English or American Labrador?

If you’ve surfed the Internet at all, you’ve probably come across the term “English Labrador” or “American Labrador”.  What’s the difference?  Good question and one I hope to explain here.  Now remember these are my opinions. 

Frankly, an “English” Lab is one born in England.  An “American” Lab is one born in the USA.  The proper terms are Show/Bench bred and Field bred Labradors. You see, there are English dogs which run field trials and American dogs that are shown in dog shows.  To categorize them as English or American just by type tends to get confusing.

Quiz time.  Is this an “English” or “American” Labrador?

Not sure?  Well actually this dog is an English import, show type.  So this dog is truly an English Lab.  He is of the more “moderate” type of show Lab.  More about that in a minute. 

How about this one?

This is a dog that was born in the USA and is another show type.  Many of his ancestors were born in England and imported to the US. 

By using the term “English” one can get confused as to what someone is talking about.  This is why I say the proper term should be show or field-bred type.

Show Bred

A show bred Labrador generally is shorter on leg, has a heavier body, thicker tail and coat than a field bred Lab.  Most show bred Labradors have a shorter muzzle and wider head than a field bred Lab.  

The dog on the left is an example of a show bred Lab. 

This is an example of the body of a show bred Lab.

Now know that there are different “types” in either the show bred or field bred Labs. 

Some of the show bred types are more “moderate”.  These dogs are like the dogs above.  Not extreme in any way.

Another show type head.

There is also the type of show-bred Labradors which are heavier and shorter than the moderate type. 

Many times this is just an illusion.  The coat can make the dog look heavier and rounder.

The owner of the above dog says that she looks totally different, when she is out of coat.  Her coat makes her look heavier than she is.

There is debate on which type is the correct show type, but that is not what the point of this page is about.  It’s a matter of taste. 

Field Bred

Field dogs tend to have a lighter body and longer legs.  Their coats aren’t as thick and their tails tend to be thinner. 

The field-bred Labrador’s head is generally not as wide as a show-bred Lab and the muzzle tends to be longer.


Again, there are varying “types” within field bred Labradors as well as the show type so keep that in mind.


This dog’s parents were bred for field trials.  Note his blockier head.  I bet there are some bench dogs in his pedigree somewhere.


Pet bred

Pet bred means someone took a couple of Labs and bred them together with no rhyme or reason besides that they were both Labs. No pedigree research, no breeding type to type “Hey you have a Lab, let’s breed it”. This is why most pet-bred dogs vary so much in size, shape, and looks.

This is NOT the same as a pet-quality dog from a show breeder.

There are many Labs that are crossed between the two main types of show bred and field bred.  They might not resemble either type. An example of this would be the yellow above.

Some say that showbred dogs make better pets since they are calmer around the house.  In my experience, I have found that the show-bred type calms down sooner than the field-bred type.  However, this is not always true nor is it an absolute. I’ve seen show-bred dogs that would eat your home and everything in it if left alone and field-bred dogs that would sleep all day on the couch until you got out the gun.  You can’t make assumptions based on type.

There are some people who would like to split the breed of Labrador saying there are 3 distinct types (English, American, and Field), but actually what they call “American” looks more like the true “English” show-bred Labrador. Most dogs imported from the UK are moderate in type.  Confused yet?  Join the crowd. 

Now I will warn you that if you really want to tick off a show person, call their dog a pigador.  Their dogs might look different from what you might own, but in no way are they all fat.  Some are carrying a lot of coat and the coat rounds out their bodies.  Just as not every field Lab resembles a greyhound, not all show Labs are fat.  We’re trying to stop the stereotypes here.

It’s important to have an idea of which type you prefer before you start looking for a puppy.  This does not mean that a show-bred Labrador might not be a delightful hunting companion or that a field-bred Labrador might not be correct and able to compete in the show ring.  Many breeders believe that a Labrador should be able to do both.