Yellow Labradors are among the most versatile colors of the Retriever breed, ranging from a creamy yellow to a foxy red. But the rarest coloration is the Polar Bear Labrador, whose genotype requires much-specialized knowledge about genetics and breeding safety. Bred initially as a show dog, the Labrador Polar Bear is one of the world’s most beautiful and beloved dogs.
What is a Labrador Polar Bear?
If you’ve ever met a white Labrador, you’ve just completed a Labrador polar bear! Both have the same pure white iridescent fur, with black pigmentation around the nose, mouth, and eyes.
White Labrador puppy next to a polar bear cub.
However, the American Kennel Club (AKC) only officially recognizes three Labrador colors: black, chocolate, and yellow. So, where do white Labradors fit in?
White Labradors, or polar bear Labradors, are a variant of yellow Labradors. Some consider them the palest shade of yellow, making them an official color for Labrador Retrievers. This coloring came about when people started experimenting with phenotypes and genetics, so Labradors of different colors began to make their way into people’s hearts.
There are several coats with their variations, including:
Chocolate (light chocolate and black)
Yellow (light cream, fox red, and polar bear white).
It is interesting to note that each color has its reputation. Black Labradors, for example, are the most common type and have been commonly used as hunting dogs. Chocolate Labradors are excellent in the field, as their coat blends with the surrounding foliage. Finally, yellow Labradors are the most recognized service dogs, as they are known for their patience and companionship. White Labradors are particularly fashionable show dogs.
But getting the color of a white bear Lab is no easy task. It takes experienced breeders with an excellent knowledge of phenotypes and genetics to breed an all-white Labrador.
The mystery of color inheritance
To achieve the exact polar bear color, several generations of dogs are needed to eliminate the yellow color of the coat slowly. To do this, pale Labradors are systematically crossed with other pale Labradors to produce the famous milky white color.
To understand how this is possible, you must have a basic understanding of genetics. To begin with, there are three possible combinations of genes that a dog can inherit:
Two dominant genes (BB)
Two recessive genes (bb)
Or one of each (Bb).
B is short for eumelanin, the dominant black gene that gives the Labrador’s black coat. Small b has less eumelanin, which can cause a chocolate coat. Black is a dominant gene, which means it will always look like E.
But where are the white labs?
Dogs that do not have BB or Bb in their genes will then have EE or Ee, a recessive gene that masks the dominant B gene, meaning it will always have a yellow coat. It will look like this:
Two dominant genes (EE)
Two masking genes (ee)
Or one of each (Ee).
A combination of B and E can result in a yellow Labrador, the options being ebb, eeBb, and Webb.
True white Labradors will always have dark pigment, which is why their features are usually black. Note that the e gene is always first, as it is a masking gene that completely overrides the dominant B gene.
Essentially, breeding polar bear Labradors with their prominent dark traits is a mix-and-match game. Breeders have a thorough knowledge of the parents’ genes, allowing them to predict the cubs’ color better.
Why are Polar Bear Labs so famous?
Polar bear cub standing on its hind legs.
Studying all these types of genetics may seem like a lot of work to ensure white Labrador puppies, but it serves a purpose. White Labradors are among the most popular because of their beautiful coats and winning personalities.
Reason #1: White Labradors are calm and docile.
Most often, white Labradors are English, as American white Labradors are usually yellow. But the differences don’t end there: English Labradors are known to be calmer and more docile than their American counterparts, making them perfect for families with children. They are also smaller, sturdier, and wider, making them excellent show dogs.
Reason #2: White Labradors are easy to train.
Some dog breeds are more aloof and stubborn than others, but Labradors couldn’t be more different. They are known for their eagerness to please, which means they need a leader and are very receptive to learning commands, tricks, and socialization techniques.
Reason 3: White Labradors are always willing to play.
Labradors are descended from dogs that retrieved and fetched things for people, and the apple never falls far from the tree. Today’s Labradors are just as willing to play and must be kept busy with lots of physical and mental stimulation. Although English white Labradors tend to be calmer, they still need plenty of exercise and playtime.
Reason 4: White Labradors are regular service dogs.
Labradors are one of the most commonly used breeds as service dogs, an incredibly vital function that requires intensive training. Service dogs support people with disabilities by assisting them in their daily activities or providing help in an emergency.
Polar Bear Labradors are known for their beautiful white coat and striking dark features, but they are also among the best dogs to own. Topping the list of America’s favorite dogs, Labradors are known for their calm and playful personalities, making them perfect for families of all sizes.