Labrador Retrievers are most commonly seen in three colors: Yellow, Chocolate and Black. The color range in each of these color classifications can vary, so some Labradors may be quite different in appearance. There are many theories about Labradors that are based specifically on their coat color, mostly due to pure speculation.
MYTHS ABOUT LABRADOR COLORS
There is a very common myth that Yellow Labrador Retrievers are the least likely type of Labrador to be affected by health problems. This is because it is believed that Black and Chocolate Labrador Retrievers are subject to more interbreeding for color, without regard to genetic health issues. Veterinary experts strongly discourage this belief, as there is no current proof that color affects susceptibility to health related problems. More dogs are interbred to highlight specific traits, such as hunting skills, than are interbred purely for a desired color.
Another popular myth is that the Black Labrador Retriever has the best temperament of all of the Labrador’s color variations. In England, during the foundations of the Labrador breed, Chocolate and Yellow Labradors were seen as incorrect color variations, and were attempted to be bred out. The misconception that the Black Labrador is the “correct” form of the Labrador Retriever still continues to this day, even though Chocolate and Yellow colors have been proven to be legitimate color variations of the Labrador Retriever breed.
GENETICS BEHIND COLOR DIFFERENCES
Black is the most common color seen in Labrador Retrievers. To understand how a Labrador Retriever inherits a black coat, it is important to first understand the genetics of Labrador coat coloration. Basically, there are two separate locuses that contain genes that affect a Labrador’s coat color. The first locus is called the “E” locus, which is the dominant coat color. The second locus is called the “B” locus, which is the brown coat color variation.
A Black Labrador Retriever has at least one copy of the dominant allele for black coat coloration. If a Black Labrador Retriever has two copies of the dominant coat allele, it is more likely that any resulting litter from that dog will also be black (depending on the color combinations in their mate).
A Chocolate Labrador Retriever also has one copy of the dominant allele for black coat coloration. The difference between a Black and a Chocolate Labrador, however, is that Chocolate Labradors also have a double recessive gene in the “B” locus.
A Yellow Labrador Retriever has a double recessive gene in the “E” locus. In addition to this, a Yellow Labrador will also have a double recessive gene in the “B” locus.
The color of a Labrador Retriever’s nose is also defined by the placement of dominant and recessive genes. For example, a Yellow Labrador with a double recessive gene in the “E” locus, and a double recessive gene in the “B” locus, will have a brown nose. A Yellow Labrador with a double recessive gene in the “E” locus, and one dominant gene in the “B” locus will have a black nose.