Labradors are immensely popular as pets due to their intelligence, gentle nature, and trainability – they are also very patient with children. Everyone can agree that all Labradors are adorable puppies. In recent years, brown Labs have increased in demand, with more people favoring puppies with chocolate coats.
Generally speaking, chocolate labradors are born entirely brown, varying slightly from light to dark. Their coats often lighten with age as their fur grows longer. Occasionally, brown puppies are born with tan markings over their eyes, chest, feet, and under their tail.
The AKC cannot show chocolate-colored dogs featuring these markings in conformation classes. For these canines to be considered real chocolate labs, their nose, paws, pads, and eyes must be the same color as their coat. However, some fading on the nose is permitted.
It is worth noting that chocolate Labradors share most of the same physical and size traits as their black and yellow siblings; the only significant difference is their hue. This article will explore the history of the chocolate Labrador, Labrador genetics, and other heritable issues associated with their color.
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Where Did Chocolate Labs Originate From?
Labradors originated in Newfoundland and were initially known as the St. John’s dog and Newfoundland dog. It’s believed that the Labrador Retriever came from crossing a French St. Hubert’s dog and a Greater Newfoundland dog.
When English fishermen migrated to Newfoundland, Canada, in the 1500s, they used Retriever dogs to help them catch fish and retrieve nets.
These dogs thrived on hard work, even working long hours, swimming in freezing waters. After a long day of hard toil, these dogs returned to the fishermen’s homes and played with their children, proving to be excellent pets as well as working companions.
The retriever was first noticed by the English gentry visiting Canada in the early 19th century. These noblemen returned to England with excellent specimens of the breed.
In 1807 a ship (called the Canton) intended for Poole, England, was transporting some St. John’s dogs for the Duke of Malmesbury as part of his breeding stock.
The Canton shipwrecked; however, two dogs, one black and one brown were discovered and believed to produce the Chesapeake Retriever. The recessive colors of chocolate and gold/yellow appeared in the early litters occasionally.
These recessive dogs were unwanted and considered as ‘off colors’; they were often culled. English breeders standardized the Labrador during the second half of the 19th century to include brown and yellow dogs. The AKC in the USA recognized the Labrador breed in 1917.
The popularity of the chocolate Labrador began to increase slightly in the 1920s and 1930s, as that color was considered fashionable.
The 1960s saw high demand for chocolate Labradors. In recent years, the appeal of the brown-coated Lab has declined due to some of the negative hereditary traits connected to the coat color.
How Is Labrador Coat Color Determined?
Genetics determines Labrador coat color; if you wish to breed chocolate Lab puppies, you must test the potential parents for genetically heritable colors.
Crossbreeding two chocolate Labradors results in an average of 73% brown offspring and 27% yellow/gold puppies.
A chocolate Labrador can still carry the genetic code for other colors. However, a reputable dog breeder will understand how genetics functions to select certain colors and prevent hereditary illnesses.
For a complete picture of how genetics works, a gene contains two alleles, one per parent that, when paired, creates a genotype, distinguishing a phenotype. In other words, genetic coding in the genotype manifests specific physical or behavioral characteristics.
Alleles are designated by a capital letter (for the dominant gene) and a lowercase letter (for the recessive gene). Tw0 dominant alleles create dominant traits, as is the case with black Labradors.
When a dominant allele is coupled with a recessive allele, the dominant trait can override the recessive or produce a mixed trait with its phenotype. Chocolate Labradors are an example of this.
Both chocolate and black Labs derive their color from a pigment called eumelanin. Labradors with high levels of eumelanin pigment have black coats.
If they have a little less, they will have brown coats. The B locus in a canine’s DNA produces the genetic instruction for black or brown coats.
The B locus is central to a pair of genes called B genes. One of the pair comes from the dam, the other from the sire. Capital B is a dominant gene, and lowercase b is a recessive gene.
The dominant black gene will always cancel out the brown gene. Only Labs with a matching pair of the b gene will look brown.
* BB produces a black Lab because he has two genes for a black coat.
* Bb creates a black Lab because the dominant B gene overrides the recessive b gene.
* bb produces brown Labradors and will provide the instruction for less eumelanin in the coat.
How Rare Is A Chocolate Labrador?
Chocolate Labradors have remained steadily popular throughout recent years. Nevertheless, the dominant black color means that the demand for chocolate labs remains limited, ensuring continued rarity within the breed.
Continual breeding of black dogs will only produce black offspring. If dogs with a Bb gene only mate with dogs with a BB gene, the b gene will carry on to future generations, never to be expressed.
Brown is a recessive trait, so both parents must carry it to produce brown offspring. Breeding litter from this shallow gene pool comes with some health risks.
While the gene for a chocolate coat is not bad for a dog’s well-being, issues arise when dogs are bred for color, not health.
Do Chocolate Labs Get Lighter?
Chocolate Labs usually keep the same brown shade their entire lives. Seasonal changes can bring about slight changes to your Labs coat.
Dogs experience molt to make way for new fur growth. After a blowout, the lighter undercoat will become exposed, combined with sun bleaching, it can produce what seems like a fairer coat.
You may notice your chocolate Labrador develop a fuller, thicker coat in the cold weather, which could make the coat appear darker.
Are Chocolate Labs Different Than Black Labs?
Brown-colored Labrador Retrievers have on average about 10% shorter lifespans than their black or yellow counterparts. They are also more likely to get ear infections and skin diseases than the other-colored Labs.
Aside from health, behavior is connected to coat color too. While it’s unclear that coat color is entirely to blame for certain behavioral traits.
Brown Labs contain different retinas to their black and yellow siblings. Retinal differences can contribute to some behavioral characteristics as observed in sighthounds like whippets and Grayhounds.
Even if the coat color doesn’t affect Labrador behavior, there is evidence to suggest it may affect how humans behave with them.
One study revealed that people who look at pictures of black and yellow dogs rate the dogs higher in emotional stability and agreeableness than brown dogs.
Labradors are famous for their high intelligence. However, chocolate Labs are considered far less intelligent. This should not be the case; if you notice that chocolate Labradors are not as smart as their black and yellow counterparts, this is irresponsible breeding.
Many chocolate breeding’s throughout America are irresponsible breedings. These “backyard” breeders have invested time and effort in achieving the chocolate coat color with no regard for health, intelligence, or temperament.
Intelligent, good-natured chocolate Labradors exist, although far less common than the other colors. It’s essential to find a knowledgeable, reputable breeder that cares about producing calmer, intelligent, well-rounded Labradors.
Are Chocolate Labradors Born With Blue Eyes?
This question is surprisingly popular, but yes, some chocolate Labradors are born with blue eyes; any dog breed can have virtually any eye color, much depends on genetics.
However, a Labrador with blue eyes indicates poor genetics. Labrador eye color should be brown in both black and yellow Labradors. Brown Labradors should have hazel or brown eyes.
Blue eyes on a chocolate Labrador is pretty, but it means unequivocally that this dog is not purebred.
When puppies are born, their eyes remain closed for 14 days, and at that stage, their eye color is blue until it changes to their permanent brown or hazel color.
When a chocolate Labrador is around the age of 4 to 4 weeks old, their eye color is more noticeable, and you should be able to predict their actual color.
What color are chocolate Labs at birth? We now know that they are born entirely brown, which remains consistent throughout their life. Some are born with markings on different body parts.
Unfortunately, these dogs were considered undesirable for a long time, but equally deliberate and irresponsible overbreeding of the chocolate Labrador has caused so many problems for the breed.
The future of the chocolate labrador seems to be improving steadily, with more reputable breeders choosing to produce Labradors for health, intelligence, and temperament rather than color. Chocolate Labradors are generally wonderful pets as they are friendly, confident, and playful.
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