My Black Labrador Has White Hair – Find Out Why

May 16, 2021

White spots on black Labrador are a common thing. Labs have black fur with white markings. The white markings are not albinos of any kind. They are a genetic trait in purebred labs.

The spots are usually on the chest and the stomach. These white spots sometimes have black hairs intermingled. Labs are born with these spots that fade as they age.

The spots are more visible in the winter months when the dog sheds his winter coat and the spots are more visible. Labrador is a large breed dog with many white marks. There is no known reason for this. Most Labs are born with a white spotting gene. Some Labs have more marks than others.

Why Does My Black Lab Have White Spots?

So, you noticed some white spots in your Lab and thought

“Can black labs have white spots? Is this normal?”
“Does this mean my Lab’s not a purebred?”

Have no fear.

It’s perfectly normal for a Black Lab to have either white spots or other color variations. These are called mismarks and do occur naturally in certain dogs within all purebred Labrador color types.

Does Mismarks Prove My Labs Not a Purebred?

It’s a common belief that a Labrador with mismarks or color variations can’t be a purebred Labrador.

This is simply not true.

While mismarks in Labradors can indicate the possibility of a mixed breed, it is by no means proof positive that the dog is not purebred. Mismarks naturally occur in Labradors and have done so from the breed’s beginning.

In fact, the modern Labrador’s ancestor, the St. Johns dog, was known to have white markings on its paws, chest, and muzzle. These markings were passed onto the first Labradors bred in England before these features were eventually bred out of the line.

Labrador Mismarks

Mismarks are color irregularities in the fur that occur periodically in the three main Labrador color types – Black, Chocolate, and Yellow (the only three colors officially recognized by the American Kennel Club).

While these mismarks will disqualify a dog from being shown in official competitions, they are by no means an indication that the dog is inferior or “defective” in any way.

Mismarks will manifest themselves in the following ways:

  • White Spots

This can be white hair that appears to vary degrees on the chest and/or paws, or as small, white, circular spots called “Bolo Spots,” located just behind the front pad, on the “heel” of their foot.

These get their name from champion Labrador, Banchory Bolo, who lived from 1917-1925. Bolo was the first dog in England to earn dual championships. He passed these Bolo Marks on to further generations of Labradors.

Many judges are aware of these marks and, depending on their size, will often ignore them.

If you are planning to show your dog competitively, it’s important to know that not every occurrence of white hair on a Labrador is automatically considered a mismark.

According to AKC (American Kennel Club) standards, some white hair is permissible for competition. Although, you can expect the judges to mark the dog down to a certain degree.

  • Black and Tan Markings

These appear as tan markings in various places, including the chest, paws, muzzle, and above the eyes.

Although they were once believed to be the result of interbreeding with Gordon Setters during the breed’s early history, tan markings are now understood to be the result of a recessive property of the dog’s genes.

This recessive gene can pass undetected through multiple generations before manifesting itself.

  • Brindling

Sometimes called “splashing,” brindling is a unique color pattern that presents itself as speckled or tri-color patches of orange or tan streaks which sometimes resemble tiger stripes.

Labradors with brindling will often express this coat pattern on their muzzle, chest, legs, and paws. In some cases, this brindle pattern will cover the dog’s entire coat

  • Chimera or Mosaic

This describes large areas of the dog’s coat as patches of varying colors – as if its coat was stitched together from the coats of differently colored dogs. This is an accidental result of cell division before the dog is born.

Why Do Black Labs Have White on Them?

Like all things to do with dog colors and patterns, white marks on black Labs are the result of your dog’s genetics.

There are a few types of white markings that are common in black Labs. The three main ones are a white spot or patch (often on their chest), a white spot on the base of the paw (known as a bolo spot), and white flecks.

Firstly, the black color of your Lab is decided at the B locus, where your puppy will have a pair of B genes.

If your pup inherits either one or both dominant B genes, they will have a black coat. But, inheriting two recessive ‘b’ genes will produce a chocolate coat!

So, you know that your black Lab must have at least one dominant ‘B’ gene.

You can read more about Labrador color genetics in this helpful guide. But, let’s not forget the white markings.

What About the White Markings?

Black coloring on Labs happens at the B locus. White spots and markings usually happen at the S locus – home of the white spotting genes.

The white spotting genes stop certain areas from producing any pigment.

Very small amounts of white on the chest, toes, or tail of a dog is known as residual white.

It’s likely that this is the type of white marking your black Lab will have.

It’s also possible that residual white coloring is hereditary. So, if two black Labs with white markings breed, their puppies may also exhibit this trait!

A Sign of their Age

Other times, white fur can be a sign that your Lab is aging.

White and grey fur develops on black Labs as they get older.

If your Lab develops white markings around its face or any other place on its body as they get older, it may just be a sign of old age.

Just like how we get grey hair.

Are Black Labs With White Markings Healthy?

Studies have shown that there is a link between having large areas of white coat and deafness.

However, the very small white spotting that is common on black Labs has no known link to particular health issues.

Your black Lab with white markings will be prone to the same health issues as any other Labrador.

Labrador Health

Like any dog breed, the Labrador is prone to certain problems. Here are the conditions you’ll need to learn about:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Bloat
  • Obesity
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
  • Exercise Induced Collapse
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Ear infections
  • Skin problems

Some health problems can be tested for. So, make sure you choose a reputable breeder that can show evidence of health testing the dogs they breed from.

You can read more about Labrador’s health issues in this complete guide.

What White Markings Can Black Labs Have?

The different types of white markings that are possible to see on black Labs are varied.

Some Labs may just have a simple splodge of white on a random part of their body. This type of marking is most common on the chest.

Others may have white feet, entire white paws, or a white coloring that extends up their leg!

A small white spot on the bottom of your Lab’s foot is commonly known as a ‘bolo mark’. This name refers to the first dual champion Labrador named Banchory Bolo.

He had a white spot on the bottom of his paw. Many people believe that Labs with this marking are descendants of the impressive Banchory Bolo.

Some black Labs may also have a white ring around their tail.

Is White Hair in Black Labradors a Sign of Health Issues?

While white hair in black Labradors can be a sign of aging, it is not necessarily a sign of health issues. It is a natural occurrence in older dogs and should not be a cause for alarm. When it comes to grooming black Labradors, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of shaving to determine the best course of action for their coats.

Where To Find Black Lab Puppies With White Markings?

Make sure that you’re only choosing reputable breeders if you’re looking for a black lab puppy with white markings.

The health of your puppy is more important than any markings, and markings on puppies can fade or change as they grow.

If you’re interested in white markings on a puppy, let breeders know in advance.

Some may be willing to look out for those markings on a puppy in their new litters, and let you have first pick.

Avoid pet stores and puppy mills. And, make sure your breeder shows you all necessary and relevant health tests.

Love Your Lab, Spots and All

You should not let your Labrador’s coat coloring have any influence over how you care for and treat this valued member of your family. The appearance of a Labrador’s fur is the result of genetic happenstance and is purely aesthetic. It has absolutely no bearing on your Lab’s health, physique, or temperament.

The most important thing is that you love and care for your pet every day and be thankful for the time you have with them.

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Hey yaa! Im Ashly and I love pets. Growing up in a house with 2 dogs, a cat, a parrot and many furry rodents; it was natural for me to have a profound affection for them. I created to create useful guides and articles on looking after your furry friends. The advice given on this site is our views and expertise, please consult a VET prior to testing anything. Hope my site helps you :)

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