What are Silver Labradors?
Labrador Retrievers are usually only born with one of three coat colors: black, yellow and chocolate. The yellow Labradors have a wide array of shades, from very light yellow to creamy yellow or even a darker, beautiful butterscotch. The brown Labradors come in shades of brown from medium to dark brown. Black Labs have maintained their uniform blackness – or have they? Recent news has developed about the existence of another color, still only recognized by only a few breeders. This new, unique coat color has earned them the name of Silver Labrador retrievers.
The Silver Labrador’s Unique Coat Coloring
Like most living things, the genetic make-up of Labradors is complex. In particular regards to coloring, the color of a Labrador is controlled by the pairing of genes B and E as well as their recessive counterparts, B and E. The combinations of these genes make up the apparent coat color of the dogs.
However, researchers have speculated on the presence of the D gene and its counterpart, d. When the D gene is present, the coat color of the dog is richer and darker. If the same gene is turned off, the coat color will dilute, hence the variations of shades in yellow and brown Labs.
In application, it is important to remember that the coat color is determined because of gene pairings. The D gene is dominant over the recessive d gene. If both a D gene and A D gene are present in the pairing, the dilution effect brought by the D gene is canceled out, and the Labrador will have a solid coat color. Therefore, most Labradors will have a rich coat color despite carrying the D gene because the D gene dominates the pairing. A Labrador will only get its silver color when it is born with the pairing of two recessive d genes, making silver labs incredibly rare.
The most popular theory on how the D gene got introduced to the Lab pool is through cross-breeding with Weimaraners. While there is no substantial evidence on how the gene was introduced to the silver Labradors, this theory allows for breed purists to deny the Silver Labs of the pure breed title.
Silver Labradors as a Pure Breed
The argument on whether or not the Silver Lab exists is all about semantics. Apparently, these dogs exist. If you were to google search silver Labradors right now, you would find many adorable pictures of silvery-brown puppies with soft eyes. However, their inclusion as an official breed is a lot more debatable because of their possible origins of a cross breed.
Many purists and dedicated breeders do not consider the Silver Labradors as a pure breed and scorn the breeders that produce them. In many countries, these Labradors could be registered as a pedigree. In the United States, the silver Labradors could be registered as chocolate because most of these silvers have a diluted chocolate color. In some countries, Silver Labradors are not recognized at all.
The vast majority of the traditional breeders believe that Silver Labradors do not truly exist. While it cannot be argued that there exists a Labrador that has its silver color, it cannot be recognized as a pure Labrador. These breeders say that the existence of Silver Labs goes against the breed’s standards. Producers of the silver Labradors consider these dogs a pure breed, tracing the ancestry back to a few generations of pedigree history. They claim that the silver litter mates are registered as pedigree, and so the silver Labradors should be able to do the same.
What Do Silver Labradors Look Like?
Despite their color similarities to black and yellow Labradors, the recessive gene pairing that results in a silver lab happens exclusively in chocolate Labradors. At present, some breeders have introduced the recessive genes to the blacks and yellows to create three additional types of colors in Labradors; the chocolate recessive Labs with diluted colors are known as silver Labrador retrievers, diluted black Labs as charcoal Labrador retrievers and yellow Labs with diluted color are champagne Labrador retrievers. These Labradors is still registered as either chocolate or non-recognized in the case of black and yellow Labs. Even if their colors are not formally recognized, if the parents are registered the puppy may also be registered.
When Did Silver Labradors First Appear?
Up until the early 1950’s, silver Labradors were nowhere to be seen. There is not a single mention of them until a gun dog magazine published a Kellogg’s Kennel’s advert around 1950 declared that there was a rare gray breed of Labrador, later to be called the silver Labrador retriever.
As for where they came from, there is no accurate account of their first appearance. Silver Labradors first official mention was in an advert as mentioned earlier, despite the Labrador’s long history, which stretches back into the 1800’s. Even looking through detailed logs that breeders have kept through the development of Labs shows no evidence of earlier occurrence.
They also could have appeared from a spontaneous genetic mutation in their color genes. If this were the case, the argument around their validity would be very different.
Silver Labrador Behavior and Health
Silver Labradors behave like all breeds of Labradors do, with affection and sensitivity. They are known to be hyper dogs that need a lot of training, but the payoff is excellent. They are very pretty, well-behaved, and have good instincts. They are excellent with kids and love to play and interact with the family. If trained correctly, silver Labrador retrievers make excellent hunting companions and family dogs.
However, they are also known to have their traits, separate from the rest of the Lab community. They have the hunt point retriever trait, making them a rarity among Labs. As an effect of their double-recessive genealogy, silver Labradors also has a greater chance for coat problems. Specifically, with DD genes, there is higher hair loss at a younger age; Silver Labradors sometimes lose a lot of their fur for no reason.