Labrador retrievers have held tight to the spot of No. 1 dog breed registered in the United States since 2003, according to the American Kennel Club. This sporting breed is energetic, family friendly and loving; while also being a full-service gun dog who can both flush game and retrieve it. The Lab doesn't belong only to Americans, though. A British version of the breed predates the American Labrador and shares many of the same characteristics.
The First Labrador
The Earl of Malmesbury brought the very first Labrador retriever to England from Newfoundland in the early 1800s. The Earl also is responsible for naming the dog breed and encouraging its popularity as a gun dog. Most Labs in the U.S. descended from this and other English Labradors. They didn't appear in the United States until after World War I. The American Kennel Club registered its first Labrador retriever in 1917. Shortly after British imports of the Labrador flooded the United States and the breed thrived.
Although some differences in appearance are detectable when you compare English and American Labradors, the American Kennel Club and the Kennel Club -- the branch in the United Kingdom -- do not recognize an official difference between the two. English Labradors tend to have a stockier, slightly smaller build than American Labradors. American Labradors feature a longer nose, longer legs and, sometimes, an upward curling tail. Both types should have a distinctive "otter" tail that is thicker at the base and gradually tapers to the end. The tail of a British Labrador is shorter and his head is more block-like, as well. British Labs tend to fit the breed standard more exactly than do American Labs and hence win more often in the show ring.
American Labradors may have been subject to more inbreeding and thus suffer from a number of possible health problems not as commonly seen in British Labs. Hip and elbow dysplasia, common in both types of Lab, can lead to diminished range of motion and pain. Retinal dysplasia, an abnormality in the light sensitive portion of the eye, is another inherited disorder common in both types of Labs and can cause blindness. Exercise induced collapse in which the dog collapses as a result of hard exercise, and canine neuromuscular myopathy, are health conditions more common in American Labs.
Little difference in the temperament of British and American Labs exist. Rosewood Kennels, located in Utah, claims that American Labs tend to be a bit more energetic than the British Lab. In general, though, Labs possess loving, devoted personalities that make them excellent service pets. They're also known for their patience and intelligence.
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