Red Fox Lab Traits, Appearance and Characteristics

four month old fox red lab puppy Bella

The red fox Lab is a dark red shade of yellow Labrador Retriever. These intelligent, affectionate, loyal dogs were originally bred as hunting companions. Red Labs tend to be from working lines and that means high energy, high speed and tons of enthusiasm. These are often sensitive dogs that are keen to please and respond well to positive training. Adult red fox Labs weigh around 65lbs, stand about 22 inches in height and have a lifespan around 12 years.

I’m going to share some photos of my red lab puppies as they grow from birth to maturity. The photo at the top of the page is their mother ‘Bella’ as a four month old puppy, playing in some wild daisies.

I’ll also share the breed traits, characteristics and behaviors you can expect from your red fox Lab puppy as they grow and develop, give you some training tips, and ideas for finding a healthy, friendly puppy And we’ll have a go at tackling the genetics behind this stunning Labrador color.

Fox red is a little more complicated to understand, than the other colors, but I’ll try to clear up some of the confusion. It’ll be fun!

Is it Fox Red or Red Fox Lab?

There are no right or wrong way to say fox red Lab. It doesn’t matter whether the fox or the red comes first. That’s a lot to do with the fact that fox red isn’t an official Labrador color. It’s simply regarded as a shade of yellow.

Of course, we know fox red is much more special than that. But as far as the AKC or the KC is concerned, it’s just another yellow dog.

The Perfect Family Pet?

Labs come in three colors, yellow, chocolate and black. As well as some pale, dilute forms of those colors. The red fox Lab, or fox red Lab, is a dark coated variety of the yellow Labrador Retriever. Breeders are selecting darker red Labrador Retrievers to breed from as they become more popular companions than paler yellow Labs.

Sometimes known as the ruby Labrador or fox red Lab, these are smart, energetic dogs are best suited to active owners. We’ll be sharing our training and exercise tips here to help you get off to a great start with your red fox Labrador puppy. We’ll also explore the characteristics and care needs of this loyal breed, together with tips for finding a great litter of puppies or adding an older rescue dog to your family.

Labradors are some of the world’s most popular hunting companions in addition to their wider roles as service dogs, and most red fox Labs love to explore outdoors and to swim.

Fox Red Lab Origins and History

The potential for red fox Labs has always existed within the Labrador breed. Yet at one time, almost all Labradors were black. This was partly due to nature, and partly due to a little human interference. Chocolate and yellow Labs were both harder to breed for and less desirable, and yellow or brown puppies were often culled at birth!

Yet all three colors of Labrador Retriever, black, chocolate and yellow (including the red shade), share the same origins or history. Bred to be hunting companions, with bags of intelligence and a friendly disposition. In recent years, these rarer colors are becoming more popular. Which leads to more people selectively breeding for them. And therefore more dogs being born with these coats.

Red Fox English Lab vs American Lab

The trend in Labrador coat colors swung to paler and paler colors in the 1970s, and remained that way for decades. Especially among the dog showing community. Fortunately a pool of dark yellow or fox red Labs remained popular in the working sporting dog community. Possibly because a pale yellow dog, being far too easy for wildfowl to spot, is not an ideal hunting companion.

There are two types of Labrador today, the working American Lab and the show bred English Lab. American Labs are slimmer built, with less stocky heads and chests. They have a stronger prey drive, are a little less forward and playful. Even today you are unlikely to find a Red Labrador with a show background. Any dog advertised as an English fox red Labrador will probably have a pedigree that is a mix of American and English dogs.

It is largely from this pool of working retrievers that we now have the stunning fox red Labrador Retrievers that we see today. And because they are often the American Lab type rather than English Lab type, they are often taller and more athletic in appearance than the paler yellow Labs.

English Red Fox Lab

Fox red Labs are mainly the preserve of the working retriever community. You don’t seen many in the show ring. So if you want a typical English lab with the stocky body and blocky head, you’ll find it more difficult to get an English fox red lab puppy. And if you live in the USA, you may have to do plenty of detective work to find one at all. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but for the reasons given above, research your breeder carefully. You may have more luck looking for an American Lab type, from working lines.

Red Fox Lab Temperament

Due to their working background, fox red Labs tend to be hard working dogs. They are very intelligent and trainable, with loyal, loving personalities. Although they have the usual Lab friendliness, they can also be a little more nervous and wary of strangers and slightly high strung.

Lots of socialization and plenty of attention will keep these dogs happy. Coupled with lots of exercise, and both mental and physical activities to keep them busy.

Breeding Darker Red Fox Lab Puppies

Many of the fox red Labs we see today are darker than ever. Presumably because breeders are selecting for the popular deeper coat color in order to increase puppy sales. But it isn’t a straightforward matter breeding puppies of a particular shade of yellow, partly because of the complexity of the mechanism of inheritance.

In any yellow Labrador litter you’ll get a range of colors. There is a lot of pressure on breeders to produce certain colors. But a responsible breeder should not choose parents purely on the basis of color. Especially when there are not large numbers of fox reds to choose from. Health credentials and performance credentials have to be given priority

Fox red lab in the snow

Fox Red Lab Genetics

Genetics are undeniably complicated, and it’s not unusual for breeders to get puppies in colors they weren’t expecting. You may be tempted to skip this – but give it a go – it might be easier than you think! Think of a Labrador as a basically black dog. Black is the default color. The black coat is caused by a pair of genes called the B genes

  • Your dog inherits one from his mother and one from his father – in a pair – like this: BB
  • B genes come in big or little versions. So a black dog could have a pair that look like this instead: Bb
  • Little b carries the code necessary to make a brown coat instead of a black one. BUT, big B is dominant and switches off little b.
  • So little b only gets a say, if two of them get together like this: bb, and when that happens, you get a chocolate Lab!

Red Fox Lab Puppies Are Genetically Yellow

To get a fox red lab, you first need to switch off the black and brown coat color genes. This is done by two little e genes. They also come in a pair like this: ee

And when they get together they have the amazing power to completely block the genes that cause black and brown coats. A lab with two little ee genes cannot have a brown or a black coat and so the coat color now defaults to yellow. Now we are getting closer to our fox red color.

E genes can also be big like this: EE or mixed like this: Ee, but when that happens the big E switches off the little e, and takes away its power. This renders the little e gene useless and it can’t then in turn switch off the brown or black coat color.

So you’ll get a black or brown dog Only when the two little ee genes get together can they switch off the black and brown genes and give you a yellow dog.

Our fox red Labrador puppies are the cutest!

Yellow vs Red Fox Lab Coats

A red Lab is a variation of yellow, and every red dog has those two essential little e genes that switch off black and brown. But then it starts to get a little bit more complicated. Hang on in there, we’ll try and simplify it a little. It centers on a pigment called pheomelanin. This pigment is responsible for the depth of red coloring in the yellow lab’s coat. And it is controlled by two different sets of genes.

The A gene controls the production of the red color. And the C gene controls whether or not it is fully expressed or diluted. This is what makes things a little more complicated. It’s because there are two different pairs of genes interacting together in this way that we get such a range of different shades, from pale yellow to rich fox red. It isn’t just a question of switching the red color on or off. In fact, I am still over-simplifying it a bit.

red fox lab puppy

Red Fox Lab Genes

There are other genes involved in coat color, some of which affect the Labrador. Genes, for example, that control areas of darker shading which can cause that ‘saddle’ pattern on some yellow dogs. But let’s not go there today!

Remember, you’ll be able to see the effects of the interaction of these more complex genes involved in producing our lovely fox red labs, only if the ee genes are present as a pair. Otherwise the B gene will override them. And you are back to black or brown.

Fox Red Lab Breeders

Your first step when bringing any Labrador into your life should be to make sure that this is the right time for you to do this. The next step is to find a reputable breeder of Labradors. Finding a nice fox red stud dog and making a list of all his recent matings is often a starting point. You are most unlikely to find a good breeder who only breeds fox reds. This is because color is not the top priority for a responsible breeder. And remember, in most yellow litters there will be a range of shades.

Puppies may darken as they grow, or they may not. No breeder can guarantee you the final color of your puppy. Make sure that both parents have good hips, elbows and a clear eye test, as well as a PRA clear certificate. Then your pup will have the best chance of growing up healthy.

Beautiful fox red labrador retrieving a bird

Red Fox Lab Puppy Prices

When it first starts to trend, a fashionably colored dog may be more expensive, and this is still happening to some extent with reds. My advice is to be wary of paying an unusually high price for a red lab puppy. It could indicate that you have found an unscrupulous breeder who may be cutting corners on health or other important matters.

The reason I say this is because many respectable breeders will look down on selling puppies of different colors for different prices. So if you seek out a well established, and reputable breeder you shouldn’t have to pay over the odds for your puppy. In fact paying the same price irrespective of color could mean you have a better breeder, and a healthier pup!

Fox Red Labrador Puppies

Fox red Lab puppies are born looking slightly darker than the average yellow Lab. Here is Bella’s litter soon after they were born.

fox red lab puppies newborn

This shade gets increasingly darker over the first few weeks.

Three week old red fox lab puppy

By three weeks old they are starting to look much more like the Labrador you know and love.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson(paid link)
Fox red Lab puppy at six weeks old

By the time you take them home at 8 weeks old they will have that lovely fox red shade.

fox red puppy

Not all the puppies in a litter will be the same shade, even if both of their parents are fox red themselves. Just like any other Labrador, it will be important to dedicate their first few weeks in your home to getting them settled. Starting to work on important things like potty training and setting food habits.

Training and Exercising

Red fox Labradors are clever dogs, often with, as we’ve seen, a strong working background. They really benefit from positive reinforcement training. Using rewards to help encourage them to behave in a way that will help them to fit nicely into your family.

Exercise is important, but they won’t need too much too soon. Start off with no more than a few minutes of formal exercise a day when they are small puppies. And work up to any big walks or runs very gradually over time.

More about Labrador Types and Colors!

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. We have a Red Lab that is also a Dudley, pink nose, lips, pads, and around his eyes. He has a very good temperament and love everyone and everything.
    I really enjoyed the article on red labs.

  2. We rescued a puppy last year and was told it was a Plott hound which we didn’t care what it was because we fell in love with her the second we saw her, our Vet did a DNA and it can back Australian cattle dog and Great Pyrenees. But our Molly, dog is solid red with no white at all, she has a lot of the temperament of the cattle dog but she also has so has the temperament of a Labrador, not that it matters but I wish I knew what she really was. I loved the read on the Red Fox Labrador it sounds alog like molly.

  3. Hello! What are these pictures cute! I just can not! I love looking at pictures of little Labradors so much! These are simply some of the finest dogs in the world! And especially this photo of the smallest Labrador! I remember the day when I was presented with a Labrador, I was so happy that it is simply beyond words! I wish everyone had a dog in the house)) and preferably a Labrador! Thanks for such a lovely post! It was interesting to read it!

  4. Hi Pippa
    I was really interested in your article about the fox red labs. Is it genetically possible for a fox red and a chocolate lab to have only yellow and black pups?
    If the chocolate has to have bb, and the fox red has to have ee. Won’t the the pups have ‘be’ genes which the b would override the e and the litter would be all black?

  5. Ok got it. It’s just another Labrador that some people think is unique because of it’s color, but a Labs still a Lab and has all the same genetic problems as any other Lab. When you start breeding for a specific trait you reduce the gene pool. Leads me to believe I’d be better off just taking the luck red find than finding someone who breeds only for the trait.

  6. Hi Pippa,
    My name is Dianna, and I had a developing problem. I have had diabetics for 10 years now , and it is starting to give me the problems my Doctor warned me about. I will be having an infected toe-nail removed soon and my eyes are starting to blury up. I pray I don’t lose my total sight. But it will be Gods will not mine.
    I have also had 5 back surgeryd and may be facing another. (you can tell I had avery active life) and I want to continue to be as active as I can, I had trained a Golden retriever for the see-I foundation and he was place with a very nice man.
    I have raised three Labadores, two German shapers and two Shitzus I have to be honest I loved all of them they are all great dogs. But now I would like a Labadore and I wil be thrilled to take a pup and train her/him for my special need. even if I am able to keep my sight I have the other issues that a service dog will be perfect for.. I have had a white lab, a goden and a black. I have recently didcovered the Fox Red this is the color I want. I love red and a deep red is very apealing to me. I realise there are easer and less expensive dogs but as you know once a lab lover always a lab lover . All my desting will begain next week to find out judt how mych damage my Diebieties has done and back issues. I know it will take me awhile to locate a pet Fox Red, But I thought you might be able to help me down the road to find my SYDNEY.
    Thank you

  7. Great article and learned a lot about the labrador.
    We have a brown one and a fun dog in many ways. Nearly a year after we got our dog we learned from vetrinarians that the colours also tells a bit about the dogs behaviours / temperament.
    Yellow: Calm and collective dogs. Which is the reason why these are often used as seeing eye dog.
    Black: calm and collective dogs, but maybe a bit more lively.
    Brown: Definitely more lively …
    One said that brown labs are not used for hunting in England because they cannot sit still…

    Our dog has a great nose and so we do long “nose work” trails in the forrest. Or make him find stuff in the house.

  8. Can anyone help me answer this question ASAP! I have been to see a litter of puppies and they are from working dog breeds and are black. In the litter there were 3 small females age two weeks and two large females. I was wanting to choose one of the small females, but they have all been chosen. When they grow up will they all be the same size? Will the small females catch up with the larger females, or what you see is what you will get? The mother is slight and the dog is a muscular working dog. I would really appreciate someone helping to answer this question!

    • Don’t go by the size of the puppies, especially when they are young! I had a litter where the runt wound up being the largest dog out of the bunch. And it was a VERY small puppy. Half the size of its siblings. The largest female wound up being the smallest out of the whole litter. So definitely don’t worry about the size of the puppy when you get it.

  9. Just recently adopted a 9 month old from a shelter. She has a Fox red color with a huge splash of white on throat and chest. They said she is a lab/Shepard mix. I have a few photos of her. If anyone can help me try to identify her general breed so I can look out for specific health issues. She’s a beauty. A lil leash aggression and under socialized with other dogs. But hopefully with time and love she will over come it. 🙂

  10. We just put our red fox down … 6 years young and I’m devastated. She brought my sneakers every morning so we could begin our daily walk. She helped on wash day bringing some clothes to the laundry room and picking up all the socks I dropped along the way. She helped on food shopping day carrying in the smaller items from the car. Ever since we got our fur baby I never had to pick up anything I accidentally dropped. Sonny was always there and would come a running to assist me.
    Love your red fox babies, they are precious.

  11. Our Fox Red is a English lab and also has the pink nose. We adopted her from a breeder and she is 7 yrs old. Tremendous temperament. Very sweet dog.

  12. Hi Karen
    That sounds like exactly what we’ve been looking for. Can you give me the name of the breeder? That would be really helpful.

  13. Interesting article, thank you! I’d never heard of a Fox Red Lab until today. Out and about with our 14 week old pup Bella! Several people commented on her colour, asking if she was a Fox Red. I smiled politely and quickly changed the subject, not knowing what they were on about! I now know our Bella is also a Fox Red and I can explain the genetics next time someone asks! Thanks ?

    • We had been yearning for a lab puppy, preferably black female so we started looking. We found a litter of the age we wanted, almost 8 weeks old and only one black female left. They sent us pictures and at that point there were only 2 left so we went to check on them. Well with a male red fox, and black female we just couldn’t split them up. So now at at 9 months it’s like having 2 “ Marleys “ and wouldn’t have it any other way. They keep us so busy, they keep us young as we are in our later 60’s. Have always had labs and you never will find two alike, they all have their own personalities.

  14. Our new best buddy, Jake, is 13 weeks old and weighing in at 28 lbs! He is a sweet boy, and I still find myself coming back to this reference page to read about him and his fascinating genetics. Thank you so much for the information. Such a great and informative read!

  15. Just chanced on your great informative article on fox red labs. We have just sadly lost our 12.5 year old American-type black lab and would like to find a breeder for a fox red male American-type puppy, we live in Hampshire, can you recommend any? Thank you.

  16. We have had 2 labs, choc & black. They are getting older & really want another one. I just discovered the red fox & love!!! I thought the article would give me an idea of price but didn’t see any price suggestions. Any suggestions where to start to find our next new puppy? We live in MN. Also, price to expect? Would love a female. TY!!

  17. I am in the market for an ~ 1 1/2 to 2 year Fox Red Registered female. If anyone can provide assistance, I would greatly appreciate it.

    thanks – Pat Smith in McKinney, Texas

  18. Great article.. Love my Labs. I have a male dark red British Lab and a yellow female sired by Tweedshot Trimble of Lettergreen. Both great hunting dogs and family members.

  19. Great article, thank you. Now I know how our gorgeous red fox lab Ruby came to be as she is. She was the first in our village as far as we know, but now there are several. Sometimes complete strangers ask to have their photo taken with her. It’s like going on walks with a celebrity. Her parents are both Scottish. Another owner (who had the identical dog to ours, also called Ruby – luckily they knew their owners!) told us last year that many of the reds in the UK come from a breeder in Perthshire, Scotland. Her father is one of them.

  20. Thank you for the great article!! I first fell in love with fox reds with my first breeder rescue! I just got my second fox red who is a 9 year old english. Love her fire red hair and white face.

  21. I now know we have a beautiful Fox Red Lab!
    We got him as a rescue, he was already 3 or 4 years old, and we have now had him for 4 years, he is getting so gray now…but nothing slows him down! When he came to us he had a broken rear leg that required a pin, the pin shifted and caused nerve damage so it was removed, but he wouldn’t put weight on it anymore. We then had to work with him to get him using it again, swimming, acupuncture and physio – you can still tell it isn’t quite 100% but he doesn’t let it stop him.
    We were told he was a lab mix, some people said he was crossed with a Ridgeback, I thought maybe he was crossed with a Vizsla…but now I have no doubts he is a Red Fox Lab. I first thought he was a red fox lab when I came across a book “Daisy’s Gift” by Claire Guest (amazing book well worth the read!) The picture of Daisy on the front is the exact image of our boy Fozzie, so I did a search and came up with this article and I am so glad I did, great article!
    Not many people know about the Red Fox Lab, and I am guessing that they are rare here in the United States?
    Our Fozzie is the American type for sure and I think that maybe he may have been someones gun dog (through x-ray it was discovered that he was shot in the leg at some point, the pellet is still in his leg, I am hoping this was an accident while out hunting, and not someone deliberately shooting this sweet boy!)
    He is such a wonderful dog, so smart and so loving, gets along with everyone, won’t stop chasing a ball ever…I’m so glad he came into our lives!

  22. Hi
    We live in new york and we are desperatly looking for a Red Fox ENGLISH LAb
    Any suggestions?

    Thanks so much…loved your article

  23. Thank you for such an informative article. So many folks have never heard of a fox red lab, and have questioned my dog’s breed.

    We have a sweet, beautiful, 6 year old fox red girl. She’s the smartest dog I’ve ever known. Her grandparents were bred at Wild Rose, but she came from a very loving home in Birmingham, AL, where her parents both lived.

    She is the perfect family dog, and is also an excellent hunting companion for my husband. We laugh about how she has no problems jumping into wet, cold marsh to retrieve a duck, but if it’s raining out, she refuses to get her feet wet.

    Also, she has been a wonderful playmate for my 12 year old daughter, who is our only child still living at home. She would be otherwise very lonely, as her older sister left for college a few years ago. The two of them spend hours in the pool in the summer. They’re both like water bugs!

    Best dogs ever!

  24. have seen some 5 day old pups where mum is black and sire was red fox. there are 3 black pups and 4 which are a fawny colour. is this quite normal for the red fox shade so will it change in time?

  25. I have seen a litter of labrador pups from a black mother and red fox sire. The pups are 5 days old 4 black and 3 beigey coloured. I want to know whether these unusual coloured fawny ones will definitely turn reddish because that is what I hope for. can someone please e-mail me back to my address as I don’t know how to look back into this.

  26. We have a beautiful fox red male lab who is now 4 months old. He came from an excellent breeder of this breed/colour in Rotherham. He is an absolute delight, very smart and easy to train, fantastic with people, other dogs and children. We are so pleased to have him in our family. You will love your puppy.

  27. Carol i couldn’t disagree with your trainer more! We have a 2 year old red girl from a very responsible breeder of working labs. She is incredibly sociable and friendly whilst also being very calm and chilled and loving. She was easy to train and is very responsive to ‘working’ for her food and toys with sniff and search games but doesn’t go mad when out for walks and so on. She is great with kids of all ages and has been into school with my teacher-wife many times, but doesn’t bat an eyelid at just being calm and friendly with grandparents etc. It ‘s a great shame your trainer has unsettled you before you even get your new pup. The temperament of the parents will be a key to how your pup will naturally be and then training will take care of the rest. Enjoy!

  28. Hi Carol,
    I’m very sorry to hear that this dog trainer upset you.
    Working dogs tend to have more ‘drive’, so more instinct for fetch and interest in the wildlife. Show dogs tend to have a bit more ‘bounce’, so more social with people and perhaps therefore more lively in this respect. They are both different, but both lovely.
    You can find out more about the difference between working and show lines here:
    You could also join the Labrador forum here, where you will get to chat to owners of show and working dogs who will be happy to advise you further.
    My family’s working lines fox red Lab is an older lady now, but she has always been one of the most chilled out, keen to please, loving dogs you could ever hope to meet.
    I hope you enjoy your wonderful new puppy. Lucy.

  29. We adopted our Clancy two years ago from the local SPCA. I had never known there were red fox labs and they told us he was a lab mix. He is the most intelligent, gentle, easily trained dog. A co-worker just got a “red lab” so I investigated further. This is our Clancy! We still cannot believe how blessed we have been with him. Thank you for your info!

  30. My dog has always been a really dark color for a yellow lab, which is what I was told she was. For the longest time I thought the breeder lied and she was really half lab and half golden retriever. But I am so glad I came across this article because I didn’t know there was a fox red breed. She isn’t as dark as your Tess but she isn’t your typical light yellow lab either! She even has the American lab stature and nose!

    Thank you for this article!

  31. I bred a pair of black labs and two of the puppies were fox red. I had two different vets tell me that the red ones were not true labs!! That another male dog had mated with our female. We knew that was impossible since she was either in our house, pen or outside with us. I truly enjoyed reading this article!

  32. Who Knew! I have a 9 year old male who is this color, and additionally, his tail stands up, and curls towards his back. I also have a chocolate lab which is almost auburn; I refer to them as ‘Milk Chocolate, and Dark Chocolate’. I am in the USA, Arizona – the ‘fox color’ was bred in Utah, the dark chocolate was bred in Arizona. My ‘fox color’ male is the gentlest of all of my labs – I have had 5, and my dark chocolate lab had an ‘attitude’!

  33. Lovely article. Our gorgeous fox red lab Molly is now 14 and still in good spirits. She was bred by our daughter’s (then) boyfriend’s uncle and her boyfriend also took a dog from the same litter. This dog (Figo) is more your typical Andrex puppy. We always wondered why there was such a difference in colouring between the two dogs.