By Andrew Fischer

How can one differentiate between a purebred and a mixed Labrador

When buying a new Labrador puppy, you should do a lot of research into the breeder you are planning to buy from. If it’s a good breeder he should be able to answer your questions about the breeding process and should be able to provide you with KCI registration papers proving that the dog is purebred. The Lab’s lineage and date of birth should be mentioned on the papers.

Otherwise, luckily for you, there are certain ways to differentiate between purebred and mixed Labradors.

You can also buy a DNA test for your dog. A great one can be found HERE.

The American Kennel Club provides a detailed definition of a purebred Labrador. Based on this definition a purebred Labrador should:

  1. be strongly built
  2. be medium-sized
  3. have a dense, short and weather resistant coat
  4. have a broad back
  5. have a wedge shaped head
  6. have a well-developed athletic body
  7. have a stable temperament
  8. have kind and friendly eyes

Let us look at some of these signs in more detail. (1)

What are the signs of a purebred Labrador?

Size, Body

Extraordinary height is one of the most common signs of a mixed Labrador. Purebred male Labradors should be around 22-25 inches (56-63.5 cm) at the withers. Female Labradors are a bit smaller and usually measure around 21.5-24 inches (54.5-61 cm).

Weight is not as reliable as height, because being overweight doesn’t mean that the dog is not purebred. Healthy adult purebred male Labrador weighs between 28-36 kg. Healthy female Labrador weighs between 25-32 kg. You can read more about the ideal weight of Labradors at different ages HERE

Purebred Labrador should be rather short-coupled. The chest shouldn’t be narrow, nor should it have a wide spreading. The underline should be almost straight, with a very little tuck-up. 


The tail is one of the most distinguishing features of the breed.

It should be quite straight and not very curvy.  A purebred Labrador shouldn’t curve his tail upwards. It should wag only left to right horizontally. 

Labradors’ tail has a very specific shape called otter’s tail. It should be very thick at the base where it joins the back bone, gradually tapering towards the tip.

The otter tail should be of medium length, extending no longer than to the hock. If the tail is too long and too thin then the dog is not purebred. Extremely short tails are also not correct. 

The tail should be thickly clothed just like the body.


The nose and nostrils of a purebred Lab should be well developed and wide. The color of the nose should be black on yellow and black Labs and brown on chocolate Labs.

A pink nose is not acceptable on purebred Labs.


Eyes of a purebred Lab are of medium size, neither protruding nor deep set. 

They should be kind, showing good temperament and intelligence.

Purebred Labs usually have black eyes in black and yellow Labs and brownish eyes in chocolate Labs.

Similarly, the colour of eye rims should be brown in chocolate Labs and black in yellow and black Labs. Eye rims should have a pigmentation. 


The ears should fall free and stick to the head. If the ears are not floppy and the dog can raise them than he is not a purebred.

The ears should sit rather far back and a bit low on the skull, but they should be located above eye level.

The ears should be able to reach to the inside of the eye when pulled towards the eye.


Head should be quite wide and not conical. The head should be clean-cut. The occipital bone shouldn’t be conspicuous. 

A purebred Lab shouldn’t have a cheeky massive and/or a wedge-shaped head.

A purebred Lab usually have a slight protuberance on its skull between its ears.


Purebred Labradors have only one colour (either black, yellow or chocolate). Some shades are possible. Purebred Labs don’t have a mixture of colours, but only one colour of their coat. 

If the coat colour is something like brown with black patches or white with brown patches then the dog is not purebred. 

Due to mixing of different purebred lineages some Labradors may have a more white or more rusty coat than the traditional butter yellow. 

Yellow Labs may range in colour from rusty red to whitish yellow. Some colour variations on the back, ears and underpants is acceptable for purebred Labs. 

Similarly, chocolate Labs may also vary in shade from cappuccino to dark chocolate.


The coat is one of the distinctive features of the Labrador Retriever.

The coat should be short but not too short like that of doberman. If the coat is too short the dog is not purebred.

The coat should be very dense, short and straight. It should give a rather hard feeling to the hand.

Purebred Labs have a soft undercoat that provides good protection from cold Canadian Labrador climate.

If the dog has a woolly coat, it’s not a purebred Labrador. 


Paws of a purebred Lab should be visibly wide unlike other dogs. A pure Labrador usually also has webbed feet.


Purebred Lab should have cheeks that are heavy, fall free and hang below its teeth.


Teeth of a purebred Lab should be regular. The lower teeth should be touching the inner side of the upper incisors.

Other characteristics of a purebred Labrador

Purebred Labs should have a retrieving instinct. This is obviously hard to test but every Labrador should have a natural talent to bring back a thrown object.

When a purebred Labrador runs there shouldn’t be any sign of elbows out. Also, it’s legs should be close together and form straight lines. This means that the front legs should move as near as possible in a parallel line with the hind legs.

A purebred Labrador should have an outgoing and kind temperament. It shouldn’t be aggressive towards humans, other dogs and animals. It should have an adaptable character, intelligence and should be eager to please its owner. (2)