Black and Tan Lab

black and tan lab

A black and tan Lab is an unusual sight, and can be quite controversial! Labrador Retrievers with black and tan markings can be achieved in two ways. Either, they can be crossed with another breed to achieve this pattern, creating a Labrador mixed breed. Or, a purebred Lab can receive the recessive genes required for this coloring from both parents.

Purebred black and tan Labs are quite uncommon, and often unexpected! This coloring is currently disqualified from shows, so you won’t be able to compete with a black and tan Lab. But, they will have the same lovable temperament and care needs as any other Lab, making them a great family pet for many homes.

Frequently Asked Questions About Black and Tan Labs

You can click on the links above to jump straight to a section that interests you. Or, keep reading to learn everything about the unusual black and tan Lab!

What Do Black and Tan Labradors Look Like?

The exact appearance of a black and tan Labrador will depend on the specific mismarks they have. Since black and chocolate Labs have darker coats, it’s much easier to see tan markings on their fur. These tan markings are most often on the legs, muzzle, eyebrows, and chest. This type of mismark often leads people to compare the black and tan Lab to the Rottweiler breed or the Gordon Setter.

However, tan markings can vary from one mismarked Lab to the next. Some may only have a single tan paw, whilst the rest of them is a solid color! Others may have tan coloring in the form of brindling. This will look like stripes or flecks of a lighter color (such as tan) and can appear anywhere on your Lab’s fur.

As long as your black and tan Labrador is indeed purebred, their other features will be like any other Labrador’s. The only time you will notice extreme differences is when a Lab puppy is not actually purebred. DNA testing is the most accurate way to learn whether or not your Lab is purebred, but you can also increase your chances by getting your puppy from a reputable breeder.

Are Black and Tan Labradors Purebred?

It’s absolutely possible to get a purebred black and tan Labrador Retriever. However, the gene for this coloring is recessive. So, a Labrador puppy needs to receive one copy from each parent in order to show black and tan fur. As long as those two parents are also purebred Labradors, the resulting black and tan Labrador puppy will also be purebred.

However, it is also possible that some disreputable breeders, puppy mills, or backyard breeders would try to profit on this unusual coloring by selling mixed breed puppies and marketing them as “rare” purebred black and tan Labradors. This is why it’s important to be sure you’re getting your puppy from a good source and not just someone looking to make a fast profit.

black and tan lab

You can ask to see pedigree papers of purebred Lab puppies. If this is not available, a breeder must be able to show you the puppy’s registration document, which will contain information about both parents. Alternatively, when your puppy is home, you can do a DNA test if you’re concerned that the breeder may have lied about your dog’s heritage. But, it is possible for purebred Labs to have this black and tan marking.

How Do Breeders Get Black and Tan Lab Puppies?

As you will now know from the information so far, there are two ways that a breeder will be able to achieve black and tan Labrador puppies. When a black and tan Lab is purebred, they often come about by accident. The genes that cause this coloring can be hidden for generations, and won’t show up until two Labs with the right genetics are bred.

Other breeders may try to mimic and recreate this pattern by breeding a Labrador with another purebred dog. This could be a lighter colored dog, such as a Golden Retriever, or one with the desired markings, like a Rottweiler or Gordon Setter. Many of these breeders will sell their dogs as mixed breeds. But, occasionally, some may try to pass their puppies off as purebred Labs. Try to ensure you’re only choosing the most reputable breeders when searching for your Lab puppy, to avoid this. The best breeders will prioritise health and proper care over all else – including fur color.

Can Black and Tan Labs Compete?

Although a purebred black and tan Labrador can be registered with the AKC, they cannot compete in any shows. Their coloring falls outside of the permitted breed standards. In fact, the only mismark that is accepted for show is a small white patch on the chest. If it’s not important to you to compete with your Lab, then this won’t matter.
A black and tan Labrador can make a brilliant family pet in the right home, just like any other colored Lab.

Are Black and Tan Labradors Rare?

As we know, a Labrador puppy must receive two copies of the necessary recessive gene to show black and tan coloring. This is why black and tan Labrador puppies are uncommon, and often a surprise to breeders – solid colored Labs can carry one copy of the gene without anyone knowing until they’re bred to another Lab that carries it! Even then, not all puppies in such a litter necessarily will be mismarked. Or mismarked in exactly the same way.

However, it’s also important to be wary of breeders marketing their black and tan puppies as rare. Especially if this description comes with a massively inflated price tag. Poor breeders may try to breed and sell “rare” Labradors in order to make more money, regardless of the health of the puppies. Reputable breeders will often charge no more for mismarked puppies. In fact, some may even reduce the price of these Labs, since they will not qualify for show.

Before searching for a new Labrador puppy, research the best way to find a reputable breeder. Here are some links that will help you:

Where Can I Find Black and Tan Labrador Puppies?

Many people hope to own an unusual Labrador. And, mismarks like the black and tan pattern are slowly growing in popularity. However, this means it’s ever more important to be vigilant when finding a reputable breeder. Above all else, make sure you’re choosing a healthy and friendly puppy. After all, no matter what the color of your Labrador, they will make a wonderful family companion, and will be unique in their loving personality. No two Labs are the same!

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson

Purebred mismarked Labradors are often bred unintentionally. So, if your heart is really set on this coloring, you may be waiting a while to find a puppy, especially since many reputable breeders will have waiting lists regardless of a puppy’s color. If this pattern is more important to you than any specific temperament and general appearance, you may want to look at other breeds with the pattern, such as the Gordon Setter. Alternatively, you can try to find a reputable breeder who is honest about their mixed breed puppies, or see if you can find a mismarked Lab looking for a loving home in rescue centers near you.

Do You Have a Black and Tan Labrador?

We would love to hear your own stories about the black and tan Lab in the comments below. Have you got a purebred black and tan Lab at home? Or does your Lab have another mismark?

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References and Resources

The Labrador Site Founder

Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.

She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program 

Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website


  1. I adopted what I was told was a Rottweiler/Lab mix from a shelter – we DNA tested him out of curiosity and sure enough 100% Labrador Retriever. He’s the best dog with a wonderful temperament, I’m so glad we ended up with him!

  2. Hi I have got a purebred black and tan laborador which is very active and friendly but nobody believes that it is an purebred laborador

  3. I’ve got a black n tan…Rufus is the absolute best dog learns quickly and so so
    handsome want to find another and try for a puppy such a good looking dog