We all love our labs. They are short, stocky and full of love, but what’s the difference between English Labs versus American Labs? We’re here to give you a fun and informative run-down of these dutifully loyal, canine companions. Maybe afterwards, we’ll see if you can “spot the difference” between them!
English Labrador vs. American Labrador: History
Let’s start right at the beginning. It may surprise you to learn that neither the English nor the American Labrador Retriever initially came from England. In fact, they didn’t hail from America or even Labrador! Both the American and English Labradors came from Newfoundland, Canada. Back in the 19th century, when they were first bred, they were referred to as St. John’s dog, or “Little Newfoundlander Dogs”. Interesting, right? It gets better!
The St. John’s dog has a complex history, when we consider how sailors took this faithful companion and traveled across the world with them. Initially, the St. John’s dog traveled from Portugal, England, and Newfoundland – and this is excluding many of their stops in between! Furthermore, Portuguese fishermen recognized the true hunting capabilities of these loyal Labs. Because of the lure of ample, fresh fish in Canada, this breed’s fishing abilities boomed. Thus, the English and American Labrador breed was born.
It is generally believed that the lineage of the American and English Labradors come from the Spanish Black Pointer and the Basque, otherwise known as the Portuguese Shepherd Dog. These dogs likely brought together their loyalty, sharp herding skills, and great scenting abilities. However, it is more likely that plenty of other breeds are included in the Lab’s genetic makeup, including many other breeds from Great Britain and North America!
These pups not only have webbed feet for better swimming, but are also known as one of the most intelligent, gentle, agile, and trusting breeds out there. Let’s take a deeper look!
Build Differences Between the English vs American Lab
On paper, the American and English Labrador look almost exactly the same. Place them side-by-side, however, and you’ll soon notice a few distinct differences. While these differences have been bred out over a long line of cross-breeding, you can see them more distinctly when the breeder maintains a strict adherence to parentage.
English Lab’s Wider Build
First, take a look at their face. We can see that the English Lab has a much wider, squarer face, with a shorter muzzle. This stocky appearance is mirrored throughout their body, with the neck and shoulders having a much wider center of gravity. Because of this, the English Labrador Retriever possesses a more powerful appearance.
They also have shorter legs and a shorter tail, sometimes referred to as an “otter tail”. Their water-resistant double coat is much thicker, adding to their overall frame. Add a barrel chest to these more distinct features and you’ll see how effortlessly they can paddle through the water because of it. All this certainly stems from their hunting past!
The Lean American Lab
The American Labrador Retriever, on the other hand, was bred to be much leaner. With a narrower head and longer muzzle, they were surely meant more as land hunters. They have a longer neck and tail, with lengthier legs, as well as a thinner, double coat. These pups are better suited to work on land than to protect themselves from cold water.
While knowing these slight differences in physical appearance helps owners choose between the two breeds, it can also help you better understand their comfort levels. For example, if you live in a colder part of the world, then you might want to go for an English Lab. The American Lab, however, is better suited to warmer climates and those who might not want their dog swimming.
English vs American Lab: Temperament
If you’re a family person, then know it doesn’t really matter which Lab you choose. All Labrador Retrievers end up on the list of best dog breeds for family households. Extremely soft, gentle, easy to train, and loving, these dogs make excellent family pets. One type of breed does not outshine the other in this area.
Both Lab types are generally very laid back, and will happily relax at the end of a long day – as long as they’re able to do so at your feet! Both English and American Labradors love to be beside their owner. Although owners should be aware that English Labradors tend to be a little lazier than American Labs.
Do bear in mind: even the most minor difference between the two is sure to stand out quite a lot, depending on the activities you choose to do with your Lab. As previously noted, the English Lab will likely leap at the first opportunity to get into some water. They are well-known for playing in the mud! The American Lab prefers to herd and hunt in fields. For either type, you may want to curb these instincts through training – unless you want to clean up after them forever!
English vs American Labrador Retriever: Differences in Grooming
When it comes to grooming, there are some differences between the English Lab vs the American Lab. As the English Lab has a thicker double coat, you might find they require a little more grooming than American Labs!
Both the English and American Lab will need grooming regularly, of course. Usually every six and eight weeks on average. You don’t want to overgroom them, as you could accidentally strip the essential oils from their coats if they are groomed too regularly. No one breed is better than the other when it comes to grooming, although you may find that you have to give one breed a bath more frequently than the other! For example, living in a wet, muddy area will probably encourage your English Lab to mess around in some puddles.
While both retrievers require brushing at least once a week, English Labradors living in a warmer climate may need a daily brush. At the same time, the American Labrador will require less brushing in a colder climate. When shedding, both Labs require daily brushing, to keep their coats healthy and to stop fur from getting all over the family home!
Health Differences in the English vs American Lab
Overall, there are no major health differences when it comes to the English vs the American Lab. Both types are generally quite healthy, especially if bought from an ethical breeder. Buying your English or American Lab puppies from the right place is always key to finding a healthy breed of dog. Common problems, such as hip dysplasia and eye issues, will be bred out through the correct lineage. Before adopting your dog, ask the adoption center staff if there are any known issues that haven’t been bred out through ethical breeding.
It’s important to know that most health problems in Labradors occur primarily because of their build and level of exercise. Some of the most common problems in both the American and English Labrador Retriever include:
When it comes to an exercise-induced collapse, there is no major difference between the English Lab vs the American Lab. Both breed types are prone. It is caused by an over-exertion of energy. When training or working, both the field and water dog will work until they cannot physically stand any more. This is purely due to their ever-impressive loyalty and willingness to please their family.
For this reason, it is extremely important to show your dogs a lot of love and only allow them to work reasonably. Labradors are some of the best dogs, thanks to their energy when it comes to training or working. It is up to you to keep them from working too hard.
Neither type of breed are more prone to suffering from hip dysplasia. However, both types can certainly get it. This is why it is always important to keep a close eye on your dog, especially if you suspect any dysplasia. This condition is caused by an abnormal formation in the hips, which make it difficult for your dogs to move over time, eventually developing arthritis.
Remember: the bigger the build, the more likely your dog will suffer from hip dysplasia and health problems in their joints. As a result, English Labs will need more exercise through training or working, in order to help lower their risk. You should also feed them an appropriate diet. For more options head over to our guide on dog joint supplements.
Loss of vision is generally caused by cataracts, which can happen to all dog breeds. Vision loss is also a result of progressive retinal atrophy, where their vision deteriorates over time. Any ethical breeder will be able to screen for this condition. A registered owner with the AKC is likely to have had their Labs bred out of vision issues. Unfortunately, this issue can still occur. Neither the American nor the English Lab is more or less likely to suffer from this degenerative condition.
Training and Exercise Differences: American Lab vs English Lab
Both the English and American Labrador Retriever have high energy levels. They are generally easier to train than most other breeds, though, making them ideal family pets for houses with children. The two types don’t have a massive difference in their energy levels, unless they are the result of specialized breeding. This, however, can cause higher energy – but this is true of all dog breeds.
Due to their build differences, you can expect both the English Lab and their American cousins to have slight differences in where they shine best. While both the English and American Lab possess similar energy levels, they do not share interests. This is where their physical build better demonstrates where their interests are best suited. American Labs tend to be better suited to field trials, as their body allows them to move faster over land. Meanwhile, the English Labs tend to work better in the water, due to their thicker coat and webbed feet, which allows them to move more quickly through the water.
Despite this, most Labrador owners will tell you that these family dogs can be surprisingly lazy. That’s not to say they can’t be active, but rather, they would prefer to be by their master’s side at all times. If you are looking for Lab types better suited to field trials, or those who have high energy, definitely make sure your family pet is kept active at all times, and not just when you want them to work.
English lab vs American Lab Nutrition Differences
Both types of Labrador Retrievers are equally prone to obesity. This, combined with their high energy levels, means that both the American and English Lab require good quality food. For a wider selection of choices, check out our guide on the best dog food for labs.
As with all dogs that do a considerable amount of training and hard work, the best diet for your Labrador will be one that contains ample amounts of protein. Ensuring this allows them to remain lean and healthy. If your Lab is a field worker, then they are likely running hundreds of miles a day, and therefore need their muscles well-fed.
Providing your dog with the right kind of nutrition ensures they won’t suffer from any long-term illnesses caused by obesity. This also ensures your family dog will remain with you for years to come. Additionally, a good diet will also keep your dog’s coat shiny and healthy, as well as improving their vision and minds. It is an ideal bonus for those interested in emphasizing training by raising a show dog.
AKC and UKKC Recognition
Neither the American Kennel Club, nor the United Kingdom Kennel Club recognize the differences in American and English Labradors. The breed standard used for Labrador dogs does differ slightly. This is only important to note if you are considering placing your dog in a show in each country, as the breed standard can be the difference between your dog taking part in the show ring parade, or keeping them to the side.
The American Kennel Club considers Labradors as being part of the American variety, and look for these characteristics in the show ring. In other words, they often seek dogs between 21.5 to 24.5 inches, with a leaner and taller build. The Kennel Club in the UK, however, is an international standard that seeks more English Lab distinctions. Those include shorter and stockier builds, with a height of 22.5 inches. Due to their thicker coat, UK Labs also look more luxurious, which can certainly give your dog an edge in any competition!
Q: Which type of Labradors are the best?
A: The answer to this depends entirely on what kind of dog you’re looking to have in your home. As you can see from the table above, along with the detailed descriptions given in this article, both types have different attributes and interests. For those seeking a working dog, American Labs may be the better choice. If you’re looking for a show dog, then English labs are better, as they meet more requirements.
Consider also what your household needs in a dog. Since English Labs are more likely relaxed and lazy, they are probably the better choice for those who only want to go on one walk a day due to longer, time-consuming jobs. Meanwhile, American labs are better suited to those with a more active lifestyle.
Q: Are English Labs aggressive?
A: Generally speaking, labs are not aggressive dogs and any aggression comes from being raised to be that way. However, the most commonly reported hospital bites are from Labradors. That being said, one of the reasons why this could be is because they are such popular dogs, and therefore, there are simply more of them around. It is also worth noting that Labradors are more likely to “nip” than “bite” – meaning that their bites are not as dangerous as dogs who bite and shake, causing more serious tears.
Additionally, American Chocolate Labs are more aggressive than other colors. Though there is very little scientific evidence to back up this claim, a study did conclude that chocolate labs are harder to train than other colors. So we would suggest keeping that in mind!
Q: Can American and English Labs breed?
A: There’s no reason why both labs can’t be bred together and still hold the same standards required for entry to various shows! You may notice the minor differences between the two evening out, which will likely benefit their overall health.
Q: What is the rarest color Labrador?
A: The rarest labs are the chocolate color of both variants, while the American Black Labrador is the most common type. It’s no wonder the chocolate labs are harder to train – they must know that they’re extra special!