Polar Bear Lab

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polar bear lab

Our complete introduction to the polar bear Lab will answer all your questions about Labrador Retrievers with snowy white coats. Including ‘are they real Labs?’, ‘are they good pets?’ and ‘where can I get polar bear white Lab puppies?’

A polar white dog obviously isn’t crossed with an actual polar bear. But generations of selective breeding for the palest possible coat color, combined with black eye rims, nose leather and lips, makes these Labs look very like polar bears.

6 month old Walker is a beautiful example of a polar Lab puppy. But how pale can a pedigree Lab’s coat really get, and is focussing so much on coat color always a good idea? Let’s find out!

What is a polar bear Lab?

A polar bear Lab is quite simply a Labrador with physical features that make them look a bit like a polar bear. There are no formal rules about what traits a Lab needs to have to be considered more like a white bear dog than just a regular Lab, and so everyone will have their own idea about which Labs qualify. Generally though, it means:

  • They have an extremely pale yellow coat. True white coats don’t actually appear in the Labrador breed. But yellow Labrador coats range from fox red to palest creamy white, depending on which other genes are interacting with the basic yellow coat gene (more on this in a moment!).
  • Their eye rims, nose and lips are black. This sets them apart from pale yellow puppies with pink eye rims, noses and lips (which are known as dudley Labs).
  • And they come from English, or show type breeding lines. Labradors usually belong to one of two breeding lines – American, or working type, which are slightly taller, leaner, and athletic-looking, and English, or show type, which are shorter, stockier, and basically more bear-like in build.

Polar bear Lab genetics

Let’s have a quick closer look at the genes which make polar bear puppies’ fur so light. Labradors come in three standard colors, which are inherited in a predictable genetic way:

  • Black
  • Chocolate
  • Yellow

Standard yellow coats vary in intensity, from bright fox reds all the way down to pale buttery creams. This variation is also genetically controlled, but the exact genes responsible, and how they interact with each other, haven’t been discovered yet.

An additional, a well understood but non-standard coat color gene in Labs is the color dilution gene. Labrador enthusiasts disagree on whether color dilution is a genuinely occurring recessive trait in Labradors, or evidence of illicit outcrossing with Weimaraners in the recent past. Yellow Labradors who inherit the color dilution gene from both parents have extremely pale yellow coats, sometimes described as champagne.

polar bear lab

It’s likely that polar bear Labs have several genes which would make them a pale shade of yellow anyway, plus color dilution. Despite the controversy over color dilution, polar bear Labs will still qualify for pedigree papers, if their breeder can prove that they have a qualifying pedigree ancestry.

Do white Labs have hair like a polar bear?

Despite the visual similarities, white Labrador fur isn’t much like a polar bear’s at all. In fact, polar bear fur is completely unique, and rather remarkable. Each follicle is hollow and transparent, so that it only appears white because it reflects the snow around it. In fact when polar bears are kept in captivity, their fur sometimes turns green due to algae growing inside the hollow hairs! Scientists have even been inspired by the polar bears coat to develop new textiles with enhanced heat generating and storing properties. In comparison, the polar bear Lab’s coat is really quite ordinary.

Is white the rarest Labrador color?

Of the three standard coat colors, chocolate is the least common. Black is the most common, and yellow coats fall in between. Dilute coats used to be vanishingly rare, and if they occurred dilute puppies would probably have been culled at birth and not recorded. These days, dilute coats are gaining popularity with pet owners who like the idea of their Labrador being a bit different from the crowd. Polar white coats are just one type of dilute coat though, so they are still fairly uncommon.

It’s not unusual for Labrador breeders to have a color they’re especially passionate about, and focus on breeding exceptional puppies in that color. However, breeders should never focus on achieving any color at the expense of securing things like optimum health, or good temperament. As we’ll see in a moment, there are also good reasons to be wary of any breeder who boasts about their white Labs being rare.

Polar bear Lab temperament

All Labradors tend to be energetic, affectionate, intelligent, and sociable. Factors which shape the finer details of individual temperament include:

  • The temperament of their parents.
  • Training and working status.
  • How much exercise they get.
  • How well they are socialized as puppies.

On average, English type Labs are described as being more placid and mellow than American type Labs, since their traditional role was to stand patiently on a show bench, rather than work in the field. Since polar bear Labs tend to be from English lines, they also tend to be amongst the calmest Labs. But they’ll still need 2-3 hours of exercise every day, plus consistent obedience training and reinforcement throughout their lives. Since they need so much interaction, they are best suited to households where someone is at home and able to engage with them for most of the day.

Polar bear Lab health

All Labradors should be bred from health tested parents. This means their parents should have been screened for the following conditions before mating takes place:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Eye disease
  • Exercise induced collapse.

Breeders should not decline to commission any of these tests, or press ahead despite a poor result, simply because the pairing would achieve very polar bear looking puppies. The yellow coat itself is not specifically linked to an increased risk of any illnesses, but the color dilution gene has been linked to color dilution alopecia. Breeding lines of super pale Labs should be discontinued if individuals within it develop alopecia.

Finding white polar bear Lab puppies for sale

Like other unusual colors such as charcoal and silver, most polar white Lab puppies come from a small number of breeders who are particularly invested in producing breeding lines with a high proportion of ultra pale coats. If your heart is set on a polar bear Lab puppy, this does at least narrow down your search. But you’ll still need to research breeders carefully to make sure that their puppies are as healthy as possible, and likely to have a temperament which fits well with your lifestyle. Our puppy resources can help you navigate that process with confidence.

Polar bear Lab puppies price

Responsible breeding is an expensive business: health tests, the cost of traveling to a suitable sire, whelping materials and veterinary fees all add up. In addition, breeders may legitimately charge more for puppies from exceptional breeding lines. For example if they have lots of field trial or conformation show champions in their pedigree. So a well bred polar bear Lab puppy can easily cost in excess of $800 – $1,000.

But as a rule, reputable breeders don’t charge extra for Labrador puppies in unusual colors. This is because putting a premium price on a quality which is easily replicable (like color) makes dogs vulnerable to puppy farming. Puppy farmers breed dogs for profit above all else, and are quick to exploit trends for new colors. And good breeders don’t want to jeopardize the overall quality of the breed by creating that possibility.

Your polar bear Lab

Polar bear Labradors are English Labs with exceptionally pale yellow coats. They express color dilution, which is a controversial trait in Labradors, but doesn’t exempt them from pedigree status. In terms of health and temperament, polar Labs are the same as English Labs in any other color.

Have you already brought home a polar bear Lab puppy? We’d love to hear about them in the comments box down below!

Other dogs that look like polar bears

If you’re a fan of white dogs, but you’re not sure about a Lab, perhaps one of these canine alternatives will be polar bear dog breed for you?

  • American Eskimo Dog
  • Clumber Spaniel
  • Coton de Tulear
  • Great Pyrenees
  • Maremma Sheepdog
  • Samoyed
  • West Highland White Terrier

References

August et al. A bionic approach for heat generation and latent heat storage inspired by the polar bear. Energy. 2019.

Brancalion et al. Canine coat pigmentation genetics: a review. Animal Genetics. 2021.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson

Lofgren et al. Management and personality in Labrador Retriever dogs. Applied Animal Behavior Science. 2014.

McGreevy et al. Labrador retrievers under primary veterinary care in the UK: demography, mortality and disorders. Canine Medicine & Genetics. 2018.

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

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