If you research the AKC breed standard for the Labrador Retriever, you’ll find that there are three acknowledged colors of fur: yellow, chocolate, and black. And yet, although you won’t find a silver lab in the show ring, they do actually exist and AKC still accepts them if they’re registered as a chocolate lab.
In case you’re scratching your head and wondering if the silver lab breeders are using a loophole in the system to commit fraud, you should know that it’s because the AKC speculates that two recessive genes from purebred chocolate lab formed the silver lab. Interestingly enough, silver Labradors look a lot like a lab but with the startlingly gray color of the Weimaraner—which is another theory on how they got their color.
The Earliest Records of the Silver Labrador Retriever in History
Now one of the most quintessential American dogs, the Labrador Retriever was actually first bred in Newfoundland from the St. John’s dog (now extinct) and the British retriever. The breed has existed since the early 1800s, but these dogs slowly made their way to the United States from Canada and the U.K. almost one hundred years later.
The AKC officially recognized the Labrador retriever as a breed in 1917, but they didn’t grow famous overnight. It wasn’t until the 90s that the lab gained its current status as the most popular dog in America. They’ve been voted the most popular for 31 consecutive years and are now considered the most loved dog in the world.
Of course, we’re mostly talking about the standard chocolate, black, and yellow labs, but silver Labradors have been included in the mix in some circles to some extent since they first appeared in the 1950s.
How the Silver Labrador Gained Popularity
When Labrador retrievers were first in their home country in Newfoundland, they were often fishermen’s dogs because they loved water and had incredible fetching skills. Once in the United States, labs were most commonly used as guide dogs or pets.
The silver Labrador first became known in the 1950s and gained notoriety through controversy over their origins. Although most experts now believe that the silver mutation did result genetically from legitimate purebred labs, some opponents still argue that the color came from crossbreeding a lab with a Weimaraner.
Formal Recognition of the Silver Labrador
The AKC welcomes the silver Labrador…as long as it’s registered as a chocolate lab. Additionally, they can’t be shown in the ring in competitions because they’re not one of the three breed standard colors. Now that most dog experts believe the silver Labrador came about by breeding purebred labs, not crossbreeding as historically proposed, perhaps the AKC will change its stance and become more inclusive in the near future.
Top 3 Unique Facts About the Silver Labrador Retriever
- Silver Labradors aren’t the only unusually colored labs in controversy. There’s also a fox-colored Labrador which isn’t accepted in the show ring.
- They’re more at risk for color dilution alopecia. Although silver labs are considered relatively healthy dogs, their genes make them more susceptible to this health problem that can cause thinning hair and flaking, dry skin.
- They’re a little more expensive. Even though the silver Labrador is officially recognized as a chocolate lab, they’re a little pricier than their more common counterparts. Maybe this is due to the relatively rare, beautiful color of their coat.
Does the Silver Labrador Retriever Make a Good Pet?
Like all Labrador retrievers, the silver lab has a reputation for being a happy go-lucky dog who will want to go everywhere with you. They’re not intimidated by long hikes, lake swims, or lazy afternoons snuggled on the sofa as long as you’re part of the fun.
If you decide to adopt a lab, you need to know that they’ll require lots of time and energy. Daily exercise, preferably in an open field such as a dog park or your backyard, will help to keep them healthy and stave off the unwanted extra weight that they’re prone to gain.
Although every dog’s personality is different, Labrador retrievers as a breed are largely acknowledged as friendly family dogs who get along with children and other animals. They also don’t require much grooming since they have a short double coat (although they do shed a lot). They’re also easy to train, but it’s recommended that you start young for best results because labs have a tendency to be stubborn.
When you consider their friendly demeanor and willingness to engage in social and physical activities, it’s no wonder the Labrador retriever has been so wildly popular for the past quarter century. Silver labs are no exception, although we’re still awaiting their complete acceptance into the inner circles of showmanship. In the meantime, you can register your purebred silver Labrador with the AKC as a chocolate lab.
Featured Image Credit: Animartis, Shutterstock