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Coat Colour Inheritance in Labrador Retrievers


From the Labrador Retriever Breed Standard
"The Labrador Retriever coat colors are black, yellow and chocolate. Any other color or a combination of colors is a disqualification. A small white spot on the chest is permissible, but not desirable."

The above quote is from the AKC Labrador Retriever Standard. There are only three recognized colors in Labradors. A white spot on the chest is permissible. NO other colors are recognized. However, other colors can, and do, occur. Brindling, black and tan, dilution of the chocolate gene which gives a chocolate a gray (or silver) appearance. These colors are a disqualifying fault, and are incorrect for the breed.

Do not be fooled into buying a puppy in any breed that the breeder claims has a "rare" color for that breed. A reputable breeder will tell you if a puppy has a mismark or incorrect coloration and will require you to spay or neuter that dog to prevent the reoccurance of the disqualifying fault.

Mismarked or incorrect coloration does not affect the ability for the affected dog to be be a good pet. A labrador is a labrador regardless of its coat color.

The following is a guide for determining what coat colors you can expect from a given breeding:


EEBB "pure" black (BB)

EEBb carries chocolate (Bc)

EeBB carries yellow (By)

EeBb carries yellow and chocolate (Byc)


eeBB "pure" yellow (Y)

eeBb carries black and chocolate (YBc)

eebb carries only chocolate (YC)

no black pigment



EEbb "pure" chocolate (C)

Eebb carries yellow (CY)


Click on the breeding below that you would like to see a chart for

Black Bred to Black
Black Bred to Yellow
Black Bred to Chocolate
Yellow Bred to Yellow
Yellow Bred to Chocolate
Chocolate Bred to Chocolate

Phenotype and Genotype...or what are Labs made of?

The Canadian Kennel Club classifies a Labrador Retriever into three color categories; what is known in genetic analysis as phenotypes. Phenotype can therefore be defined as the actual color appearance. However, when one breeds two black Labs, one may get only black puppies, but upon breeding another two black individuals one may get yellow and chocolate puppies as well as black. This indicates that though the dogs from two such crosses may appear to be the same color, or phenotype, they don't have the same genetic makeup, or genotype. It is the genotypes of the sire and dam which are responsible for yielding color variations in a litter.

Dominant and Recessive...or why do black Labs prevail?

It is not by accident that there are more black Labradors than any other color or that many breeders prefer black over the other colors. Since the black coloration is prevalent, "type" has been well substantiated in black Labs for many years, with yellows following and recently in chocolates. But the question remains: why is black prevalent? There are two genes responsible for black or chocolate coloration in the Lab. "B" which is the symbol for the black gene and "b" which symbolizes the chocolate gene. Knowing that a puppy gets 1/2 of its genes from one parent and 1/2 from the other parent then if one crosses a black Lab that has no chocolate gene to a chocolate Lab an individual might expect to get black and chocolate puppies; instead, the individual may be disappointed to find that the litter is all black. Where did the chocolate disappear to? If this individual is not discouraged he may later breed one of these black puppies to a chocolate lab and this time he will be satisfied because 1/2 of the litter will be black and 1/2 will be chocolate. The chocolate had been hiding. This indicates that although we cannot see the chocolate, it is still there in the genetic make-up (genotype), masked by the black gene. For this reason, geneticists call the black gene dominant over the chocolate gene which is called recessive.

To discuss yellow coloration, a third gene must be introduced. Yellow is produced by the presence of a recessive epistatic gene which has the effect of blotting out the expression of the black or chocolate genes. If "E" = the dominant form of for the epistatic gene, and "e" = the recessive form, then there are three possibilities: 

EE = no yellow gene Ee = yellow carrier but apears either black or chocolate ee = yellow Lab