Differences Between American and English Labs

If you’ve surfed the Internet at all, you’ve probably come across the term “English Labrador” or “American Labrador”. What’s the difference? Good question and one I hope to explain here. Now remember these are my opinions.

Frankly, an “English” Lab is one born in England. An “American” Lab is one born in the USA. The proper terms are Show/Bench bred and Field bred Labradors. You see, there are English dogs which run field trials and American dogs that are shown in dog shows. To categorize them as English or American just by type tends to get confusing.

English “Show” Breed
American “Field” Breed

Shorter on legs
Heavier body
Thicker tail
Thicker coat
Shorter muzzle
Wider head

Longer on legs
Lighter body
Thinner tail
Thinner coat
Longer muzzle
Skinnier head

There are many Labs which are crossed between the two main types of show bred and field bred. They might not resemble either type.

Some say that show bred dogs make better pets since they are calmer around the house. In my experience I have found that the show bred type calms down sooner than the field bred type. However, this is not always true nor is it an absolute. I’ve seen show bred dogs that would eat your home and everything in it if left alone and field bred dogs that would sleep all day on the couch, until you got out the gun. You can’t make assumptions based on type.

There are some people who would like to split the breed of Labrador saying there are 3 distinct types (English, American and Field), but actually what they call “American” looks more like the true “English” show bred Labrador. Most dogs imported from the UK are moderate in type. Confused yet? Join the crowd.

Now I will warn you that if you really want to tick off a show person, call their dog a pigador. Their dogs might look different from what you might own, but in no way are they all fat. Some are carrying a lot of coat and the coat rounds out their bodies. Just as not every field Lab resembles a greyhound, not all show Labs are fat. We’re trying to stop with the stereotypes here.

Its important to have an idea on which type you prefer before you start looking for a puppy. This does not mean that a show bred Labrador might not be a delightful hunting companion or that a field bred Labrador might not be correct and able to compete in the show ring. Many breeders believe that a Labrador should be able to do both.

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  • debby voisin

    I have a an american lab who is 15 month old but always pees and poops in the house, how can i stop him from doing this??????????? I am ready to get rid of him?? can you please help me?????? I love him, but i cant handle this any more. any suggesttins ???????> thankyou.

  • Debbie

    Oh and by the way, we did train her for hunting, and what a wonderful hunter she is, she also likes to go fishing, she has one fish caught already.

  • Debbie

    We have an English yellow lab and have friends that have the American, there is a big difference in there body structure. Our yellow has thicker bones, shorter legs, big chested. She is 5 years old AKC registered and just a wonderful dog, sometimes I think she is human. Anyone out there thinking of getting a dog for your kids, stick with any of the labs, they all make great dogs.

    • http://www.8pawsup.com Shannon Steffen

      Yes, Labrador Retrievers make great family pets. However, I have to say that the English (Show) Labrador Retriever seems to be much more at home with a family than the American (Field) Labrador Retriever – unless you plan on hunting. Field Labs need to get out that energy hunting and can easily take it out on the household items when left to their own devices.

  • John

    On New Years Eve day, I took my daughters to buy a new Yellow Lab. The breeder breeds American Filed Labs and I was a bit hesitant about the breed. We have an English Lab of 7 years old and he is the most handsome dog and well behaved dog I have ever had. Needless to say once my daughters saw the puppies, there was no way we were going home empty handed. We left with a female pup and she is a great and loving puppy, now 5 months old.

    These are my observations. English Labs are mellower and much better looking. American Labs are more hyper and very much on the thin side, plus have longer legs. I love them both very much. If you want an easier dog to train and just have a more relaxed experience raising your Lab, get an English. Our American is a lot more like an Irish Setter that I had as a kid. None stop until she sleeps.

  • Cori1011

    Inhave a black lab. He runs 2 miles a day.

  • penny shatford

    One more thing I would like to add. I have read that The Field type Labrador have been know to suffer from separation anxiety in my case this is very true. I have been trying to leave her for longer times each day. It is a problem for us. Saying that I have heard stories of other Labs eating thier way through the whole house. Lulu hasn’t ever. Even when I have left her. She isn’t hyperactive because I walk and run her everyday twice a day. I really do feel that Lulu type really do need more excercise than the show or her larger body counterparts.
    Once the walks over and Lulu has been fed ( her next fav thing ) is over she will lay down on the carpet happy all afternoon. Like any other labrador. Anyway what could be better, it makes me walk gets me out I would be watching TV.

  • penny shatford

    I have an 18 month old choc lab called Lulu. I didn’t know there was any differences in the type, but there is. Lulu is a field type. Very long in the body taller thinner tail and head. I couldn’t understand why Lulu and I seemed to be walking at a quicker pace than everybody else with their labs. I would see other Labradors and just think that they were over weight. lulu runs everywhere, still wants to play even after a two hour 8 mile walk. Saying that she is the most loving, gental smashing dog I have ever owned. Good with everybody. Plays and loves every other dog. Calm in the house. Never put a paw wrong in the home. loves cars travel, jumps in the bath loves everything and everybody and I wouldn’t be without her. Love is a feild type labrador. xx

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  • Debbie

    Rebecca — I did the same thing with my female. I allowed her to have one heat and spayed her at 14 months. I think the medical profession is finally beginning to realize that early spaying can be very harmful.

  • rebecca

    We have an English style lab. He is shorter, stocky, thick head, and gorgeous. He is also calm and sweet. We did the research on neutering early vs later and decided to wait to allow his bone growth plates to close properly and his bones to fully form in order to avoid hip problems and the lanky look. Not a choice for everyone and not everyone agrees, but one that worked for us.

  • Debbie

    Based on what I’ve read, the AKC standard supports the English type as being more true to the breed.

  • debbie

    Our yellow lab, Sawyer, is and American Field bred.

    Had the breeder not explained the differences to us when we went to see the litter, we would have thought her mother was a lab and her father was a deer in the yard…

    …she has long legs, a skinny body, small head, and big brown eyes (to go with her tons of energy and the ability to chase frisbees all day!).

  • http://www.8pawsup.com Shannon

    The larger the dog, the more prone to hip problems. The size of the bones can have a great deal of effect on the dog but it is more about the weight on their joints. Bones are proportional to the dog so as long as you keep the pup lean and at the right weight, you can significantly decrease the chances of hip problems or issues if they already have hip problems.

  • Wasfou

    I actually didn’t know about these two types until I came across a picture of a black lab up for adoption (rescue) that was way too stalky to be a lab (imho). That’s when I found out about the show labs. He’s now a member of our household and I must say that for a 14-month puppy, he’s quite calm and for a show bred dog (definitely not mixed, you should see his head and body!) he is quite tall!

    I’m curious to know whether show bred dogs are more prone to hip displacia than field bred due to the stalky body and tendency for shorter legs…

  • http://southernwebgirl.blogspot.com Southern Web Girl

    This is great information. My almost 2-year-old female chocolate is definitely an American field breed. Her legs go on forever and she is hyper as heck. But with daily walks and aging into an adult dog she is starting to calm down a bit and has really become a lounge-about the past month or two!