The Labrador retriever is one of the most favourite breeds for many people around the world. When you see Labrador retrievers around you, not every Labrador looks the same. Do they?
Some are slimmer, some look thicker and there also exist differences in their head shapes and also other things. When you generally read about Labradors, you mostly come across some different terms such as English Labradors, American Labradors, Canadian Labrador and also British Labrador.
Actually, what are all these different types of Labradors? Are they different or the same?
What is the difference between English and American Labs? What are Canadian Labradors and British Labradors?
The article below gives you answers to all the above questions and also gives you complete detail about English Labs and American Labs.
Difference between English and American Labs
Before understanding the difference between English Lab and American Lab, it is important to know what is an English Lab and an American Lab?
What are its beginnings? Firstly you should know the Labrador retriever origin to understand all the aspects clearly.
Labrador retriever origin
Coming to the basic question. Where did Labradors originate?
When you talk about Labrador retriever origin, you can always hear a few terms that are common. They are Newfoundland, Canada, Labrador sea and water dogs.
Yes, even though the Labradors are differentiated as English Labs and American Labs, their origins are nowhere related to America or other related areas. Their origins can be traced to Newfoundland of Canada.
The St John’s dog or the St John’s water dog was the ancestor of our modern-day Labrador retriever. It is called a water dog because of its affinity with water.
Those dogs were used for retrieving nets and catching the fish that escaped from the fishing nets. They were the favourite dog of fishermen because of their extraordinary qualities like good temperament, working ability, ability to swim and run all day.
The emergence of difference between English Labs and American Labs
The differences started to emerge within the Labrador breed based upon the work they perform. The actual role of our Labrador retriever was the role of a gun dog, which should retrieve objects back to its master. In the 1820s the St John’s dogs were imported to England as the people liked the friendly nature and the retrieving ability in the breed.
Things changed after the first dog show happened in 1859. Exhibiting dogs and dog shows became a popular hobby during that time and Labrador became one of the favourite pet for many people during that time.
When Labradors started appearing for shows, that is the first step when the division within the Labradors started to happen.
Some Labradors started performing in shows, whereas some Labradors were used for purposes such as hunting and field trails. Thus the differences emerged and people started differentiating Labradors as Show type Labradors and Working type Labradors.
Their roles and works need certain body requirements to perform their roles perfectly. For example, a working Lab which should work all day cannot be heavier and chunkier. Thus some of the working Labs started changing their old classic looks, to slimmer versions. Whereas the Show type Labradors started becoming heavier and shorter.
And the breeding between the two types became gradually reduced because of the visible differences in their features and their performing roles. Thus steps have been laid for differentiation within the Labrador breed.
AKC on the difference between English and American Labs
According to the American Kennel Club and other national registry organisations, there is only one Labrador breed standard that every Labrador must meet.
Although we talk about types of Labradors, the AKC does not differentiate between the Labrador types. Hence the different types of labs, which people often differentiate as American and English is not an official differentiation.
Hence there is no American Labrador and English Labrador recognised by the AKC separately.
English Lab vs American Lab
There are no official differences within the Labrador breed standard such as English Lab and American Lab. But this differentiation became very common all over the world and people started differentiating these dogs everywhere.
The differentiation is mainly based on the purpose for which the Labs were bred for. Labradors that were bred for show and conformation were called the Show type Labradors and they are common in the UK. Hence they are called the English Labs. Whereas the Labradors which were bred for field trials and hunting purposes were called the Field type Labradors. They are more common in the USA and hence they are called American Labs.
This does not mean their roles are non-interchangeable. There are American Labs which are bred for the shows and there are English Labs that help their owners in hunting and field trials.
Hence it is difficult to draw a clear line between an American Labrador Retriever and an English Labrador Retriever.
This is the reason why kennel clubs across the world did not differentiate between them using a standard measure. But you can surely find out the differences by looking at their appearance and in some cases by their behaviour.
English Labrador/ Show type Labrador
An English Lab is mostly bred for shows and conformation. Hence it is likely to be closer to the official breed standard of a Labrador Retriever. Have a look at the characteristics of an English Labrador retriever.
1. Shorter body, shorter legs and a shorter neck when compared to the American type.
2. A thicker neck which looks powerful.
3. Heavier body with barrel chests and bulkier overall body mass.
4. More wider and blocky head.
5. Shorter muzzle.
6. Thicker coat.
7. Thicker and shorter tail like an otter.
English Labrador temperament and behaviour
English Labradors are calmer and quieter when compared with their American friends. They have comparatively lesser energy levels and are comfortable to sit in the couch along with the master all-day.
They have a sweet and mellow temperament which makes them easy to train even for a less experienced owner.
They tend to be highly social and get easily distracted to other things. Suppose you visit a park with your English Lab it really gets excited and distracted by looking at other people and other dogs.
English Labs also tend to mature slowly in terms of mental maturity. Even a 2-year-old English Lab can behave like a puppy sometimes. My English Labrador which is almost 2 years old still thinks itself as a puppy. But this is not a general rule for all English Labs.
American Labrador/ Field type Labrador
An American Labrador is mostly bred for hunting and working in the field. For a Labrador to work in the field, it needs to have certain physical and mental characteristics to perform its job efficiently. Have a look at the characteristics that define an American Labrador retriever.
1. Longer legs, taller body, longer and thinner neck when compared to the English type.
2. The thinner neck gives an athletic appearance to the dog.
3. Lighter, slimmer body and finer bone structure which keeps them active all day.
4. The head does not seem wide like the English ones. They have a narrower head and longer muzzle.
5. A thinner coat when compared with their English counterparts.
6. Thinner and a longer tail. The tail may also take a curl at the end side.
American Labrador temperament and behaviour
As their purpose is for field trails, they have higher energy levels. They are very active and always ready for any kind of action.
In many cases, American Labradors tend to have greater boldness and are considered a little headstrong. These characteristics are developed because of the nature of their outdoor work.
This is not always a rule, because my first Labrador which is an American type was calmer and an obedient dog all his life.
They need a lot of daily physical exercise as their body craves for it. A simple walk or a simple play may not be sufficient for an American Labrador.
It is best suited as a working dog than a simple family pet. This does not mean they can’t be good family pets. As i told you my first Lab was a wonderful family pet.
What about British Labradors and Canadian Labradors?
Too many names of Labradors increased confusion among people. The single breed Labrador has already been divided unofficially into English and American type just to differentiate them for convenience purposes. New names such as British Labrador and Canadian Labrador also started emerging.
A British Labrador is nothing but an English Labrador. Since they are Labs from Britain, they are called British Labradors. Some Labrador breeders claim British Labs as a special category of Labs which is not true. A breeder who is established in Britain may call his puppies British Labradors, but there is no official Britain Labrador.
This is the same case with Canadian Labradors. There is no separate or special Labrador known as the Canadian Labrador. In many cases, Labradors that are registered with the Canadian Kennel Club are called Canadian Labradors. Or some breeders based in Canada may call their Labs as Canadian Labradors.
English Labs vs American Labs, Which one to choose?
Finally coming to the question regarding choosing.
Whether you choose an American Labrador or an English Labrador, what you bring home is nothing but a Labrador retriever. Every Labrador is friendly in nature, intelligent and requires daily exercise. Also, every Lab has a high shedding coat that requires proper grooming. These general characteristics are the same for every Lab.
It is the same breed but the major difference you find is, with respect to its appearance. In issues like temperament and behaviour, the differences are not very notable. But it is true that some differences exist, but this is not a hard and fast rule.
But there are some issues you can take into consideration to choose a particular type. Ask yourself some questions before choosing a Lab.
Are you getting a Labrador for the first time?
Do you have enough time for your Labrador’s exercise?
Do you prefer a muscular dog or a lean dog?
Do you have previous experience in training a dog?
An American Labrador is a lean and active dog. It requires a lot of physical activity when compared with the English Lab. You can choose an American Lab if you can spend enough time on his exercises such as running and swimming. It would be better to choose an American Lab if you had previous experience in training a dog. Again to remember you, this is not a rule, as i have bought my first American Lab without any previous training experience and my life with my dog went very well.
An English Labrador is a little calmer and less active. You can prefer to choose an English one if you can’t spend more time on long walks and its exercises. But this does not mean English Labs does not require proper exercise. They also require a proper amount of daily exercise. If you want a chunky dog and if you are an inexperienced owner, an English Lab might be more suitable.
Whatever Labrador you choose, remember that you a bringing home the most loving being. And don’t forget to get it from a genuine breeder only after checking the health of its parents and the Labrador puppy too.
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