Last Updated on October 13, 2021 by Marco C.
We usually differentiate between Labrador retrievers based on their color but there’s another, more important distinction. So, English lab versus Аmerican lab – what’s the difference? Is one a better pet than the other? Is either a better hunting companion?
Furthermore, is the English Labrador retriever, also known as a British lab, the original or did the American lab come first? Let’s go over all the interesting specifics of these two sub-breeds below.
English Lab Versus Аmerican Lab History
All modern-day Labradors are descendants of the now-extinct St. John’s water dog breed from Newfoundland island in the 1800s. This breed itself was bred from the much larger Newfoundland dogs who were mixed with smaller dogs to create a more mid-sized breed.
This way, the people in Newfoundland had two great water dog breeds of varying sizes to help them out. These dogs were used alongside the larger Newfoundland breed to help fishermen and dockworkers in their everyday tasks such as dragging fishnets.
As the Labrador breeds were developed from St. John’s water dog, they started getting used as gun dogs and waterfowl hunting companions. Eventually, British and American breeders developed their own standards for the Labrador retriever breed depending on the different hunting styles in the two countries.
The English Labrador breed was recognized by the English Kennel Club in 1903. The American lab, on the other hand, was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1917. So, the English lab was technically “first”, however, both breeds come from Newfoundland Island in Canada.
English Lab Versus Аmerican Lab Physique
The first notable difference between English and American Labradors is their size and overall body structure. American labs are generally larger with the breed’s standard allowing for dogs between 21.5 and 24.5 inches at the shoulder (55 to 62 cm). English labs, on the other hand, usually grow up to 21.5 and 22.5 inches (55 to 57 cm).
As for their body weight, male American labs usually get as heavy as 65 to 80 lbs (30 to 36 kg) and females – 55 to 70 lbs (25 to 32 kg). English male labs, however, will rarely weigh more than 70 to 74 lbs (32 to 33.6 kg) and females are more commonly around 55 lbs (25 kg).
In addition to the smaller overall size, English labs also have a sturdier and thicker build, with wider chests and necks. American labs, on the other hand, are more athletic, slimmer, and have longer muzzles and heads. The American lab’s frame tends to curve upwards while the English lab is more straight and bulky.
Еnglish Labrador Vs Аmerican Labrador Coat
The coats of these two sub-breeds, while similar, also differ a bit. English lab coats are denser and fuller to the touch. Both types of dogs have a water-resistant double-coat, however, and both shed quite a bit. Color-wise, there also isn’t much of a difference with black, brown, and yellow being the three standard colors for these dogs. Neither is hypoallergenic.
American Versus English Lab Temperament
Another major difference between these two dogs is their temperament. Most people know the Labrador as a very active and playful dog that only stands still once it’s been thoroughly exhausted. And while that’s true for the American lab, the British lab is quite different.
These dogs were purposefully bred to have a much calmer and milder personality. This isn’t to say that English labs don’t like to play or don’t need exercise – they certainly do. However, they lack the hyperactive tendencies of American labs who often get overexcited over the smallest noise or movement around the house.
This difference in temperament isn’t accidental. Both of these sub-breeds were originally developed as hunting companions. So, their characters reflect the preferences of hunters in both countries. American hunters preferred gun dogs that were as athletic, fast, and eager to act as possible.
British hunters, on the other hand, were looking for gun dogs that weren’t too jumpy. They needed dogs that’d stay calm and collected even with birds flying over them. They wanted a dog that would act only on command and was easier to train and work with.
Both temperaments are very suitable for pets, however, and both sub-breeds are popular with dog owners. Of course, you should also remember that dogs are individuals and it’s very common for their temperament to go against the stereotype. So, if you get a hyperactive English lab or a calmer American, that’s not all that surprising.
American Versus English Lab For Hunting
Both the American and English labs make for excellent hunting companions. Which you should choose depends entirely on your personal preferences and hunting style. With good obedience training, both dogs are very loyal, obedient, and competent retriever gun dogs. Both sub-breeds are exceptionally smart and can perform various roles and work tasks.
So, English Lab Versus Аmerican Lab – Who’s The Best Family Pet For You?
What does all this mean for you as a homeowner, looking for a pet? Both the American and English labs make for excellent family pets. They are also smart, loving, loyal, and gentle with kids. Both are social enough with friends and strangers (when socialized well), and both can get along with other dogs.
Even cats tend to get along with labs as long as you’ve made sure to socialize the dog properly to temper its prey drive. Granted, most cats would probably prefer the calmer and quieter English lab over its hyperactive American cousin.
But for you, it’s all a matter of preferences. If you want an overly active and energetic dog that will constantly look for your attention and will physically try to drag you out for a walk – go with the American lab. These dogs make for excellent jogging companions and will make sure that you always get your steps in for the day.
If, however, you prefer a calmer lab that will be more than happy to chill on the couch, the English lab is a great choice. They will still need 1-2 hours of outdoor playtime a day but will be much more chill about it.