Tan Labrador

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tan labrador

The term tan Labrador can be a way to describe a certain shade of yellow Lab coats.

But, more commonly, it refers to mismarks, such as the black and tan Labrador, or Labs with brindle markings.

If you’ve found a breeder advertising tan Labradors, it’s important to learn exactly what they mean by the term. And, if you’re looking to show your Lab, you may need to avoid those uncommon mismarks.

Tan Labrador Retriever FAQs

Tan mismarks on Labradors are rare, but quite striking. Let’s take a closer look at where this coloring comes from, and what it means for Labs kept as pets.

What is a Tan Labrador?

Labrador Retrievers have been America’s favorite breed for thirty years, and are just as often working dogs as they are family pets.

So it’s no surprise that there are so many Labs around. And, with a huge number of Labrador puppies being bred every year, there’s naturally some variation in their shades and coloring.

Yellow Labs come in a huge range of tones, from an almost-white cream to a deep fox red.

So, it makes sense that some breeders may interpret and advertise certain yellow Lab shades as “tan”.

Of course, this is all down to personal opinion and interpretation of the color. But, if you’re looking for a Lab with tan coloring all over, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a yellow Lab that fits the bill.

It is a great idea to see puppies in person before committing if you are hoping to get a specific shade of yellow Lab. But, just remember that coloring can change slightly as your Lab grows and loses their puppy coat.

tan labrador

Tan Mismarks

It’s also possible to find Labradors with tan mismarks. The most common one here is the black and tan Labrador.

Labs with this coloring are often mistaken for Rottweilers, or mixed breeds. But, it’s possible to find a purebred black Lab with tan markings.

Most often these tan markings are on their legs, chest, eyebrows, and muzzle.

Another option is that Labs have brindle patterning, with a few flecks of tan over their fur. This is common on their chest.

Mismarks aren’t that common, and usually come as quite a surprise in puppy litters. So, if you have your heart set on a Lab with tan mismarks, you might have to search for quite a while.

Are Tan Labradors Purebred?

Tan Labradors that are actually just a certain shade of yellow are often purebred.

And, it might surprise you to learn that many Labs with tan mismarks are also purebred, such as the black and tan Labrador Retriever.

But, due to the popularity of Labs, there is also a risk that some unscrupulous breeders will market mixed breed Lab puppies as purebred to make a quick profit.

There are a few ways you can find out if a Lab is purebred.

How to Find Out if Your Lab is Purebred

Just looking at them isn’t a great method, as mixed breed dogs can inherit any mix of traits. So, they could look just like a Lab despite their mixed heritage.

Reputable breeders should be able to provide registration documents for puppies with the names of both parents.

They may even be able to provide a copy of the pedigree, which will go back a few generations.

And the final method is through DNA testing. This usually uses a swab sample from your dog’s cheek to determine their genetic makeup.

You can read more about these methods here.

Unscrupulous Breeders

We’ve mentioned it briefly, but it’s worth picking up on again.

As unusual Lab markings gain popularity and people are searching for a unique dog to call their own, backyard breeders and puppy mills may jump on the trend.

Since black and tan Labs and brindle labs are quite uncommon, they may simply resort to crossing a Lab with a Rottweiler, or another breed to try and achieve this coloring.

Puppy mills and backyard breeders won’t give their puppies the same level of care as reputable breeders. They also will often not carry out the same standard of health testing before breeding.

This can lead to a number of health issues down the line, which can be costly and stressful.

We will take a closer look at finding a healthy tan Labrador towards the end of this guide.

Where Did Tan Labrador Coloring Come From?

Labrador Retrievers have a long and rich history that stretches back centuries. In fact, Labs as we know them today have ancestry from dogs in 18th Century Newfoundland, Canada.

The St John’s Water Dog was one of those key ancestors. And, these dogs were often black with white or light markings on their legs, face, paws, and chest.

Much like the placement of tan markings on a black and tan Labrador.

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Until 1892, all recorded Labradors were black in color, some with white markings. But, in 1899 the first recorded yellow Lab appeared.

Yellow is a recessive color in Labs, so it’s more common to find black Labs. But, Labs with a tan shade of yellow are perfectly common nowadays.

You can read more about the history of the Labrador breed and its coloring in this guide.

With this information, it’s easy to see how recessive markings and colorings can stay hidden for a long time until the right combination of genes allows them to show, even in purebred Labs!

Are Tan Labradors Allowed to Compete?

Yellow Labs are allowed to compete in AKC shows. In fact, the breed standard accepts any range of yellow from light cream to fox red.

So, a yellow that looks ‘tan’ in coloring would be perfectly acceptable.

However, Labs with tan mismarks, such as brindle or black and tan Labs would not be allowed to compete in AKC shows.

This coloring is counted as a disqualification.

Mismarked Labs can still be AKC registered. They just can’t compete.

And, they can still make a great family dog for the right home.

Are Tan Labradors Rare?

Tan Labradors that are yellow are not that rare nowadays.

But, since yellow Labs can come in so many different shades, you may need to wait a while to find the exact shade you’re after.

And remember that yellow is a recessive color. So, Lab puppies need to receive the required genes from both parents to show as yellow.

This means that yellow Labs are less common than black Labs. But, thanks to the popularity of the breed, it’s likely you won’t have too much trouble finding one.

What About Tan Mismarks?

Black and tan Labradors, or Labs with some brindle markings are going to be much harder to find.

The genes for this pattern are recessive, just like yellow coloring. So, puppies must receive them from both parents to show them.

And, these genes can lie dormant in certain Lab lines for generations before they get the chance to express in a pup’s coat.

More often than not, breeders stumble across the coloring by complete accident!

You should be wary of any breeder that breeds for certain colors or patterns rather than for healthy puppies, as breeding for appearance alone can increase a dog’s risk of heritable diseases.

Where Can I Find a Tan Labrador Puppy?

If you’re after a yellow/tan Labrador, you should try and visit puppies in person. This way, you can choose one that has the exact tone of yellow you’re after.

Just remember that Labs can change their color slightly as they grow, so they may not be the exact shade they were as a puppy when they’re a fully grown adult.

And, as we said before, most breeders come across tan mismarks by accident. So, it’s very uncommon to find breeders advertising black and tan Labs before they arrive, unless they are mixed breeds.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson

The cost of black and tan Labrador puppies will vary. Some breeders might offer a discounted price, since you cannot show mismarked Labs like this.

Others, though, may increase the price, since these Labs are so uncommon.

If your heart is set on finding a mismarked black and tan Labrador, you may have a long wait ahead of you. Speak to breeders to let them know what you’re looking for, and they may be willing to contact you if the coloring comes up in a future litter.

Just remember to only choose a reputable breeder that health tests their dogs. Do not buy puppies from puppy farms, pet stores, or backyard breeders.

Tan Labrador – A Summary

Do you have a tan colored yellow Lab at home? Or perhaps you’ve even stumbled across a Labrador with black and tan or brindle mismarks!

In the right home, both of these colorings can make a wonderful family dog.

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

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