English Lab vs American Lab: Different Types Of Labradors

Knowing you want a Labrador Retriever is an easy step to take.

But things get complicated when you realize there are two different types of Labradors out there.

If choosing between these two is a dilemma, we are here to help.

Our comparison of the English Lab vs American Lab in this article will arm you with all the needed information to help you decide.

What are the Two Types of Labrador Retrievers?

The Labrador Retriever is subdivided into two types – the American Labrador (field type) and the English Labrador (show type).

The American Labrador Retriever is named so, not because it originated in America, but because it is more common there.

The same applies to the English Labrador, which is more popular in England.

These types of Labrador Retrievers are not distinct breeds but are all the same dog breed.

Knowing the similarities and key differences can make it easier for you to ascertain which of the types of Labrador Retrievers is best for your family and lifestyle.

English Lab vs American Lab Side by Side – A Comparison

English Labrador and American Labrador Side by Side
English vs American Lab (right) side by side

Is there any recognized difference between English Labrador and American labrador?

The American Kennel Club, The Kennel Club in the United Kingdom, and others do not have separate standards for these two types.

Even more, every Labrador registered by these major Kennel Clubs is under the name “Labrador Retriever”. 

That said, if you put them together it isn’t hard to spot the differences. Here are some basic facts about each subtype:

FactsAmerican LabradorsEnglish Labradors
Height21 to 25 inches21 to 25 inches
Weight55 to 80 pounds55 to 85 pounds
EnergyHighHigh
HealthMediumMedium
GroomingMediumMedium
TemperamentIntelligent, friendly, lovingIntelligent, friendly, loving

English Labrador vs American Labrador – History & Origin

So, was the original Labrador Retriever English or American?

It was neither. Even more, the ancestor of the Labrador Retriever did not come from Labrador.

It originated in Newfoundland, Canada, and was named the St. John’s Dog.

This breed assisted fishermen in retrieving fish, and also served as a companion to the families. 

The St John’s Dog became popular and soon found its way to England. It was in England that it got the name “Labrador Retriever”.

In the 19th century, the St John’s Dog got extinct in Newfoundland because of tax laws and restrictions.

The Lab would have gotten extinct too, but it got saved by the Malmesbury family.

It gained popularity after the Second World War, and soon became the most popular dog breed in America. 

In North America—specifically Canada—the Labrador Retriever continued to be bred mainly for its work abilities.

In England, the emphasis shifted to its looks. It was from these different motives that the two types of Labradors developed. 

English Lab vs American Lab – What is the Difference?

1. Appearance

As we stated above, there are no different standards for the American and English Labrador, according to the major kennel clubs.

However, there are some subtle distinctions one can pick out in appearance.

The English Labrador has a stocky build, with a wide chest and short legs. It also has thick fur and a thicker tail.

Because it is bred for show, the English Labrador follows strict appearance requirements.

English Labrador Sitting on Grass Near Tree

This is unlike the American Labrador, where the focus is more on its abilities than its looks. 

The American Labrador is slimmer and taller, with a thin coat, long neck, and muzzle. But even with the slimness, the American Labrador has strong muscles.

Because this subtype is bred for work rather than show, it may not always conform to the major kennel club’s standards.

Black American Labrador Retriever Standing on Grass

2. Temperament

The American and English Labs also have some subtle temperament differences. And when you’re considering which subtype to choose, this is a big factor.

If you prefer a dog with a calmer personality, the English Labrador is the best option for you.

American Labradors were built to work, and they have a lot of energy to spare. They need more exercise due to that.

English Labradors are generally easier to train because of their calmness, but American Labradors learn faster once you succeed in making them calm down

Both of them are good family dogs, friendly towards kids, eager to please and accomodating with everyone. They both won’t pass off an opportunity for a good cuddle. 

3. Energy Level

The American Labrador is highly energetic as it needs a lot of energy to work, but this doesn’t mean the English Labrador isn’t energetic too.

All Labradors have a high level of energy owing to their St John Dog’s heritage. The American Lab just happens to have more than the English Lab.

Overall, you need to consider whether you can handle an energetic dog before getting this breed, whether American or English.

Neither is suitable for an apartment nor should they be in the hands of someone who dislikes exercise.

They need active owners who will not neglect their exercise needs. 

4. Exercise

Active Labrador Dog Leaping to Catch Frisbee Disc at Park

The American Labrador has a higher energy level and was bred for the fields. Thus, it needs more exercise.

This doesn’t change much, though, because even the English Labrador should be exercised regularly. 

Both subtypes can be exercised for at least one hour. The only difference here is that while the English Labrador may relax after 1 hour, the American Labrador might want more. 

Neglecting the exercise level of any variant of this breed would leave it bored, and a bored Labrador is a destructive one.

If you don’t want to see your properties destroyed, do well to exercise your Labrador. 

Both Labradors would love to swim because of their past, so swimming is one activity you can engage them in. They also make good jogging companions, and may even be up for a hike.

Do not overexert your Labrador, however. Once you notice telltale signs of exhaustion, stop the exercise.

This breed is prone to exercise-induced collapse, and it is highly risky.

Dive Deeper:
Complete Labrador Retriever Exercise Guide: How Much Is Enough?

5. Grooming

Though the English Labrador has thicker fur and a broader frame, the grooming need of both subtypes are similar.

They need a bath on occasion, say once every six weeks, or when they get too dirty (which might occur more often for the American Lab if you use it to work).

Do not bathe your Labrador too much or you risk cleaning off the natural oil on the skin.

Recommended:
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Both Labradors shed and are not good news for allergy sufferers. During those periods, they need daily brushing.

Shedding usually happens during Summer and Spring when the topcoat is no longer needed for protection.

During non-shedding seasons, they don’t need daily brushing. Once or twice a week would be enough.

Recommeded:
10 Best Brush For Short Hair Dogs

6. Feeding

If you own an American Labrador for work purposes, it will need more food than the English Labrador.

But if they are both for household purposes, then the feeding level would be the same, or close.

That is about 3 cups of a meal, which you can divide into 2 times a day. Both Lab variants need a high-quality meal. 

Labradors love food, and that statement applies to both American and English variants. Consequently, they tend to eat a lot.

This has its pros and cons. It isn’t hard to get a Labrador to eat, but obesity is always at the doorstep.

You need to ration the meal and be observant of any weight changes. Treats should be moderate too.

Recommended:
How Much to Feed a Lab Puppy? Labrador Food Guide

7. Health

The American Labrador and English Labrador are both healthy breeds with the same lifespan of 10 to 12 years.

An American Lab out in the fields might be more vulnerable to injuries and accidents, but as pets, both variants are prone to the same illnesses. 

One such health condition is the exercise-induced collapse that we mentioned above.

American Labrador Retrievers might be more at risk because of their high energy level, but it affects both subtypes.

Exercise-induced collapse happens just as it sounds – the dog collapses and could die in minutes if not rushed to the hospital.

Hip dysplasia is another medical condition that can affect both Labrador types, as well as many other dog breeds out there.

Bigger dogs are more susceptible to this issue than smaller ones. Hip dysplasia is inherited and can lead to arthritis or even lameness.

Other problems to look out for are cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, elbow dysplasia, bloating, epilepsy and myopathy.

8. Training

Labrador Training Outdoors

Both Labrador types are easy to train, eager to please, and suitable for both new and old pet parents. Whatever your level of experience is, this breed will learn.

Their high trainability is what makes them good candidates for services like guiding the blind and being therapy dogs.

Having said that, they both pose different challenges. The American Lab with its higher energy gets distracted faster and may show more stubbornness than the English Lab.

The latter, however, tends to learn slower because the American Lab was bred for work.

In a household where the work/show distinction doesn’t apply, the challenges are more prominent.

But that shouldn’t be a bother if you know what you’re doing. With the American Lab, aim to keep training short and interesting so it won’t get bored and distracted.

The English Lab might need longer periods, and they would love to learn tricks.

Both variants are food motivated, so giving treats is a good form of positive reinforcement.

9. Purpose

The purpose of the American Lab and the English Lab has been clearly stated in the course of our article, but here is it in a nutshell. 

The American Labrador was bred for work and is also called the work-type Labrador or Field Labrador.

The English Labrador was bred to partake in shows and is also called the show-type Labrador or the Bench Labrador.

These roles aren’t set in stone, though. Some English Labs are used to work while American Labs can be registered for competition.

No one bothers. Also, both make good family dogs.

10.  Price

On average, both the English and American Labrador puppies cost around $1,200.

If you want to get an English Labrador puppy exclusively for shows, know that a better bloodline means more money.

Excellent show dogs have a good lineage and are sold at a higher price. American Labradors also have winning bloodlines.

There isn’t much difference between the prices as other factors have their influence.

If you want to shop, your focus should be on finding a reputable breeder. The subtype differences don’t matter if you wound up with an ill-bred Lab puppy.

Because the Labrador Retriever is popular, the chances of buying a poorly raised puppy are high.

Therefore, you should make sure you’re getting your money’s worth, and avoid backyard breeders or puppy mills.

You can also opt for adoption by visiting a rescue shelter and giving an abandoned Labrador a home.

Related Questions

What is a Drakeshead Labrador?

Contrary to what most people may think, there is no special type of Labrador name known as Drakeshead Lab. Drakeshead is the British Labrador Kennel name.

Drakeshead Kennel is known in England for breeding and competing work-type Labs.

Are English or American Labs better?

In truth, no Labrador type is better than the other. This classification doesn’t matter in many cases and to many pet parents.

Unless you’re getting a Lab for work or show, both can fit in family settings.

Was the English Lab bred in England and the American Lab in the United States?

The names have nothing to do with origin. As a breed, the Labrador Retriever originated in Canada before getting into the United States and England.

The American Labrador is more popular in the U.S. because Americans prioritized work.

Conversely, the English Labrador is more popular in England because they were focused more on looks.

Is the English Labrador more hyper than the American?

The English Labrador is less energetic compared to the American Labrador.

The latter was bred to work, so it has a high level of energy. Both need regular exercise, however. 

Is the English Labrador bigger in size than the American Labrador?

The English and American Labrador fall within the same size range, but because the English Lab has a stockier frame and a fluffier coat, it tends to weigh slightly more.

On its side, the American Lab is slightly taller than the English Labrador. 

Are the English and American Labradors different breeds?

The American and English Labradors are both classified as the same breed, not different ones.

They are both Labradors and share the same standards, despite the subtle differences. 

Conclusion

Comparing the English vs American Labrador, the differences are not many, and in a household, they both offer similar strengths.

That said, if you prefer a calmer dog, the English Lab is a better fit. It is also better if registering for shows is on your plan.

However, if you own a farm and want a canine assistant, the American Lab is the best for you.

References & Notes

Authored By

Ben Pierce

Ben Pierce is a canine behavioral and nutritional specialist, professional dog trainer, and the CEO of Puplore. A former military working dog handler, Ben founded Puplore to provide owners with breed-specific information and to act as a go-to guide to health, nutrition, care, and to help them find the confidence they need to step up to the plate and become the best pup parents they can possibly be. A firm believer in treating all animals with kindness and compassion, and that positive discipline is paramount in achieving a harmonious canine-human relationship, Ben’s former and present careers have enabled him to become a leading light in his chosen profession and business.

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