The brindle Lab has an unusual coat. This pattern is possible in purebred Labs, or can occur as a result of mixed breeding. Brindling is a coat pattern with dark flecks or stripes over a brown base. This pattern can also be known as tiger stripes.
Brindle coloring on Labradors is classed as a disqualification by the AKC, so you cannot show brindle Labs. But, this doesn’t mean they won’t make a great pet. Read on to learn more about this interesting pattern.
About the Labrador Retriever
Labs are extremely popular. They’ve been America’s favorite breed for years. This popularity is partly caused by the wonderful temperament of this breed. Labs are friendly, social, and affectionate dogs, especially when well socialized and trained from a young age. They take to training well, thanks to their intelligence and eagerness to please. This has made them great candidates as working dogs. You can find Labrador Retrievers working alongside people in all walks of life. From guide dogs and therapy dogs, to gundogs and military dogs.
Labs have dense coats and are known for shedding! Luckily, regular grooming can help you to keep on top of any loose fur.
Standard Labrador Colors
There are three standard, officially accepted colors for the Labrador Retrievers. They are:
However a small white marking on the chest is also permitted by the AKC. As you can see, the brindle pattern doesn’t fit in here. But, this won’t matter unless you’re looking for a show Lab.
What is Brindle Coloring?
Brindle is actually a type of pattern that can be seen on Labradors. It’s also common in other dog breeds, such as Pitbull breeds and Boxers. In fact, it can even be seen on rodents and horses. Brindle pattern appears as irregular dark brown or black stripes and flecks over a brown background.
You can also get a pattern called ‘reverse brindle’. This is when brindling is so extreme that it seems like the shades have reversed. Dogs with reverse brindles look as if they have lighter stripes over a dark base of fur.
Not all brindle dogs have this pattern all over. You might find Labs with slight brindling on parts of their bodies, and solid color fur elsewhere.
Brindle Lab Genetics
So, how does such an interesting pattern occur in dogs? Like all coloring, it’s a case of getting the right genes! For this pattern, we need to look at the K locus. There are 3 alleles that interact at this locus. These are K or Kb (dominant black), Kbr (brindle), and k (non-solid black). K is dominant to Kbr, but Kbr is dominant to k.
So brindling is possible with the following combinations:
- Kbr + Kbr
- Kbr + k
The A Locus
We also need to look at the A locus. If a Lab has either of the combinations above, any phaeomelanin in his coat (red pigment) will be brindled. But the appearance of this depends on certain genes at the A locus. Let’s look at the way different alleles at this locus can affect brindle patterning.
- AyAy (sable) – dog is solid brindle, with possible darker areas on head
- atat (tan points) – dog has brindle points
- awaw (agouti/wolf grey) – may have brindle points or no brindling
- aa (recessive black) – no brindle
Can Brindle Labs be Shown?
If you want to show your Lab, you will have to avoid the brindle pattern. AKC only accepts the three standard colors: black, yellow, and liver. The only marking that is acceptable on Labs is a small white marking on the chest. This is only really a problem if you want to show your Lab at AKC shows. If you’re simply looking for a loving, intelligent, friendly companion, brindle Labs are just as good as any other color.
Brindle Lab Health
The brindle pattern won’t cause any additional health problems for your Labrador Retriever. As long as they have been bred responsibly from healthy parents, they will be as healthy as any other Lab. For a closer look at Labrador health, you can check out our breed guide. But at a glance, here are some health conditions to know about before you bring home a brindle Lab.
- Hip and elbow dysplasia
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy
- Cranial Cruciate Ligament Disease
Reputable breeders will test for these health problems when possible. But your dog’s lifestyle can also impact problems like obesity.
Brindle Lab Mix
As we briefly mentioned earlier, one way to get brindle Labs is to choose a mixed breed. The brindle pattern is more common in some Pitbull breeds, or dogs like the Boxer. So, choosing a Pitbull Lab mix or a Boxer Lab mix, brindle patterns are also possible. Especially if the Pitbull or Boxer parent has a brindle coat already.
However, if you’re choosing a brindle Lab mix, remember the puppy can inherit qualities from either parent. So, they may not have the standard Labrador temperament and appearance. They may also be prone to the health problems of both parent breeds. So do plenty of research before bringing home a mixed breed.
Brindle Lab Puppies
Because the brindle Lab pattern is rather unusual, some disreputable breeders will try to profit off this. This means brindle Lab puppies can come at very inflated prices. It’s important to research your breeder as much as possible before getting a brindle Lab puppy. Take a look at our article on ‘how to spot a bad breeder’ for more tips.
Make sure to ask lots of questions when speaking to breeders. Try to look at where the puppies are being kept, and if possible meet both parents to see what their temperament is like. Reputable breeders will perform health testing and have evidence of this to show you. They are also likely to ask you lots of questions, as they will want their puppies to go to good homes.
Generally Labrador puppies cost between $800 and $1200 in the USA. So brindle Labs being sold at much higher prices may be the sign of a disreputable breeder trying to make some extra money.
Why Charge So Much?
You might wonder how some breeders can get away with charging so much for Lab puppies. Most often, they will market brindle Lab puppies as ‘rare’. But the problem with this, is that some will interbreed close bloodlines in an attempt to achieve this ‘rare’ pattern. This can lead to an increased number of health problems. If a breeder is advertising their brindle Lab puppies as ‘rare’ you would do best to look elsewhere. Or go with a lot of questions in hand!
Brindle Lab Summary
What do you think of the brindle Lab? We would love to hear your experiences if you have a Labrador with this unusual coat pattern. This coat pattern can look really interesting on a lovable Lab. But, you won’t be able to show a brindle Lab at AKC shows, as it is not an accepted color.
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References and Resources
- Sponenberg, D. P. & Rothschild, M. ‘Genetics of Coat Color and Hair Texture’, The Genetics of the Dog (2001)
- ‘Most Popular Dog Breeds of 2018’, American Kennel Club (2019)
- Buzhardt, L. ‘Genetics Basics – Coat Color Genetics in Dogs’, VCA (2016)
- Kerns, J. (et al), ‘Linkage and Segregation Analysis of Black and Brindle Coat Color in Domestic Dogs’, Genetics (2007)
- ‘Brindle K Series‘, Dog Genetics (Accessed April, 2020)
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
Howdy From Montana,
I got my dog from someone who identified herself as a Golden Retriever breeder. She advertised a brindle pup on Craigslist claiming the pup came from her pure bred Golden male and a female who she described as a Golden/Lab mix. He was a beautiful pup and has grown into a very handsome and healthy adult (six and a half years as I type this). I am a trail runner and he has run with me in some trail ultramarathons (his longest run at 45 miles). I only saw photos of the parents and did not see any of the other puppies.
All that is to lead up to me saying that while the AKC can set whatever standards they want, it seems advantageous to have a hunting dog with its own built-in camouflage!
We have a 9week old black ( akc registered) black lab who’s legs have just started with brown brindle spots on her back legs…. just looking to see how this happened! And trying to see if she was to have a litter (not my plan) if the brindle would be present in that litter