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Can Purebred Labradors Have White Markings, Spots or Patches?

Last Updated: December 29, 2023

The American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognizes three standard coat colors for the Labrador: chocolate, yellow, and black. However, a question often arises regarding white markings or spots on purebred Labradors. Is it possible for a purebred Labrador to have white on them?

While the standard Labrador coat is typically a solid color, it’s not uncommon for purebred Labradors to have small white markings, particularly on the chest, paws, or tail. These markings, often called ‘mismarks,’ are usually genetic variations and do not indicate mixed ancestry.

In this article, we’ll dive into the genetic tapestry that paints the coat colors of Labrador Retrievers, shedding light on the intriguing phenomenon of white markings. We’ll examine how these unique features fit the breed’s standards and what they signify for the Labs that carry them.

A black lab sitting on grass

Can Purebred Labs Have White On Their Chest? 

Purebred Labs can have white on their chest, which is not uncommon. It may be due to inherited genes from the extinct St. John’s Water Dog.

Labradors may also have white markings on their legs, feet, and tail, and these are known as mismarks. 

The St. John’s Water Dog, the Labrador’s predecessor, was known to have white markings on the chest, paws, and muzzle.

These markings were carried down through the generations of the first Labradors bred in England before ultimately being bred out of the line.

While it does happen occasionally, it does not mean that your dog is not purebred. You may, however, not be able to register your dog as a show dog because of the markings.

According to the AKC official standard for the Labrador breed, this is acceptable, though not ideal. 

My dog had white chest markings as a pup. However, these soon faded and blended into her adult coat. I was kind of sorry to see them go, as I really liked them and thought they gave her some individuality.

Can Purebred Labs Have White Spots? 

White spots or sporadic markings are also fairly common among purebred Labradors. White spots are usually determined by the genes on the S locus and are caused when the dog’s skin cells can’t produce any pigment, so the fur becomes white.

In fact, spots of almost any color can occur, including specs of black, red, or both on brown fur, known as brindling. Sometimes, white spots and brindling can occur together.

Though these don’t indicate that your Lab is not purebred, it can affect where they qualify as show dogs. Labs with white spots or brindling, for example, cannot be shown according to the AKC. 

Learn More About “White Spotting” in This YouTube Video…

The Science Behind White Markings in Labrador Retrievers

Purebred Labs can have white markings, and this is no reflection of their pedigree.

White markings tend to occur on the dog’s extremities, such as the tips of the paws, muzzle, chest, and tail. They occur when the cell’s pigment doesn’t migrate fully in the developing embryo.

This is referred to as residual white and can sometimes be caused by a minor illness in the mother. These dogs are often called mismarked Labradors. Despite the moniker, however, this can affect Labs of any type, not just mixes. 

As mentioned above, white spotting in Labrador’s coats is linked to the locus S gene – located near the MITF gene. White spotting on the paws can appear on one, all four, or any combination.

Black Lab with White Chest or Markings 

Many black Labs – even purebreds – may have white markings. There are several types of mark patterns. These might indicate mixed parentage, or they might simply mean that your dog inherited specific genes

A purebred black Labrador showing off the white marking

Types of markings generally fall into a few categories: Bolo spots, black and tan marks, brindling, Honcho rings, and mosaic markings. Of these, Bolo spots, rings, and mosaic marks may be white. 

Bolo Spots

Bolo spots are inherited from a champion Labrador sire named Banchory Bolo, who lived in England from 1917 to 1925.

Bolo spots are small patches of white hair that may appear sporadically on the feet. They are usually behind the front feet (specifically, behind the metacarpal/metatarsal pads) of some dogs.

If you hope to show your Labrador, don’t worry too much about Bolo spots docking them points, as they aren’t considered a mismark. Judges usually disregard these markings since they are widespread among purebreds. 

It is not uncommon for puppies to be born with Bolo spots that either fade as they age or eventually disappear under black or brown fur.

Honcho Rings

Rings of white may appear around the tail of some Labs, particularly the black variety. This indicates that their ancestry includes San Joaquin Honcho, a Lab in the United States in the 1980s. 

While Honcho did not have the distinctive tail ring, he passed the trait on to many of his children. It is still seen frequently among purebred Labradors to this day.

Mosaic Marks

A mosaic or chimera fur pattern means that a Labrador has a coat consisting of various colors. Some people say that it looks like the coat is stitched together from the coats of other dogs. 

This trait is rare. It is striking and may include yellow, white, red, brown, or red. Mosaic coats are the result of certain recessive genes. 

Yellow Labradors with Unique White Markings 

Yellow Labradors may also have white markings in a similar pattern. The main difference is that these are a bit more difficult to distinguish, thanks to the light color of their coat.

However, yellow Labradors, just like any other color, can be mismarked. 

Chocolate Lab with Unique White Spots

Chocolate Lab with White Spot on Chest

Like other colors of Labradors, chocolate Labs may have white spots on their chest, paws, tails, or other parts of their body. As with the other types, they are classified by the AKC as permissible but not desirable. 

So, if you have been wondering, “Why does my chocolate Lab puppy have white hair?” you should know that white spots on dogs, even purebreds, are completely normal. 

You may also notice your Labrador of any color developing more white patches as he ages. This should not be surprising since dogs, just like people, get white hair as they age! 

Mismarked Labs and Show Ring Eligibility 

A “mismarked” Labrador refers to a Labrador Retriever that displays coat colors or patterns that deviate from the breed standard set by kennel clubs like the American Kennel Club (AKC) or the UK Kennel Club.

Labradors are traditionally solid-colored, coming in three standard colors: black, yellow, and chocolate. Any other colors or significant markings, such as large white spots, brindle patterns, or black and tan markings, are considered mismarks.

These mismarks are not health defects; they are simply variations in appearance. They occur due to the complex genetics of coat color and patterns in dogs.

While mismarked Labradors may not conform to show standards, they are typically just as healthy and possess the same temperament and characteristics as standard-colored Labradors.

Not every mismark will keep you from showing your Labrador. Some, such as the white spots mentioned above, are permissible and may be overlooked by judges. 

If you don’t plan on showing your dog, mismarks can be beneficial. Breeders often sell mismarked puppies for a lower price than their unicolored siblings, and they are just as friendly, smart, and loving as any other Labrador Retriever.


Can I Show My Lab If It Has White Patches?

Not every variation in fur color is considered a mismark. Some smaller marks, such as on the chest, still allow you to show your dog in competitions. 

However, you can likely expect your Labrador to be marked down in its final score because the patches are considered less ideal than a pure coat. Despite this, breeders and judges generally understand that a mismarked coat is not an indication of mixed parentage. 

It’s a similar situation in purebred long-haired Labs, which are also heavily penalized in conformation for their fluffy coats.

How Can I Tell a Purebred Labrador?

Are you wondering if your Lab is a true pedigree? The best way to tell is by checking your dog’s papers. But what if you don’t have any pedigree papers or know the dog’s history if you got him from the local shelter?

To tell a purebred Labrador, compare your dog to the official breed standard or consult an expert such as a vet, breeder, or dog behaviorist. You can also compare the dog’s temperament and behavior to see if it conforms to the breed or arrange a DNA test.

The quickest and easiest way to tell a purebred Lab is to get a dog DNA kit, such as the Embark Breed Identification Dog DNA Test from Amazon. Vets have developed this cool piece of kit. It screens over 350 breeds, and you can see a family tree and connect with other doggos that share your dog’s DNA.

Note: Clicking the above link(s) will take you to Amazon or an online store where we have an affiliate relationship. If you make a purchase, we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Final Thoughts

White marks and patches are common on Labradors of all colors, even those with purebred ancestry. The reasons for this are varied and complex, depending on genetics and parentage. 

Although these white spots do not align with the traditional breed standard for show purposes, they do not affect the health or temperament of the Labrador, making them just as suitable as family pets or working dogs.

Sharon Waddington
Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Recently, Sharon has become deeply passionate about the plight of rescue dogs and is an active advocate for dog rescue, striving to make a difference in the lives of dogs in need.

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