What is an English Type Labrador?


Are American and English Labradors Really Different?

The distinction between American and English type labs is not an official one, but the types are now almost universally recognized by all and there are distinct differences between them.

The terms are commonly used and widely known and accepted nicknames for Labradors with ancestry from the respective countries, but also that have been bred for different purposes.

The English Lab Vs American Lab Breed Differences

Fox Red Labrador Retriever beside a more traditional Yellow, showing their contrasting colors.

The English and American types of Labrador are distinguish according to bred for show (conformation dogs) and for hunt (field dogs) respectively.

In general, these types of dogs are friendly, dependable good nature, playful, and love of human companionship. They are popular as companion and as service dog. Moreover, the Labrador is first and foremost a retriever.

Labradors bred for show and conformation have become commonly known as English type Labradors as they’re way more common in the UK.

Labradors bred for field trials and hunting have become commonly known as American type Labradors as they’re way more common in the USA.

But perhaps confusingly, there are American Labs that enter dog shows and there are English Labs competing in field trials and used for hunting.

The terms ‘American Labs’ and ‘English Labs’ aren’t absolute and strict terms, but more a useful guide of the probable type of Lab being described. There are many exceptions.

Do The English vs American Lab Breed Standards Differ?

The UK kennel club, the AKC and no other national registry or parent club of Labrador Retrievers contain in the breed standard, or recognize in any way, a difference between American and English Labradors. They simply do not differentiate between Labs.

There is one Labrador breed standard, and that is that. All Labs should meet the same standard, there is only one Labrador Retriever. There is no ‘American Labrador Retriever’ and there is no ‘English Labrador Retriever’, there is simply ‘The Labrador Retriever.’

With this said though, there is one slight difference in allowable height between the American and English breed standards:

The American breed standard allows a hight of between 21.5 to 24.5 inches while the English breed standard allows a height of 21.5 to 22.5 inches.

This is probably in recognition of the fact the American Labs can be taller and longer in leg…but more on that later.

With the exception of this difference, the two Labrador breed standards are essentially the same. They describe exactly the same dog.

So why do people say there are two types?

The Breed Standards May Be The Same, But Side By Side They’re Very Different!

Seeing an American type and an English type Lab side by side really does highlight some startling differences.

Here is a brief description of the differences you’d typically see in their physical appearances.

What Does A Typical English Type Or Show Bred Labrador Look Like?

When compared to an American type lab, the English type:

  • Looks more substantial with a heavier look about them. Blockier and bigger built with barrel chests, they’re noticeably wider and more ‘solid’ looking.
  • Has a wider head with a more pronounced and better defined stop, a fuller face and a shorter muzzle which further adds to their more solidly built appearance.
  • Has a thicker, more powerful looking neck.
  • Has a very noticeably thicker coat.
  • Has a wider, thicker and generally straighter tail than their American cousins.
  • Has shorter legs and hence don’t stand quite so tall.
  • Has a shorter body.
  • Bred for conformation they’re usually far closer to how the breed standard is written than the American type.

What Does A Typical American Or Field Type Labrador Look Like?

When compared to an English type lab, the American type:

  • Has a lighter, slimmer looking body. With a more athletic build, lithe and finer boned, they look more agile and ‘ready to go’.
  • Has a head that’s not as wide as their English cousins. The skull and face are noticeably narrower, and their muzzle more streamlined and longer than the English lab.
  • Has a thinner and longer neck which adds to their more lithe and athletic look.
  • Has a noticeably thinner coat.
  • Generally has a tail that is thinner and less ‘otter like’ than an English Lab. It looks longer and some even have a little curl to them.
  • Has longer legs and so are taller when compared to an English lab. In combination with their slimmer build, this further adds to their look of athleticism.
  • Bred for working ability, there’s far less desire for breeders to aim for the breed standard so they’re almost always less closely matched to how the breed standard is written.

Is there a Difference Between Labrador and Labrador Retriever?

All Labs should meet the same standard, Labrador and Labrador Retriever are the same dog. There is no difference, there’s just only one Labrador Retriever (Canis familiaris). In Labrador breed standard, there is only one Labrador Retriever.

Difference In Energy Levels, Disposition And Overall Temperament

Although not always true and there are exceptions, generally speaking there is a profound difference in the temperament and energy levels of the American and English types:

Energy Levels And Temperament of American Labs

As a rule they’re bred for work and field trials, so the American Lab has a higher energy level and ‘drive’ than their English cousins. They’re noticeably more active and ‘always on the go’. But of course higher energy levels are needed in a dog with such demands placed on them as working all day.

The higher energy levels and drive have earnt them the label of being more high-strung as they really are always active and need constant exercise and attention.

In terms of temperament and perhaps due to the mix of high intelligence and high energy, they’re considered more head-strong and need a more experienced and strong-in-character owner to achieve control and a well-behaved and balanced pet than does an English Lab.

Without a doubt, the American type is more suited to life as a working dog than as a relaxed family pet.

English Labs Energy levels And Temperament

The English Lab is considered calmer, less active and quieter in nature than the American Lab. However, many of the european Labs behind this type are far back in the pedigrees, so you won't find many actual european labs in a 3 or 4 generation pedigree here in the USA. 

More often described as sweet, mellow, extremely relaxed and quieter when compared to American labs, they’re considered easier to train and to live with for less experienced and laid back owners.

Although still ‘driven’ and suitable for life as a working dog, if a family pet is what’s desired, the English lab is far more likely to slip into this role as they’re far less demanding when it comes to activity and will more readily chill at your feet at the end of a hard day.