Years ago it was really hard to tell a silver Lab from a Weimaraner. Unless you looked at the tail. In the US, Weimaraners have their tails docked to six inches. Other countries have outlawed cropping ears and docking tails, so looking at the tail in those locations is not helpful.

Over time, silver breeders have bred their dogs to purebred Labs so the silvers are looking more Lab-like. And they decided to lie and declare their mixed-breed dog are purebred Labradors. This is the silver Labrador myth.

Early Labrador Retrievers

The Labrador Retriever originated in Newfoundland and the early dogs were black. Some had white markings from the St John's dog.

Several of these dogs were imported to England and Scotland during the 1800s. Impressed by their retrieving desire and overall work in the field, wealthy sportsmen imported more dogs and began breeding them. In the early 1900s, wealthy sportsmen in America began importing and breeding Labs.

The majority of these dogs were black, but breeders documented an occasional brown or yellow puppy. But black was - and still is - the most common color.

Origin of the Silver Labrador Myth

According to the Factual Review by Margaret Wilson, "There was never any mention in the meticulous and exhaustive breeding records, whelping logs, descriptions of markings colors, etc., and stud books kept by gentlemen of unimpeachable integrity of any dog being produced that was, in fact or in fantasy, a dilute. Not in ANY of the retriever breeds developed from the St. John's dog during that time in Great Britain. The dilute allele was introduced after the establishment of the recognized breeds. In the case of the Labrador this introduction occurred in the USA during the latter part of the 20th century."

Because a variety of breeds were crossed with Labs early in their history, occasionally mismarks popped up. Some had tan markings like a Doberman, some were brindled like a Great Dane, and some were splashed with white. These mismarks are rare, but they do still occur. Unlike the silver Labs, these dogs are considered purebred Labs.

Interestingly there was no mention of silver Labs until the mid-twentieth century. And for years after that, they were only found in the US. There were none in the United Kingdom until 2006 when some silvers were exported from the US. If these silver dogs were purebred Labradors they should have appeared a long time ago in the breed's home country.

So where did this color come from?

Most likely from the Weimaraner which comes "in shades of mouse-gray to silver-gray" per the breed standard. Every dog of this breed has two copies of the recessive dilution gene ("dd") which causes the silvery color.

Labs, however, do not have the dilution gene. A purebred Lab has "DD" genes which means they have two copies of the dominant, non-dilute gene.

Crossing Labs with Weimaraners will produce dogs with normal Lab colors, however, they will all carry the dilute gene ("Dd"). Breeding these dogs together can produce dogs that don't carry the dilute gene and dogs that carry one copy of that gene. These dogs will have normal Lab colors. However, that cross can also produce dogs that have two copies of the dilute gene ("dd") with diluted colors.

The dilute colors have been named "charcoal", "silver" and "champagne." These dogs often have a lavender cast to the coat and light greenish eyes, both traits from the Weimaraner.

When and how did 'silver Labs' appear?

Just about every 'silver Lab' can be traced back to two breeders - Crist Culo Kennels and Beaver Creek Labradors. They gained notoriety in the mid-1980s. Neither has a current website. There is also mention of a magazine advertisement for "rare gray Labradors" that appeared sometime in the 1950s. Although it's mentioned over and over again, no one has been able to produce a copy. They can't even agree on which magazine it appeared in. Perhaps it's just a legend like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.

In 1987 the American Kennel Club ("AKC") investigated a litter of silver puppies. After looking at the puppies and paperwork they decided "there was no reason to doubt that the dogs were purebred Labrador Retrievers." That statement is not the same as saying the dogs were purebred. Rather it meant they had no proof the dogs were of mixed parentage. Genetic testing would likely have proven the records were falsified, but without it they relied on the breeder's word. Read on to learn about his veracity.

Crist Culo Kennels

Dean Crist appears to be the first person to market 'silver Labs' and was adamant that they were purebred Labs. He even boasted that he "offered $100,000 to anyone who could simply prove" he was cross-breeding to produce 'silver Labs.' It was a safe bet without genetic testing. When testing did become available, it could only show whether a particular dog was a parent of a specific puppy. It couldn't prove anything about the first cross-breeding.

The dogs at Crist Culo Kennels were intensely inbred - mother to son, father to daughter, brother to sister. This was most likely done to increase the number of dogs carrying the dilute gene and thus his profit margin.

Half-truths, at best

Crist claimed, "... AKC will eventually have to concede to the growing public pressure to make Silver a recognized color for Labs in America." He didn't know that AKC doesn't have the power to make silver a recognized color of Labradors. The Labrador Retriever Club ("LRC"), the parent club for Labs in the US, controls the breed standard. They don't recognize dogs with a dilute color as purebred Labs.

He also said, "...kennel clubs ... already accept Silver Labs without all the political fuss and pressure being applied to AKC." The truth is, except for AKC, no kennel club accepts silver Labs as purebred.

In more hyperbole, he claimed, "Chocolate Labs were both controversial and rare in the U.S. in the early ‘80s." Although not as common as black Labs, they were not controversial nor rare and many champions were chocolate:

Am Mex CH Gunfields Super Charger CD WC (born 1969),
CH Wingmasters Cobe of Mandigo CD (born 1972),
CH Shamrock Acres Coco Bo (born 1974),
CH Mallards Brown Spinner (born 1974, ancestor of NFC AFC Storm's Riptide Star),
CH Shamrock Acres Pot of Fudge CDX (born 1975),
CH Wingmaster's Swiss Ms CD (born 1977),
FC Mueller's Stormy Canada (born 1980),

Crist also said, "...allergies ... occur at the same frequency in Silver Labs as they occur in Chocolate Labs." He blamed puppy buyers for feeding a poor diet. Silver Labs commonly have color dilution alopecia, a genetic disorder that causes the dog to lose most of its hair. It's not curable and is associated with the dilute color.

Although he has retired from breeding, other breeders of 'silver Labs' continue to spread his false information.

Beaver Creek Labradors

This kennel showed up in the 1990s - about 10 years after Crist Culo. They practiced less intense line breeding - using distant relatives - compared with the inbreeding done at Crist Culo Kennels. According to Crist, this kennel culled silver puppies until they saw him advertising "silver Labs" for sale. He volunteered to sell the puppies for them so they could avoid the backlash of cross-breeding. Eventually, they chose to market their own puppies.

Other breeders fell to the "shiny object syndrome." Some sourced their first dogs from early breeders, while others decided to breed their own silver Labs. At least one breeder was caught falsifying records and was suspended from AKC.

"Explaining" Silvers

There are a variety of stories told to explain the sudden appearance of "silver Labs" in the 1980s.

Some silver breeders point to gray puppies noted by Mary Roslin-Williams. However, they only included the part that makes it seem like silver Labs have been around for many years. What they didn't share is that when those puppies shed their puppy coat they were black. Not silver, not charcoal.

A researcher traced many silver pedigrees back to two dogs from a large mid-western kennel. To register crossbred puppies with the AKC, a false name and registration number from a Lab had to be used. Therefore the dogs he pointed to were likely the "parents" only on paper as the sire was probably a Weimaraner.

Another oft-repeated myth is that the level of inbreeding at the Culo kennel resulted in the silver color. Rather the tremendous amount of inbreeding in these early silvers suggests producing the silver color was deliberate.

It only took one fraudulent breeding to introduce the dilution gene to the Lab breed. Then lots of inbreeding to develop a line of 'silver Labs.' Since then there have been many more fraudulent registrations of Labrador x Weimaraner crosses registered as purebred Labs.

Interesting how there were no silver Labs until the mid-1900s. And for years after that they were only found in the US. There were none in the UK until many years later. The silvers there were all imported from the US or descended from imports. If these dogs were purebred Labradors they would have shown up a long time ago in the breed's home country.

Recipe for 'Silver Labradors'*

It's not hard to make your own 'silver Labrador,' but it will take at least three dogs and two generations. Oh, and if the AKC catches you, plan on at least a lengthy suspension.

Step One:

You will need a Lab male and female each with full registration plus access to a male Weimaraner. Then breed the Weimaraner to the Lab female and fraudulently claim the puppies' father is the Lab male. With the vast number of puppies registered every year, AKC can't check every litter.

All the puppies in this cross-bred litter will carry the dilute gene, but won't have the dilute-colored coat.

Step Two:

When the puppies are old enough, breed them together. Yes, brother to sister. Just like the Crist Culo Kennels did. Statistically, their litters should be about 25% dd (dilute color), 25% DD (non-dilute), and 50% Dd (dilute carriers). The colors you get will depend on the color of the Lab grandmother. If she was a chocolate, you should have some 'silvers.'

Step Three:

To "prove" these dogs are purebred, buy AKC DNA kits and test the parents and puppies of this second generation. AKC is a registration body and will register any puppy when both parents are AKC-registered and of the same breed. They don't care if the puppy is pink with purple polka dots. The DNA is to check whether a puppy was sired by a specific male and out of a specific female. They don't check any farther back.

Congratulations! You have now committed fraud and potentially introduced additional health issues to the Labrador Retriever breed.

* Note: I do not condone fraud. This "recipe" is only to show how easy it is for crossbred dogs to contaminate a breed. And it is happening in many breeds, not just the Labrador Retriever.

Why provide such a recipe?

To prove a point. Many people rely on the findings of the man who collected Labrador pedigrees. Developing the database was a wonderful undertaking. Claiming the dilute gene came from two dogs bred by a mid-western kennel was not.

As in the recipe above, the Lab males contributed NO genes to the puppies and grand puppies. They were only listed as the fathers so the first-generation puppies could be AKC registered as purebred Labs. A male Weimaraner was needed to add the dilute gene.

Claiming those Labs were the source of the dilute gene has cast doubt on hundreds of descendants of those dogs.

Health Issues

Silver Labradors are prone to color dilution alopecia which is a painful and chronic condition linked to the dilute gene. Dogs appear normal as puppies, but at about six months begin to lose their hair. Some dogs may only have bald spots while others may lose all of their hair. Affected dogs may develop infections and granulomas which are the body's attempt to wall off foreign bodies. There is no cure.

Silver Labrador Myth Around the World

"The overwhelming consensus among breed experts from legitimate Labrador clubs, the position of these accredited Labrador clubs, and a growing number of recognized purebred dog registries, is that the dilutes are the result of a cross breeding, with Weimaraner being the source of the dilute allele, and are therefore are not registerable in a purebred registry." LRC_News_Spring2018.pdf

In addition, the breed standards for Labrador Retrievers around the world only recognize the colors of black, chocolate and yellow. AKC lists any other color as a disqualification. Labs with the diluted color cannot be shown. Some countries do not allow them to be bred.

Labrador Retriever Club Inc. (US)

The LRC is the parent club for the breed in the US and they are the liaison to the AKC. They do not condone the breeding of silver Labs and have "good evidence in scientific literature indicating that the Labrador has never been identified as carrying the dilute gene..."

In other words, these dogs are not purebred Labradors.

The United Kennel Club and Hunting Retriever Club

The UKC standard is clear. Any color or combination of colors other than yellow, black, or chocolate is a disqualification. UKC does not recognize any form of silver coloration as a variation of the chocolate color. It does not knowingly accept registrations for Labradors that have a silver coat coloring.

Further, they are not eligible to run in HRC hunt tests because the tests are only open to gun dog breeds. Dilutes are not considered purebred Labradors. They can participate in other UKC performance events but must be neutered.

Great Britain

Dilute colors in Labradors are not recognized


Not a breed standard recognized color for Labrador Retrievers

The Netherlands

Dilute colors are not naturally occurring in Labradors. Breeding dilute Labs is banned.

New Zealand

At least one parent must be clear of the dilute allele.


Dilute Labradors may not be registered.

American Kennel Club

On the other hand, the AKC is a registration body. Its position is if two dogs have full registration and are registered as the same breed, they will register their puppies.


If silver breeders were truthful there would have been some backlash, but not to the extent caused by the lies. What Labrador breeders object to is calling these dogs 'silver Labradors' when they have Weimaraner characteristics beyond the silver color. It's particularly noticeable in the head, ear shape, and eye color. Many silver Lab breeders are now trying to breed to better quality Labradors to improve the look of their dogs. I sincerely hope that doesn't happen.

Too many lies have been told and too much false information has been spread by the silver Lab breeders. It's time to ferret out every one of these cross-bred dogs and stop calling them Labrador Retrievers. The LRC has offered to help them set up their own breed, but the silver breeders have refused. If they don't want to have their own breed, so be it. Strip the AKC registration of every one of these crossbred dogs and see their breeders' profits plummet.

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