The differences between American and English Labradors isn't a matter of an accent when barking, or calling their dinnertime "tea." The differences in this retriever originating in North America with bloodlines established in Great Britain have to do with field versus show dog styles.
The original Labrador retrievers were neither English or American, but hailed from Canada's Newfoundland. In an economy dependent on the sea, proto-labs worked with their fisherman masters, pulling in nets and catching fish escaped from fishing lines, according to the American Kennel Club. In early 19th century England, this canine type was later crossed with spaniels, setters and other retrievers, earning a reputation as a superior game retriever for hunters. The British Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1903, followed by the AKC in 1917. In both countries, labs consistently are among the dogs breeds with the highest number of annual registrations. These days, labs serve primarily as pets rather than hunting dogs.
The breed standards for the two kennel clubs differ slightly. The mature American Labrador Retriever stands between 21.5 and 24.5 inches at the shoulder, while the height of the English Labrador Retriever is slightly less, from 21.5 to 22.5 inches. In both types, males are larger than females. The American version weighs more, ranging from 60 to 90 pounds, while its British cousin weighs 10 to 20 pounds less.
Both American and English labs come in the standard black or yellow -- never golden, which is an entirely different breed. American labs also may be a chocolate brown, a shade not found often in the English dog. British labs may appear in a dark reddish color or a silver hue.
Also known as the working dog, this type is seen more often in the American lab. The dog generally has a finer bone structure, longer legs and muzzle, and a more waterproof coat. However, American and English labs can make fine hunting dogs. Not surprisingly, the American dog supposedly has a more boisterous temperament. Whether that's true and a real difference between the two types might depend on whether the individual making the judgment is a Yank or a Brit.
More akin to the English type, the show lab generally is stockier, short-legged and with a less refined, blockier head. The body is shorter than the field type. Whether he's a show or field type, your lab needs plenty of exercise. This can take the form of long walks, runs or swims, or endless games of fetch. English or American, the Labrador Retriever is a happy, fun dog to be around.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.