Thursday, 18 April 2013

Silver Labradors - The Truth

 I came across this wonderful Silver Labrador at a dog show last weekend.  I had been interested in the genetic diversity within dog breeds, and also the prejudice that some pedigree breeders and indeed the Kennel Club insistence that they are not pure breeds, and their old arguments about purity of lines etc..
I spoke to the owners of this lovely puppy, it was bred in the UK from pure breed Silver Labrador parents which had been imported into the UK from the USA.  It is thought that this silver colouring is a variation on the standard brown or chocolate colours which are accepted by pedigree breeders.  DNA tests have PROVED that these are pure bred Labradors and they have not been crossed with another breed.   The most common explanation given is that when the first Silver Labradors appeared they must have been crossbred with a Weimaraner.  The problem with this is that the first Silver Labs appeared in the USA way back in the 1930s, but there were no Weimaraners in the USA until after 1940.  The other problem with this theory is that BOTH parents have to posess the dilute gene for silver puppies to result becuse the dilute gene is recessive.   A mating between a Labrador and a Weimaraner would not result in silver puppies unless the Labrador already carried the gene too!
 This silver colouring is produced by a gene which is called Dilute.  This dilute gene is a recessive trait and a Silver Labrador dog would have to have inherited a copy of this dilute gene from both parents.    The dilute gene in black Labradors produces Charcoal puppies.  In Yellow Labradors the puppies would be Champagne coloured (not visible but dogs have a grey nose!)  and the Chocolate Labradors bred with the dilute gene produce these Silver Puppies. The recent explosion in the Chocolate Labrador population has substantially increased the chances for silver Labradors to appear naturally. 

This dilute gene is also found in many other dog breeds and the silver colouring which results is accepted by the Kennel Club in Chows, Chesapekes, Newfoundlands, Weimaraners, Whippets, and many other breeds.  

The known origins of the Labrador retriever started out in the areas of Newfoundland and Chesapeke, where it started life as a St Johns Water dog.  As both Newfoundland and Chesapeke Retrievers can posess this dilute gene, it is likely that it has been in the genetics of some Labradors all along!


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  2. Very interesting read, thank you! I would love a silver lab! Gorgeous pup!