English Labs and American Labs are two different types of dogs belonging to the Labrador retriever breed. Although English Labradors and American Labradors are not officially recognised terms but they are acknowledged universally and the difference between the two is very much apparent from the structure of their bodies.
According to the Labrador Retriever Club- an organisation recognised by the American Kennel Club as the Labrador’s parent club, there are variations within the Labrador retriever breed. These variations are based on their body structures which have been developed through interbreeding to suit the needs and preferences of the individual owners and trainers.
For example, those who wanted Labradors as family pets preferred English Labs. Whereas, those who wanted Labradors has hunting partners, preferred American Labs.
The division between American and English Labs are 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 vs American Labs
The main 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. The latter on the other hand, is more suitable for hunting and field trials. American Labs are taller, slimmer, and athletic and have more energy than English Labs.
Comparison Table Between English and American Labs (in Tabular Form)
|Parameter of Comparison||English Labs||American Labs|
|Definition||It is a variant of Labrador Retriever reared for conformation and show.||It 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.||Smart, 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 conformation 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 the novice dog owners. They are also easy to train.
It is important to note that English Labs are ultimately retrievers and therefore despite their docile nature, they love to have 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.
- 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 and for a male, it is 70-80 Ibs.
As mentioned earlier, English Labs are reared mainly for conformation 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 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 to hunt large and heavy forest cover.
The hunting styles of Americans are different from that of British. This is because the terrains and covers, the large size of the hunting areas and diverse landscapes found 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 came to know that these dogs are more versatile and have the combined skills of Spring Spaniels and Chesapeake Bay retrievers.
In terms of Temperament, American Labs are very smart and headstrong. They are very energetic and athletic and hence, needs to be constantly engaged in some kind of 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.
- 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 height 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 female 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 the 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. Whereas, American Labs are bred for hunting and fieldwork and are more suitable for sportsmen.
- In terms of Temperament, English Labs are calm, quiet, relaxed and reserved. While American Labs are smart, headstrong and energetic.
- The overall appearance of the English Labs can be described as broad but short. While, American Labs are narrow, lean and tall.
- English Labs are easy to train and therefore, considered to be the perfect dog for novice dog owners. American Labs, on the other hand, require someone experienced and athletic to train them and utilize their abilities to its fullest potential.
It is interesting to note that the origin of Labrador Retrievers is neither American nor English. Rather it is Canadian. It was first spotted in Newfoundland in the 1800s by the English nobles who visited Canada. It used to serve as a fisherman’s mate and duck retriever. The nobles noticed its potential for resisting cold water and weather and took some of these dogs to England where they refined and standardised it.
Since then, Labradors have been interbred with a variety of retrievers until the Anti-interbreeding law came up. American Labs and English Labs are the resultant products of such interbreeding. But that does not mean they belong to different breeds. They are simply two different types of a single breed called ‘Labrador Retriever’.