Of all the dog breeds in the world, there’s none as iconic as the Labrador.
Labradors might only come in three official colors, but there’s a wide range of shades in between.
For instance, Fox Red Labs look like a very vibrant Chocolate Lab, but it’s actually a variant of the Yellow Lab! Fascinating isn’t it?
Read on to find out more about this exotic color.
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Where did the Red Labradors originate?
In the early days of Labrador Retrievers, they were black and white. It wasn’t until the late 1800s and early 1900s did they start breeding solid Black Labradors. Any other colors were culled at birth.
While it isn’t clear when the Fox Red Labrador came into existence, they were quite common back then. The first Yellow Labs were also rather dark and born with tinges of Red.
Dog coat colors are like a fashion statement, and like any trend, it waxes and wanes with the times. We all want what is uncommon.
Back in the day, solid Black Labs were all the rage, until people began desiring the lesser-seen Yellow or Red Labs.
When they got too popular, Red Labs and the darker Yellows fell out of favor.
Today, light Yellow Labs are more common due to an explosion in popularity around the 1970s. This made Red Labs rare again and have now turned into a commodity.
Much like their cousin, the Red Golden Retriever, Labs with these russet-colored coats are considered controversial simply because they do not meet traditional expectations.
Some people claim that Red Labs are crossed with a Vizsla, and are not actually purebred. The same claims have been made about Silver Labradors.
Purists are convinced that Labradors lack the genes to be Silver naturally, and therefore must be crossed with the Weimaraner.
These claims have never been proven. On top of that, while Vizsla’s do resemble Labradors in size and have similar temperaments, they are much slimmer than the well-built Labrador.
Furthermore, one look at their genetics will show that it is possible for these color variations in the breed.
What genetics make up a Fox Red Labrador?
Before we delve into the exact science of a Fox Red Labrador, we must first understand how genetics work.
Each dog inherits an allele from each parent which makes up a gene. This allele can be dominant or recessive. They are often written in pairs, such as BB or Bb, one for each parent.
There are a few loci that determine coat color, from the A locus to the E locus. The B allele is a dominant black gene and can result in a black dog. In fact, all black dogs have at least one dominant B allele.
Black Labs can carry the recessive b and when two are present, you will get a Chocolate Lab. However, the gene that controls the brown pigment lies in the E locus.
To get a Yellow Lab, they must have two recessive ee alleles. This powerful little gene has the ability to completely block the dominant black color, repressing it so only the yellow comes through.
Now comes the genes that create the dark yellow we identify as Fox Red: the a and c alleles. The A represents the pheomelanin in your dog, it comes in various forms that can affect the coat.
This part of the color genetics can be quite complicated, but different modifiers can result in different results. For example, at will produce Black and Tan Labradors.
In the case of Fox Red Labradors, it often looks like as. If they inherited the allele As, the dog would be either cream or white because that is a pheomelanin suppressing allele.
The intensity of the color is expressed by the c allele, so a dog with CC will have a darker shade, those with Cc will be in the mid-ranges, and Labs with the cc gene are likely to be quite light.
A particular type of C locus will result in a White Labrador.
In order to get a Fox Red Lab, the dog will need to have both CC and ee as well as the right type of A locus, making the Fox Red Lab puppy a special little fella indeed.
What does a Red Lab (Red Labrador Retriever) look like?
According to the AKC, Yellow Labradors can be Fox Red to Light Cream and can have color variations around the ears, back, or underparts.
Therefore as per the breed standard, Labradors with this Fox Red color are eligible to compete in the show ring, as long as they are a solid color. Unfortunately, judges often favor lighter shades of yellow.
Dancer, a Red Lab, was crowned champion in the United States in the year 2011, making her the first Red Lab with this title.
The American Kennel Club states that Labradors should be proportional, with a muscular build. They shouldn’t be overly stocky, as the breed is first and foremost a working dog and should have the physique to match.
This doesn’t mean that you will not be able to find show dogs that are Red. On the contrary, breeders are fighting very hard to produce more show dog champions of the red variety.
American Red Labs vs English Red Labs
These labels are a bit of a misnomer as working dogs are referred to as American Labs, whereas show dogs are called English Labs.
English Red Labs are a rarity indeed, they haven’t been around long enough to have as much success as their more commonly colored counterparts.
However, this is slowly changing as judges become more accepting.
Since English Labs have bred for show confirmation they will mostly be in the traditional yellow, chocolate, or black.
On the other hand, American Labs are field dogs and are bred for their skills more than their looks. This means that they have a better chance of being red since looks don’t matter to the hunter or the hunted.
They don’t usually have the blocky head that English Labs are known for. American Labs are also much more athletic-looking. You can further compare the two types with our chart.
That being said, most Fox Red Labs are American Labradors.
Are Fox Red Labs bigger than other Labs?
These hunting dogs are a medium to large breed, weighing in at around 55 to 80 lbs (25 to 36 kg), depending on the gender.
Males should be between 22.5 to 24.5 inches (57 to 62 cm) tall, whereas females should be 21.5 to 23.5 inches (54 to 59 cm). For more info on their size, you can check out our Lab Growth Chart.
Do Fox Red Labs change color?
Puppies born with a Fox Red coat might not retain that same shade of red. It usually lightens or darkens with age. It is hard to be certain of their final coat color until they are at least 20 to 24 months old.
White spots on the chest are quite common among Yellow Labradors and since the Red Lab is essentially a Yellow Lab, they are likely to have one too.
These mismark don’t mean that they aren’t purebred, it just means that they are more genetically similar to their Newfoundland ancestors!
You can read up more about our Labrador colors article.
Personality: What color Labrador is the best?
Color doesn’t dictate a Labrador’s temperament. They all conform to the breed standard of being loyal, outgoing, and kind. Labradors are simply everyone’s best friend.
These gentle dogs are a great addition to any household, even if you have a young child or small animal, as long as your pooch has been well socialized.
Labradors are all affectionate and love to be with their humans. If they don’t get the attention they crave, they might turn to mischief.
As with any dog, mishandled or untrained Labradors might have the potential to be fearful or aggressive.
It’s been noted that Red Labs might be barkier but while they will bark at strangers, it’s more of an invitation to play than a warning.
With consistent training, you should be able to teach your dog to behave the way you want them to.
How to take care of your Red Labrador
Red Labs are in no way harder to care for than any other color. They require the same amount of effort in training, exercise, and maintenance.
The key to a good dog is to create good habits. Since Labradors are prone to beg for extra munchies, don’t fall into the habit of feeding him anything but dog food.
Keep your table scraps for the trash chute instead.
Another thing is, you want to keep your Labrador entertained, regardless of color. Labradors can’t stand being bored or alone, so bear that in mind before settling on a Labrador Retriever.
Exercising your Red Labs
As with any Labrador, Fox Red Labrador Retrievers love the water! Being waterfowl hunters and fishermen’s best friends, swimming is in their very nature.
Being a working dog, they are highly active. Failure to give them the stimulation they need will end with disastrous results as they can get quite destructive.
Try to spend at least an hour on exercise daily. However, you don’t want to overdo it in their first two years of their life as it can cause them to develop joint problems.
Also, Labradors can be prone to overexertion, since they are so eager to please, sometimes they forget their own limits and it’s up to you to make sure they don’t push themselves too far.
Is grooming your Red Lab time-consuming?
Just like any Labrador, they have a double coat that requires little attention. All you’ll need to do to keep it healthy is to brush it once a week.
When it’s shedding season, many owners like to use a deshedding tool to remove most of the undercoat. If you’re not too fussed about it, daily brushing with a regular slicker brush will do.
You should also trim their nails regularly. Since they are prone to ear infections, it’s best to clean out their ears every time they go for a swim.
Some sources say that Fox Red Labs have a stronger smell than their pale yellow cousins because they tend to produce more oils.
One way to cope with this is to dry them off properly and stay away from harsh shampoos.
Shampoos that strip away the natural oils from a dog’s coat will stimulate them to produce more which will only aggravate the problem.
Feeding your Red Lab
Since this gundog breed can be prone to obesity, you might want to look into home-cooked meals or whole foods instead.
If feeding kibble, choose a high-quality kibble that suits their dietary needs.
For a large breed dog, they should be fed a specially formulated kibble that isn’t too high in calcium and phosphorus. This will protect them from hip dysplasia.
A good kibble should be able to keep up with their caloric demands and help them manage their weight. Low-quality kibble typically does not offer the nutrients that a dog needs, resulting in them eating more.
To find out what is the best food for your Labrador, you can check out this list.
Red Labrador health issues
Red Fox Labradors have the same lifespan as any other Labrador. You can expect them to live 10 – 12 years on average.
All Labradors share the same health concerns but it has been noted that eye problems are much more common in Red Labradors.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy is an eye disorder that causes blindness and can be easily avoided through screening.
Aside from that, you will need to watch out for the usual, including hip and elbow dysplasia, cancer, ear problems, muscular dystrophy, idiopathic epilepsy, and exercise-induced collapse.
As mentioned, obesity is quite common in Labradors. This can be affected by a gene mutation that prevents them from feeling full.
How much is Red Lab Puppies?
When searching for a Labrador Retriever puppy of a specific color, you should be extra careful not to be swindled.
Bear in mind that respectable breeders often do not charge higher for different colors because breeding for color is largely looked down upon.
But being high in demand and coupled with the fact that the Fox Red Lab is much rarer than Yellow or Black Labradors, it isn’t surprising to find a puppy costing $1,000.
Red Lab Breeders
Be very picky and particular when choosing a kennel to purchase from. Check the credentials of the breeder and take the effort to understand why they’ve chosen to breed Red Labradors.
Avoid buying your new puppy from someone who is unable to produce health screenings of their breeding stock.
The AKC lists Labrador breeders on their site, making it accessible for you to search for these beautiful dogs.
Here are a few that do not make color their top priority, but do incorporate Red Labs into their breeding program:
- Warnes Labs (Albion , NY)
- Penara Labrador Retrievers (Collins, IO)
- Daisy Mountain Labs (Phoenix, AZ)
- Blackfork Labradors (Hodgen, OK)
- Red Diamond Fox Red English Labradors (Humboldt, KS)
Red Lab Rescue
Labradors are quite exuberant as puppies and not many people are able to match their enthusiasm. If you don’t mind an older dog, you can give an old Fox Red Labrador a new home.
Older dogs might come with their own challenges. While some might not have any behavioral problems, many need to be retrained.
To find out whether there’s a suitable dog for you, reach out to the following rescues:
- Lab Rescue LRCP (Annandale, VA)
- Labrador Retriever Rescue of Florida (Pompano Beach, FL)
- Golden Gate Labrador Retriever Rescue (San Francisco Bay Area, CA)
Who should get a Red Lab dog?
Labradors are one of the best dogs that you can get. They are extremely agreeable and a joy to be around.
However, if you’re looking to show your dog, you might want to go for a more traditional color as you will be at a disadvantage with a Red-colored Labrador.
They are best as working dogs or family pets, preferably in an active home.