A black Lab with a white chest is not necessarily a mixed breed. Purebred Labs can have these markings too. In this article we’ll uncover the genetics behind them and look at where they came from originally. Helping you to decide what your black Lab’s white marks really say about them.
Labradors can have white marks on their chest, feet, and tail. This does not mean your Lab isn’t a pure breed. Although it may prevent your pup from registering as a show dog. Do you have a black Lab with a white chest? A white mark on your black Labrador’s chest is not as unusual as you might think. This pattern actually closely resembles the St John’s Water Dog, an ancestor of the modern Labrador breed.
- Why does my black Lab have a white chest?
- Is my dog a purebred Labrador?
- Is my dog healthy?
- Other possible white markings
- Labrador colors
- Lab color genetics
- Labrador appearance
- Labrador temperament
- Lab health and care
Why Does My Black Lab Have A White Chest?
The Labrador breed coat color is the result of gene interaction, and the presence of certain alleles. We will look into the genetics of coat color in more detail a little later. But let’s take a look now at where these genes could be inherited from.
History of the Lab
Labrador Retrievers have a long history that starts in Newfoundland, Canada. The ancestor of the Lab was a breed called the St John’s Water Dog. Although this breed is now extinct, there are plenty of photos available of the St John’s Water Dog.
This old breed had a thick black coat. In appearance, it is similar to the modern Lab, and the modern Border Collie breed! This is because it had an abundance of white markings amongst its darker fur, predominantly on its chest, face, and feet.
So, these markings were predominant in the Lab’s ancestor. As the breed was being standardized, a black Lab with a white chest wasn’t unusual. In fact, initially, white markings on black Labs were more common than the other fur colors, chocolate and yellow. Until 1892 all Labs were black, but some had white markings.
Is My Dog A Purebred Labrador?
If you have a black Lab with white chest markings, or even markings elsewhere, don’t panic! You might be thinking, does this mean I have a mixed breed? Not necessarily! Mixed breed puppies will inherit random characteristics from either parents. So, if you have a Labrador mixed breed, it’s entirely possible to get a black Lab with a white chest.
But, purebred Labs can have white markings too. Even yellow Labs! White markings on yellow Labs are just a little harder to see. Labradors with these white markings on their fur are often called mismarked Labs. But, because this marking was present in original Labrador ancestors, they are also possible in modern purebred Labs.
Is My Lab Healthy?
If you have a black Lab with white chest markings, you might wonder if there is something wrong with your puppy. Is it healthy? Black and white Lab puppies aren’t going to automatically be unhealthy. They will be just as healthy as any other Labrador puppy! So, don’t panic if your black Lab has white markings. We will look in more depth at Labrador health a little later on.
The only difference between a mismarked, black and white Lab, and a standard colored one is your ability to show them. AKC allows a “small white spot” on a Lab’s chest. But, they state that even this is not “desirable”. This type of Lab, however, doesn’t fall into the ‘mismarked’ category. So, a black Lab with white chest markings may not be right for you if you only want a dog to show it. But, white markings on a working Lab or family companion are absolutely fine.
Other Types of Markings
We’ve been talking about a black Lab with white chest markings so far. But, there are actually lots of other markings that are common on Labs! Let’s take a look at some that you might find on a Lab puppy!
Black and Tan Markings
Some Labs have white markings, but others can have black and tan markings! This is pretty rare. But these puppies can have tan points above their eyes and on their ears and muzzle. Some people think this trait is the result of early cross-breeding with Gordon Setters.
Brindling is a distinct pattern where brown fur has flecks of black and red throughout. This pattern doesn’t have to occur all over your dog. Labs with brindling won’t be accepted as AKC show dogs.
The Bolo mark refers to a white spot on your Lab’s paw. This mark has a really interesting history! Many people believe that dogs with this mark are descendants of the first dual champion dog, called Banchory Bolo. Even if puppies are born with this mark, it may fade over time. Or become covered in black hairs.
White Ring Around Tail
As well as a white chest on a black Lab, some Labradors can have a white ring on their tail. But, like the Bolo mark, this can also be covered by fur as your puppy grows up.
Now we’ve looked at black Labs with white chest markings, and the other markings possible on a Labrador coat. But, we can’t forget the standard three colors. Lab puppies will come in one of the three:
However, there have also been some recent, more controversial colors. These are the silver Lab coat, the charcoal Labrador, and the champagne coat color. They are produced by a dilute gene, which you can read more about in our specific guides.
Lab Coat Genetics
We’ll take a brief look at Labrador color inheritance now, but if you want a more detailed guide, just click here. The black and brown coat colors are controlled by the B allele in your puppy’s DNA. Whereas, the yellow coat color is controlled by the E allele. Pairs of these alleles come from parent dogs to make up the genes that control coat color.
Dominant (B) genes will result in a black Lab. But, two recessive (b) genes will cause a chocolate coat color. These genes can be overridden when a Lab also has two recessive (e) genes, causing a yellow coat. So, getting a black lab with white chest markings will depend on the genes it inherits!
Black Lab with White Chest Appearance
When you get a black and white Lab puppy, you might wonder what else will be different when your dog grows up. But, a black and white Lab puppy will be the same as any other Lab in most elements.
The Labrador breed grows to between 21.5 and 24.5 inches tall as an adult. Generally, they weigh up to 80 pounds. But females are often smaller than males. They are well-proportioned dogs with athletic bodies, as long as they get enough exercise.
Black Lab with White Chest Temperament
Your black and white Lab’s temperament will also be the same as any other Labrador. This breed is friendly, gentle, and athletic. They are known for being easy to train, which makes them great candidates for guide dogs, working dogs, and sporting dogs. They also respond really well to positive, reward-based training. So, training is easy!
Black Lab with White Chest Health and Care
We looked briefly at the health of black and white Lab puppies earlier. But, not at the Labrador breed more generally. Unfortunately there are some health problems that this breed is prone to. The breed has an average lifespan of 12 – 12.5 years. But here are some of the health issues that they can suffer from:
- Hip Dysplasia
- Elbow Dysplasia
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy
- Cranial Cruciate Ligament Disease
You can reduce the risk of these issues by finding puppies from reputable breeders, going to regular vet check ups, feeding your dog a healthy diet, and giving him enough exercise.
Black Lab with White Chest – Summary
So, what do you think of the black Lab with white chest markings? Have you ever had a Labrador with unusual markings? Make sure to tell us about your experiences with this dog in the comments!
References and Resources
- American Kennel Club
- Templeton, J. ‘Coat Color Genetics in the Labrador Retriever’, The Journal of Hereditary
- Woodhaven Labs, Mismarked Labradors
- Gough A, Thomas A, O’Neill D. ‘Breed Predispositions to Disease In Dogs and Cats’ Wiley Blackwell (2018)
- O’Neill et al. ‘Longevity and Mortality of Dogs Owned In England’ The Veterinary Journal (2013)
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