Suppose you have silvery hair. The natural assumption of those with whom you live and work would be that you are of an age when the hair begins to lose its color. If your hair turned grey before you were 20 or 30 years of age, it might be a dietary deficiency, a medical concern - or genetics.
A black Labrador Retriever, silver factored with a coat that is something less than black, is claimed by some to be a pure bred dog. Purportedly rare and highly desirable, a black Labrador Retriever that’s silver factored may be offered at a higher than normal price. Does it merit this? Or is it simply a crossbreed - a mongrel?
Black Labrador Retriever Standard
The Labrador Retriever breed standard says: “The Labrador Retriever coat colors are black, yellow, and chocolate. Any other color or a combination of colors is a disqualification.” The breed standard goes on to say that black Labrador Retrievers must be all black. If a black Labrador Retriever has a small white spot on the chest, it is “permissible, but not desirable” according to the breed standard.
A black Labrador Retriever, silver factored or not, must meet that standard. Every purebred black Labrador Retriever must be black.
A black Labrador Retriever, silver factored or otherwise at odds with the standard, apparently has genetics that are not in line with those of the breed. The genetics of a true black Labrador Retriever’s coat color seem to be rather simple. Each dog receives two pairs of genes: one from its mother and one from its father.
You will remember from early science class that there are two types of gene in every living being: dominant and recessive. This is true of you and it is true of black Labrador Retrievers. Genes determine your hair color, just as genes determine the coat color of a black Labrador Retriever. You might have brown, black, red, blond, or a variation of any of those. A Labrador Retriever has only two choices: black and chocolate - although we see black, chocolate, and yellow.
Consider these facts.
1. In Labrador Retrievers, a dominant gene always determines what color the coat will be. Always. It does not matter what other genes are present. The black gene, which we will call “B” for short, is dominant. Therefore, if a “B” gene is present, the pre-selected coat color is black. But read on.
2. We will call the recessive chocolate gene “b” for short. The “b” gene can only produce a chocolate coat if the dog inherits no “B” gene. Those are the only choices: “B” dominant black genes and “b” recessive chocolate genes. There is no gene for yellow, silver, or other colors. A black Labrador Retriever, silver factored or other factored, would have to go against this genetic makeup.
3. In addition to the black and chocolate genes, Labrador Retrievers have two more genes. These genes determine the dogs’ ability to express a dark coat, i.e. to let the dark color show. Let’s call the dominant expression gene “E” for short and the recessive expression gene “e” for short.
4. Labrador Retrievers that have the dominant “E” gene are able to express a dark coat. They can show black or chocolate. If the dog has a “B” gene and an “E” gene, it will be black, no matter what other genes it has. If it has a “b” and an “E” gene, it will be chocolate.
5. Labrador Retrievers that have the recessive “e” gene cannot show a dark coat. They will show neither black nor chocolate. They will show the absence of those by being a shade of yellow. A Labrador Retriever with a combination such as BBee has 2 dominant genes for black, but the recessive “e” genes will not let the color show. The dog will be yellow.
You will see that a black Labrador Retriever, silver factored is not possible with these pairs of genes. There is no scientific data as of this writing (2007) that has found any silver gene in black Labrador Retrievers.
True Nature of So-called Silver Labs
A black Labrador Retriever that is said to be silver factored may be an unusually light yellow or chocolate Lab. There is also, in the U.S., a gray-brown shade similar to that of Weimaraners. It is reported that the U.S. kennel first to report “silver” Labradors also kept Weimaraners, a silvery-gray breed with somewhat similar appearance. It is widely believed that the true nature of a black Labrador Retriever, silver factored, is that of a crossbreed: Labrador Retriever - Weimaraner mix.
The AKC recognizes “silver” Labs only as chocolate, and rejects them because they do not meet the breed standard for chocolate Labs. A black Labrador Retriever that’s silver factored is not an AKC standard purebred dog.
By: Anna Hart
(C)2007, Anna Hart. Anna Hart invites you to read more of her articles about lovable Labrador Retrievers at http://www.lovablelabradors.com./ Anna has posted additional information on that site about black Labrador Retrievers. If you ever wondered how long a Labrador Retriever’s life span is, in human and dog years, pay Anna a visit now. You may be surprised!
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