The differences between the English Labrador retriever and the American Labrador retriever

The differences between the English Labrador retriever and the American Labrador retriever

Breed Facts

Labrador retrievers are one of the best-known and most popular dog breeds all over the world, and even most people who aren’t really familiar with dogs would have no problem picking a Labrador out of a line-up.

In terms of the breed’s popularity, in the UK Labradors, according to our Pets4Homes dog breed popularity rankings,are currently (as of January 2019)the sixth most popular dog breed overall, and the second most popular in terms of the number of new pups registered with the Kennel Club each year.

Labrador retrievers tend to be fairly uniform-looking as a rule, and aside from differences in colour, Labs all look fairly similar at a glance, as you would expect from a well-established pedigree dog breed.

However, as often happens with popular dog breeds that are present in large numbers in a lot of countries, some slightly different Labrador variants have developed over time. One of these is known as the American Labrador retriever, in contrast to the standard Labrador retriever, which outside of the UK and particularly in the USA is often referred to as the English Labrador retriever to make the distinction between the two clearer.

In this article we will explain what an American Labrador retriever is in more detail, and how they differ from our own English Labrador retrievers. Read on to learn more about the difference between American Labradors and English Labradors.

English Labradors and American Labradors – Why the distinction?

The dogs that we here in the UK call simply “Labradors” are known in many parts of the world as English Labradors, and particularly in the USA, this indicates a number of subtle differences between them and the dogs known as American Labradors.

English Labradors are also sometimes referred to as show Labradors, and American Labradors are sometimes referred to as working or working-type Labradors, and this distinction helps to explain the differences between the two variants.

In countries that widely make the distinction between English and American Labs (or show and working Labs), the core difference is that the American Labrador variant is one that has been bred and developed for working purposes – generally field work like retrieving – and whether they are actually used within a working role or not, the distinction indicates a number of subtle differences in the appearance and temperament of American Labs compared to English ones.

What is the difference between an American Labrador and an English Labrador?

Getting down into the fine details of the difference between the two variants, you would need to be fairly experience with dogs in general and Labradors specifically in order to be able to tell one from the other.

We’ll outline the core differences between the two below.

Looking at the physical differences between and English and an American Labrador, The American variant tends to be a touch taller, usually only by a couple of inches, and they also have a generally leaner, lither and more athletic build. The English Labrador tends to be rather more stocky and heavier, with a shorter body and legs.

The English Lab’s tail tends to be thicker and wider than the American Labrador too, and with a less marked curve to it. English Labradors also have a wider head and neck and particularly, a wider, deeper chest than American Labs, which have a more streamlined and athletic appearance.

American Labs have a longer muzzle and narrower, more flexible neck. Even the coat of English and American Labs have marked differences too, and the English Labrador’s coat is thicker and denser than their American counterparts.

English and American Labrador temperament

In terms of temperament, English and American Labradors have more in common than they do apart, but there are some subtle differences between the two which again, reflects the working roles that the American Labrador is bred for.

Both types of Labrador are personable, friendly, intelligent and very energetic, and they tend to be high energy dogs that thrive on having something to keep them occupied. That said, American Labradors have a reputation for being even smarter than English Labs, as well as having a slight stubborn streak and bags of tenacity.

The English Labrador is thought of as being slightly quieter and less excitable, although this is all relative as both variants are fairly lively!

Fulfilling the American Labrador’s need for exercise and mental stimulation can be challenging, and such dogs thrive in working roles but can quickly become a handful if kept within a fairly sedentary household.

Are English and American Labradors different breeds?

The distinction between English and American Labradors is only really made outside of the UK, although when you hear people in the UK talk about working Labrador breed lines or working types, they are generally referring to the variant that outside of the UK is known as the American Lab.

However, both variants are simply classed as Labrador retrievers for Kennel Club registration and showing purposes, and no formal distinction is made between the two. In terms of conformation to the UK Labrador breed standard, English or show Labs tend to follow it more closely.



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