English Labrador Vs American Labrador

Time to solve the great debate of "English Labs vs American Labs".

If you’ve spent any time at all doing research on Labrador Retrievers, you have more than likely come across the great Labrador debate: English Labs Vs. American Labs. Besides the fact that the terms are frequently used to refer to the various breeds of Labrador Retrievers, there is fierce debate among Lab enthusiasts as to which is the preferred breed. You might prefer one breed over the other for their unique characteristics and traits, but to what extent are the breeds different from each other? 

Let’s take a look!

Origins

The Canadian flag with the blue sky in the background to represent the origins of these dogs.

To understand the two unique breeds, we’re gonna have to first take a look at their origins. We know that both American Labs and English labs are descendants of the St John’s Dog, a breed that actually originated in Canada’s Newfoundland. The St John’s Dog was popular with fishermen, helping them to pull nets and retrieve fish. Being quite the popular dog, English colonials saw the value of the breed and were impressed with its ability to work in harsh conditions like the cold, as well as its intelligence. 

English colonials would depart back to their homeland with a few St John’s Dogs, and interbreed them with local spaniels, setters and retrievers, and thus the English Lab was born. Meanwhile, the American Lab didn’t enjoy the same journey across the pond, with settlers instead opting to train and breed them in Northern America. American Labs are known for their hunting and field workability, carrying on the legacy of the St John’s Dogs. 

The English Labrador

Being that they are more common in the United Kingdom, this breed of Labrador became known as the English Lab. They are suited towards shows and conformation. The English Lab comes in a stocky and quite bulky build, compared to their American counterparts. They also have a slightly shorter body and legs. 

Your run of the mill English Lab comes with a barrel chest, as well as a thicker neck, fuller face, wider head, and shorter muzzle. An English Labs fur tends to be thicker than their American Lab counterparts, as well. Being that they are bred for show and conformation, English Labs tend to skew towards the standard set by various Kennel clubs in terms of looks. 

The American Labrador

An American Labrador standing outside in the forest

The American Lab is an interesting one! Unlike their cousins who made the journey across the pond to the United Kingdom, they were raised in the North Americas. The American Lab has honed its skill and carved out its place as a reliable companion for hunting and fieldwork through the ages. Your typical American Lab has a taller, slimmer build. Their look is overall more agile, with characteristics such as a narrower head, longer, thinner neck, and a much thinner coat. 

They also have a thinner less “otter-like” tail, as compared to their English counterparts. It’s not a stretch for us to consider them the athletes of the dog world. Their finer bone structure, as well as longer legs and longer muzzles completes the look. American Labs are bred almost exclusively for field work, so their owners tend to only follow their strict needs for the breed, instead of going by Kennel clubs preset rules or standards. 

Characteristics

Based on what we’ve learned about them so far, I’m sure you’ve made some educated guesses as to the characteristics and traits of the English Lab vs. American Lab. Let’s confirm! If you guessed that the American Lab would be more confident, headstrong and outgoing than the English lab, you’d be right! Being that they are field dogs, American Labs tend to be the more agile and smarter Lab, as compared to the English Lab, who are known to be docile, sweeter and generally calmer in nature. 

The American Lab also has much higher energy than the English Lab, being that they are working dogs, they tend to require more energy. The English Lab, not to be outdone, is also a fairly energetic dog, requiring regular physical activity to keep it healthy. In terms of energy, the American Lab ultimately takes the cake by a long shot. The American Lab draws on its nature as a gun dog, requiring more physical activities to go along with its high-strung nature. 

The differences between both dogs don’t constrain them to only one avenue though. While English Labs are generally bred for as Show Dogs, and American Labs are generally favored for field work, they can easily swap roles. Though it might not win top prizes, the American Lab will be more than welcome on a showroom floor at a Dog show, as long as it meets the breeding standards set by Kennel clubs. 

And while they might not be the optimal choice, the English Lab can also be used in the field for hunting or general field work, without much of a hassle. The terms “American Lab” and “English Lab” are ultimately unofficial terms used to distinguish between the two different dogs, although they are the same breed of dog. The combination of nurture in terms of upbringing and the inherent nature of the English and America Lab means they can both fulfill roles meant for the other. 

Breed Classification

A black Labrador Retriever standing in grass

So you’re probably wondering, are the English and American Labradors different breeds? The answer is No, they are not. Most Kennels, as well as Labrador retriever clubs, will tell you that there is only one breed of Labrador Retriever. The English Lab vs. American Lab debate is a debate of the same breed. They are merely subtypes of the Labrador Retriever. 

Any differences or distinctions between the English Lab Vs. American Lab exists because of specialized breeding. 

Where American labs were bred selectively for their high energy, drive, athleticism, and slim build, the English Lab was bred for its looks and its temperament. American Labs are ultimately favored for work skills, being great companions in field labor and hunting. English Labs are adored for their looks and were bred with careful consideration for their ability to compete in Dog Shows and possibly win high honors. 

The split between the subtypes, while distinct, is purely ideological and terminological, although it has become ingrained and accepted among Lab enthusiasts. You shouldn’t be surprised to hear spirited debates and arguments among Lab enthusiasts about which is the better dog. Both sides will make a compelling argument as to why theirs is the better subtype, but ultimately it’s up to the Dog owner. 

The considerable differences between both types of Labs bring into question: Which should you get? Well, if you’re looking for a more athletic and energetic dog, you should go with the American Lab. If you’re looking for a calmer companion, the English Lab is the one for you! 

The American Lab would excel in a farm or field setting, while the English Lab is more suited to be a family companion. 

Your lifestyle is gonna be a huge indicator of which type of Labrador for you to welcome into your home. Although the characteristics are true enough to recommend one or the other, the unique aspect of this Lab is that it can play both roles. The English Lab vs American Lab debate will be much more easily won if you know exactly what you want before heading to your local breeder. 

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