Since the beginning, humans have been changing the look of dogs to look a certain way. We’ve gone from a camouflaged assortment of browns to the striking spots seen on Dalmatians. Even within breeds, there is a variety of colors to choose from, including the Labrador Retriever.
With so many different options, we are able to pick which dog we find the most attractive. But is there a winner among the coats that we can find in the Labrador Retriever. Do they share the same temperaments as their siblings or do they have better features?
When given the question, “which Labrador Retriever coat is the best?”, it is important to keep in mind that this is a preference and not a fact. But, we will dive into the genetics and possible quandaries related to the distinctions in coat variation among Labs around the world.
How Many Coat Colors and Variations Do Labradors Have?
According to Wide Open Pets, the American Kennel Club classifies the breed standard coat as either being black, chocolate, or yellow.
Although there are three official colors found in Labrador Retrievers, the breed has a plethora of different variations and shades, all within each individual coat color. This makes for quite a diverse dog. But how can you explain this biological phenomenon?
A Background on the Coat Genetics of the Labrador Retriever
Although not everyone’s favorite discussion, having a basic understanding of genetics and how they relate to coating color plays a big role in your Labrador’s physical appearance.
As explained by an experienced Labrador breeder, the Oak Hill Kennel describes how the mother and father will both have either recessive or dominant genes or one of each. These then can be used to predict what the puppies will look like.
For instance, a black Labrador might have the genotype, Bb which means that it carries the potential to make different colored puppies since it has one recessive gene. Mate that with a chocolate Labrador, bb, and you will a 50 percent chance for black and chocolate puppies.
Still confused? That is perfectly fine. Some people find it easier to visualize this crossing. Watch this YouTube Video to better understand coat genetics and how to predict the coats of the puppies.
The Black Labs, or Black-coated Dogs
The Labrador Site talks about how black has always been the most common for centuries. This is largely due to genetics as they have the dominant gene. This is different from the two other official colors found in Labs.
Black labs are supposed to be solid in color but can have a small white spot on the front for them to be AKC approved. Other variations not accepted include brindle markings or tan points.
The Chocolate Labs, or Brown-coated Individuals
Labs that have the chocolate coloration are that way because they have inherited the recessive gene. Going back to genetics, it only takes not having a dominant black gene to get this coloration.
The Chocolate Labrador can vary in coloration from a light brown to deep chocolate to be worthy of showing. Those with tan markings or that have brindle striations are disqualified.
Related: Is a Chocolate Labrador Retriever the Right Dog for You and Your Family?
The Yellow Labs, or Yellow-colored Pups
When looking at yellow Labradors, genetics can get a bit confusing. In simple terms, the yellow can override or “switch off” the black and chocolate genes. But, how can this happen?
This is because the yellow gene is made up of an entirely different genotype, or the “eee” genes. Labbies explains that the presence of “ee” or an “Ee” can negate the look of the dog altogether, making it possible to get a yellow Lab.
The Yellow Labrador has the greatest variation of the three solid coat colors. They often are seen ranging from a fox-red to a light cream. They can also have shading located on the ears, back and belly regions.
Related: The Yellow Labrador Retriever: An Identification Guide For Anyone
The Mystery of the Allusive Silver Coats in Labradors
Technically considered chocolate by the AKC, these dogs have made people wonder if this coloration is a myth as they look more like Weimaraners than Labradors. Some people think that they may even have Weimaraner in them for their appearance is strikingly similar.
Seeking to clear up any confusion, All Things Dogs reveals that the silver Lab is simply a diluted chocolate Labrador. And although they have the same gene as a Weimaraner, this coloration has been seen since the 1950s.
Related: Silver Labs: Striking Gold…or Striking Out
Why Was Black the First Color of Choice in Labs?
The Labrador Site mentions that the popularity of black-coated Labradors started in the early 1900s. The preference in those times was for a solid black dog.
Black Labs were so popular back then that breeders did not breed for other colors. Yellow and chocolate Labradors were simply not in demand.
It has been theorized that most of the puppies that came out the wrong color were often called, which is what happened in Germany to the “grey ghost”, or the Weimaraner.
Related: Man’s Best Friend – The Black Labrador Retriever
Will You Find Different Coat Colors in Separate Jobs?
Nowadays, every coat color is accepted by clubs. All except for the variations outside the standards. Interestingly enough, the three different coat colors can be associated with various jobs.
The yellow Labrador is more commonly associated with guide dogs, working alongside blind or handicapped individuals.
Black Labs can be found belonging to hunters. Perhaps this is because a gundog that is black is easy to see in the water. The less thought of chocolate Labrador tends to be a member of a home or found in the show ring. Are these choices and associations a hint to a possible difference in performance?
Are There Any Differences Between the Coats Besides Color?
For a long time, it seemed as though coat color did not make a difference in longevity or temperament, but a recent study has seemed to disprove this.
The American Animal Hospital Association performed a study in October of the year 2018, where they looked at over 33,000 veterinary patient records for Labrador Retrievers.
The findings revealed that chocolate Labradors experienced a higher risk of health problems than the other two coats. They also seemed to not live as long.
For instance, the average life span of the other colors was 12.7 years while the chocolate labs lasted 10.7, which is a difference of greater than 10 percent.
The Final Decision: Coat Versus Personality
The three main coat colors for Labrador Retrievers are black, yellow and chocolate. Each has its own variation, including some added markings that are not accepted by the AKC. The black Labrador was once the favorite but is now competing with the other two colors for attention.
Although more research needs to be done, it seems as though the chocolate Labrador Retriever deals with a shorter life span than the other shades.
On a grand scale, the temperament is not changed depending on the coat color and should not be the determining factor for your next dog. Instead, choose the individual that will make a loyal, lovable teammate.