labradors can be between 21.5 inches and 24.5 inches in height. This makes sense, because you would want a hunting and field dog to be lithe and tall. By contrast, the standard height for English Labradors run between 21.5 and 22.5 inches.

Physical appearance

In general, Labs have a thick, tapering, “otter-like” tail, which is perfect for their adventures in water. They have wide heads and are easygoing. You may distinguish the following physical variations in English and American Labradors:

  • While the English Lab is stockier, wider-set, and built with a barrel chest, the American Labrador is leaner, with a more athletic build.
  • American Labs have a narrower muzzle when compared to English Labs.
  • English Labs have thicker necks, thicker coats, and shorter legs. They also have a shorter body, with a wider face, so the overall appearance of English Labrador is more “solid.”

Energy levels and temperament

You’ll also notice a difference in the energy levels and temperaments of American versus English Labradors. For example, we always let our incoming families know that Snowy Pines white English Labs are more docile, gentle, and friendly.

Because of their naturally well-balanced behaviors, English labs are well-suited for families.

Calm, sweet, and good-natured as any Lab would be, the English Lab is more prone to lie around and sit by your feet. So he’ll need you to take the initiative come exercise-time!

In contrast, American Labradors have a more hyperactive, on-the-go sort of personality. They’re highly excitable because they’re bred for work and field trials. This also means that they’re constantly on high alert for signs of other creatures around the area. Want to read more about the difference in breeds? Visit our blog post on the Difference in American and English Labs

Which Labrador Coat Color Is The Best?

Genetics play a significant role in determining a Labrador’s coloring. So if you’re trying to figure out which Labrador coat color is right for you, you should know a few genetic facts about how Labradors earn their colors:

  • Colors are a genetic trait, while variations in their expressions are known as “alleles.” For example, a Labrador with trait “C” (for color) could have an allele of “y” for yellow and “b” for black.
  • The genetic color black is dominant for Labrador color coats, so it’s marked as a capital “B.” Simplified, this means that the trait would be CB. If the trait were recessive, it would read, Cb. In general, dominant genes express themselves and mask recessive genes even if recessive genes are present.
  • English Labs have thicker necks, thicker coats, and shorter legs. They also have a shorter body, with a wider face, so the overall appearance of English Labrador is more “solid.”
  • Both yellow and chocolate-colored coats are recessive traits. Their marking would be “Cy,” or, “Cc.” However, chocolate-colored coats are even rarer, and they express themselves less than yellow coats.
  • Even if a Labrador carries the genetic marker for chocolate coats, they can easily be blackor yellow-coated.
  • There are also silver and red fox Labrador genes. The intensity of a red fox coat, for example, can vary, while the silvery color of a Labrador’s coat is, in fact, a chocolate color coat muted or “washed” of its vibrancy.
  • A Punnet square is the best way to understand the probabilities of a coat color, and they’re based on the genetic readings of dams and sires

The variation in the vibrancy of colors, along with the three dominant and recessive colors black, yellow, and chocolate makes it possible to have a wide range of subtle shades. For example, you could even find a fawn or champagne-colored coat. You could even find yellow and white Labrador pups with patches of black, or tan on chocolate.

But it always pays to be careful when it comes to messing with a breed’s genetics. We’ll talk a bit more about the dominant and recessive genes of each type of labrador and how they create coat color to help you make the best decision for you.

Polygenic Inheritance and Epistasis

There’s a fine science to Labrador coat inheritance. Specifically, Lab coats are polygenic, which means that dominance and recessive traits are not the only factors in play

Polygenic traits, like coat color, are based on more than one gene. For example, in humans, height, skin color, and hair color are all polygenic, which means that more than one gene determines inheritance.

It’s the same for Labrador coats. Polygenic inheritance can also be triggered by epistasis, a situation in which one gene “activates” another. For Labradors, this might mean:

  • A gene that would usually code for yellow fur (E or e) might also be epistatic to (i.e. activates the expression of) the gene that codes for black (B or b)
  • This means the presence of the yellow coat color, which depends on the work of more than one gene, when expressed, will also activate a second gene. This is how a chocolate coat comes about

Polygenic Inheritance in Dogs

Labrador retriever coat color is polygenic, that is, based on more than one gene. The gene for golden color is epistatic to the gene for black or chocolate color, that is, its homozygous recessive form activates the black/chocolate gene. Thus, dogs with genotype ee will be golden, regardless of their alleles for black/brown coat color. For dogs with genotype EE or Ee, the second gene is activated. In these dogs, BB or Bb gives a black coat color, while bb gives a chocolate coat color.

How Does Pigmentation Affect Labrador Coat Colors?

In case your head isn’t already spinning with the possibilities that gene traits, epistasis, and alleles make, you should know that pigmentation types also affect Labrador fur color inheritance.

The presence or absence of specific forms of melanin in Labrador coats are the effects or results of gene coding. Simply put, Labs have:

Lab Growth Chart

So, for example, if you have a Labrador with a black coat, you’ll have at least one dominant black color gene (B), a possible recessive black color gene (b), and potential dominant yellow color gene (E).

However, the presence of the black color gene expresses itself as black because the fur’s characteristics are now coded to absorb eumelanin, which is then the color our eyes see. The genotypes “B” and “b” control the expression of eumelanin and E control pheomelanin.

Lab fur inheritance

Three types of Lab Coats:

  • Black
  • Chocolate
  • Yellow

The difference in Labrador Retriever coat color is because of the presence or absence of a pigment found in mammals called melanin The genes are given during meiosis. in Prophase I, the alleles in the gametes are somewhat distributed when homologous pairs interact.

When independent assortment occurs

  • Eumelanin is the black/chocolate pigment
  • Phaeomelanin is the red/yellow pigment

The difference in color is due to the genes that we will call B and E. B expresses the eumelanin color and E controls the dominance of eumelanin over phaeomelanin

Lab Fur Inheritance Table
Lab Fur Genetic Inheritance Table
Lab Fur Genetic Inheritance Pie Chart

1) Yellow Labradors

Yellow labs are very popular and contain one of the recessive trait colors for a Labrador’s coat. This particular gene is much more common than the gene for chocolate Labradors, so you’ll likely have an easier time finding one if yellow labs interest you.

The dams and sires of yellow Labradors can have litters with vastly differing shades. Some can be a pale buttermilk or a creamy fawn, while others can be a brownish-gold color.

Now, many families say that yellow or golden Labradors shed more than black Labs, but there could be a good reason for this: If you have darker furniture or upholstery, black or chocolate fur is less likely to show up. Meanwhile, white and yellow fur is much more obvious. So yellow Labs are not necessarily more prone to shedding than any other color.

Because of their popularity, many untrustworthy breeders will declare that they have yellow Labrador puppies for sale. They’re also the most likely to be confused for Golden Retrievers because of their shimmering yellow coats.

Adult White Lab Sitting In Field

However, their commonality makes yellow labs an easy target. If they’re being offered without pedigree or health checks, this should raise some red flags for you. Health concerns for yellow Labradors include:

  • Ear infections
  • Joint issues, especially during their older years
  • Obesity

2) Chocolate Labs

The only thing cuter than a yellow or black Labrador puppy is a Lab whose coat literally looks like everyone’s favorite sweet treat: chocolate! However, you may not see chocolate Labs as frequently because they’re one of the rarer color coats in Labs — except for silver coats.

Chocolate Labradors are friendly, confident, and loving. While the black Labrador is known for its presence in the field, and the yellow Labrador as a trained support dog for people, the chocolate Labrador’s rare coat makes it the perfect competition dog.

Chocolate Lab Sitting In Grass Looking At Camera

Of course, the 42nd president of the United States had a chocolate Lab named Buddy, so we’re seeing a surge of chocolate Labs serving in the military and acting as guide dogs as well over the last few decades.

3) Red Fox Labs

Also known as “Ruby” Labradors, red fox Labs are a fantastic coat choice for pet owners. These fiery-colored Labs are unlike any other, but they’re quite affectionate and gentle with their families and owners.

Whether by coincidence or design, red fox Labs tend to make very agreeable family pets with no significant health complications beyond the regular joint issues that all Labs face.

Light Brown Labrador Standing Looking At Camera

Red fox Labradors are great with smaller animals and young children, although they do tend to be reportedly more shrill than other color coats. Their bark is more snappy and frequent, but experts put this down to a smaller gene pool for this color and the potential for a “barky” ancestor.

However, this is not true of all red fox Labs, so choose them for their brilliant fire coats and friendly demeanors. Red fox Labradors will flourish when you provide consistent obedience training and plenty of toys to keep him occupied. High energy levels are a common trait for Labs so you want to plan for at least 60 minutes of vigorous activity, which could include:

  • Swimming in nearby ponds or lakes
  • Retrieving sticks or balls
  • Participating in agility events at an off-leash dog park
  • Setting up obstacle courses

4) Black Labradors

Black Labradors are cute and fluffy, but they’re also active and lean dogs. Traditional English varieties are bred for the show ring, so their enthusiastic natures and broad frames make them very regal.

The black variety of Labradors weigh up to 80 pounds and live for an average of 12 to 15 years. Like all Labradors, they need a healthy dose of exercise and interaction with family members to live full and healthy lives.

Black Lab Laying Down In Grass Yawning

While black Labs demonstrate the same friendly, outgoing, and loyal natures as all Labrador breeds, black Labs are particularly popular among the sporting and hunting community. However, black Labs are not necessarily or naturally more superior for hunting purposes.

5) Silver Labradors

There is much controversy around the characterization of “silver” Labradors as such. Many breeders and official clubs are divided about whether to designate this Lab’s coat color as an officially recognized, purebred color.

The debate has settled somewhat, so bodies like the AKC will accept silver Labradors as acceptable, but they only mark these puppies down as chocolate Labradors.

Gray Lab Laying Down on Couch Looking At Camera

Many silver Labs have brown noses and blue eyes. Some of them will naturally turn to a pale yellow or a pale green as the pup ages. They have an exceptional temperament, as all Labs do, demonstrating high levels of intelligence, affection, protectiveness, and friendliness with children.

There are also noticeable differences in a silver Labrador’s overall appearance. They have the same floppy ears as yellow Labradors, but there’s an unmistakable “hound”-like look to their long, lean bodies. Their muzzles are longer and thinner, and it’s not uncommon for a silver Lab to be compared to a Weimaraner, much in the way that red fox Labs may resemble a Vizsla. Silvers Labs do come without a warning though. Because the gene that produces the diluted color is rather rare, it has caused unethical breeders to inbreed for generations. This is unfortunate, as silver labradors are very beautiful but quite often come with health issues and personality troubles.

This may include health issues like:

  • Luxating patella
  • Exercise-induced collapse (which is hard on Labs, since they need quite a bit of exercise to stay fit)
  • Hereditary myopathy
  • Lifelong, ongoing vision deterioration

6) White Labradors

Without a doubt, white Labradors are beloved amongst Labs. Many yellow Labs are mistaken for white Labrador because their puppies may end up with a coat color that skews towards pale and creamy, nearly white.

This is partly because an ethically bred white Labrador is still a true yellow Lab. There is no such thing as a “white Lab,” per se, as the “white” color actually indicates a yellow lab bred to be white. In fact, as they age, you’re likely to see subtle shades of fawn and cream in their coats.

Some individuals think that white Labradors are a coat color that indicates albinism. However, white Labs truly are a consistently pale version of the yellow Labrador. Their coats are not an accident.

Beware of any albino dogs. This is caused by a genetic defect and, quite often, dogs with an albino coat also display severe health issues.

A white Labrador can be bred very selectively from dams and sires that have the palest version of the yellow color. Like yellow Labs, then, white Labradors are just as vivacious, gentle, and family-friendly.

White Lab Standing In Grass Looking Away From Camera


At the end of the day, the coat color you choose really depends on you and your family’s personal preferences.

The only true indicator of a quality puppy is the care, love, and credentials a reputed breeder will pride themselves on offering to their families. Quality registered breeders will ensure that their dams and sires are of the highest breeding standards, resulting in happy, healthy puppies that mature and live long lives.

The aesthetics of a coat can make a Labrador feel special and, in some cases, even rare. However, it is better to opt for what may seem like a “common” coat color, such as a white Labrador, from a transparent and honest breeder.

Even among the generally reported traits of docile, adventurous, active, loyal, gentle, agile, trainable, enthusiastic, Labradors can have their own distinct personalities and temperaments. You’ll be able to judge this much better when you actually meet the dams and sires of the litter you’re looking at buying from, or when you meet the little pups themselves.

If you come across a reputable and trustworthy breeder who, like Snowy Pines White Labs, offers health guarantees on their Labrador puppies, keep them in mind regardless of coat color.