What Is a British Lab?

The English Lab is bred primarily for companionship or the show ring, not field sports.
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The British Labrador retriever, also known as the English Lab, is not just a dog registered with Great Britain's Kennel Club rather than the American Kennel Club. English Lab also refers to a specific type of dog, which differs from the "American" type, but is AKC registered. Many sportsmen prefer the terms "conformation" versus "working" Labs rather than English or American.

The Labrador Retriever

The Labrador retriever has North American and British roots. The breed originated in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Related to the much larger Newfoundland breed, this somewhat smaller dog originally was used to aid fishermen in retrieving their catches. Brought to England in the early 19th century, British sportsmen refined the breed into an outstanding hunting dog and companion animal.


British Labrador retrievers are smaller than the American type. A British Lab matures at 50 to 70 pounds, while the American Lab's weight ranges between 60 and 90 pounds. With both types, males are larger than females. The English Lab has shorter legs and a more dense coat than his American counterpart. The head of the English tends towards the square, while the American has a longer muzzle and smaller head. While English and American-type Labs registered with the AKC might be black, yellow or chocolate, Labs registered with the Kennel Club also can be dark red.


Labs, especially in their youth, are high-energy canines. The English Lab tends to be calmer and less excitable than the American type. This temperament trait makes them somewhat easier to train, as they are more focused and less in need of correction than the American Lab. He's eager to please, good-natured and smart, making the English Lab a good choice for a guide or therapy dog.

Conformation and Field Dogs

Although the English Lab might be best-known in the show ring, judged on conformation, that doesn't mean he can't make a good field dog. As the Pheasants Forever website notes, the difference between the English and American Lab in the field is more about style than ability. American Labs might have better eyesight in the field, but the English Lab might possess the better nose. Pheasants Forever describes the American Lab as a "high energy hunting machine" and the British type as a "calm and thoughtful hunting machine."