Different Types of Labrador Retrievers

Matthew Nesbitt
By Matthew Nesbitt, Journalist specialized in animal research. Updated: February 27, 2024
Different Types of Labrador Retrievers

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There is only one breed of dog known as the Labrador Retriever, but there are different types within this breed. Originating in the United Kingdom, this breed has been developed since the middle-19th century. With such a long breeding lineage, it is no surprise that different types of Labrador Retriever have developed. Different breeders want to encourage different traits. This has resulted in two variations of the Labrador breed, the English and the American Lab type. The English-type Labrador is known as a conformation dog and is most commonly used in shows. The American-type Lab is known as a field dog since they are more active in canine-assisted activities such as hunting.

In this AnimalWised article, we look at the different types of Labrador Retrievers by showing you both of these two main breed variations, as well as a less common type. Keep reading to see these different types and see photos to help explain their differences.

You may also be interested in: The Different Labrador Retriever Colors


  1. How many types of Labrador Retriever are there?
  2. American Labrador Retriever (Field type)
  3. English Labrador Retriever (Conformation type)
  4. Canadian Labrador Retriever
  5. All different color types of Labrador Retrievers
  6. What type of Labrador Retriever is best for you?

How many types of Labrador Retriever are there?

The Labrador Retriever was a breed developed mainly by sailors who were sailing between England and Canada. Although it is a breed mainly developed in Britain, their name comes from the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Eastern Canada. In fact, some writers confused this dog with the Newfoundland breed. Although related, they do not have the same breed history.

One of the main reasons for their popularity is due to their name. Retriever type dogs were originally bred for hunting. They are a type of gun dog which was used to retrieve the prey which hunters had killed. As with many other types of working dogs, such as water rescue dogs or types of herding dog, their use as a working dog may have declined, but their popularity as companion animals has increased.

It is the distinction between companion animal and working dog Labrador Retrievers which has meant this breed has been divided into two main types. The two types of Labrador Retriever are the:

  • American Labrador Retriever
  • English Labrador Retriever

Breed standards are set by breed standard organizations. The breed standard for Labrador Retrievers was first established by the British The Kennel Club in 1903 and by the American Kennel Club in 1917. It is important to note that the majority of breed standard organizations do not make any official distinction between these two types of Labrador Retrievers. The differences are practical and more often used by breeders and guardians of the breed.

To better understand, we need to look at the two types of Labrador Retrievers more closely.

American Labrador Retriever (Field type)

Although a very popular dog in the United States, the American Labrador Retriever was not developed in the USA. All types of the Labrador Retriever breed originate from dogs developed in Britain. Even if their names suggest otherwise, the differences between American and English Labrador Retrievers are not to do with location.

As explained above, the differences are to do with whether or not they are working dogs or companion animals. American Labrador Retrievers are working dogs, which is why they are also sometimes referred to as Field Labrador Retrievers. These are the dogs which are most often used as working dogs on farms and other workplaces.

The American Labrador is more athletic, muscular and stylized than the English breed. Additionally, they have finer and slightly more elongated extremities than the English type. For example, their snout is noticeably longer than that of the latter, something you might be able to see in the photos below.

Aside from appearance, the temperament of the American Labrador Retriever is closer to that of a working dog character. They are more active and energetic, precisely because they are used more often to carry out the physically intensive exercise required of working dogs. In the home, this means they will need more exercise.

Since they have been developed to be hunting dogs, they have a more acute hunting instinct. While this is very useful on the farm, it is something which needs to be considered when adopting an American Labrador Retriever into the family. They need to be cared for by a guardian who can properly educate and teach them. Most importantly, their hunting instinct needs to be channeled into healthy behaviors. If this does not happen, they may be more likely to attack other pets or even members of the family.

If you are unsure whether your dog has genetics from another breed, take a look at our article on how to tell if you have a purebred Labrador Retriever.

Different Types of Labrador Retrievers - American Labrador Retriever (Field type)

English Labrador Retriever (Conformation type)

The English Labrador Retriever is known also as a Conformation Labrador. The reason for this is because they have typically been bred to be show dogs. While the majority will be used as companion animals, their genetic history has been geared toward their personal appearance more than ability to hunt.

Since the English type Labrador Retriever has not been bred as a working dog, they are not generally as athletic. The English Labrador Retriever has a larger frame and a slightly stockier build than their American cousin. You can see this stockiness in the photo below. They are also a late-maturing dog which can develop a fairly thick body and be more prone to obesity. This is especially the case with neutered dogs. They have relatively wide-set legs, a shorter snout and a moderately sized head.

The character of the English Labrador Retriever is delightful. They are very friendly, playful and affectionate. They make an ideal family pet. They are particularly good dogs for children. However, they will also need education, even if they are not a working dog. As with any dog, they may develop behavioral problems without it. The American Labrador Retriever can equally be a fantastic family dog as long as we show them the proper respect.

Different Types of Labrador Retrievers - English Labrador Retriever (Conformation type)

Canadian Labrador Retriever

Both the American and English types of Labrador Retriever were originally developed in Britain. After this time, both working type and show dogs were developed simultaneously in both the USA and UK. For this reason, we cannot necessarily say all working dogs are from America and vice versa.

However, the origin of all Labrador types specifically lies in Canada. When we speak of the Canadian Labrador Retriever, we are discussing the original specimen from which these breeds developed. It is not an extant breed, but one which was lost thanks to the popularity of current Labrador breed types. It was a breed which first emerged in the 16th century, but had changed significantly by the time the first recognized Labrador Retriever was developed.

All types of Labrador Retrievers have more shared characteristics than differences. For example, they are as likely as each other to develop the diseases common to the Labrador breed.

All different color types of Labrador Retrievers

The coat of all types of Labrador Retriever is thick, dense and soft. It is moisture resistant, one of the reasons why they are so fond of playing in water and useful for duck hunting. While there may be variations of tone over an individual dog's coat, officially recognized Labradors do not have spots or other patterns. The only accepted colors of Labrador Retriever are:

  • Black
  • Yellow
  • Chocolate

The first yellow Labrador Retriever was recognized at the end of the 19th century with most specimens being black before this time. This is one of the reasons some people confuse the Labrador Retriever with the Golden Retriever breed.

Some international kennel clubs allow for a gene variation which results in a silver Labrador Retriever. However, these are not officially recognized by most dogs shows and competitions. It is most often seen as a fault.

Different Types of Labrador Retrievers - All different color types of Labrador Retrievers

What type of Labrador Retriever is best for you?

It is important to remember that breed or type is not the most important factor when determining which dog is best for your home. Their individual personality and behaviors will depend to a greater extent on socialization, education, experience and other influences.

Some of us might think that an American Labrador Retriever will be better as a working dog since they were specifically bred for hunting. For someone who is specifically looking for a hunting companion, this may be the case. However, both types of Lab are ideal candidates for working dogs.

Although English Labs were bred as conformation dogs, this also means they are very adept at following instructions. They are just as intelligent and will be able to follow orders when given the correct education. If you are thinking of adopting a Labrador Retriever, base your choice on the individual dog. If they are a puppy, ensure they have been correctly weaned. You can also adopt an adult Labrador Retriever or a mixed-breed dog since many are in need of homes.

If you want to read similar articles to Different Types of Labrador Retrievers, we recommend you visit our Comparisons category.

  1. International Canine Federation. (2011). Labrador retriever. Retrieved from:
  • Canadian Kennel Club (2011). Retriever (labrador). Retrieved from:

  • Drakeshead Site. Drakeshead Labradors. Retrieved from: http: //

  • The Labrador Retriever Club of Canada. The labrador retriever: a Brief History. Retrieved from:
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Different Types of Labrador Retrievers