Black labrador retriever: silver or mixed-breed factor?

Suppose you have silver hair. The natural assumption of those with whom you live and work would be that you are of an age when hair begins to lose its color. If your hair turned gray before your 20s or 30s, it could be a dietary deficiency, medical problem, or genetics.

Some claim that a black labrador retriever, with a silver factor with a coat somewhat less than black, is a purebred dog. Supposedly rare and highly desirable, a silver factor black Labrador Retriever can be offered at a higher price than normal. Do you deserve this? Or is he just a half-breed, a half-breed?

Standard Black Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever breed standard reads: “Labrador Retriever coat colors are black, yellow, and chocolate. Any other color or combination of colors is a disqualification.” The breed standard goes on to say that black Labrador Retrievers must be completely black. If a black Labrador Retriever has a small white patch on its chest, it is “permissible, but not desirable” by breed standard.

A black Labrador Retriever, silver factored or not, should meet that standard. All purebred black Labrador Retrievers must be black.

Speaking genetically

A black Labrador Retriever, factored in silver or out of accordance with the standard, apparently has genetics that are not in line with that of the breed. The genetics of the coat color of a true black labrador retriever appears to be quite simple. Each dog receives two pairs of genes: one from its mother and one from its father.

You will remember from the first science class that there are two types of genes in every living being: dominant and recessive. This is true for you and it is true for black Labrador retrievers. Genes determine the color of your hair, just like genes determine the coat color of a black Labrador Retriever. You can have brown, black, red, blonde, or a variation of any of those. A Labrador Retriever only has two options: black and chocolate, although we see black, chocolate, and yellow.

Consider these facts.

1. In Labrador Retrievers, a dominant gene always determines what color the coat will be. Always. It doesn’t matter what other genes are present. The black gene, which we will call “B” for short, is dominant. Therefore, if a “B” gene is present, the preselected coat color is black. But keep reading.

2. We’ll call the chocolate recessive gene “b” for short. The “b” gene can only produce a chocolate coating if the dog does not inherit the “B” gene. Those are the only options: dominant black “B” genes and recessive chocolate “b” genes. There is no gene for yellow, silver, or other colors. A black Labrador Retriever, silver factored or otherwise, would have to go against this genetic makeup.

3. In addition to the black and chocolate genes, Labrador Retrievers have two more genes. These genes determine the ability of dogs to express a dark coat, that is, to show the dark color. Let’s call the dominant expression gene “E” for short and the recessive expression gene “e” for short.

4. Labrador retrievers that have the dominant “E” gene are capable of expressing a dark coat. They can show black or chocolate. If the dog has a “B” gene and an “E” gene, it will be black, no matter what other genes it has. If it has a “b” and “E” gene, it will be chocolate.

5. Labradors that carry the recessive “e” gene cannot display a dark coat. They will show neither black nor chocolate. They will show the absence of those by being of a yellow hue. A Labrador Retriever with a combination like BBee has 2 dominant genes for black, but the recessive “e” genes do not show the color. The dog will turn yellow.

You will see that a black Labrador Retriever, factored in silver, is not possible with these gene pairs. There is no scientific data at the time of this writing (2007) that has found any silver gene in black Labrador Retrievers.

True nature of the so-called silver laboratories

A black labrador retriever that is said to have a silver factor can be an unusually light yellow or chocolate lab. There is also, in the US, a gray-brown shade similar to that of the Weimaraners. The US kennel is reported to have been the first to report that “silver” Labradors also had Weimaraners, a silver-gray breed with a somewhat similar appearance. The true nature of a black Labrador Retriever, factored in silver, is widely believed to be that of a cross: Labrador Retriever – Weimaraner mix.

The AKC recognizes “silver” labs only as chocolate, and rejects them because they do not meet the breed standard for chocolate labs. A black labrador retriever with silver factor is not a standard AKC purebred dog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *