AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL KENNEL COUNCIL
Extended Breed Standard of THE LABRADOR RETRIEVER
Produced by National Labrador Retriever Council (Australia) in conjunction with The Australian National Kennel Council Standard adopted by Kennel Club London 1994 Standard adopted by ANKC 1994 FCI Standard No: 122 Breed Standard Extension adopted by ANKC 2009 Copyright Australian National Kennel Council 2009 Country of Origin ~ United Kingdom
Extended Standards are compiled purely for the purpose of training Australian judges and students of the breed.
In order to comply with copyright requirements of authors, artists and photographers of material used, the contents must not be copied for commercial use or anyother purpose. Under no circumstances may the Standard or Extended Standard be placed on the Internet without written permission of the ANKC.
HISTORY OF THE BREED
The Labrador was carefully bred up over time by the British sporting gentry from dogs brought back to England in the 19th century by the early cod fishermen of Newfoundland. These dogs were found to have unique characteristics, which made them exceptional retrievers both on land and in the water. The dogs were expert in retrieving and bringing to hand objects which otherwise could not have been recovered.
They were strongly built, short coupled, very active dogs, a hardy breed with exceptionally strong retrieving instincts and a will to please. Added to these attributes they had certain distinct features, which enabled them to work under all types of conditions. Great emphasis must be placed on these features, and in the words of the late Mary Roslin-Williams: ‘These are not fancy points, but in a subtle way they lead to the correct Type of Labrador’.
The features are: The Head, The Weatherproof Double Coat, The Otter Tail
The Labrador’s attributes made the dog a very attractive retriever to the 19th century sporting shooter, whose pastime had become increasingly popular with the inception of the breech-loading shotgun. The dog acquired some enthusiastic wealthy patrons, among who were the second Earl of Malmesbury and his friend the fifth Duke of Beccleuch. In 1822, the Earl of Malmesbury purchased a ‘black water dog’ from Newfoundland whom he discovered retrieving sticks in Poole Harbour, while the Duke of Buccleuch is recorded as having purchased several of these dogs between 1825 and 1835.
About this time the third Earl of Malmesbury began to seriously breed these imported dogs and finding the name the Lesser Newfoundland far too long decided to call the breed the Labrador.
By the end of the 19th century the Labrador was well established, though before this time the breed had been known to only a handful of people. In 1903, the Labrador was recognised by the Kennel Club as a separate breed with Labrador CCs being offered for the first time at their Show held at Crystal Palace.
Prior to this the Labrador had competed in canine sporting events as a variety of retriever, and not as a distinct breed. He competed in mixed classes, which were classified as for ‘Flat Coated or Wavy Coated Retrievers of any Colour’. From this time on the Labrador increased in popularity as he was recognised for his excellent retrieving skills, wonderful temperament, and remarkable adaptability.
In response to concerns regarding The Kennel Club allowing interbred Retrievers to be registered under the breed they most resembled, a Labrador Club was formed in April 1916. The Club Committee drew up a set of rules and a standard of points that were submitted to The Kennel Club, who accepted and ratified them as the first Labrador Breed Standard.
At one stage it looked as though the Labrador would split into two different varieties of the same breed. 1925 saw the formation of the Yellow Labrador Club, which developed an unofficial Yellow Standard. Helen Warwick explained the reasons for a separate Yellow standard in her book ‘The Complete Labrador Retriever’. I quote: ‘A Yellow Standard was drawn up to list the correct points and draw attention to the undesirable features prevalent at the time of drawing up the Standard. There was such a diversion of type, make and shape in those days that it became imperative to establish it for the sake of the colour’s future; for uniformity of type and the elimination of as many structural evils as possible.’
Fortunately the colours were not divided but the 1925 unofficial Yellow Standard was not declared obsolete by the Yellow Club until 1959. After this time the Yellow Labrador Club adopted the official Standard.
The 1916 Standard was written with the working ability of the Labrador in mind and remained in place until its revision in 1950. While still essentially a version of the original standard the new version gave a fuller description of the breed points. Among the additions were references to all three colours, and the undercoat was acknowledged as being weather resistant.
Minor changes were made in 1982 when the height measurements were converted to centimetres to comply with metrification. Further alterations were made in 1986, when The Kennel Club requested that all breed standards conform to a set layout and to use uniform terminology.
The 1986 Labrador Standard remains the Standard in use today.
Strongly built, short-coupled, very active; broad in skull; broad and deep through chest and ribs; broad and strong over loins and hindquarters.
Good-tempered, very agile (which precludes excessive body weight or substance). Excellent nose, soft mouth; keen love of water. Adaptable, devoted companion.
Intelligent, keen and biddable, with a strong will to please. Kindly nature, with no trace of aggression or undue shyness.
This is largely dealt with in the previous paragraph, and while the Standard covers the pertinent points it must always be remembered that the Labrador’s temperament is paramount.
HEAD AND SKULL
Skull broad with defined stop; clean-cut without fleshy cheeks. Jaws of medium length, powerful not snipey. Nose wide, nostrils well developed.
The lips are well padded over the canine teeth and curve away gently towards the throat. They should not be squared off or pendulous.
Medium size, expressing intelligence and good temper; brown or hazel.
The Eyes should emit the kind, good-natured friendly and alert expression that is so much a hallmark of the breed. They should be set straight and fairly wide apart, and be almost diamond shaped. The eyes should not be protruding or be deeply set as they may be damaged while working in cover. The colour is brown or hazel. Eyes that are too dark or too light are not desirable as they give a harsh expression that is not typical.
Not large or heavy, hanging close to head and set rather far back.
A medium sized ear correctly set with a flap of medium thickness gives protection to the ear and balance to the head. The ear should hang moderately close to the head, be set rather far back, and somewhat low on the skull. The shape is triangular. Heavy ears set too low give a houndy look, while small high set ears give a terrier look.
Both these types of ears are undesirable and give a foreign expression to the head.
Jaws and teeth strong with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws.
The strong jaws with strong regular teeth and scissor bite enable the Labrador to hold retrieved objects safely, easily, and without damage. Full dentition is desirable.
Clean, strong, powerful, set into well placed shoulders.
Shoulders long and sloping. Forelegs well boned and straight from elbow to ground when viewed from either front or side.
Chest of good width and depth, with well sprung barrel ribs- this effect not to be produced by carrying excessive weight. Level topline. Loins wide, shortcoupled and strong. Well developed, not sloping to tail; well turned stifle. Hocks well let down, cow hocks highly undesirable.
Hindquarters are of the greatest importance as strong well angulated quarters give the Labrador his driving action, while his well boned, well let down, short hocks help power the dog forward and on the turn. His powerful hind limbs should look as if they are pushing the ground away behind them.
The hindquarters should be broad, strong, and generous with strong muscles, thighs and hams. The second thighs should be well developed, the hams of good width, and the stifles well bent but not exaggerated. When viewed from the rear the hind legs should be straight and parallel. When viewed from the side the angulation of the rear legs should be in balance with the front.
The croup should not slope down to the tail, but should continue the level back-line right into the tail set. A sloping topline is not typical of the breed. Cow hocks along with straight hocks (straight hocks usually accompany straight stifles) reduce the dog’s forward thrust and should be penalised when judging.
Round, compact; well arched toes and well developed pads.
Distinctive feature, very thick towards base, gradually tapering towards tip, medium length, free from feathering, but clothed thickly all round with short, thick, dense coat, thus giving ‘rounded’ appearance described as ‘Otter’ tail. May be carried gaily but should not curl over back.
The set of the tail is most important with the tail continuing the line of the backbone.
Ideally the tail should follow the top line in motion or in repose, however the standard permits the tail to be carried above the level of the top line but never curled over the back. If the dog raises or lowers his tail, the set should remain the same. The set should never be low coming off a sloping croup. The tail should complete the balance of the Labrador by giving the dog a flowing line from the top of the head to the tip of the tail. It also helps indicate his happy outgoing nature. A medium length tail reaching to the hock gives a balanced look, while tails that are too long, too thin or too short are not typical and are undesirable. Likewise a tail resembling a thick fox’s brush lacks typicality. To sum up the ‘Otter Tail’, I quote the late Mary Roslin- Williams: ‘A dog with a really typical tail is nearly always a really typical Labrador right through, and oddly enough, usually has the right character.
Free, covering adequate ground; straight and true in front and rear.
Distinctive feature, short dense without wave or feathering, giving fairly hard feel to the touch; weather-resistant undercoat.
Wholly black, yellow or liver/chocolate. Yellows range from light cream to red fox. Small white spot on chest permissible.
Yellows can vary from pale yellow to fox red with any of these shades being officially referred to as yellow. Most yellows are shaded in colour on the ears and coat.
Chocolates can vary in shade from milk chocolate to dark chocolate, both shades are acceptable.
Ideal height at withers: Dogs: 56-57 cms (22-22½ ins); Bitches: 55-56 cms (21½ -22 ins).
Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog, and on the dog’s ability to perform its traditional work.
Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
The Breed Standard of today was written by people who sincerely believed in the working function of the breed, and though a long time has passed since its inception, we should remember when assessing the Labrador that we must never lose sight of the breed’s working potential, even if we know that our dogs may never have the opportunity of fulfilling their function in the field.
The Labrador is not an easy dog to judge. While you have read the Breed Standard, which lays down the exact requirements of a good Labrador, your main task is to learn to correctly identify Type, and know that Type and Soundness go hand in hand. An unsound dog is not typical of the breed.
Look at the dog as a balanced whole, not as a collection of separate pieces, and remember the three unique features that make him what he is – Head, Coat and Tail.
Remember, too, his exceptional temperament, his willingness to please, his strength without coarseness, and his ability to adapt to countless different circumstances.
These are the things that make him what he is today, the All Purpose Labrador Retriever, admired and loved by so many people around the world.
- The Dual-Purpose Labrador by Mary Roslin-Williams (1969 )
- All About The Labrador by Mary Roslin-Williams (1975)
- Everyone’s Dog: the Labrador Retriever by Marion Hopkinson (2000)
- The Complete Labrador Retriever by Helen Warwick (1964)
- The Versatile Labrador Retriever by Nancy Martin (1994)
- Labrador Retrievers Today by Carole Coode (1993)
- Labrador Retrievers by Tony Jury (1996)
- The Ultimate Labrador Retriever Edited by Heather Wiles-Fone (1997)
- The Labrador Dog its Home and History by Lord George Scott and Sir John Middleton (1990)
- The Popular Labrador Retriever by Lorna, Countess Howe (1957)
The previous extensions of the Standard:
- M.R. Le Cussan
- A committee of the NSW Labrador Club, revised 1992
- Mrs P. Dunstan (Strangways) 2008