By Dr. Jim Anderson
So right off the bat, let's get one thing straight: the Labrador Retriever is incorrectly named. It turns out that this breed of dog did not come from Labrador (the northerly region of the Canadian province of Newfoundland). Rather, the breed comes from Newfoundland in Canada.
It is believed that this part of Canada was populated with small water dogs which when they were bred with Newfoundlands produced a new breed of dogs that were called St. John's Water Dogs. You can think of this type of dog as being sorta an early version of what we today call the Labrador Retriever.
Initially this new breed of dog was used by local fishermen
to help with the chore of carrying ropes between fishing boats and other such tasks. In the 19th Century the Earl of Malmesbury had one of these dogs imported to England. Once there, the Labrador quickly established itself as being very skilled in helping during the hunt.
The Labrador Retriever was recognized by England's Kennel Club in 1903. In the U.S., the first recorded registration of a Labrador Retriever occurred in 1917. The dogs were imported from England and this is how the breed took root in the United States.
When it comes to size, Labradors tend to be relatively large. Male Labradors typically weighing 64 to 90 lb and female Labradors weighing 55 to 71 lb. Watch out what you feed your Labrador because Labradors weighing close to or over 100 lb are considered obese. The majority of the characteristics of the Labrador breed, with the exception of their color, are the result of breeding to produce a working retriever.
The Labrador breed tends to shed hair twice annually, or regularly throughout the year in climates that are temperate. Keep in mind that it is possible for some Labradors to shed considerably; however, individual Labradors will probably vary. Labrador hair is usually fairly short and straight. A Labrador's tail is quite broad and strong. The webbed toes of the Labrador Retriever make them excellent swimmers. The webbing between their toes can also serve as a "snowshoe" in colder climates and keep snow from balling up between their toes- a condition that can be painful to other breeds with hair between the toes. Their interwoven coat is also relatively waterproof, providing more assistance for swimming.
Puppies of all colors can potentially occur in the same litter. Color is determined primarily by three Labrador genes. The first gene (the B locus) determines the density of the coat's eumelanin pigment granules. If that pigment is allowed: dense granules result in a black coat, sparse ones give a chocolate coat. The second gene (E) locus determines whether the eumelanin is produced at all. A dog with the recessive e allele will produce only phaeomelanin pigment and will be yellow regardless of its genotype at the B locus. The genes known about previously have had their number increased by the introduction of the K locus, where the dominant "black" allele KB is now known to reside. Black or chocolate Labradors therefore must have the KB allele. Yellow Labradors are determined at the E locus, so the K locus is irrelevant in determining their color. Variations in numerous other genes can control the subtler details of the coat's coloration, which in yellow Labradors varies from a white to light gold to a fox red. Chocolate and black Labradors' noses will match the coat color.
-- Jim Anderson
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