Last Updated on December 14, 2021 by Marco C.
You may have heard that different colors of labs can come from all lab parents. Is this true, however? Can a yellow lab have black puppies or is it impossible? How about a black or brown lab having yellow puppies? Let’s go over what plays into lab colors below.
Can A Yellow Lab Have Black Puppies?
The short answer? A yellow lab can have black puppies only if the other lab parent is either black or brown. Yes, that’s right – a yellow and a brown lab can produce black puppies as well as yellow or brown ones.
How about two yellow lab parents, however? No, a yellow lab couple cannot have black puppies. In fact, it can’t have brown or chocolate puppies either. A yellow lab couple can only ever have yellow puppies.
To make matters even more peculiar, two black labs can have yellow or black puppies and two brown labs can have yellow or brown puppies. Yellow labs are the only ones that can produce different colors on their own. But why is that?
Learn more about: What Is The Black Lab Average Life Span And How To Extend It?
The Complex Math Of Labrador Colors
The science behind Labrador color genetics can seem complicated at first. However, if you push through the initial confusion for a couple of minutes you’ll find that it really isn’t that big of a deal. Here’s how it goes:
The black and brown colors in labs are determined by two genes the B and b genes or the two “bee” genes. The capital letter B gene is dominant while the small letter b gene is recessive. This means that when a dog has both B and b genes, the B is going to “turn off” the b and make it inactive.
Why is that important?
Because the B gene is what gives a lab its black coat and the b gene gives it its brown coat. So, a BB lab will be black and a Bb lab will also be black because the B will cancel out the b. The only way to get a brown lab would be for the dog to not have a dominant B gene and to only have two bb genes.
With That Out Of The Way, Let’s Check Out Yellow Labs.
With these dogs, the yellow color is determined by another pair of genes – the “eee” genes. In this case, we have the dominant capital letter E gene and the recessive small letter e gene. And, once again, the dominant E gene, when present, will cancel out the recessive e gene.
However, here the “eee” genes only correspond to one color – yellow. Instead of there being a fourth color, little “eee” genes are able to switch off both types of “bee” genes – both the ones for black and for brown labs. Big E genes, however, don’t cancel the “bee” genes.
So, essentially, what we have is a genealogical game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors”. Only in this case:
- “E” beats out “e”
- “e” beats out “B” and “b”
- “B” beats out “b”
- “B” and “b” both beat out “E” when there’s no “e” to cancel them out
So, Which Combination Of Lab Genes Produces Which Color?
Here’s a quick summary of which genotype produces which phenotype (color):
- eeBB labs are yellow because the yellow “e” cancels out the black “B”
- eeBb labs are also yellow
- eebb labs are yellow too for the same reason
- EEBb labs are black because the “B” gene cancels both the “E” and the brown “b” gene
- EEBB labs are also black
- EEbb labs are brown as there’s neither “e” nor “B” to cancel out the “b”
- EeBB are black as the “E” neutralized the “e” and the B then neutralizes the “E”
- EeBb are black for the same reason
- Eebb are brown
In summary, by definition, all yellow labs have “ee” genes with no capital letter “E”. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be yellow labs. So, if you cross two yellow labs, there’s nowhere an “E” can come from to neutralize the “ee”s and give a chance to a “B” or a ”b” to take charge.
However, even yellow labs carry either “b” and/or “B” genes in them. So, if you cross a yellow lab with a brown or black lab, there’s a chance that one of the puppies will get the black/brown parent’s “E” gene and so that puppy will be either black or brown too.
Can Black and Brown Dogs Produce Yellow Coat Color?
To make matters more fun, two black labs, two brown labs, or a black and brown couple can produce yellow labs. That’s because black and brown labs can carry an “Ee” combination and they can pass just the small “e” to some of their puppies without the big “E”.
Take the last two labs from the 9 examples above – the EeBb black lab and the Eebb brown lab. The offspring of these two labs can have any of the following genetic combinations:
- EEbb – brown
- EEBb – black
- Eebb – brown
- EeBb- black
- eebb – yellow
- eeBb – yellow
That’s 6 possible outcomes – 2 blacks, 2 browns, and 2 yellows. And they come from a black + brown lab couple.
What About Black and Yellow Lab Mix Puppies?
As there are four different types of black labs (EEBB, EEBb, EeBB, and EeBb) and three types of yellow labs (eeBB, eeBb, and eebb), the combinations of black and yellow are easier to show in a table:
|eeBB||Black||Black||Black or yellow||Black or yellow|
|eeBb||Black||Black or brown||Black or yellow||Black, brown, or yellow|
|eebb||Black||Black or brown||Black or yellow||Black, brown, or yellow|
So, can a yellow lab have black puppies? If it’s mixed with a black lab, it certainly can.
What About Brown and Yellow Lab Mix Puppies?
Lastly, can a yellow lab have black puppies if it’s crossed with a brown lab? There are three possible yellow lab genotypes (eeBB, eeBb, and eebb) and there are two possible brown lab types (Eebb and EEbb). So, let’s go over another table:
|eeBB||Black or yellow||Black|
|eeBb||Black, brown, or yellow||Black or brown|
|eebb||Brown or yellow||Brown|
So, a brown or yellow lab couple can produce both black and yellow labs as well as brown labs.
If you’re wondering why your yellow lab has just given birth to black puppies, that’s because the dad was either black or brown. However, if you’re having hopes that your two yellow labs can one day produce black or brown lab puppies, that’s never happening.