English Labs and American Labs are two different types of dogs belonging to the Labrador retriever breed. Although English and American Labradors are not officially recognized terms, they are acknowledged universally. The difference between the two is very much apparent from the structure of their bodies.
According to the Labrador Retriever Club- an organization recognized by the American Kennel Club as the Labrador’s parent club, variations exist within the Labrador retriever breed. These variations are based on their body structures developed through interbreeding to suit individual owners’ and trainers’ needs and preferences.
For example, those who wanted Labradors as family pets preferred English Labs. Whereas those who wished to use Labradors as hunting partners chose American Labs.
The division between American and English Labs is more in terms of the roles played by them and less in terms of their geographical origin. As clarified by the Labrador Retriever Club, the label ‘American Labs’ and ‘English Labs’ are mistakenly used in the United States to refer to field/ working styles and conformation styles of Labradors, respectively.
- English Labs have a stockier build, with a wider head and shorter legs than their American counterparts.
- American Labs are leaner, with a more athletic appearance and a longer muzzle, making them well-suited for fieldwork.
- Despite differences in appearance, both types are classified as Labrador Retrievers and share similar temperaments, intelligence, and trainability.
English vs. American Labs
The difference between English Labs and American Labs is that the former is typically preferred by those who want family pets. With a heavy skull and kind eyes, English Labs look calm, docile, and sweet. Conversely, the latter is more suitable for hunting and field trials. American Labs are taller, slimmer, and more athletic and have more energy than English Labs.
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|Parameter of Comparison||English Labs||American Labs|
|Definition||It is a variant of Labrador Retriever reared for confirmation and show.||It is a type of Labrador Retriever raised for field trials and hunting.|
|Level of Energy||Moderate||High|
|Appearance||Broad and Short.||Narrow, lean, and tall.|
|Temperament||Calm, quiet, sweet, and kind.||Bright, Headstrong, and Energetic.|
|Ideal for||First-time dog owners or families.||Athletes or Sportsmen.|
What are English Labs?
It is a type of Labrador retriever raised for confirmation and show. Its origin can be traced back to the early 19th century when the English Noblemen visited Canada and instantly fell in love with the Retriever. Its cold-resistant skin and friendly nature appealed to them, and they decided to take some of the ancestors of the Retriever to England, where they refined them.
With a calm and quiet personality, English Labs make excellent family pets. They are reserved and relaxed and hence, ideal for novice dog owners. They are also easy to train.
It is important to note that English Labs are ultimately retrievers; therefore, despite their docile nature, they love having fun.
The physical features of English Labs are as follows:
- Head: A large or heavy skull with a well-defined “stop” (the point where the head is steeply raised upward from the base of the snout).
- Eyes: Large and kind eyes with space between them.
- The shape of the Body: Strong neck, broad chest with powerful but shorter limbs, and a heavy tail.
- Tail: Thick and straight.
- Height: Short with legs having a standard length of 21.5 to 22.5 inches
- Weight: For a female, it is 60-70 Ibs; for a male, it is 70-80.
As mentioned earlier, English Labs are reared mainly for confirmation and show. Consequently, they look much more similar to their ancestors than any other variant of Labradors.
What are American Labs?
It is another variant of the Labrador retriever breed, reared mainly for field trials and hunting. Its origin can be traced back to the 1940s when two different groups of Labrador breeders emerged. Before that, there was only one genus and one type of Labrador retriever.
The birth of American Labs can be attributed to the rising needs of the members of the American Sportsman Club, who used pointers and hunters for hunting large and heavy forest cover.
The hunting styles of Americans are different from that of the British. This is because the terrains and covers, the large size of the hunting areas, and the diverse landscapes in America demanded a more onerous kind of retrieving work.
While there were Springer Spaniels for game finding in upland areas and Chesapeake Bay retrievers for retrieving, Americans became interested in breeding Labradors when they learned that these dogs are more versatile and have the combined skills of Spring Spaniels and Chesapeake Bay retrievers.
In terms of temperaments, American Labs are brilliant and headstrong. They are very energetic and athletic and need to be constantly engaged in some activities.
The physical features of American Labs are as follows:
- Head: Narrow skull with less defined ‘stop.’
- Eyes: Large eyes set close to each other.
- The shape of the body: As it is a hunting dog, it is raised for agility and speed, and therefore, the overall appearance is narrow and lean.
- Tail: Thin, less ‘otter-like,’ and often curved upwards.
- Height: Tall with a standard size of 21.5 to 24.5 inches.
- Weight: Hang around the lower limits of the average weight of a Labrador, which is about 55-70 Ibs for females and 65-80 Ibs.
As mentioned earlier, American Labs are gun dogs trained for hunting. Consequently, they need to be engaged in rigorous activities which often defy the standards established by kennel clubs.
Main Differences Between English and American Labs
- Both types of Labradors are ultimately retrievers. But the American Labs are more agile and athletic than the English Labs.
- English Labs are reared mainly for show. That is to say, they are conformation dogs and make tremendously good family pets. At the same time, American Labs are bred for hunting and fieldwork and are more suitable for sportsmen.
- Regarding Temperament, English Labs are calm, quiet, relaxed, and reserved. At the same time, American Labs are intelligent, headstrong, and energetic.
- The overall appearance of the English Labs can be described as broad but short. At the same time, American Labs are narrow, lean, and tall.
- English Labs are easy to train and are considered the perfect dog for novice dog owners. On the other hand, American Labs require someone experienced and athletic to train them and utilize their abilities to their fullest potential.
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Piyush Yadav has spent the past 25 years working as a physicist in the local community. He is a physicist passionate about making science more accessible to our readers. He holds a BSc in Natural Sciences and Post Graduate Diploma in Environmental Science. You can read more about him on his bio page.