William Shakespeare once wrote that "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Does a Lab of any other color seem as sweet to potential owners? When you look at the facts about black Labs, it seems that a pup of any other color might not be quite the same after all.
Black Labrador dog health
When deciding what color Lab to get, you might want to choose not only based on your personal preference. You can also consider which of the three Labrador retriever colors has the fewest health problems and the longest life span. According to National Geographic, an average yellow or black Labrador dog will live 10 percent longer than a chocolate one, meaning yellow and black Labs live for around 12 years, as opposed to a chocolate Lab, which has a median life span of 10.7 years.
Additionally, chocolate Labs in the study had twice as many hot spots and were more likely to suffer from other skin and ear diseases as well. The reason for these differences isn't so much the coloring itself but the fact that the brown fur of chocolate Labs comes from a recessive gene, leading breeders to resort to smaller breeding pools in order to bring the color out more often. As a result, chocolate Labs suffer from more genetic problems than their black or yellow cousins.
Lab colors and temperaments
The genetic differences extend beyond the dog's health and also affect his trainability and personality. Companion Animal Psychology reports that chocolate, yellow, and black Labs were tested for trainability, fear of noises, unusual behaviors, fetching ability, and how the dogs responded to being ignored. Overall, black Labs scored the highest in all areas.
Chocolate Labs scored lower than both yellow and black Labs when it comes to how easy they were to train and their fear of noises, and they were more likely to exhibit unusual behaviors. Black Labs scored higher than both yellow and chocolate Labs when it comes to fetching, and they were less likely to be overly excitable or to get upset when ignored.
How Labs inherit their colors
Two sets of genes are what make a Lab dog black, yellow, or brown. One set of genes determines if a dog is brown or black, and the other determines if the first gene will be "turned off," resulting in a yellow Lab. While the science is rather complex, as the Labrador Site explains, there are essentially nine possible ways these two genes can express themselves. Four of these outcomes result in a black Lab, three result in a yellow Lab, and two result in a chocolate Lab.
This is why black Labs are the most common and why chocolate Labs, which can only be born to two parents carrying the recessive versions of both genes, are so rare. This is also why chocolate Labs are subject to more genetic defects, as breeders resort to smaller gene pools to increase the number of chocolate Labs they can breed.
It's worth noting that one litter can result in puppies of all three colors, regardless of what color the parents are.
More Labrador retriever facts
If you're looking for some fun Labrador retriever facts that apply to the breed as a whole, here are a few interesting tidbits:
- According to the American Kennel Club, they hail from Newfoundland, not Labrador, where they were the
result of small water dogs breeding with Newfoundland dogs.
- The Lab ranked as the most popular dog in America for 26 years.
- Labs are also the most popular breed when it comes to guide
dogs, accounting for 70 percent of all guide dogs.
- The breed's water-resistant coat, webbed toes, and otter-like tail make them champion swimmers. In fact, according to Mental Floss, they were originally bred to help their owners catch fish.
- They're also incredibly fast, able to reach speeds of 12 miles an hour in only three seconds.
- Mental Floss: 12 Friendly Facts About Labrador Retrievers
- The Labrador Site: Labrador Color Inheritance
- American Kennel Club: 8 Fun Facts About the Labrador Retriever
- Companion Animal Psychology: Are All Labrador Retrievers the Same?
- National Geographic: Why Chocolate Labs Don't Live as Long as Other Retrievers