One the latest fads in the mass production of pet retrievers is the so-called silver Labrador.
There are two theories about what it is.
1. The dogs are the result of adding a little Weimaraner blood to a Labrador line. (This is the most popular theory).
2. When outcrossing was allowed in the Labrador retriever, some Norwegian elkhounds were crossed in to make the coat denser and to ensure good bone.
3. The coloration has always been in chocolate Labradors. It is like the ash coloration in the Chesapeake Bay retriever.
The dogs are all livers (bb), but they are diluted (dd). A dog that is bbdd will look silver.
If a Bb or BB dog is also dd, then the dog looks blue.
In Weimaraners, the standard coloration is bbdd, but a dog with rare (and faulty) blue coloration is a dog that has the Bbdd or BBdd genotype. (Check out this website on blue Weimaraners.)
The first and third theories are the most plausible. If there were no ash Chessies, I’d totally accept the Weimaraner theory.
The second theory makes very little sense. Norwegian elkhounds are gray, but their coloration comes from the so-called agouti series. You will never find a Norwegian elkhound with the silvery gray coloration on its nose, lips, nails, and the skin around its eyes.
It is interesting that the AKC has decided to register silvers as chocolates. However, the fact that the dilution gene even exists in this breed means that the “charcoal” coloration will pop up.
One of the common things I hear is that many silver Labs look houndy, and that alone is evidence of their miscegenation with the dogs of Weimar.
However, many Labs look houndy.
Yellow Labradors may have received some augmentation from in the influx of lemon foxhound blood. When I look at many yellow Labs, I see the foxhound influence coming through.
I should note here that most silver Labs don’t come from the English show, American show, or field lines. They seem to be very heavily concentrated in what I call the “American giant Lab.” Most Labs in America are of this type, and some of which are significantly larger than the standard requires. In fact, I’ve read of dogs that were almost double the size they should be. These dogs are approaching something like a smooth-haired Newfoundland.
I’ve never understood why it is so fashionable to breed huge Labs. A big dog can withstand cold water longer than a smaller one, and a big one can break ice better.
One must remember that the big Newfoundlands were once used as retievers, but they just got so big and cumbersome that they are now relegated to their own water rescue tests.
The Newfoundland was the Labrador retriever of the late eighteenth and most of the nineteenth century. Everybody wanted one. They were great with kids. They had a remarkable history as working water dogs in Newfoundland, and more than a few worked on Western and Arctic explorations. They were useful. They were smart. They were the dog everyone had to have.
By the end of the Second World War, the Newfoundland dog was almost extinct. The dog that exists now is a survivor from that dwindled population.
Could the same thing happen to the Labrador?
Well, history suggests that it is indeed possible.