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"Rare" Silver Labradors

There is no such thing as a SILVER Labrador.

 

Don't pay more for an "out of standard" dog.

 

[I wrote the article below in about 1990, and updated it from time-to-time.  I'm leaving it here for archive purposes, however, the LRC, Inc. has recently published an article that says it all:  CLICK HERE]

 

Dian Welle, Blue Knight Labradors

There are some breeders who would use our wonderful breed make a quick buck at the expense of the breed. That goes especially to those who would try to sell as "rare", and at top dollar, any mismark or colors other than the three colors accepted in Labradors world-wide. There are no rare colors in Labradors. There are three accepted colors, Black, yellow and Chocolate. The AKC standard defines shades of yellow as Light cream to fox red. Chocolates are defined as being light to dark chocolate.

Regarding "Silver", this is not an accepted Labrador color. Some of these breeders often sell other "rare" colors, such as "white". White Labradors are simply "light cream" (as defined in the Standard) yellow Labradors. They are worth no more than their other yellow siblings. Is there anything wrong with breeding the lightest yellow color in Labs? Absolutely not. They can be shown, they are correct. They're just not "rare", and they're not called "white". There is *no* mention in any accepted standard in the world of Silver, Charcoal (this is a new one!), white, caramel, or any other named color you may be tricked into believing is accepted color in Labradors. If you are interested in a very light yellow, simply tell the breeders you want a *very light yellow*. They'll understand!

Here is the color standard for Labradors as drafted by the Parent Club (LRC, Inc.) and accepted by the AKC:

 


Color
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. White hairs from aging or scarring are not to be misinterpreted as brindling. Black--Blacks are all black. A black with brindle markings or a black with tan markings is a disqualification. Yellow--Yellows may range in color from fox-red to light cream, with variations in shading on the ears, back, and underparts of the dog. Chocolate--Chocolates can vary in shade from light to dark chocolate. Chocolate with brindle or tan markings is a disqualification.

 

Silver is "rare", only in that there are few dogs with that color. There is a reason reputable breeders do not sell them -- It is not a proper Labrador color. Just like brindle colored Labs and Black and tan happen, and are seldom produced (see my article), so do other unusual non-standard colors. Any breeder who breeds more than a couple of litters will, in time, produce a mismark. There is nothing wrong with it, and they're just sold as pets. Contrary to the claim on one silver site, nobody feels shame when they produce a mismark. However, "silver" isn't just a "mismark".. it's something different. How different? Some say deliberately through mixed breeding when the breed was developed, some say deliberately created by recent mix breeding, and some say through a genetic fluke. Regardless, You shouldn't be asked to pay more for something that is incorrect and out of the Labrador Standard. "Silver" Labradors are not *ever* registered as "Silver"; They are registered as chocolates, and chocolates are NOT rare!

The AKC determined that silver Labradors are "dilute chocolates". The term dilute has a genetic basis. The dilute locus is "d/d". The Weimaraner is an example of a brown dog with a diluted coat color. The d/d locus is always "turned on" in Weim's. There is no known d/d locus in *purebred* Labradors.

Of course, when the AKC made that determination, there were no DNA tests to prove color or parentage (although one website for "silver" claims the AKC did DNA testing back then -- they did not. DNA was not available back then). The eval was done by photographs, observing living specimens and pedigrees. It was the best guess for the cause of the trait that they could give at the time.

Fast forward to today, when DNA can now show us things we could not see before. In an article posted in the Labrador Retriever Club News (LRC, Inc -- the parent club), Francis O Smith DVM PhD states:

 

 

"It is the opinion of the LRC that a silver Labrador is not a purebred Labrador . The pet owning public is being duped into believing that these animals are desirable, purebred, and rare and therefore warrent special notoriety or a premium purchase price."

As you can see on the vetgen site, the genetic markers for Labrador coloration is well established. Through DNA, color (including the colors the dog carries) can be absolutely proven. Where are the "rare" or "unusual" findings on the DNA color charts? They don't exist. They are simply part and parcel of the three colors in Labradors. Black, yellow and chocolate. If a chocolate dog has the d/d genotype (as the AKC suggested silver Labradors have), it will have a "blue" or "gray" coat color. It is believed that some blue dogs are more prone to skin problems and perhaps allergies than dogs that are black.

Don't be fooled by those who would promise to give money to those who can "prove" a silver is not a Labrador. That is not possible, unless said kennel DNA'd dogs before DNA was done, and we could DNA those past generations. A DNA test on a dog can only show that a canine is a canine, that mom is mom, and Dad is dad (and grandparents are the grandparents, if DNA was harvested from those dogs), and it can show the color traits (and other traits) it carries, as well as other traits that have been mapped. What it can't tell you, is if a dog jumped the fence 10 years before DNA testing was done. Yes, it would be interesting to see what color traits these "silver" Labradors carry, and I suggest that they are not tested by their owners, because it may be found that the dog was indeed a "dilute" chocolate, or that it carries a color trait that is only found in other breeds (see Weimaraners). One could not prove by DNA on a canine, that a dog several generations back was not a Labrador.

It is suspected that a non-Labrador jumped the fence a long time ago, and the result was the passing on of a d/d locus, but that again, is only a suspicion. I've been breeding chocolates to chocolates for a long time (since about 1988) and have never produced a "dilute" chocolate. I know other breeders who have been breeding chocolates for over 35 years, and have yet to produce it. Interestingly, the kennel who first started producing the color could only get it by inbreeding. That kennel did a *lot* of very close inbreeding. Nothing will set a trait like inbreeding will (of course it will produce negative traits as well). The color was then touted as a "rare" color, and others started breeding it.

If you're interested, ask the silver breeders how many of their dogs are winning in the conformation ring. I can answer that for you -- NONE. Why? Because it would be considered a disqualifiable fault. "Any other color or a combination of colors is a disqualification." They can compete in Obedience and Field trials. They can not compete in conformation.

I am now aware that there are "breeders" here in California, who advertise on their websites black, yellow and chocolate puppies for sale, but offer "silver" Labradors for an elevated price when unsuspecting people come to see their puppies. They're either too embarrassed to put on their website that they do, or too dishonest. Likely it's because they know this aberration it is incorrect, can't be registered as the color they tout, and because they know buyers are better informed than ever. There are other kennels who are very happy to tell you that they breed this "rare" color, and will be happy to have you pay for the honor of owning a dog that is no better than any other mismark in the breed.

Yes, at one time, these "dilute chocolates" were registered as "silver" using a convenient option found on old puppy registration papers. The options read; Black, Yellow, Chocolate, and OTHER. Under "other" there was a line that the person could fill in. The breeders of "rare silver Labradors" filled in silver as their color of choice and the dog was registered as a silver Labrador. Had they written "pink" on that line, they'd be the owner of a rare "Pink" Labrador. Just because a dog was once registered as silver, does not make the color correct, or valid. The AKC fixed the problem, and eliminated the "other" category.

You must beware of misleading "facts" when you read Web pages. For instance, this quote: "We feel it is just a matter of time before the AKC recognizes the Silver Lab color as it's own separate color." This shows how misinformed these "silver breeders" are. The AKC does not "own" the breed standards, nor do they write them. The breed parent clubs do!

 

 

"..........Exhibits are judged against individual breed standards, which have been established for the AKC-recognized breeds by their parent clubs. These written standards describe the ideal size, color, and temperament of each breed, as well as correct proportion, structure, and movement." [AKC quote source] .

 

Wouldn't you like your breeder to actually know who writes and owns the breed standard?

[Oh, and just one small note...there isn't a single recognized registry world-wide, with a Labrador standard that recognizes "Silver" Labradors]

I have read the web sites of people trying to convince the world through poor arguments that silvers are a "real" coat color in Labs, and argue that they've always existed, but just like chocolates, they were never bred. This is a misleading statement. Yes, unusual colors have cropped up throughout the history of Labradors. That doesn't mean the colors are correct. There are disqualifying colors and markings in all breeds. In order to maintain a standard, acceptable colors were defined, and written into the breed standards. One page that would have you pay top-dollar for one of these "rare" colors, says "....after breeders who could not produce Silver in their bloodlines began to protest, AKC changed the Silver color to 'a shade of chocolate'." Wrong. I was there. Reputable breeders of Labradors complained to the AKC that their "OTHER" option for color on AKC puppy registrations was opening the door for dogs (including silvers) who were out of standard to be defined as a "color" in Labradors, when in fact, it was an error in coloration, akin to a mismarked puppy. The AKC agreed. They studied the "silvers", determined that they were a dilute chocolate, and began to require they be registered as chocolates. The "other" option was removed from puppy registrations.

The same page also states "Some of these ethical breeders freely admit killing Silver puppies to protect the breed standards. In reality, the Silver puppies they kill have the same genetic make-up as the blacks, yellows, and chocolates they allow to survive. The only ethic these breeders are protecting is the ethical investment they have in their black and yellow bloodlines." Ask for names. They won't have any. The reason they won't have any names, is that no reputable breeder has had a "silver" puppy. Mismarked puppies occur all the time. They're not euthanized, they're sold as pets. This entire quote is intended to yank at your heart strings. I have been very involved in the Labrador community nation wide for almost 30 years, and know of NO reputable breeder today who has even produced a silver, let alone euthanize it. I belong to several web forums of Labrador breeders, and when asked what they would do if it were even possible for them to produce a silver (none of them had), what would they do with it? Answer -- sell it just like any mismarked puppy, at a reduced price. I myself have produced mismarks (as all breeders eventually will if they stay in the sport long enough), and sell them at a reduced cost to pet homes, who are thrilled to have this dog, which is a Labrador through-and-through, however, mismarked. I would not euthanize a puppy because of color, and I know of no breeder, of the thousands of breeders I am involved with who would. Back when the breed was being established, sadly, "culling" (euthanizing) puppies of undesirable color was not an unknown practice. That was LONG ago, and long before safe spay and neuter practices, and limited registrations.

And how do you get a pedigree from at least one of these kennels? Well you pay money for the privilege of having an outsourced agency send you the pedigree. How much money? Far more than the current postage of three pieces of paper can justify. A reputable breeder is more than happy to share their pedigrees, and many post them on their websites for your immediate review.

Almost all of the silver Websites use the argument that silver is just new, "like chocolate is new". No, chocolate is not new, it just wasn't a preferred color for a long time, and not bred for. It was known, it was recognized, it just wasn't preferred. One new page on "silvers" states "If you recall about 20 years ago, the chocolate Labs were the latest color in the lab world".

FALSE! This is a statement intended to mislead and misinform the unknowing reader. Well over 20 years ago, there were chocolate champions!

One producer of "silver Labradors" wrote in an email on 2/26/05 the following "The first yellow lab was born in a litter in the 1890's as a mutation from the dominate black color. The chocolate mutated from the yellow in the1900's and finally the silver mutated from the chocolate." They have their facts wrong regarding the appearance of chocolate. "Liver" (Chocolate) came before yellow. I wonder how chocolate mutated from the yellow, when the chocolates showed up first? Wouldn't you want your breeder to know how the different colors are inherited?

Facts:

1892 - Two "liver" colored Labrador pups were born at Buccleuch's kennel
1899 - First yellow Lab on record, Ben of Hyde born at kennel of Major C.J. Radclyffe


Photo - Ben of Hyde

It makes one wonder what other details these "silver" breeders have wrong!

Chocolate Labs have been a known Labrador color since the start of the breed, however unpopular initially. Yes, chocolates were sometimes culled from a litter as an undesirable color, or given to friends and family as gifts, rather than be used for breeding stock. Still, the chocolate gene is known to go as far back as a dog named Buccleuch Avon (see photo right), born in 1885, who sired chocolate puppies.

 

CH Sandyland's Tweed of Blaircourt (Left) was a black, who carried yellow and chocolate, and sired chocolates who achieved their Championships in the '60's.

Chocolates are not new, not unusual, and were not unknown or even "new" in the Labrador world 20 years ago. They were quite established long before that, and their genetics well known.

 

 

So, what do the people who want to charge you more money for a non-recognized color do? Start their own silver "Registry", of course. Pretty soon, they'll have their own shows, and claim Championships received through these non-recognized registries. Before you purchase a registered puppy, it would do you well to establish if the registry is recognized by the dog fancy in general. Another way to determine how reputable a registry is, would be to find out how many dogs are registered annually.

The most recognized purebred dog registries in North America are AKC (American Kennel Club) CKC (Canadian Kennel Club).

 The most recognized purebred dog registries in North America are AKC (American Kennel Club) CKC (Canadian Kennel Club).The American Kennel Club was established in 1884. The AKC sponsors over 15,000 dog competitions each year. Currently, the AKC recognizes 157 breeds of dogs.

              The American Kennel Club was established in 1884. The AKC sponsors over 15,000 dog competitions each year. Currently, the AKC recognizes 157 breeds of dogs. The American Kennel Club registers over one million dogs annually.

 

           The Canadian Kennel Club was established in1888, and recognizes over 160 breeds of dogs. The CKC registers approximately 100,000 purebred dogs annually.

Don't be fooled into purchasing a puppy from a registry that started in the 21st Century, and registers a dozen or so dogs annually!

 

As I said, there have been accusations that these "rare" silver Labradors are actually a cross between a Labrador and a Weimaraner. I will let you be the judge, as there is no evidence at this time, one way or the other. However, it is interesting to note that Silver Labradors can be traced back to two breeders. Those breeders are Dean Crist (Culo) and Beaver Creek Labradors. Both of their lines trace back to Kellogg kennels (L.E. Kellogg and Harold E. Kellogg) Kellogg Kennels began breeding Labradors in 1922.  Guess what else they're famous for breeding?  They're credited for the 'rare' pointing Labrador of course!

[I had included information in this article that the Kellogg kennel had Weims.  I have recently been told that's in question.  I have deleted that statement, since I do not know if they did or did not. If I am able to find out if they did, I will include that information herein ]

 

First, you need to learn what the breed traits are (Weim vs. Lab). Please note comparisons to the standards of the breeds (breed standard excerpts below): long houndy ears, vs. short closely held ears. Note: houndy expression vs. lack of houndy expression. Note, light eyes vs. dark eyes. Note double coat vs. single coat (a Lab has a downy undercoat, that can even be seen where hair is sparse, such as the head, giving it a fuller look vs. a very close/short look).


 Weimaraner

Labrador

 

Weimaraner

 

Labrador

 

Weim puppy

Lab puppy 

Here are a few highlighted portions of the American Kennel Club Standard for Labrador Retrievers:
  • The Labrador Retriever coat colors are black, yellow and chocolate. Any other color or a combination of colors is a disqualification
  • Eye color should be brown in black and yellow Labradors, and brown or hazel in chocolates. Black, or yellow eyes give a harsh expression and are undesirable
  • Ears should not be large and heavy, but in proportion with the skull and reach to the inside of the eye when pulled forward.
  • Disqualifications
    1. Any deviation from the height prescribed in the Standard.
    2. A thoroughly pink nose or one lacking in any pigment.
    3. Eye rims without pigment.
    4. Docking or otherwise altering the length or natural carriage of the tail.
    5. Any other color or a combination of colors other than black, yellow or chocolate as described in the Standard.
Here are a few highlighted portions of the American Kennel Club Standard for the Weimaraner
  • Ears--Long and lobular, slightly folded and set high. The ear when drawn snugly alongside the jaw should end approximately 2 inches from the point of the nose.
  • Eyes--In shades of light amber, gray or blue-gray
  • Coat and Color - Short, smooth and sleek, solid color, in shades of mouse-gray to silver-gray, usually blending to lighter shades on the head and ears.

 

Now take a look at a few examples of "silver Labradors from the Web, and make your own decisions:

dog1

dog 2

dog 3

dog 4

 

I strongly suggest you be on the lookout for buzz words like "Rare" and "Unique". Watch out for outrageous claims of how "superior" a breeder thinks they are. What reputable breeder needs to tell you how wonderful they are? The correctness of their dogs, speaks to the quality of any breeder. Watch out for claims of "show" careers. These "silver" dogs can only compete in the breed ring as chocolates, and the chocolate color is well described in the breed standard, so when you see reference to "shades of chocolate", please refer to the breed standard for clarification. Also, you will note that some "silver" breeders show pictures of dogs that look distinctly chocolate, however, you will pay more for the privilege of calling your puppy "silver".

One breeder of silvers states "Does it really matter what we choose to call them? " Ummm... yes, since the AKC breed standard, and in fact every established standard around the world, goes to great length to describe the accepted colors.

And if in your Internet travels you see a description between "typical type" and "show type". Lets get this straight... there is only ONE Labrador Retriever described in the standard (the written blueprint for the breed). If you find a description of anything more than *the* Labrador in the breed standard, please let me know! http://www.akc.org/breeds/labrador_retriever/index.cfm . The public often does talk about "English Labs" and "field labs" in order to define different "types" (which is a misnomer, since few of the dogs had seen England in many generations, and *all* Labradors should be able to work in the field). In my 25+ years of breeding, that's how reputable breeders have referred to it as well, but in truth, there is only one Labrador Retriever, and one standard that defines them.

Also, please pay attention to any site that calls obviously CHOCOLATE Labradors "Silver". This is an interesting twist. Hey, at least they really are an accepted color within the breed -- chocolate!

On many silver sites, you will see the following "facts":

"Breeders of black and yellow Labs saw their market share fall through the floor when chocolates became popular in the Lab marketplace."

Truth: Breeders of blacks and yellows are happily thriving. Some breeders breed all three colors, some any combination of two. Some only black, some only yellow, and some only chocolate. The Labrador Retriever is has been the #1 registered dog in the AKC for many years, and there is no lack of homes for purebred Labradors. Nobody is seeing any "market share fall through the floor".

"These same breeders opposed recognition of chocolates by AKC for decades."

Write to these "accusers" and ask for names. They won't have any.

 

COLOR STANDARDS AROUND THE WORLD:


The AKC standard for color:

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. White hairs from aging or scarring are not to be misinterpreted as brindling. Black--Blacks are all black. A black with brindle markings or a black with tan markings is a disqualification. Yellow--Yellows may range in color from fox-red to light cream, with variations in shading on the ears, back, and underparts of the dog. Chocolate--Chocolates can vary in shade from light to dark chocolate. Chocolate with brindle or tan markings is a disqualification.

Here is what the AKC has to say about eye color: Eye color should be brown in black and yellow Labradors, and brown or hazel in chocolates. Black, or yellow eyes give a harsh expression and are undesirable

Ears--The ears should hang moderately close to the head, set rather far back, and somewhat low on the skull; slightly above eye level. Ears should not be large and heavy, but in proportion with the skull and reach to the inside of the eye when pulled forward.

Other standards around the world............

FCI 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. White hairs from aging or scarring are not to be misinterpreted as brindling.

UKC Standard:

Color may be solid black, any solid shade of yellow from red to pale cream, or any solid shade of chocolate. Yellow dogs may have variations in shading on the ears, back and underside of the dog. A small white spot on the chest is permissible but not preferred. White hairs from aging or scarring should not be penalized.
Disqualifications: Any color or combination of colors other than described above; albinism.

Where in any of these world-wide recognized standards do you see "silver" as an accepted color? You don't.  

 

If you have made it this far on the page, be sure to take notice of a problem that is prevalent in lines that produce  "Silver" and "Charcoal" Labradors.  It is called Color Dilution Alopecia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canine_follicular_dysplasia

Photo 1

Photo 2

 

There is a Facebook Page for owners of dogs with this problem:

 https://www.facebook.com/ColorDilutionAlopecia

 

BUYER BEWARE!!

 

 

 
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