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Fox Red Labrador Retriever: Facts, Origin & History (With Pictures)

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on June 4, 2024 by Dogster Team


Fox Red Labrador Retriever: Facts, Origin & History (With Pictures)

When you think of Labrador Retrievers, you might think of the adorable yellow Labrador puppy featured on Andrex toilet paper commercials in the U.K. or one of the most lovable breeds in the U.S.A. While most people know Labradors for their yellow, black, or chocolate coloring, fewer people recognize the Fox Red coloring.

Fox Red Labrador Retrievers—or Red Fox, as they’re sometimes called—aren’t a breed of their own, but rather a color variation. The coloring is steadily becoming more popular but isn’t considered one of the standard variations for Labradors.

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The Earliest Records of Fox Red Labrador Retrievers in History

Despite their distinguished name, the Fox Red Labrador Retriever isn’t a breed of their own. They’re a variation of the standard Labrador Retriever. While you might assume that the russet-brown shade of their fur is a variant of the black or chocolate coat colors, it’s actually a deeper shade of yellow.

The first Labrador Retrievers were traditionally black. It was only during the early breeding practices in the U.K. to refine the breed that the yellow color became much more favored. Throughout this focus on perfecting the yellow shade, Fox Red Labradors were considered an accident.

As an undesirable result of breeding the yellow Labradors that are so well loved today, the dogs with darker fur were often killed upon birth. Unfortunately for Fox Red fans today, this practice has made the coloring much rarer.

How Fox Red Labrador Retrievers Gained Popularity

Originally bred in Newfoundland as a water retriever, the Labrador was first introduced to the U.K. after English nobles fell in love with the breed during a visit to Canada in the early 1800s. British breeders proceeded to standardize the breed during the late 19th century, specifically the unique yellow coloring.

With this desire to breed lighter-colored dogs, the Fox Red coloring was considered undesirable. This led to attempts to deliberately breed out the coloring.

In recent years, though, the rarity of the Fox Red and the popularity of the Labrador Retriever have brought the coloring into favor. It might be widely debated as a standard color, but more breeders are aiming to achieve the coloring to meet the high demand.

Formal Recognition of Fox Red Labrador Retrievers

While the Labrador Retriever came from Newfoundland, their development in the U.K. meant that they were first formally recognized by the British Kennel Club in 1903. Their popularity among American citizens meant the AKC followed close behind by recognizing the breed in 1917. It wasn’t until the 1990s, though, that the Labrador Retriever found its official place as the most well-loved dog in America.

Technically, the Fox Red Labrador Retriever isn’t recognized by any of the formal dog clubs. Although they’re growing in popularity, the original intention to breed out the color has had a lasting negative effect on recognition of the color variation.

The Fox Red might not be an officially listed color for the Labrador, but they are recognized by the AKC as long as they’re listed as yellow Labrador Retrievers. However, many traditional breed enthusiasts and judges penalize these dogs for their darker coloring.

labrador retriever dogs in the grass
Image Credit: Rosa Jay, Shutterstock

Top 3 Unique Facts About Fox Red Labrador Retrievers

1. They’re Labradors Through and Through

Regardless of their appearance and widely debated acceptance as Labradors, Fox Reds are still Labradors. They share the same traits as their yellow, chocolate, or black cousins. Despite their appearance and fancy name, they’re just as loving, friendly, and intelligent as other Labrador Retrievers.

The Fox Red Labrador is also just as likely to succeed in all the jobs that Labradors excel at. This includes as family pets and as drug-and-explosive-detection, search-and-rescue, retrieval, hunting, therapy, and service dogs.

2. They’re Less Likely to Win Dog Shows

two english labrador retrievers playing
Image Credit: Mikayla E, Shutterstock

Although they’re technically classed as a yellow Labrador and allowed on the show circuit, the Fox Red’s original undesirability and rarity have led to prejudice from breed enthusiasts. Since the variation isn’t considered one of the standard colors and is so obviously different from the color that it’s derived from, Fox Reds are less likely to win shows than their yellow counterparts.

3. Labrador Retrievers Almost Went Extinct

Regardless of their coloring, Labradors have long since held the position as the most loved dog in the U.S.A. However, they didn’t always hold such a high standing. Their numbers were so low in the 1880s that the breed almost went extinct.

Regulations in Newfoundland prevented families from owning multiple dogs and taxed female dogs in particular. This led to the culling of female puppies and a decrease in the population. The breed was saved due to the efforts of the Malmesbury family and English breeders.

This resurgence in the Labrador population is what led to the Kennel Club’s formal recognition of the breed in 1903. When the AKC recognized the breed, the 1920s and 1930s saw many more of these dogs imported to the U.S.A.

Do Fox Red Labrador Retrievers Make Good Pets?

Although the Labrador Retriever was first bred for hunting purposes, they’ve always been renowned for their friendliness and adaptability. Their intelligence and loving nature make them a firm favorite in a range of situations, whether it’s work-related or just companionship. This goes for the Fox Red Labrador too, despite the prejudice that they face when it comes to their coloring.

In general, Labradors do well with children, especially in active households. Their friendliness also makes them suitable for multi-pet homes, especially when properly socialized as puppies. The intelligence of the breed makes them prone to boredom, so they require physical and mental activity to prevent them from developing destructive behaviors, like chewing.

Overall, the Fox Red Labrador is just as intelligent, eager to please, and exuberant as other members of the Labrador breed.

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The Fox Red Labrador Retriever might sound like a standalone breed, but they’re simply a color variation of the beloved Labrador. Although they’re officially recognized as a darker shade of the yellow Labrador, the Fox Red still faces prejudice in the show circuit as a non-standard color for the breed.

Due to the attempts to breed out the coloring during the original attempts to standardize the breed, the Fox Red only became popular during the 1980s. These days, the variation has seen a surge in popularity, and Labrador lovers are growing more fond of this rare coloring.

Featured Image Credit: Adam Tremel, Shutterstock

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