Colours of the labrador

Three colours to the labrador retriever


The three colours of the labrador

Contrary to what a lot of people seem to think, there are three colours to the Labrador Retriever (with an extra variation on the yellow). You can have Black, chocolate, yellow with black pigment and yellow with chocolate pigment. 

The original Labradors were black, back when they were a fisherman’s assistant in the Northern wilds of Canada.

Black is a dominant gene and, given any chance, the majority of Labradors would naturally be black. It’s only our choices of selective breeding that allow the other colours their propensity. The black colour is very black, very shiny (when the dog is in good condition). They do not suffer from the sun any more so than the other colours, and nor do they get any hotter than the lighter dogs. Having a black Labrador in Australia is perfectly fine… with air conditioning.

Labrador x Golden Retriever

The yellow labrador

The yellow colour in the Labrador was the last to appear, and probably came about by cross-breeding the early Canadian Labrador dogs with Golden Retrievers to increase their retrieval instincts. The yellow is, in fact, a lack of colour rather than an actual colour.

It’s an inability for the hair to show dark pigment, and it can be expressed as anything from pure white through to dark orange/red in colour.

Like the chocolate, yellow is recessive, so if you mate yellow to yellow you will only get yellow pups as a result, but breeding with black/chocolate the yellow will quickly disappear.

200 years of breeding

The chocolate Labrador

Chocolate is recessive to black, and the chocolate Labrador started appearing in the gene pool quite early on in the development of the breed. Chocolate Labradors are not “new” or “fad”, nor are they sign of being crossbred and nor are they inferior in any way. They have existed for more than 200 years; they were just unpopular in Australia for a long time. To discourage the average person from wanting to buy a chocolate, rumours were started about them being “dumb” and “untrainable”.

They were unjustly vilified for many years, but in recent times they’ve started increasing in popularity. Good quality chocolate dogs and bitches have been imported from overseas, and slowly the rumours are being dispelled. Some of our smartest, calmest and most trainable dogs are chocolates.


Dormant genes

The black Labrador

Due to the inclusion of the chocolate gene, as well as the black gene, in the Labrador it results in yellow dogs that can have either black pigment or chocolate pigment (i.e. black nose or chocolate nose). The yellow with chocolate pigment is sometimes referred to as a “Dudley Labrador”, and is penalised against in the show ring. It’s considered undesirable, even though the colour is as legitimate and as healthy as any other colour.

Some people seem to think that yellow Labradors are the “true” Labrador, but, in fact, they are the evidence of crossbreeding in the early developmental years of the breed.

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A. 82 Peters Road, Muchea, 6501
(Prideland Kennels and Cattery)
M. PO Box 237, Muchea, 6501

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P. (08) 9571 0677
M. +61 414 898 236