Why British Labs?



The modern labrador retriever originated from England in the 1880’s. Therefore, in a sense, all labradors are of British decent. When we talk about British vs. American labs, we are not talking about two distinct breeds.  We are discussing various characteristics that can be easily distinguished between field-bred British/Irish and field-bred American labradors. In these discussions, we commonly speak in generalizations. It is important to remember that there are always exceptions.

In the United States, working labradors are commonly bred for field trials and hunt tests.  A dog with a “good” or “strong” pedigree in America will have multiple AKC field trial or AKC/HRC hunt test awards in his lineage.  The same goes for well-bred UK dogs, except they will have many Kennel Club of England field trial champions or field trial winners in their lineage.  So what is the difference in a strong-pedigreed American dog and a well-bred UK dog? That all comes down to what is expected of the dogs in order to achieve these titles.

American field trials and hunt tests require a dog to have a ton of drive. They have to run hard, fast, and straight on multiple marks and blinds that sometimes exceed 300 yards. They need to handle crisply and quickly. Game finding, or use of the nose, is not of primary importance as crisp handling and marking generally distinguish the winners from the losers. Dogs must cross many types of terrain, especially water, and a larger size can be helpful for these type retrieves. Every dog gets the exact same retrieves in each event.

UK field trials require a dog to run hard toward game, both marked and blind retrieves. However, they also require a dog to be very quiet, steady, and calm on the line.  These dogs have to “honor” other dogs retrieving often, and they must do so with a lot of patience. Game-finding, or using their nose, is also of primary importance in a British or Irish trial. The British are also very keen on keeping their dogs as similar to the original size as possible, which is generally 45-75 pounds. Trials in the UK are actually a live hunt on various types of game, so no dog gets the exact same retrieve.

When you begin to breed dogs who excel in these two different types of trials, you can see how the dogs’ characteristics begin to shift in two different directions. American dogs, in general (remember, there are always exceptions) will be fast, driven, and bigger. They often have tendencies to whine or make noise in the blind, since blind manners are not strictly evaluated in American trials or tests. British and Irish dogs, on the other hand, will be calmer, quieter, and more apt to use their noses in the field. At the end of the day, one is not better than the other.  However, when it comes to placing a dog in a home as a family hunting companion, we believe that the traits found more commonly in well-bred UK dogs are preferable. This is why our breedings are strictly UK imported labrador retrievers with outstanding field champion pedigrees.

We feel that it is important to note that much damage has been done to the reputation of UK labradors by the careless importing and breeding of some kennels. A good British or Irish labrador is not slow, nor will he balk at cold water. Such dogs should not be bred for working/hunting homes. Our labradors are driven, stylish, fast, and, with the proper training, they love to retrieve birds from heavy cover, thick Mississippi mud, flowing rivers, and ice water.


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