Labrador retrievers are a very popular dog in the United States and the UK. But there are a few differences between the most common kinds. English Labrador retrievers look and act a little different from the American type. Both are great dogs, and can produce show quality animals, however. Let’s take a look at the differences between these two interesting dogs.
Both kinds of lab have a solid coat (sometimes with a few white hairs) and come in yellow, chocolate, and black in all kinds of shades. However, there are differences between them, too. English Labrador retrievers have shorter bodies compared to American labs, a heavier build, and a more docile temperament. These animals are very blocky for labs, while the American type is more likely to have a tall body type. While no Labrador retriever should ever be lanky, like a Doberman or Weimeraner, these are less solidly built dogs.
English Labrador retrievers are also called show, bench, and conformation type Labradors. American Labrador retrievers might also be called field or working dogs. Both types of animals are found in the UK and in the US, so the names “English Labrador retriever” and “American Labrador retriever” are somewhat misleading. They only refer to the original stock that developed the line – Labradors have been bred in England for nearly two hundred years now.
There are different standards for each type among registration agencies. The AKC holds that field or American type labs still have to conform to standard lab standards, and that overly long noses and legs, thin heads, or very slight frames are not considered a good conformation.
It’s important to remember that most agencies don’t differentiate formally between the types. No one has standardized a way to tell an English Labrador retriever from an American one, or a particular way of judging them. The two kinds just come from different breeding lines originally. There’s a third line that’s not common in the Northern Hemisphere – the Australian line of Labrador retriever. These dogs are often, but not always, built more like the English Labrador retriever than the American type.
So, which is better? It all depends on what you want. English Labrador retrievers are a more placid dog that’s been bred as a pet or show dog for a longer period of time. American labs have spent more of their existence being bred as working dogs, and have a few more traits that make them good for this use. They’re also more energetic. Both types are friendly, active pets that make great family or work dogs. It’s all a matter of what shape and personality you prefer. Meet a few labs, and see how you feel.