Posts Tagged ‘Silver Labrador’

The ash dogs are the ones that look like silver Labradors or Weimaraners, and it is genetically the same– a liver dilute.

The only two colors in Chesapeakes that I can identify with certainty are ashes and deadgrasses.  I tend to have problems separating colors that are shades of liver that have been diluted through sun exposure and colors that are dark recessive reds with brown skin.



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I’ve thought about what should be done for the silver Labradors, which are probably the most controversial of all retrievers currently being bred.

I don’t think this color will ever become a mainstream color within Labrador retrievers– anywhere.

So I make a modest proposal:  Start your own breed.

When you do this, you’ll be free to include Weimaraner and ash Chesapeake blood to your lines and increase genetic diversity among the retrievers of this color.

And because this color breeds true, it is a dilute liver– both of which are recessive to the normal black and chocolate Labs.

Develop a standard and a breeding program for long-term genetic viability.

And then work on getting it recognized.

I suggest that you call your breed “the silver retriever,” so we’ll have silver retrievers and golden retrievers.

Breed separation appears to be the only road forward for the silver Labrador, and as much it bothers me that we would create a breed based upon color alone, it may be the road that actually takes this variety to a level of respectability within the dog culture.

It might be hard to get this breed recognized within the AKC, but I think it’s something worth pursuing.

I mean it’s not like we haven’t founded a whole breed based upon its color before.

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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.

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The silver coloration never existed in Labrador until it was crossed with the Weimaraner.

The silver coloration never existed in Labrador until it was crossed with the Weimaraner.

 The silver coloration in Weimaraners is a diluted liver color. It’s not that different from a solid liver German short-haired pointer.

Solid liver shorthair. Actually quite common in Germany.

Solid liver shorthair. Actually quite common in Germany.

As we know, liver and chocolate dogs are dogs with the recessive brown skin and coat pigment genotype b/b.  This is the same color that appears in the “red” Dobermann (just it has tan markings, which are recessice to solid liver). Dobermanns also have a dilution gene for their colors. It is also recessive. If a black Dobermann gets two copies of this gene, you get a blue Dobermann. If a “red” one gets this genotype, the puppies turn out fawn or “Isabella.”

Weimaraners have the black color in their genotype but no dominant gene for non-dilution. As a result, there are faulty blue weimaraners. In Germany, all the native pointers (the broken hair, the wire-hair, and the longhair) can come in black or black and white. It makes sese that blue weims would exist, because the black gene could come through these dogs. And it’s obvious that the short-haired weimaraner has some relationship to the German short-hair and the long-haired weimaraner has some relationship to the German long-hair. (The black and white German long-hairs are the foundation of the Large Münsterländer).

The two diluted colors that appear in the Labrador are exactly like the Weimaraner’s dilutions. Silver Labs are clearly the same color as the Weimaraner and the Isabella Dobermann. It’s a diluted liver. Charcoal lab is a diluted black, and it’s not that different from a blue Dobermann or a blue Wiemaraner.

It is pretty obvious to me that the silver coloration is the result of crossbreeding, either intentional or unintentional. And it was most likely with the Weimaraner. It is another gun dog. It has retrieving instinct. It has bird sense. It’s also big. I’ve often noticed that Silver Labs are on the large and lanky side of Labradors, which is very much in keeping with their Weimaraner heritage. They also have hound ears, which did exist in the Labrador for a time and sometimes appears today. But this color with the houndy ears in the same dog is just too much of a coincidence.

Don’t gray Newfoundlands exist? Yes, but they aren’t this color. They have black skin and gray shading on their coats.  The reason why this question is asked is because if Newfs are gray, then this color may have always existed in the St. John’s water dog.  It does not.

Another breed that can be ruled out as the ancestor of that coat color is the often mentioned Norwegian elkhound (the gray one for those of you who know that there are two Norwegian elkhounds, a gray and a black). Norwegian Elkhounds are a type of sable. If you crossed this with a Lab, it’s very likely to produce black puppies that can produce gray sables if backcrossed. Gray sables, not silvers. It is possible that Elkhounds were crossed in clandestinely to increase the Lab’s coat and build bone, because the early hunting Lab had evolved more along flat-coat lines as it developed from the St. John’s water dog. It had been crossed with flat-coats  and pointers (maybe also foxhounds) to give it a more gracile frame for running. 

The silver Lab is very likely a result of Weimaraner and Labrador cross breeding. The silver color does not exist in any other retriever breeds, and it doesn’t exist in any of the other descendants of the St. John’s water dog. The Weimaraner has to be the source.

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