If you’ve ever done research into dog breeds, you’ve heard of American and English Labs. Like most people who aren’t familiar with a variety of different breeds, you probably wonder:
- Where the terms American and English Labrador Retriever came from
- What American and English Lab mean
- How the designations of the types of Labrador Retrievers became common
Here’s all the information you need to know about English and American Labrador Retrievers. There isn’t an established or official designation between the two types of Labs, but they’re recognized worldwide. The nicknames for the dogs bred in different countries are accepted everywhere, but the dogs are bred for different purposes.
Labradors date back to the 1800s and initially were bred by Europeans living in Canada. Many of the dogs were taken to Dorsetshire in the UK and reproduced with British breeds that were used for hunting dog roles. The result was the Labrador Retriever. The dogs were often referred to as St. John’s water dogs since they originally came from St. John’s, Newfoundland.
The coat of a Labrador should be short and thick but not curly. The Lab’s coat is created to be resistant to water, so the dog doesn’t get cold during the winter months. According to the breed standards, the acceptable coat colors for a Labrador Retriever are black, chocolate, and yellow. The Lab’s eyes should be expressive and be hazel or brown. The dog’s ears should be hanging close to the head and just above the eyes.
Are There Differences Between English vs American Lab Types?
There are differences between the two types of Labrador Retrievers, and they will impact which dog breed is best for you. Although bred for different purposes, both varieties of dogs love the companionship of their human families, are friendly with people and other animals, love to play, and are popular as service dogs and family pet. The difference is that usually English Labrador Retrievers are bred for their conformation as show dogs. American Labrador Retrievers are bred as field-trial or hunting dogs.
Breed Standards May Be Similar, But Dogs Are Different
There isn’t a registry, whether it’s the AKC, the Kennel Club in the UK, or any other club for Labrador Retrievers that distinguish between English and American Labrador Retrievers. There is only one recognized standard for Labs. According to current breed standards, the only difference in the two types of Labradors that’s allowable is the height:
American Labradors may be between 21.5 to 23.5 inches in height.
English Labradors may be between 21.5 to 22.5 inches in height.
Although the breed standards for English Labradors and American Labradors are the same, the two types of dogs look quite different.
What Does A Show-Bred or English Lab Look Like?
Characteristics of English Labradors include:
- Heavy, solid-looking appearance
- Barrel chest
- Full face, short muzzle, wide head
- Thick, heavy coat
- Thick neck
- Short legs and straight, wide tail
- Short body
Since English Labradors are bred for conformation, they’re usually closer to the established standards than American Labradors. The dogs are typically referred to as English Labradors since they’re more commonly bred in the UK.
What Does a Field Lab or American Breed Look Like?
Characteristics of American Labradors include:
- Slim, athletic, agile appearance
- Narrow, slimmer, skull, muzzle, and face
- Thin coat and tail with a tail that may curl
- Tall with long legs
Breeders aren’t as particular about the breed standards since American Labradors are bred to be working dogs. The dogs bred in the U.S. appear to be more streamlined and ready to be on the move than their English counterparts. There is some confusion among people who aren’t familiar with American and English Labradors regarding their function. Although dogs in the UK primarily compete in shows and American dogs are hunters and field competitors, this isn’t always the case. Some owners of American Labs compete with their dogs in shows. Some owners of English Labradors hunt with their dogs or enter them in field trial competitions.
Are There Differences Between A Labrador and Labrador Retriever?
Whether the dogs are called Labradors or Labrador Retrievers they’re all the same breed. There is only one breed standard for English and American Labradors.
Differences in Disposition, Energy Level, and Temperament
As with every dog breed, there may be exceptions to the rule. Usually, there are differences in the temperaments, disposition, and energy that English and American Labradors have. Since American Labrador Retrievers are bred as working dogs, their energy level is higher than the English Lab. They need a lot of exercises. The energy level of this breed, along with their intelligence, means these dogs need owners who understand the breed and train them to behave well. If you want to enter an American Labrador in field competitions but aren’t familiar with the breed, a good rule to follow is to use the services of a professional trainer.
Energy Level and Temperament of English Labs
English Labs could be described as being low-energy dog breeds with a laid-back personality. They’re ideal for owners with a similar temperament. English Labs are usually quiet, have sweet dispositions, and aren’t as active as American Labradors.
English Labs are easy to train, so they’re an ideal dog for an owner that doesn’t have much experience. English Labs can be trained as working dogs, or service dogs but are content to relax with their owners at the end of a busy day.
Personality Traits and Temperament of Both Breeds
The English Labrador and American Labrador are different in appearance, their levels of energy, how easy (or difficult) they are to control, and how headstrong they are. Even though they have distinctive personalities, both types of Labradors have some similar traits. English and American Labs are very affectionate and eager to please their owners. Both types of Labradors also possess high intelligence and are usually easy to train.
Why There Are Differences Between English and American Labs
The primary reason for the difference between the American and English Lab is generations of specialty breeding. English Labradors that are bred for conformation are also bred for their temperament and appearance. English Labs that adhere the closest to the breed standards and consistently win competitions are excellent for breeding.
Labradors that are bred for field-trial competitions and hunting are bred for their ability to work. American Lab types have high energy, a strong prey drive, are agile and athletic. Since they’re born to be working dogs, many breeders are less concerned with breed standards. Many owners of American Lab dogs place more emphasis on the dog’s ability to hunt and perform well in field trials.
In recent years competing in the show ring and performing well in field trials have become so competitive it’s unlikely for a dog to place in the show ring and field trials. Both events have gotten more competitive. Breeders must focus on one area for their dogs to win competitions. As more English and American Labradors are bred and breed standards adhered to more significantly, the differences in the two types of Labradors will be more noticeable.
Why You Might Choose a Field-Trial Labrador
If you’re the type of person who lives an active lifestyle, loves the outdoors, and wants a dog to on hunting trips with you, you may want to consider an American Labrador. If you’re thinking about getting involved in field trials, this is the time to start the search for your new furry friend. American Labs can be compared to human athletes that are physically fit, agile, and born to compete.
American Lab dogs are very intelligent and eager to learn. They require a trainer that’s patient and understands the breed. Due to their high activity and energy levels, these dogs need to have something to keep them occupied. If you love outdoor adventures and getting a lot of exercises, this could be the perfect dog for you. The American lab kind get bored if they don’t have something to occupy themselves. If your lifestyle is more quiet and subdued, you may want to choose an English Labrador as your companion.
Why You Might Choose a Show or English Lab
If you’re looking for a dog that’s intelligent, well behaved, and has a laidback personality, an English Lab may be perfect for you. If breed standards and a dog with a lower energy level are what you’re looking for, the English Labrador is an ideal choice, especially for people with a quiet lifestyle. Puppies have an excess of energy and have exuberant personalities. Depending on the breed, they tend to calm down with training as they reach maturity.
American Labradors are bred for their determination, drive, and prey drive and have high energy levels. English Labs tend to calm down faster after they’ve outgrown the puppy stage. Since they’re so intelligent and eager to please their owners, they’re easy to train and make excellent companions. Although English Labs are easy to train, they need sufficient exercise and time with their owners.
Will There Be An Official Split of English and American Labradors?
The split of American Lab and English Labrador Retrievers is already accepted by Labrador owners and breeders worldwide. The kennel clubs around the world don’t necessarily accept significant differences between the two types of Labradors. The differences between American and English Labrador Retrievers are obvious and become more so as more dogs are bred and new generations are born. With each new generation of American and English Labradors, breeding lines are becoming more defined. Breeders whose focus is on American Labradors for field trial competitions feel that their breed doesn’t get sufficient recognition in the show ring. The English Labrador breeders that adhere to breed standards find their dogs show better in the ring.
American Labrador Retrievers have an abundance of energy, are suited to outdoor sports and families with an active lifestyle. American labs do well in families with children that love to be outdoors and play with them. English Labradors enjoy being outdoors but usually prefer a quieter lifestyle. They’re very social and enjoy spending time with their owners. Although both types of Labradors generally have unique traits, there can be exceptions to the rule. All English Labrador Retrievers may not be relaxed. Some may have personalities that require the owner to spend more time on training.
Not all American Labradors have high energy levels. Some dogs may not have an excess of energy and could have a low-key personality. American Labradors that don’t show a predisposition for hunting and tracking can still be trained to hunt and compete in field trials. The key is to start training when the dog is still in the puppy stage.
Although the two varieties of Labradors are known as American and English, both varieties are bred in the United States and the United Kingdom. A report in the UK indicates the average lifespan of a Labrador is 12 years. However, some Labs have lived as long as 19 years.