Why Do Black Labs Have White On Them?

why do black labs have white on them

Why do black Labs have white on them? White mismarks on black Labradors are surprisingly common. Today we’ll look at what white marks on black Labs mean, and if it’s ever a cause for concern.


Purebred black Lab puppies can have white marks

Black Labs With White Markings 

White markings on black Labs are possible on purebred Labs, and aren’t necessarily a sign that your Lab is a mixed breed. White fur on a black Lab can also be a sign that your dog is getting older. 

Black Labradors with white markings don’t suffer from any color-based health issues. But, they’re prone to the same problems as any other Lab. Let’s take a look at how these mismarks happen, and where to find black Lab puppies with white markings.

Why Do Black Labs Have White on Them?

Like all things to do with dog colors and patterns, white marks on black Labs are the result of your dog’s genetics. There are a few types of white markings that are common in black Labs. The three main ones are a white spot or patch (often on their chest), a white spot on the base of the paw (known as a bolo spot), and white flecks.

Firstly, the black color of your Lab is decided at the B locus, where your puppy will have a pair of B genes. If your pup inherits either one or both dominant B genes, they will have a black coat. But, inheriting two recessive ‘b’ genes will produce a chocolate coat! So, you know that your black Lab must have at least one dominant ‘B’ gene. But, let’s not forget the white markings.

What About the White Markings?

Black coloring on Labs happens at the B locus. White spots and markings usually happen at the S locus – home of the white spotting genes. The white spotting genes stop certain areas from producing any pigment. Very small amounts of white on the chest, toes, or tail of a dog is known as residual white. It’s likely that this is the type of white marking your black Lab will have.

It’s also possible that residual white coloring is hereditary. So, if two black Labs with white markings breed, their puppies may also exhibit this trait!

A Sign of their Age

Other times, white fur can be a sign that your Lab is aging. White and grey fur develops on black Labs as they get older. If your Lab develops white markings around its face, or any other place on their body as they get older, it may just be a sign of old age. Just like how we get grey hair.

why do black labs have white on them

Can Purebred Black Labs Have White Markings?

Most people know that Labs come in three colors – black, yellow, or chocolate. So, it can be quite a shock when you bring home a black puppy with white markings. Many owners wonder if they stumbled across a bad breeder trying to sell mixed breed pups as purebred Labs. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, it’s perfectly possible for purebred black Labs, even pedigree Labs, to have white markings.

If you’re concerned that your Lab isn’t purebred, the best way to tell is to invest in a DNA test.

History of Labrador Retrievers

Labradors have a long history that stretches back to the 1800s. The canine ancestors of the modern Labrador breed lived on the island of Newfoundland, Canada, where they worked alongside fishermen to retrieve their catches. The most well-known ancestor of the modern Labrador is the St John’s Water Dog. Although this breed no longer exists, you can see some pictures of it on our guide to Labrador history. Just follow the link at the end of this article!

You’ll notice that these dogs have plenty of white fur as well as black! Typical white markings on St John’s Water dogs included toes, face, and chest. So, it’s entirely possible that black Labs with white markings have coloring similar to that of their ancient St John’s Water dog ancestors. You can’t get more purebred than that!

Are Black Labs With White Markings Healthy?

Studies have shown that there is a link between having large areas of white coat, and deafness. However, the very small white spotting that is common on black Labs has no known link to particular health issues. Your black Lab with white markings will be prone to the same health issues as any other Labrador.

Labrador Health

Like any dog breed, the Labrador is prone to certain problems. Here are the conditions you’ll need to learn about:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Bloat
  • Obesity
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
  • Exercise Induced Collapse
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Ear infections
  • Skin problems

Some health problems can be tested for. So, make sure you choose a reputable breeder that can show evidence of health testing the dogs they breed from.

What White Markings Can Black Labs Have?

The different types of white markings that are possible to see on black Labs are varied. Some Labs may just have a simple splodge of white on a random part of their body. This type of marking is most common on the chest. Others may have white feet, entire white paws, or a white coloring that extends up their leg!

A small white spot on the bottom of your Lab’s foot is commonly known as a ‘bolo mark’. This name refers to the first dual champion Labrador named Banchory Bolo. He had a white spot on the bottom of his paw. Many people believe that Labs with this marking are descendants of the impressive Banchory Bolo.

Some black Labs may also have a white ring around their tail.

Do Yellow and Chocolate Labs Get White Markings?

White markings, like the ones we described in the previous section, can happen on Labs of any color. So, you may see them on black, chocolate, or yellow Labs. It’s much easier to see the white markings on a black Lab, thanks to the contrasting shades. But, if you look closely at yellow or brown puppies, you may find those interesting white marks.

Where Can I Find Black Lab Puppies With White Markings?

Make sure that you’re only choosing reputable breeders if you’re looking for a black lab puppy with white markings. The health of your puppy is more important than any markings, and markings on puppies can fade or change as they grow.

If you’re interested in white markings on a puppy, let breeders know in advance. Some may be willing to look out for those markings on a puppy in their new litters, and let you have first pick. Avoid pet stores and puppy mills. And, make sure your breeder shows you all necessary and relevant health tests.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson

Why Do Black Labs Have White Marks On Them? A Summary

As we’ve learnt, it’s certainly possible for black Labs to have white marks on them. It’s a simple case of genetics! White marks on a black Lab aren’t anything to worry about. In fact, the AKC breed standard permits a small white marking on the chest of a black Lab, so you can still show a dog with white markings. Their white marks won’t indicate any health issues. They’ll be just like any other Lab!

Do you have a black Lab with white markings at home?

Find Out More

References and Further Reading

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. our chocolate just had her third litter and the pups are black with white marks on chests and some have white on back feet. We are very surprised but after checking their pedigree, we find that over half of her second and third generation were black. Same as the chocolate sire, his mother was black and so were his grandparents. We are shocked and have ordered a DNA parenting kit to test the sire , dam and pups. Any suggestions ?