Origin and Purpose

The Labrador Retriever originated and developed on the island of Newfoundland as an all purpose waterdog and functional retriever. The breed was preserved in England after anti-dog legislation almost decimated the breed in its homeland. The breed is noted for its love of retrieving and water, for its excellent nose, soft mouth, intelligence and biddable temperament. Extraordinary versatility allows Labradors to excel as hunting, service, and therapy dogs; in search and rescues; in drug and bomb detection; as family companions, and in performance and field events.

General Appearance

Medium sized, strongly built, compact, short-coupled, powerful, athletic; broad in skull; broad and deep through chest and ribs; broad and powerful over loins and hindquarters. A water resistant double coat, otter tail, and sound temperament are essential breed characteristics.

Proportion and Size


Distance from withers to elbow approximately equal to distance from elbow to ground; length from point of shoulder to point of rump very slightly longer than height at withers. A well -balanced dog is the ideal.


Ideal height at withers: Dogs 22 ½ – 24 ½ inches (57 – 62 cm); Bitches 21 ½ – 23 ½ inches (54 -60 cm). Weight commensurate with height and with the breed’s function as a medium sized, powerful, active retriever. Approximate weights: Dogs 60-80 lbs (27.27-36.36 kilos); Bitches 55-75 lbs (25-34.09 kilos).

Coat and Colour

Coat Distinctive Feature

Outer coat short, straight, although a slight wave down the back is also correct; dense without feathering, giving fairly hard feel to the touch; soft, dense weather-resistant undercoat.


Wholly black, yellow or chocolate. Small white spot on chest permissible. Yellows range from light cream to fox red with variations in the shadings on ears, under parts, hocks, and down the back. Chocolates range from light sedge to dark chocolate.


Black in blacks and yellows; brown or liver in chocolates. Pigmentation fading to a lighter shade in yellows not to be penalized.


Head and Skull

A kindly, gentle expression is characteristic of the breed. Skull broad with defined stop; clean-cut without fleshy cheeks. Muzzle of medium length, powerful, not snipey. Muzzle and skull on parallel planes and of approximately equal lengths. Nose wide; nostrils well developed.


Medium size, expressing intelligence and good temper; almond or diamond shape, not round; color dark brown or hazel.


Medium sized; hanging close to head and set rather far back.


Jaws and teeth strong; scissor bite.


Clean, strong, medium length, good reach; set into well-placed shoulders.



Shoulders long and sloping. Forelegs well boned and straight from elbow to ground when viewed from either front or side. Legs of medium length, not short.


Strong, short, sloping slightly from the perpendicular.


Compact, round, medium sized; well arched toes; well developed pads.


Chest of good width and depth; well-sprung ribs. Brisket extends to the elbows. Straight, level topline. Loins wide, short-coupled and strong.


Well developed, great power, not sloping to tail; well turned stifle. Hocks well let down; cowhocks highly undesirable.

Tail Distinctive Feature

Very thick towards base, straight, gradually tapering towards tip, medium length, free from feathering, but clothed thickly all round with thick, dense coat, giving “rounded” appearance described as “otter” tail. Tail may be carried ‘happily’ but not at more than a 35-degree angle with the back. Tail an extension of the topline and balances the dog.


Free, effortless, powerful, covering adequate ground with good reach and drive; straight and true in front and rear. Tending to converge at higher speeds.


Any departure from the foregoing ideal should be considered a fault. The seriousness with which the fault should be regarded must be in proportion to its degree and its effect upon the dog’s function as a working retriever.


The background breeding of the Labrador Retriever may never be established, but it is safe to assume that the breed’s ancestors were taken to Newfoundland by explorers, fishermen, and settlers from England, Europe, and Norway. Thus the dogs, which subsequently were thought to be native to Labrador and Newfoundland, were in all probability the descendants of dogs left there in early years. They adapted to their environment, and by natural selection had evolved into two distinct types: one was the large heavy-coated dog which became known as the Newfoundland and the other, the smaller shorter-coated, was called the “black Water Dog,” the “lesser Newfoundland,” and later the “St. John’s dog.”

Both were excellent water dogs, had strong inherent hunting ability acquired from generations of living off the land and thick double coats which protected them against the elements.

In the early 1800s several keen sportsmen and members of the English nobility acquired a few of the smaller-type dogs that fishermen were bringing back to England. These were found to be excellent retrievers of fish and game. For many years the breed was kept pure, but difficulty arose in obtaining fresh breeding stock, so Labradors were crossed with other sporting breeds, in particular the Flat-Coated Retriever, the Tweed Water Spaniel, and the Curly-Coated Retriever. The Labrador, as we know it today, was thus a British development.

As a sporting dog the Labrador soon took over from the Flat-Coated Retriever as Britain’s most popular gun dog, a position the breed has held up to the present time. In addition, the Lab has earned world-wide respect as a war dog, police dog and as a guide dog for the blind.

In 1903 the breed was officially recognized by The Kennel Club (England) and was first registered in Canada in 1905.