Differences inside the breed: American vs. English Labs

Three English Labs Sitting for a Picture

The Labrador Retriever is one of the most popular breeds of dog in the world!

Known for their happy demeanor and loving personality, it’s no wonder they have become the go to family dog for many parents across the globe.

What many people don’t know is that there are two distinct types of Labs: the English version and the American version.

Yellow English Labrador with Toy Stick in Mouth Black American Lab Sitting on Wet Pavement

While both are sweet, fun-loving dogs, the differences may just surprise you!

Appearance:

One of the biggest differences you will find between English and American Labs is their body type.

English labs are shorter to the ground, they have thicker legs and bodies, and wider heads with shorter muzzles. They also tend to have thicker hair and a broader tail.

Yellow English Labrador with Blocky Head

Meanwhile, American Labs are taller, thinner, and have a longer head and muzzle.

Cute Chocolate American Labrador

Temperament:

Another measurable difference is that of temperament. American dogs tend to be more energetic and tenacious, while English are more laid-back couch potatoes.

The biggest reason behind these differences in appearance and temperament is the different jobs each has.

The majority of English bred Labs are used as show dogs in conformation—the judging of shape and structure—or obedience trials.

Yellow English Lab with Bootie on Paws

While the majority of American Labs are used for hunting and field trials.

Two Black American Labrador Retrievers

That of course doesn’t mean that there aren’t English Labs being used for hunting or American Labs being shown, just that each type has been bred more for one than the other.

While you will find many breeders use the terms “English” or “American Lab” there is a push for people to start using the terms “Bench” (English) and “Field” (American) as they think this will be less confusing for the average dog shopper.

You see many English-style Labs are bred in America and some American-style Labs are bred in the UK.

So if we called English Labs that are bred for show, Bench Labs and the American Labs that are bred for hunting, Field Labs, many people might find it less confusing!

When you think about each versions’ job the differences in the breed begin to make sense.

Most of the English labs have been bred for looks. A Lab with a blockier head and a stout body with thick fur looks extremely handsome and has a better chance of winning a show than his country cousin the American Lab.

Black English Lab with Red Collar

American Labs have a better chance of retrieving the duck with his long legs and longer muzzle that can help him sniff out the bird. His extra energy will also help him stay focused in the field during a long hunting excursion, while his English cousin naps in between his turns in the ring.

Chocolate English Labrador with Toy Duck in Mouth

Whatever you call them—English or American, Bench or Field—both versions of the Labrador Retriever can be great family companions!

All you need is a little love, a lot of training, and a dog or puppy of your own!


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