Every Picture Tells a Story

The flanking photos are examples of the two types of Labradors (and their genetic traits) that you may recognize.

On the left we have Pharaoh (British Lab) from PBS’s’s Dowton Abbey and of course, on the right, Marley from the movie Marley and Me.

Is this example a bit tongue-in-cheek? Sure, but these two dogs do represent very well the strengths and weaknesses of these close, but distinct cousins.

There is only one standard breed of Labrador Retriever, but within this one breed are two different types with variations so pronounced  that they seemed to be two different breeds. Indeed, many argue that the AKC should recognize these cousins as separate breeds, in the same vein as they do with the American Cocker Spaniards and English Cocker Spaniards.

The differences are not only in appearance, but also just as distinctive in temperament and activity level. These differences are key considerations in selecting a Labrador Retriever as a lifetime companion. Successful dog ownership occurs when our dog’s temperament and energy level is a good match to our own.

Which brings us back to “Marley”.  I love that dog, who, for the record was not a problem dog. The whole book/movie was first, of course, about the love between a man and his dog, but unfortunately, it was also (rather the author realized it or not)  about the mismatching of their pairing. Marley was  what he was born to be.

In fact, American Labradors very existence came from being selectively bred for the drive and energy necessary to perform at a herculean level in the field, or more specially to win field contests.  If a home environment doesn’t provide that level of activity they need, they can easily get bored and try to entertain themselves.

British Labrador Retrievers

American Labrador Retrievers

Physical Traits / Characteristics

  • Beautiful
  • Generally run smaller (weight wise) than American Labs and are on average 10 – 20 ponds lighter weighing in around 50 -70 lbs depending on if you choose a male or a female
  • Appearance is usually a bit more substantial and dense with a brawnier and more sinewy build
  • Shorter and heavier
  • Fur is markedly thicker
  • Can also be subject to the same health problems as their American cousins but to a statistically significant lesser degree (see our genetic health guarantee)
  • Beautiful
  • Generally run larger (weight wise) than their British counterparts and are on average 10-20 pounds heavier than British Labs, weighing in at the 60 – 90 pounds range depending on if you have a male or female
  • Appearance is more lithe and tall in form, with thinner faces
  • Longer Nose, longer legs, a thinner body and the tail sometimes curl upward
  • More health issues (probably due to interbreeding). Stastically they’re more prone to Hip, Eye, Elbow Dysplasia and EIC (Exercise Induced Collapse) and are more likely to be subject to CNM (Canine Neuromuscular Myopothy)

Personality Traits / Characteristics

  • Loyal, measured and loving temperaments coupled with high intelligence making them extremely suitable for training purposes
  • Strong desire to please their human family
  • Love for play balanced by an extremely relaxed, serene, and quiet personality
  • Loyal, measured and loving temperaments coupled with high intelligence making them extremely suitable for training purposes
  • Strong desire to please their human family
  • Bundle of energy. Vibrant and active animals, chock full of vitality and ebullience all the time

Personal Aside (Re: Field work: My Brits are calm and thoughtful hunting machines with unsurpassed, although harnessed, energy and drive

On a personal note I would like to take to task the notion held by some that the American Labs make for slightly better field / gun dog . This false notion exists almost solely because of the American Labs boundless energy appetite. Granted, maybe if I was a trapper/hunter in early 1800’s Minnesota where I was hunting game for sustenance for hours on end day after day I would choose the ceaseless energy of the American Lab, but fortunately/unfortunately that is not our world. Beside, my Brits spring into action like gangbusters when the appropriate moment finally arises, just not before. It’s a matter of discipline and control.

I just know that when I’m sharing space in my duck boat I so appreciate the quiet, calm anticipation of my British Labs compared to the constant whimpering of the American Lab barely able to control his consuming need for action.

Furthermore, while both lab varieties are so very intelligent, the calm, studious patience of the British Lab, makes them so much easier to train relative to American Labs.

Russ Howard

Timber Coulee British Labrador Retrievers

Ever consider what our dogs must think of us? I mean, here we come back from a grocery store with the most amazing haul — chicken, pork, half a cow. They must think we’re the greatest hunters on earth!

Anne Tyler

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