Should you’re searching for a verdict on the English vs American Lab debate, I’ll let you know proper now: American Labradors are the clear winner. They’ve bought attractiveness, athleticism, and looking drive in spades. However that matchup is like pitting a dressage pony towards a cowboy’s quarter horse: It doesn’t make an entire lot of sense as a result of they’ve two very completely different jobs.

A extra apt comparability is between British and American Labs. As a result of we Individuals are notoriously dangerous at geography, we frequently use “English” and “British” interchangeably. With regards to working retrievers, this issues as a result of English Labs aren’t the identical factor as British Labs. English Labs are the stocky, blocky, square-headed Labs that look extra suited to napping than fetching. They’re historically present canine, or conformation canine, from England.

An English Lab has a blocky head, short legs, and straight tail
English Labs, which have been bred as present canine in England, historically have blocky heads, thick necks, barrel chests, and quick legs. They don’t seem to be normally bred as working canine. acceptfoto / Adobe Inventory

British Labs, or discipline Labs, are bred for looking and discipline trial work, and so they look an terrible lot like wholesome American Labs: athletic, lean, and vigorous. “British” merely means these Labs have bloodlines originating within the British Isles, which incorporates England, sure, but in addition Eire, Scotland, and Wales. (My very own British Lab occurs to be Irish.) Nonetheless, there are many variations to notice between British and English vs American Labs. Right here’s a rundown.

black lab on waterfowl hunting
American Labs are usually lankier with extra slender heads. They’re bred to be working canine. Invoice Buckley

The English Lab vs American Breed Normal

The American Kennel Membership acknowledges a single breed of Labrador retriever. In different phrases, English, British, and American Labs aren’t distinguished by any main genetic variations—they’re all simply Labrador retrievers. That’s why the AKC’s and the UK Kennel Membership’s descriptions of what a great Lab appears to be like and behaves like have much more similarities than variations. For instance, Labs from each America and England ought to have pleasant eyes expressing “intelligence and good mood” and a tail that “could also be carried gaily however mustn’t curve over [the] again.”

Whereas bodily variations can and do exist between American and British retrievers (extra on this in a minute), measurement is normally the one dependable indicator of heritage, says Dave Bavero, proprietor of Waterstone Labradors in Boerne, Texas. British Labs are usually smaller than American Labs.

As an alternative of main genetic variations, conduct and coaching preferences have formed Labs so that they mirror, considerably comically, the stereotypes of their homeowners. American Labradors are vocal, enthusiastic, high-strung. English and British Labs are reserved, quieter, well mannered.

Bodily Traits of Labs

As a result of the next traits are usually however not all the time true, a canine is likely to be bigger or smaller than the measurements related to their bloodlines. Or they could have a mixture of traits, like a blocky head and curving tail. With regards to the English vs American Lab, total measurement and persona is commonly a greater indicator of breeding.

One be aware: The traditional “otter tail” that’s fascinating in all Labs refers to not the size or curvature of a Lab’s tail, however to its rounded form padded out with thick, dense hair. (Should you’ve ever grabbed your Lab’s wagging tail to maintain it from whacking you, you’ll perceive.)

American Lab British Lab English Lab
Weight AKC breed commonplace for males: 65 to 80 kilos;
females: 55 to 70 kilos
No KC breed commonplace given. On common, males: 50 to 70 kilos; females 45 to 60 kilos  No KC breed commonplace given. On common, males: 50 to 80 kilos; females 45 to 60 kilos 
Peak AKC breed commonplace for males: 22.5 to 24.5 inches;
females: 21.5 to 23.5 inches
KC breed commonplace for males: 22 to 22.5 inches; females: 21.5-22 inches KC breed commonplace for males: 22 to 22.5 inches; females: 21.5-22 inches
Physique Athletic, lankier physique, slimmer chest Athletic, compact physique Thick physique, stocky, barrel-chested with bigger neck
Head Narrower, extra slender Narrower, could be sq. Blocky and infrequently thick
Legs Longer Shorter Shorter
Tail Curvier, otter tail Varies, otter tail Straighter, otter tail
Coat Thinner coat Thicker coat Thicker coat
Vocalizations (barking, whining) Extra vocal Quieter Quieter
Vitality and temperament Excessive-drive, excessive vitality Nice drive, calmer within the residence Truthful drive, calmer within the residence

Vitality Ranges and Temperament

hunting dog tips
American Labs like this one are inclined to have excessive vitality, which could be a professional or con within the discipline. Stephen Maturen

There’s a purpose the Labrador retriever reigned supreme as America’s hottest canine breed for 3 many years. Labs are versatile canine identified for his or her vitality, trainability, affection, and playfulness. They make nice household canine and devoted, dependable working canine. Each American and British Labs thrive with correct obedience coaching and common train. As a result of they’re descendants of the extinct St. John’s water canine—a breed that helped fishermen in Newfoundland retrieve their catches—most Labs love water.

As with all canine of a selected breed, particular person Labs have particular person personalities. Nonetheless, American Labs have a status for prime vitality. They’re usually vocal (identified to bark and whine to specific themselves) and could be rambunctious at residence. The previous saying that Lab puppies lastly settle down after they flip three is very apt when describing American Labs. It’s because American Labs are a sporting breed, and breeders have traditionally prioritized excessive drive of their litters and proceed to breed for these traits.

Whereas the Brits additionally breed Labradors with retrieving drive in thoughts, they have an inclination to prioritize calmness and tranquility of their canine. That’s why British Labs have a status as well-mannered home canine.

“I’ve 15 canine,” says Matty Lambden, a discipline trial choose and proprietor of Tamrose Labradors in central Eire. “I might stroll round me kennels and there received’t be one—not even one squeak. It’s a fault [in the UK]. In case your canine whimpers in line, he’s gone. You drove three hours and the canine provides a little bit of a cry, he’s out the door and also you’re knocked out of the competitors. In order that’s why we don’t proceed with that [trait] or breed off these canine. You’re higher off placing all [your efforts] right into a canine that you understand goes to be quiet.”

Trainability of the English Lab vs American

English vs American Labs are easy to train.
All Labrador retrievers have a status for biddability and eagerness to please, which makes them perfect canine for obedience coaching. Natalie Krebs

Whereas each American and British Labs are extremely trainable and desirous to please, the final rule is that American Labs are extra resilient to stress. Stress refers to bodily corrections, starting from the tug of a leash to e-collar stimulation and power fetching. The rationale stress issues is {that a} coaching misstep with a softer canine is more likely to have outsize penalties.

“Get a canine that has sufficient expertise that they’re going to make up on your errors,” retriever coach Tom Dokken advises homeowners all for coaching their very own Lab. “As a result of in the event you get a canine that’s tremendous mushy and also you’re making errors on the unsuitable time, you may simply shut that canine completely down. Whereas knowledgeable coach, if he has sufficient expertise, he’s evaluating that canine early on to know the place that canine’s limits are and the place the correction ranges are as a way to preserve it working.”

British Labs are identified for his or her mushy temperament and may shut down beneath an excessive amount of stress. It’s not an insult to inform a Brit their canine is mushy. Quite the opposite, it’s a fascinating trait and one of many causes power fetching and e-collar coaching is sort of nonexistent within the UK and amongst devotees of British-style canine trainers. In truth, British handlers usually don’t put any collar on their canine in any respect. After I requested one British coach why he didn’t preserve collars on his canine, he shrugged and mentioned he thought they seemed higher with out it (he wasn’t unsuitable). It’s additionally one thing of an obedience humble brag. My canine, he appeared to be saying, doesn’t want a collar.

Which Lab Is a Higher Searching Canine?

You would begin bar fights over which breeds and even bloodlines make one of the best looking canine breeds. Should you ask American Lab handlers which Lab is the higher looking canine, they’ll guarantee you it’s an American. Brits will let you know simply the alternative. (Few individuals will attempt to persuade you English Labs make good looking canine.) In actuality, one of the best Lab for you is determined by the type of looking you’re planning on doing, and what you prioritize in a canine.

A British Lab hunts in deep snow.
The writer’s 2-year-old British Lab works via heavy snow on a chukar hunt. Natalie Krebs

“I all the time inform individuals to get one of the best bloodlines you should buy,” says Dokken, the legend behind Dokken’s Oak Ridge Kennels and the inventor of the Lifeless Fowl Coach. . “I don’t care if it’s British, American, no matter it’s. You possibly can have canine—once more, whether or not it’s British or American—which have some expertise. After which you possibly can have canine which have lots of expertise.”

Dokken has labored with hundreds of canine over his four-decade profession and educated each American and British Labs. He doesn’t play favorites and in the event you ask him which he prefers, his reply is all the time the identical: “One that desires to work.”

Nonetheless, in his many years of looking and coaching, Dokken has personally owned 5 Labs; all 5 have been American. My British Lab and I educated at Dokken’s farm in South Dakota, a wind-swept prairie with large water and thick cowl. It’s a good microcosm of American chicken looking. Retrievers within the U.S. are sometimes requested to navigate ocean surf for sea geese, swift rivers for mallards, and half-frozen potholes for pintails. Our hunters work canine in prickly desert, steep mountains, and dense woods for quail, chukar, and grouse. Searching right here is extra harmful than in tidy British farm ponds and neat hedgerows. 

For that purpose, it’s sensible to get a high-intensity canine whose drive overwhelms the potential for discomfort or disinterest when the looking will get powerful or gradual. On common, that’s in all probability going to be a Lab with American bloodlines.

black lab retrieving duck from pond
An American Lab retrieves a duck via an icy pond. Invoice Buckley

If quiet mornings and ideal blind manners are vital to you, take into account a British Lab. Duck looking particularly consists of plenty of gradual mornings, and a educated British canine will normally be capable of wait out the doldrums silently and with out fidgeting. (The identical is true of an English Lab vs American in the event you’re decided to hunt with one.)

Right here’s an instance: Among the best duck canine I’ve ever hunted over was an American Lab. That canine was regular, obedient, and had drive oozing out his ears. Within the blind, he whined like a spoiled child doing chores on a Saturday. In the end my buddy would get irritated along with his canine and I’d get a headache. (Whining in canine, Dokken says, is normally involuntary—they don’t know they’re doing it, so it’s usually not possible to appropriate.) In the meantime, my very own pup started his duck looking profession with extra uncertainty than a hard-charging American Lab, however he stays naturally quiet, stays put once I ask him to, and picks up geese simply tremendous.

Labrador Retrievers in Subject Trials

A field trial judge works with a British Lab.
Lambden, a breeder and coach in Eire who judges discipline trials, strains up one among his British Labs. He’s bought shorter legs and a smaller physique, as is attribute of a British Lab. Courtesy of Matty Lambden

British Labs have all the time made good looking canine, says Bavero, however they’ve traditionally been dismissed by American handlers for discipline trials and hunt exams. 

“The stigma has been that British Labs aren’t as aggressive of canine, however you’re beginning to see extra of them in trials,” says Bavero, who started importing Labs from Eire along with his enterprise accomplice in 2018. “However lots of that stigma has been how we [Americans] have been coaching them: If you wish to run a hunt take a look at, it’s important to put lots of stress on the canine. … The American fashion has been type of what we do with most issues. Construct them up and break them down.”

Bavero finds that U.S. competitions have a tendency to emphasise blind retrieves and concentrate on a handler’s capacity to direct their canine proper to a chicken reasonably than letting the canine hunt naturally. Canines require distinctive drive to endure the tedium of superior dealing with drills, so Individuals breed for that vitality.

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In the meantime, Brits breed for what Bavero calls “pure game-​discovering capacity,” a trait that’s rewarded extra in British hunt trials, the place canine are dealt with to an space, then inspired to seek for birds as they’d whereas looking. Dealing with continues to be required nevertheless it’s much less technical. The cultural emphasis on honoring different canine has additionally resulted in calm, regular strains.


Which Lab is smartest?

Neither English nor American Labs are identified for his or her smarts, sadly. Amongst an intelligence research of 13 canine breeds, Labs got here in final. However in some ways in which’s a bonus: Labs usually do what you inform them as a result of they’re biddable, eager-to-please canine. Very similar to individuals, a Lab’s intelligence varies primarily based on his surroundings, genetics, and (to a sure diploma) his coaching—not his nation of origin.

Are English or American Labs simpler to coach?

This is determined by what you need out of your canine. If you wish to prepare a well mannered, biddable, quiet canine that may keep glued to 1 spot and earn loads of reward from strangers, take into account a British or English Lab, each of that are bred with a watch for manners. In case your precedence is to coach a hard-charging, high-energy working or looking canine that simply received’t give up, get an American Lab. Keep in mind that these are simply common guidelines with loads of overlap: American Labs take properly to obedience coaching and British Labs make implausible working canine.

Is an American Lab a very good household canine?

Completely. American Labs are affectionate, pleasant, and wonderful with youngsters. They make nice companions and repair canine, and they’re additionally extra more likely to defend your loved ones and your private home than, say, a golden retriever vs Labrador. The identical is true for British and English Labs.

Which color Labrador is greatest?

Which color Labrador is greatest?
This can be a private desire. Probably the most extensively accepted shade amongst Labrador purists is black, though black, chocolate, and yellow (which incorporates fox crimson) are all accepted by the American Kennel Membership. Every coat shade has its benefits. Non-standard colours like cream, silver, and different “designer” colours could be controversial amongst traditionalists but in addition have their followers. You possibly can be taught extra about Labrador retriever colours right here.

Can a Lab be each English and American?

Sure. A Lab’s heritage is set primarily by bloodlines, which suggests a Lab could be each English and American. For instance: a pet could be each if her dam is from U.S. bloodlines and her sire has English bloodlines. Nonetheless, most breeders are purists who don’t normally combine worldwide pedigrees. Additionally, do not forget that a canine’s breeding determines its heritage—not its nation of origin. A pet born in Michigan, for example, can nonetheless be a British Lab if her sire and dam have British bloodlines.

Closing Ideas

British and American Labs are extra related than they’re completely different. Should you’re decided to check the 2, British and English Labs are usually shorter, quieter, and calmer. American Labs are identified for his or her athleticism, excessive drive, and enthusiasm. However as a substitute of worrying about whether or not a British or English vs American Lab is “higher,” take note of which canine is correct on your wants and way of life. Do your homework and select a accountable breeder. Should you get an opportunity to see a breeder work together along with his canine and, higher but, meet the sire and dam of a litter you’re contemplating, do it. When you’ve made your determination, you’ll fall in love with whichever Lab you are taking residence—it doesn’t matter what his pedigree says.



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