American versus English Labradors

English-bloodline, American-bred Labrador retrievers make great pets and gun dogs.
Photo via

Before I start on this interesting topic, let’s establish that I’m talking about field bred dogs here, not bench bred dogs. There’s a difference, but I’m not about to get into that thicket, so I’ll just stick to dogs bred for the field. (Field-breeding privileges a dog’s sense and instincts, while bench-breeding conforms to show standards.)

Pickett is the best dog I’ve ever owned. I’m not sure I will ever be fortunate enough to have another like him. His relentless desire to hunt is surpassed only by his quiet, lap-dog demeanor in the house, making for the perfect combination of pet and gun dog. But, like all dogs, his life is too short. I realistically have another two to three years with him as a hard working hunter. It’s time to think about a successor. I figure by the time I get the breeding I want and spend a couple years working with the pup and Pickett, the new boy will be ready to step in and try to fill Pickett’s enormous shoes, or prints as it were.

I’ve been intrigued by what I’ve read of British Labradors. They have a reputation as close-working, game-finding machines with a quiet and pleasant demeanor. Pickett would make a great British Lab, except he’s from Colorado. I want another one like him, but his breeder sold out, and I’m not sure what happened to his bloodlines. So I decided to go right to the British Labrador source and called Mike Stewart of Wildrose Kennels, in Oxford, Mississippi. Wildrose has a pretty stellar reputation in hunting Labrador circles, and all of their sires and dams are imported from Great Britain and Ireland.

The author’s favorite field dog, Pickett (left), meets a younger contender.
Photo by Tim Bronson

“What’s the difference between American and English Labs ?” I asked.

“There isn’t any,” Mike replied. Turns out the Labradors that were brought to this country from Britain in the early part of the 20th century to establish the breed here, were from the same foundation bloodlines that Mike now imports. While the British have remained true to their desires in breeding, American breeders have taken the same bloodlines and bred them to fit their hunting needs. Over the century of their existence in this country, the American Labrador has evolved, a product of its environs and the desires of American hunters. What Mike is doing is importing British Labradors to offer hunters the opportunity to work with the Labrador type that came here in the first place. In essence, it’s a Labrador time machine.

Is one better than the other? Purely in eye of the beholder. A good hunting dog exhibits the traits that please the individual hunter. It just happens that the advertised traits of the British Labrador please me. I’ve done my due diligence, my name is on the waiting list, and sooner or later it will be up to me and the dog. Chances are good he will be just what I want. I just hope he feels the same way.

11 thoughts on “American versus English Labradors”

  1. Based on the title, “American versus English labradors”, I thought this article was going to actually discuss American versus English Labradors. This sounds like a great start to an article. The fact that both come from the same foundation bloodlines is a very interesting similarity. However, you basically took us right to the point where the differences from breeding actually start to develop and then end the article. I’d love to read this once it’s finished!

  2. You should have pointed out that Americans call show dogs
    “English labs”
    The term ” British Lab” is referring to field bred Labradors from
    Both Great Britain and Ireland
    Funny thing I only recently found out
    The show dogs in Britain are referred to as ” American labs”
    The article fails to really show a difference in “English lab”
    Vs ” British labs” vs “American field bred labs”

    There are marked differences that are not fully addressed
    The writer should have titled the short article
    British labs vs American labs
    Because this is actually what he is talking about

  3. Paul , I’m exactly where you are. Well close. My current lab is from Wildrose. She too is getting on and it might be time to start a puppy. You can bet that ilk be going back to see Mike and Kathy! The new pup will be hard pressed to fill my old girls shoes!

  4. It has been my privilege to have 4 WR labs. My first was a retired yellow girl and she had my heart. Tania was born March 7, 1995.In 2006, my engagement ring was a chocolate WR girl, who saw me through the death of my mom and my dad. She also alerted me many times about my blood sugar, although she was never trained to do so. My only WR fella was born March 7, 2011. He is now the perfect companion for a dear friend’s mom. Oh and there was a fifth of sorts, Captain, a Diabetic Alert dog placed with a young mom in memory of my parents.
    The Stewarts are amazing people, and are doing an amazing work not only in hunting, but also DAD and Adventure dogs. Count it an honor to have one of their incredible animals and to become a part of the Wildrose family!

  5. Article was a waste of time. Didn’t discuss the main differences between British and American labs, and didn’t argue either side. Was similar to a political discussion at the office in front of your boss – no one wants to say anything to offend him.

    Plus, his argument of “they’re all from Europe originally” is probably one of the most flawed arguments ever. All of America was once originally from Europe, but we are all different.

    This was probably more just a favor to get the “Wildrose Kennel” name out there. Unfortunately, Wild Rose spends more time on their social media than they do training dogs. And if anyone knows anything about British Labs, they know there is a better kennel for British labs in Mississippi (SOK).

  6. Would love an article on the different types of Goldens. Working with a Golden Rescue group I am always amazed at the storytelling in color and size of the dogs we handle. Even my two Goldens look different. My female, Twiggy is a small fine featured redhead whereas my male, YuGi was a big blockheaded blonde! Love the both, fantastic dogs! Just Interesting how the different traits of the different breeds Lord Tweedmouth used in developing the breed come out!

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