Labradors are loved by people around the world and have been America's favorite for the past three decades. However, not everyone is familiar with Labradors' life and history. Here are 20 lesser-known facts to check out!
Being even-tempered and friendly, Labrador Retrievers have been thought of as an ideal pet for more than 25 years, and they are ranked as the most popular breed in the United States, according to American Kennel Club registration statistics.
Historically, the Earl and Duke of Malmesbury loved Labradors and took them on hunting and shooting trips. Since these dogs often helped fish in the Labrador Sea, they came to be known as Labrador Retrievers.
Because of their name, Labrador Retrievers are often mistakenly believed to have originated from the Labrador Sea of Greenland. Labs, however, originated in Newfoundland, Canada. They were born 500 years ago when European fishermen came to Canada and interbred dogs.
Labradors were once known as St. John's water dogs, named after the capital of Newfoundland. Although St. John's water dogs were beloved landrace dogs from the 16th to the 19th century, the breed became extinct in the 1980s.
As their ancestors were associated with water and Labs themselves were trained to fish by fishermen, Labradors are born with a love of water. Their double coats and webbed claws allow them to swim in icy waters and pull lines and nets onto fishing boats.
Although we now have Labradors in various colors, such as yellow, black, and white, the first Labrador was black. It was after 1899 that the breed began to develop different colored coats.
In addition to the usual coat colors, Labs also come in silver and red hues. The silver coat color is a variation of the chocolate, and the red hue has evolved from the yellow fur.
Labradors have thick and powerful tails that are often called otter tails. As one time water dogs, their thick tails can help Labs move through the water easily.
Labradors were brought to Britain in the 19th century. They first came to Poole in Dorset with Portuguese fishermen, and soon became popular working and hunting dogs. In the TV series Downton Abbey, the main character Robert Crawley is constantly accompanied by a Labrador.
In 1938, as the winner of the U.S. Retriever of the year contest, black Labrador Adren Blinder became the first dog to appear on the cover of Life magazine.
Despite being adored by the U.S. for 30 years, Labrador Retrievers were once on the verge of extinction. In the 19th century, a family could only own one dog with tax paid. Female dogs were not favored options due to their higher taxes, which eventually led to a severe shortage of the breed.
Labradors are often mistaken for Golden Retrievers, but these two dogs are essentially bred to be different. Labs are bred to help people fish and work, while Golden Retrievers are raised to be an aristocrats' hunting dog. Such different breeding goals make Labradors larger and stronger than Golden Retrievers.
Dogs are known to spot diseases, and Labradors can even detect early signs of diabetes. A Lab named Armstrong was the first dog to be successfully trained to detect low blood sugar and help patients to be prepared before diabetes sets in.
Labradors are also used for search and rescue because of their keen sense of smell and, more importantly, their gentle temper. Trained as disaster response dogs, they tend to be soft and calm when performing tasks, rather than showing aggressive tendencies.
You might be surprised to learn that up to 90% of guide dogs are Labrador retrievers. The American Kennel Club claims that Labradors are easier to train to save lives because of their adaptability, ability to think, and speed of learning. Labs also seem to be perfect for the job thanks to their loving nature.
The average life expectancy of a dog is 10-13 years, but the oldest Lab, Bella, lived more than twice as long. She was 29 years old when she died.
Besides helping people in need, Labradors are very good at recycling. A Labrador named Tubby set a world record for recycling more than 26,000 water bottles in six years at Toffen and 50,000 in his lifetime.
Labradors like to run. They can reach speeds of up to 12 miles per hour, and they have incredible endurance. It means they are suitable for both long-distance running and sprinting.
While Labradors look very strong and active, they have a number of common health issues that their owners need to be aware of. Ear infections, skin allergies and arthritis are common in Labrador Retrievers. It is best to have regular check-ups with the vet.
In 2009, the first cloned golden Labrador was born. A couple spent $155,000 to clone their beloved yellow Lab, Lancelot, who had died of cancer. They named the cloned Lab Lancelot Encore.