English Lab vs American Lab: The 4 Main Differences Between These Beautiful Dogs

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Updated: October 5, 2021
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How many times have you considered adopting a Labrador, only to remain perplexed about which one is the right one for you? Even though this animal is generally categorized as only one breed, the English Lab and the American Lab differentiate in many ways. They both come from the same ancestors, but the breeding that they’ve gone through has separated them in many ways.

Why are there two different species of Labradors now? What has made them so different through breeding? The demand for each of these dogs is quite high, but each one has physical and temperamental differences to consider. Let’s take a look and find out.

Comparing English Lab and American Lab

In the chart featured below, we show a few of the ways that the English Lab and the American Lab differ, even though the two breeds originate from the same dog. These animals have become beloved pets around the world, exhibiting exactly why the Labrador is such a great companion to adults and children alike. Still, it is hard to choose between the two, which is where these differences may be helpful to understand.

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English Lab American Lab
Size 21.5 to 22.5 inches 21.5 to 24.5 inches
Distinctive body features Full chest, thick neck, defined forehead, shorter legs. Slim torso, narrow head, long nose, long legs, athletic muscle tone.
Temperament Intelligent, friendly, calm. Intelligent, excited, active, friendly.
Weight 50-70 lbs. 60-90 lbs.

The 4 Key Differences Between the English Lab and the American Lab

The English Lab and the American Lab are so close in their health needs, intelligence, and even their appearance that confusing the two is easy. Ultimately, the differences between them are so minor that the decision on which family pet to adopt almost comes down to a matter of personal preference. However, a look at the differences below reveals what you’re getting into with either one.

English Lab vs American Lab: Natural Physique

The easiest way to see the difference between the English Lab and the American Lab is to take a look at their general shape. The English Lab has a much broader body, showing off their full cheeks and thick necks. Their body is wider, and they have shorter legs than the American Lab.

The American Lab is slimmer in their torso, even though they typically weigh more than the English Lab. They also have a narrower head, complemented by a long snout. Their body is made to be athletic, which is why their weight is higher – they are built with more natural muscle.

English Lab vs American Lab: Energetic Temperament

Considering the way that the American Lab is built to be in constant motion, it should come as no surprise that the temperament of this breed is generally more energetic. Their muscles come in quite handy for this disposition, which is why they need to have many more opportunities to run and play outdoors. When they focus this energy, they are much better companions for hunters.

The English Labrador still has a lot of energy, but they are much calmer in their demeanor. They would prefer to have a relaxing day at home with their owner than to spend hours running around.

English Lab vs American Lab: Ease of Training

While you might think that the incredible intelligence of either breed makes them easy to train, that is not necessarily true. The American Lab tends to take on a more independent stride, leading him to become rather distracted while he’s supposed to be learning. This pup would much rather be on an adventure than learning, so their owner needs to be much firmer than that of an English Lab.

English Lab vs American Lab: Origins of the Breeds

The AKC doesn’t really show a difference between the breeds, but the path that these breeds took to become what they currently are, is vastly different. Both breeds come from the St. John’s Dog, which originally was a companion for fishermen. When English nobles noticed the hardworking nature of the dog in the 1800s, they brought them back to England. It wasn’t until the 1940s that the two breeds started to be specialized in different ways for different purposes.

The breeders of English Labs focused on preparing them for dog shows, which means that they didn’t have to do much work. Muscle tone was not as important for their purpose, and the breed naturally adjusted. American Lab breeders focused more on their work ethic and agility. Though they were also in dog shows, more of the competitions focused on their speed and nimbleness through physical challenges.

Next Up: Praying Mantis vs Lizard: The 5 Key Differences

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AZ Animals is a growing team of animals experts, researchers, farmers, conservationists, writers, editors, and -- of course -- pet owners who have come together to help you better understand the animal kingdom and how we interact.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the difference between an English lab and an American lab?

While there are many differences between these two breeds, the physical differences can be seen in their width, face, and legs. The English Lab is wider with more defined cheeks and a thick neck, while the American Lab has longer legs, a slimmer torso, a longer muzzle, and an overall more athletic build.

Are English labs bigger than American labs?

While the English Lab appears to be wider, the American Lab generally weighs more as the result of their athletic muscle.

Are American labs smarter than English labs?

The American Lab and English Lab are both known for being extremely intelligent.