Silver Labs are becoming increasingly popular in North America, and along with their rising popularity, there has been an increase in drama, with many people claiming that Silver Labs are actually Weimaraner/Lab mixes. So, what’s the truth about Silver Labs? Are they really crossed with Weimaraners, or are they a rare colour of Labrador Retriever?
A quick lesson in genetics
If you took high school biology, you may remember doing Punnett Squares to determine what genetic traits would be possible from pairing different types of pea plants using alleles. Offspring inherit one allele from each parent, so the alleles carried by the parents will affect what alleles the offspring carry.
When you’re talking about coat colour in Labrador Retrievers, we need to look at the dominant B and E alleles along with their recessive b and e counterparts. Each Lab inherits 1 gene pair of each coat type from each parent. Only ee combinations result in Yellow Labs, while only bb combinations result in Chocolate Labs because yellow and chocolate are both recessive colours.
What does all this mean?
B represents the dominant black gene and b represents the recessive chocolate gene. That means a dog with BB genes will be black and will produce black offspring. A dog with Bb genes will be black, but it will carry the chocolate gene. This dog could have black or chocolate offspring. A dog with bb genes will be chocolate or yellow and could have offspring of any colour.
Yellow comes in on a different allele. It’s a recessive gene, so you need ee to get yellow. EE will either be black or chocolate and can’t produce yellow offspring. Ee will be black or chocolate, but carries the recessive gene and could have yellow offspring.
How does this relate to Silver Labs? With Silver Labs, we have to bring in another gene, the D (dilution) gene. The dd gene combination will dilute the colour of any other coat. Dd will not dilute the coat, but it can produce offspring with a dilute coat. DD does not have colour dilution and produces offspring with no colour dilution.
So a Silver Lab is the result of a diluted chocolate gene. There are other dilute colours as well – dilute Yellow Labs are referred to as Champagne and dilute Black Labs are referred to as Charcoal, which looks dark grey rather than black.
Where did the dilution gene come from?
There was little to no mention of Silver Labs before the 1950s, when Kellogg Kennels advertised a litter of “rare grey Labradors” in a gun dog magazine. So, where did the dilution gene to create Silver Labs come from?
There are a few different possibilities.
- It’s possible that the dilution gene was in the Labrador gene pool all along, but off-colour Labs were either culled or not mentioned anywhere.
- A spontaneous genetic mutation could have added the dilution gene.
- Weimaraners may have been bred with Labradors, either intentionally or unintentionally, and the offspring were deliberately bred to retain the dilution gene. Since all Silver Labs seem to have originated from 2 kennels whose lines both trace back to Kellogg kennels, who also advertised “rare pointing labs,” it seems likely that Kellogg kennels introduced Weimaraners into the bloodlines of their Labrador Retrievers at some point.
So Silver Labs are purebred Labs?
Generally, yes. Silver Labs can be registered with the American Kennel Club as Chocolate Labs, if they have proof of 3 generations of purebred Lab breeding. With that being said, unscrupulous breeders could very well be breeding Weimaraners with Labs to produce “Silver Labs” without buying a pair of likely-expensive purebred Silver Labs.
While Silver Labs can be registered with the AKC, they are considered an undesirable colour and can’t be shown. The AKC only recognizes black, chocolate, and yellow as official colours, not the dilute forms of those colours.
Are Silver Labs inbred?
Inbreeding likely would have been required to perpetuate the silver color many generations ago, but there are now seven distinct bloodlines of Silver Labs, so breeding mothers to sons and fathers to daughters is no longer necessary and would be avoided by reputable breeders.
Buying and caring for a Silver Lab puppy
If you’re looking to buy a Silver Lab puppy, we want you to be prepared.
Silver Labs are frequently more expensive than other purebred Labs. That’s because the breeders are putting a premium on the rare silver colour. If you desperately want a Silver Lab, you will likely have to pay extra.
There are many breeders who are only interested in money rather than the health and longevity of their dogs. You must do a lot of research to find a reputable breeder. Insist on seeing the parent dogs, ask for pedigree information for the parent dogs, and try to find a breeder that does health testing to ensure you aren’t buying a puppy from a line of dogs prone to a genetic problem like hip dysplasia. You’ll also want to visit the kennel where you plan to purchase your puppy from so you can verify that there aren’t any Weimaraners hanging around.
All breeds of Labs are well known for being intelligent and well-behaved pets, with some well structured dog training and a healthy puppy schedule you will be surprised by how calm and well-mannered this breed can be with a small effort on your part.
Now you know the truth about Silver Labs! The next time somebody tries to tell you that Silver Labs are just Weimaraner mixes, you can tell them the truth.