The Truth Behind "Silver" Labradors
Labrador Retriever Club, Inc's view on the silver controversy
The following is an article
written by Sharon A. Wagner, a reputable Labrador Retriever breeder
and Geneticist. Permission was granted by Ms. Wagner for this
site to carry the article.
A dog's genetic makeup is very complex
(like us) and many genes are involved in coat color. The same genes
are all present in every dog however only certain ones get "turned
on" like a switch and others are off depending on what breed
or what goes into a puppy in the case of a mixed breed. A Labrador's
coat color is dependent on many genes being turned on and off. The
ones we commonly think of that dictate color in our breed are the
B and E genes. Other genes like T for ticking is always turned off
and still other genes like the A gene causes a dog's coat to be
a solid color. We know that If a lab has BB or Bb then black is
dominant and if it has bb then the dog is chocolate. However the
E gene acts as a epistatic gene or "masking" gene; in
other words if the dog has Ee or EE then the color is dependent
on what is present at the B gene (BB, Bb, or bb) but if the dog
has ee then it will always be yellow no matter what is present at
the B gene. A yellow that has a dominant B gene (BB or Bb) will
have typical black pigment on the nose, lips, and eyerims and a
yellow that is homozygous recessive at the B gene (bb) will be a
Now the silver coloration comes into play when the D gene is turned
on. If the D gene is in it’s homozygous recessive form (dd)
then it will "dilute" the coloration if the B gene. When
chocolate is dilute the color is a silvery mousey brown and the
dilute version of a black (Bb or BB) yields a dog that is dark slate
gray or "blue". Weimeraners are a breed that is based
on dilution. The typical Weim coat is a mousey gray and it’s
because their D and B genes are both present in the homozygous recessive
forms (dd and bb) so the typical Weim is a chocolate that is diluted.
Weimeraners also can carry the B gene in the dominant form so therefore
a darker blue Weim can pop up in litters when they are dd and BB.
A breed like the Doberman also has this dilute gene pattern in it’s
population and therefore "blue" Dobies arise from a dilute
black Doberman and fawn is the dilution of a red Dobe. Other breeds
like Great Danes, Chow Chows, and German Shepherds and even Newfoundlands
can be diluted. Some breeds accept the color and others do not and
if the dilution factor is present in a breed it is found the world
over and is known to be in the population. The breeders of silver
Labs originally thought that the color was a mutation. Mutations
typically do not reproduce and if they do they do not follow a pattern.
Silver Lab expression follows the exact same pattern as any other
dilution in other breeds. Also as more silver breeders appear the
darker blue color has arose because they introduced black into their
breedings unlike the first silver breeders who assumed that only
chocolate would produce silver.
I would suspect that silver Labs were a combination of a Labrador
and a Weimaraner - they ALWAYS have the diluted D gene turned on
(dd). This combo would produce a dog that would essentially look
like a lab and if bred to a chocolate lab then the results would
look and most likely act like labs (due to the Weim also being a
gun dog and having a vaguely similar build and temperament when
compared to many other breeds) - and the dilute gene could be "turned
on" because of an introduction of this dilute combination.
The resulting offspring could carry this - silver breeders comment
that all silver puppies come from a silver x silver cross, and silver
x chocolate give either silver puppies or chocolate puppies that
carry silver. This would agree with the D gene hypothesis - two
parents with dd would only give a d gene and the puppies would all
have dd and would therefore be silver.
Through research I have found that all silver Labradors or Labs
that carry the dilution factor can be traced back to two kennels
in the U.S. They were breeders that stumbled upon the color and
sought out to express it as often as possible and so pedigrees from
the first silver Labs are the result of inbreedings like father
to daughter and full sister to brother, etc. This was the only way
they could keep the color going since other dogs would not yield
the color and furthermore all other countries besides the U.S. have
never even heard of a silver Lab. Both of these kennels had dogs
that came from one kennel in particular which bred both retrieving
and pointing breeds in the U.S. back in 20’s and 30’s.
An old time west coast breeder actually remembers them advertising
rare blue Labradors in Gun Dog magazine in the 50’s. So it
is my theory that the dilution factor was added back then most likely
by accident and breeders today are keeping it going.
There are many reasons why silver Labradors should not be produced
and the main one is that they are a disqualification and adhering
to a standard while breeding is what keeps a breed a breed. The
Labrador looks and acts like Labrador and not a German Shepherd
because of the dedicated breeders preserving the breed. A standard
is a blueprint and varying because it looks nice will undoubtedly
cause the structure to fail. Also silver breeders do not typically
run health clearances on their breeding stock (OFA/CERF) nor do
they participate in any competitions to prove their dogs are breeding
quality. This leads me to believe that they are breeding simply
to make money and do not care about a superior individual nor do
they care about the breed in general.
Silver breeders also blatantly lie. They have information on their
websites that talk about DNA testing done by the AKC and a researcher
at UC Berkley. Both are not true. AKC never did any genetic mapping
of silver Labradors nor do they have any plans to do so since they
are a registering body only and the Labrador Club of America writes
the standard for the breed. Also Dr. Neff at UC Berkley was never
looking into whether or not silver Labs were purebred or not which
is also a moot point since DNA testing can only prove parentage
at this point and is not specific enough to search for breed markers.
"The Science Behind AKC DNA
AKC DNA Profiles are generated using the same technology
used by law enforcement agencies throughout the world. How does
this work? In humans and dogs alike, each gene is present as two
copies (displayed as letters). Offspring receive one copy of each
gene from each parent in a random process.
This technology does not use actual genes, but other
DNA sequences that are also inherited one copy from each parent.
For this reason, your dog's AKC DNA Profile does not provide any
information about the conformation of the dog or the presence/absence
of genetic diseases. Furthermore, AKC DNA Profiles cannot
determine the breed of a dog."
will never be recognized and it does not appear anywhere else in
the world. A silver or blue Labrador can not be entered in a conformation
event because they do not fit the standard even though they are
erroneously registered as chocolate. If they really were a shade
of chocolate like a cream or fox red is a shade of yellow then they
could be shown.
So please be educated about the color and don’t pay the high
price for a novelty. I have received numerous emails from silver
owners whose dogs had many health and temperament problems. Buyer
© 2005 Sharon A. Wagner
"Letter from the author Sharon A. Wagner:
First of all I hold a Master of Science degree in molecular biology
and genetics so I most certainly am qualified to research and interpret
Labrador coat color genetics. I have had several conversations with
AKC representative and LRC, Inc representatives as well concerning
the silver color. If you have any semblance of credentials and/or
have been in contact with either the AKC or LRC and have varying
information than my own please feel free to comment.
If you are a silver breeder or prospective breeder
and would like more information or to discuss the points addressed
in this article feel free to email
me. If you want to harass me or call me names please
keep to yourself because frankly anyone who would like to do this
is quite ignorant and so I won't take your words seriously so really
why bother. I have in the past taken every email seriously and I
reply with answers to questions, etc yet I rarely get a response
back or else the person calls me a name and does not care to respond
to my questions back or debate points made or facts.
Also when you email me and pretend to be someone
else such as a "breeder of field champions", etc and say
you produced a silver or charcoal puppy in your litter I can tell
you are not who you say you are by the free email address and lack
of any information such as website, name, location, etc. I also
will ask for pedigrees and photos and I have yet to receive any
from "breeders of champions". So please read the information
compiled here and think what you will but if you only want to call
someone names then keep it to yourself because all you get out of
me is a good laugh. Thank you."
Used with exclusive permission from Ms. Wagner
by LRM - Woodhaven Labs.
You may freely link to this page,
but use of any of the text or graphic on another website without
my written permission is copyright infringement and illegal.
If you find this article on another
and let me know.
SOME RESPONSES TO SOME OF THE SILVER LABRADOR CLAIMS
One of the Silver breeders state on their site:
"Are Silver Labs Pure bred Labrador Retriever?
DNA testing and mapping of silver labs was done
during the close of the Twentieth Century and meticulous investigation
of each silver labs ancestry was conducted by investigators from
The current DNA testing doesn't prove the dog is
a purebred Labrador. The DNA testing available only proves that
dog A and that dog B are the parents of dog C. No where does
it prove that the one or more of the grandparents of dog A wasn't
a weim or a weim cross.
Also one states:
"Silver Labs are pure bred Labrador Retrievers
and their ancestry is beyond reproach. Fortunately, kennel clubs
around the world do not have the political pressure from mercenary
American breeders of "normal" colored labs and already accept silver
labs without all the political fuss and pressure being applied to
Sorry but there isn't a kennel club in the world
that recognizes silver Labradors. In every Labrador standard used
throughout the world, it states that Labradors come in black, yellow
This one was a laugher:
"There is no doubt the increase in popularity
and demand for Silver Labs is applying significant financial pressure
to breeders of black and yellow labs, but there is also little doubt
that AKC will eventually have to succumb to the pressure to make
silver a recognized color in America."
First of all, the AKC doesn't make the decision
on what colors are recognized for each breed. The PARENT
CLUB of each breed makes and sets the standards. I can guarantee
you that it will be a cold day in you-know-where before the
LRC, Inc. would ever recognize this color.
Second of all, as to the "significant financial
pressure" that I and other breeders of the "real" colors of Labradors
are under - BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! A responsible breeder never
breeds for a "color" nor does one breed because of financial reasons.
Most responsible breeders don't worry about profit. Why? Because
we rarely if ever make one and we do not breed for financial gain.
So you can see that all these claims by the silver
Lab people are far-fetched at best.
MORE SILVER LABRADOR LINKS
INFORMATION ABOUT LABRADOR COLORS
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