There is considerable debate regarding the superiority of American Labrador Retrievers or British Labrador Retrievers. Often the opinions are based on which type of dogs a particular breeder or trainer personally sells. (I work with, train, love, and sell both) While I have my own preferences for which type of dog accels at what, I have been fortunate enough to train, hunt with, and own both. American and British Labs are capable of providing you with a top notch hunting companion, and or family pet. In my opinion both types of Lab are great! As I am an avid waterfow, and upland hunter, so I can have places to use both types of Labs, but I know not everyone looking for a Lab puppy, or full grown adult is a hard core hunter, or might not even hunt at all so I’m going to explain the different characteristics of each type and let you decide which type of Lab is right for you, and your family.
While appearances may vary regardless of American or British, there are some general differences that you can expect to see with some consistency.
- Size – American Labs generally run larger (weight wise) than their British counterparts and are, on average, 10-20 pounds heavier than British Labs. The British Labs will generally run 50-70 pounds depending on whether you have a male or female, while American Labs are typically 60-90 pounds.
- Color – While both come in Black and Yellow, Chocolate is a common third color for American Labs. British lines will include dogs with a dark (fox) red
coat as their third color.
The major difference here is one of apparent energy. Both American and British lines produce very social dogs that are playful and intelligent and make excellent hunting companions, and family pets. My experience has been that the British Labrador or what they are also known is as “The Gentlemen’s Gun Dog” generally tends to be somewhat more calm and relaxed. They have a inherited, or genetic “OFF” switch when not training, or in the field. They typically require a softer training hand with less pressure required or desired. American Labs tend to be able to handle a bit more pressure in a training environment. They are naturally more boisterous and tend to exhibit a higher energy level and, consequently, may require more firm correction. Don’t get me wrong though there are ton’s of American Lab’s out there that have that “OFF” switch when not training, or in the field. They to for the most part are calm and relaxed when they are hanging out with their families. American Labs are great pets for active people, or families looking for running partners, people interested in agility, and or obedience training.
Hunting ability may be the largest point of contention between proponents of American or British Labs. My opinion on this is pretty simple. Anyone that tells you one or the other won’t produce excellent bird dogs is just not being honest. Field lines of both American and British Labs posses all the natural characteristics to be tremendous hunting companions for both Upland and Waterfowl hunting. The American dog may be a better choice for someone needing a dog to do big water waterfowl hunting 100% of the time. The difference between the two is as much about style as it is about ability. Both will exhibit the toughness, agility, and natural retrieving ability that make a great bird dog, and the calmness to be a great family pet. The American dogs have been bred for higher energy to meet the demands of our style of trial or test which rely on eyesight, whereas the British dog has been refined for their type of trial which demands the dog have a keener nose to track fallen game. The question here is really more about whether you prefer an American Lab which is generally a more high energy hunting machine or a British Lab which is a more calm and thoughtful hunting machine. They’ll both hunt and retrieve, whether on land or water, and they’ll both do it very, very well.
No Hard & Fast Rules
Overall, both American and British lines are capable of providing you with the household pet or hunting companion of your dreams. While American or British types may be more predisposed to one characteristic or another, both are very well rounded dogs that do amazingly will in both hunting, and pet homes. I would encourage you to do your research and then pick the type that is best suited for your personal needs. To one characteristic or another, both are very well rounded dogs.