The American Labrador Retriever is a slightly leaner and more energetic variety of the Labrador Retriever breed. American Labrador Retrievers are especially suited to hunting tasks, having been bred especially for that purpose over many generations since well before the 1930s. However, just like all Labradors, they also make excellent pets.
The label “American” refers entirely to appearance and parentage. It doesn’t matter at all where the dog was actually born. American Labs can be born in England and English Labs can be born in America. Since it can get a little confusing sometimes, it’s preferable to refer to American Labrador Retrievers as “Field” or “Working” Labradors, and English Labrador Retrievers as “Show”, “Bench” or “Conformation” Labradors.
How to Identify an American Labrador Retriever
Firstly, all Labrador Retrievers must meet the breed standard to be officially accepted as pure bred Labs by Kennel clubs around the world. However, all breed standards allow for significant variation in size and shape. So since both English and American labs must fall into the same weight range, American Labs tend to be taller and leaner, whilst English labs tend to be shorter and stockier.
It is the longer legs and relatively lighter frame that gives the Field Lab slightly greater speed and agility over its English style cousins. Usually, American Labs will also have longer noses and less block like heads. Below are three excellent examples of typical American style Labradors:
However, after saying all that, many lines of Field Labradors have a few English Labrador ancestors. The reason for this is that breeders sometimes want to improve temperament, soften features, or tinker with some other attribute in the pursuit of a top quality dog. Since nearly every Kennel is different, it’s always best to firstly find a responsible breeder, and then ask the breeder about their dogs. Most breeders are very passionate and will be more than happy to discuss the history of their dogs.
American Labrador Retriever Controversy
Some American Lab breeders feel that the Labrador Retriever breed standard unfairly excludes their dogs, which don’t fall into either the weight or height range specified by the breed standard. If you just want a pet or working dog then it won’t matter, but if you intend to compete with your dog, then you’ll need to look closely at the parents and make sure that they conform to the breed standard.