The following article is courtesy of my friend and fellow breeder
Jacqueline Dyson at Ellendale Labradors.
Silver & Charcoal Labradors catch A LOT of attention!! They are considered to be very unusual, extremely
beautiful, and very rare in color. These Labradors have raised a lot of controversy among breeders of
Labradors and other breeds. While I am not a genetic specialist, nor do I know a lot about genetics, this is
what I have learned about 'how' you get a Lab to turn out Silver or Charcoal.
When a Labrador who is Silver-factored is bred with another Silver-factored Labrador, Silver puppies can
be produced in the litter. To put it in the simplest of terms, it's a 'gene thing'. I do not understand
genetics nor do I really want to. What I do know is that the genetic make-up of both parents is what
determines what the puppies will turn out like and provides the possibilities for the different colors. It
works the same in animals as it does in humans. Our genetic make-up is what makes us who we are and what
we look like.
There is much negative talk going on about the Silver (Gray) Labrador, but be assured that these dogs are
as pure to the breed as the more common Black, Chocolate, and Yellow Labradors. They are classified by
AKC as a diluted Chocolate. Charcoal pups are classified as Black and have been called "Smoky Black" by
some breeders who produced Charcoal unknowingly.
Labrador Breeders have been accused of cross-breeding Chocolate Labradors with the Weimaraner breed
to achieve the Silver color which is completely untrue. Non-Silver breeders have been known to say that
this color comes from interbreeding which is also untrue. For example, when we first started our kennel,
we started with a Silver-factored Black (Jack) and a Silver-factored Chocolate (Reesee, whom we no longer
own). Together, they produced Silver, Charcoal, Silver-factored Black, and Silver-factored Chocolate. We
did not even have a Silver or Charcoal Lab in our kennel, much less a Weimaraner, yet produced both the
Silver and Charcoal colors due to their genetic make-up.
Silver Labs have been 'advertised' since the 1950's in the western U.S., and have also appeared in other
countries (especially the United Kingdom) before making their appearance in the U.S.
The first U.S. Kennel found to be breeding and producing Silver Labradors was investigated thoroughly by
the AKC. The AKC verified that the bloodlines of the Silver Labradors were in fact a pure Labrador
Retriever, and the breeder in question had no links to any other breed of dogs (specifically the
Weimaraner) in his kennel.
While I do breed my Labs for the Silver and Charcoal colors, I am more concerned with the temperament,
build, health history, and quality of the breed. This comes into play way before the coat color. This breed
is not called "America's #1 Breed" for no reason, and to breed only for a color is ethically wrong as a
responsible breeder. Just as some breeders and owners of Labradors love the Black, Chocolate, or Yellow
colors of the Labrador, I fell in love with the Silver color and since
producing the Charcoal color, have fallen for it just as much. They are beautiful colors as you can see by
looking at my dogs....not meaning to brag. *grin*
Q> Are Silver or Charcoal Labradors like other Labradors in behavioral traits?
A> Aside from their coat color, there is no difference in temperament, hunting abilities, health or other
attributes between Silver Labradors vs any other coat color in a Labrador.
Q> How are Silver or Charcoal Labradors registered with AKC?
A> Until 1987, AKC issued registration papers which listed Silver as a Labrador's registered color on both
AKC registrations certificates and AKC color charts. AKC has since changed the Silver color to "A Shade
Of Chocolate", "Diluted Chocolate", and this is still the established policy of AKC. The same is true for
Charcoal Labradors, being considered a "Smoky Black", and therefore being registered as a Black Labrador.
Q> Why are some breeders claiming there is no such thing as a Silver or Charcoal Labrador?
A> Breeders of Black and Yellow Labradors saw their market share fall through the floor when Chocolate
Labradors became popular in the Labrador marketplace. These same breeders opposed the recognition of
Chocolate Labradors by AKC for decades. These same breeders claim their resentment is based on
breeding ethics. Aside from the presence of a genetic combination which produces Silver and Charcoal
coats, these Labradors have the same genetic makeup as non-Silver Labradors. Some of these ethical
breeders openly admit to killing Silver puppies to protect the breed standards. In reality, the puppies
they kill have the same genetic makeup as the Blacks, Yellows, and Chocolates they allow to survive.
Q> How long have Silver Labradors been around?
A> Some K-9 geneticists speculate the Gray chromosome is in all K-9 species descendant from wolves.
Labradors were originally the product of several breeds of hunting dogs, contain a large percentage of
Newfoundland breeding in their genetic background, and the production of Gray Newfoundland pups is not
uncommon in the Newfoundland breed. Literature on Labradors mentions the occasional Gray puppy since
people first began writing about Labradors. The problem was there was never a large enough gene pool of
other Grays to replicate the color. With the growth of Chocolate Labradors over recent years, the
Labrador's gene pool now allows the replication of Silver.
Q> What is the future of Silver Labradors?
A> There is no doubt the increase in popularity and demand for Silver Labradors is applying significant
financial pressure to breeders of Black and Yellow Labradors, but there is also little doubt AKC will
eventually have to concede to the growing public pressure to make Silver a recognized color for Labradors
in America. Unfortunately, until that time, the Anti-Silver Labrador community will be able to confuse the
public with negative remarks and wrongful accusations regarding the most sought after color of Labradors
in the World.
Q> What is a Charcoal Labrador?
A> Charcoal Labradors are a very interesting aspect of the "Great Silver Labrador Debate". Genetically
speaking, Charcoal Labradors are Silver-factored Yellow Labradors. In appearance, Charcoal Labradors
look like Silver-factored Black Labradors, and for many decades Charcoal Labradors were commonly
referred to as "Smoky Blacks" by breeders. Charcoal Labradors can occur randomly in any
Labrador/Labrador breeding. They can also be intentionally produced by breeding a Yellow Labrador with a
Silver Labrador. Similarly, if a Charcoal Labrador is bred to another Charcoal Labrador, their litter will
contain approximately 1/4 Silver Labradors, and 3/4 other colored Labradors. Some Charcoal/Charcoal
breedings have even produced litters containing all four colors. Others have produced 100% Charcoal
litters. The existence of Charcoal Labradors is a genetic aspect of Silver Labradors which proves the
Silver genetics have been in Labrador lines for many decades, if not centuries. If you research old books
about Labrador Retrievers, you come across authors who refer to "Labrador puppies being born Gray, and
then turning Black as adults." This is exactly what happens when a Charcoal Labrador pup is born. For the
first few days the Charcoal puppies look dark Gray, then turning "Smoky Black" as adults. Clearly, these
old books and their authors were referring to what is now called Charcoal Labradors. Had any of these
authors taken the time to breed a Smoky Black to another Smoky Black, the "Great Silver Labrador
Debate" would today not be plagued with the breeders who maintain the Silver genes have only recently
been introduced into the Labrador Retriever lines by "Unscrupulous breeders".
|These are pictures of
the same silver
Labrador from a
puppy into adulthood.
|These are pictures of a
Charcoal Labrador puppy
from age 3 weeks until
age four months.
|Charcoal Labrador puppy at two weeks.
|Light Silver Labrador puppy at two weeks.