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Fox Red Labrador Retrievers: Controversy, Puppy Costs & More

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Last Updated: November 17, 2022 | 12 min read | 50 Comments

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The Fox Red Labrador also called the Red Fox Lab, and sometimes known as the Ruby Labrador, is a stunning dog. He is a Labrador Retriever like any other, but with the color of a red fox. Despite being labeled as red in color, he is technically just a deeper shade of the traditional yellow Labrador.

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Like any Labrador, he is energetic and fun to be around, but at the same time, he is also affectionate and gentle with his family, which is why he makes such a great family pet. The color of his coat has no significant bearing on the rest of his appearance, temperament, or health issues.

There is not as much controversy surrounding the Fox Red Labrador compared to some of the other colored Labradors, such as the silver Lab. Still, nonetheless, there are some Labrador fanciers who do not consider him to be a purebred Labrador. Despite the haters, he has many avid fans, and his striking and alternative color is gradually earning him a place amongst the popular pups. So, let’s take a closer look at what this breed is all about and jump in with some Fox Red Labrador Retriever facts, history, and frequent questions.

History

Red Labrador in Fall Leaves
This type of Labrador is a color variation of the yellow gene.

The Labrador Retriever’s journey began in Newfoundland in Canada. Traditionally he is a hunting dog who worked on the water collecting the quarry of his fisherman masters, such as ducks and fish. St John’s Dog is the ancestor of the Labrador, and so impressed the visiting nobles from Great Britain with his working skills that they took him back to England.

Over a few decades, they refined the breed and renamed him the Labrador Retriever, who we know and love today. Ever since his first registration in America in 1917, they have become a family favorite worldwide. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), he is currently the most popular dog breed in America. People often ask, “are Fox Red Labradors purebred canines”, and the answer is yes, they are.

It is unknown exactly when this breed came into the world. However, they have always been a rare color. For this reason, it is believed that because he was not one of the traditional colors Fox Red pups were not registered and, therefore, an unknown entity or they were sadly culled once their color was realized. The breed made international headlines recently when a Fox Red Labrador named Nova became the new British first dog.

Prejudice In The Show Ring

Adult Red Lab Looking at Ground
To this day, there’s still prejudice in the show ring towards this color.

It is important to understand that the Red Fox Lab is recognized simply as a yellow Labrador. The red Labrador in any shade does not exist. The AKC Labrador breed standards describe the yellow color as the following: Yellows may range in color from fox-red to light cream, with variations in shading on the ears, back, and underparts of the dog.

The color of this pup is actually yellow. Because of this, he is allowed to be shown in the conformation ring, also commonly known as the show ring. This is a competition based on the Labrador breed characteristics as a whole. Despite this, and as with many alternative color dogs, this color Labrador has suffered long-standing color prejudice in the canine world.

Unfortunately, kennel clubs across the world do not recognize this color Labrador as a color in its own right. The majority of observers can see that his color is quite different from traditional yellow shades. Ultimately, if you want to register your Red Fox pup with the AKC, then he must be registered as a yellow Labrador.

Secondly, despite being allowed to compete in the show ring and obedience and performance-related events, many owners and onlookers suggest that the judges of the various competitions mark him less favorably. As such, he is less likely to win or come close to winning. This is simply because standard judges tend to favor traditional and lighter colors more than Fox Red.

Unfortunately, for these reasons, if showing your Labrador, in any event, is an important factor, then you should either consider getting a more traditional colored Labrador or accept that your pup may be at a disadvantage, even if he is one of the best in the show. If he wins, you know that your pup is quite simply an outstanding Labrador specimen.

Red Fox Lab Color Genetics Explained

Red Fox Lab Genetic Differences
Genetics play a part in the color of their coat.

All pairs of genes are inherited from the parents, one from Mom and one from Dad. As with most gene pairs, they can come in big or small versions, also known as dominant and recessive genes.

The default color in the Labrador is black. A pair of genes called the BB genes are responsible for this coloration. So, a black Labrador could have, for example, the Bb gene. Little b is responsible for the genetic code necessary to make a brown coat instead of a black one. But because big B is dominant and switches off little b, he will be black on this occasion. The little b only shows his powers when the bb gene appears. When this happens, you get a chocolate-colored Labrador.

To get a yellow Labrador, you need the genes that switch off the black and brown coat. These are known as the e genes. They come in EE, Ee, and ee. This last ee pair comes together and packs quite the punch, enough to block both the big B and little b genes completely. This is what gives us the yellow Labrador.

In the EE or Ee format, you still have a black or brown Labrador. A Fox Red Labrador is simply a variation of yellow. The shading of yellow needed to produce the red coloring is controlled by a pigment called pheomelanin which is controlled by another two different sets of genes, A and C. The A gene controls the production of the red color, and the C gene controls whether it is fully expressed or diluted.

These genes do not cancel one another out like the other genes. They work together to produce a variety of different shades, from pale yellow to rich red. The fox color red is quite a rarity. This breed is called Fox Red due to the color of their coats, not because they look like foxes, though several other breeds do carry a resemblance to the wild fox.

Appearance

Red Fox Lab in Field
Red Labs are beautiful dogs, and their color sets them apart.

This type of Labrador is a rare color, and he is undoubtedly hard to come by. His distinctive color coat is the only real difference between him and any other colored Labrador. He is described as being a deeper, or darker shade, of the yellow Labrador.

This is just as common as the white Labrador being described as a light yellow shade. His color is labeled Fox Red because it is exactly that, the color of the Red Fox. Other breeds of retrievers have similar coloring (like the golden retriever), meaning that both retriever breeds can have a red tint to their coat.

On occasion, they will have slightly deeper pink features around the muzzle. This will appear either in the pigment of the skin or in his nose color, but sometimes he also shares the same black features as his brothers. They are also more likely to have a white spot on their underbelly compared to other Labrador colors. It is thought that this is only because these patches are more visible on their darker skin compared to their yellow brothers.

Just as any other color Labrador, the male Red Fox Lab will measure 22.5 – 24.5 inches from paw to shoulder and will weigh 65 to 80 pounds. Of course, the female will measure slightly shorter, at 21.5 – 23.5 inches, and she will weigh 55 to 70 pounds. They are stocky dogs with thick, powerful necks and thick otter-like tails. They are also cute in their facial expression, with large round eyes that are full of mischievousness.

Generally, as the Red Fox is not favored in the competition ring, he is not usually bred for show dog life. It is said that the shooting world kept this breed alive while the show world tried to breed him out. For this reason, it would be even rarer to find an English Fox Red Labrador bred for show purposes. It’s more common for American Labradors, who are generally bred for hunting. To understand more about the two types of Labradors, you can read about the differences between English vs. American Labradors.

If you like the color coat but are not too keen on the Labrador himself, it might be interesting to know that he can often be mistaken for a Vizsla. He has the same facial expression and large ears, with the same color coat, but he is much more athletic in appearance.

He is frequently also mistaken for a Lab & Rhodesian Ridgeback mix. Those who believe that this color Labrador is not a purebred Labrador claim that he is the result of breeding a Labrador with a Vizsla. This causes controversy in the Labrador community. There is no evidence or proof to support such a claim.

Temperament

Red Labrador Outside
Their temperament is the same as the classic Lab, friendly and outgoing.

The Red Fox Lab is similar in temperament to that of any colored Labrador: “friendly, active, and outgoing” is the AKC’s description of one of the best canine companions. He is an energetic bundle of fun, and he will certainly keep you on your toes. He will shower you and the whole family with affection.

In addition to his playful nature, he is also a friendly and gentle canine who is eager to please his humans. Not only would he do anything for you, but he will love snuggling on the sofa once playtime is over for the day. He is also great with smaller animals and young children as long as he is socialized properly as a pup.

The only difference that has been noted between the Fox Red Labrador and any other color Labrador is that they can be slightly barkier. However, Gregg Tonkin, breeder, comments that this may be because the gene pool is smaller, and a once barky ancestor may be responsible for this. Simply put, this barky tendency is an inherited characteristic from one family member.

Exercise And Training

Red Labrador sitting near stone wall
These pups are easily trained and are eager to please their owners.

Labradors are high-energy dogs who need at least 60 minutes of active exercise daily. This needs to include high-intensity exercise in order to keep him both physically and mentally stimulated. It’s important to burn up that working energy. This can include swimming in the local lake, retrieving sticks, or participating in local agility events.

The Labrador is a highly intelligent pup, and the Fox Red Lab is certainly no different. This is one of the main reasons why Labradors are the most popular assistance dogs for the blind. They also excel in many other professions.

Do not underestimate his intelligence, though. He still needs consistent obedience training and a firm master to ensure he grows into a well-mannered adult. Make sure you have plenty of toys available to keep your pup occupied.

Health

Red Coated Lab under Tree
The health of their parent dogs has more to do with your dog’s health than coat color.

The Red Fox Labrador’s lifespan is, on average, between 10 and 12 years. Generally, he is a healthy dog with no major concerns to be worried about. The color of his coat has no bearing on his health in any way. As such, he shares the same health issues as any other Labrador.

Regardless of his color, any prospective Labrador owner will need to be aware of the following health issues. It’s recommended that his parents be tested for Hip and Elbow Dysplasia. They should also be tested for Exercise Induced Collapse, which is where he can suffer a loss of muscular control following a period of extreme exercise. He should also undergo an Ophthalmologist Evaluation, as certain diseases, such as Progressive Retinal Atrophy, can eventually lead to total vision loss.

Could Pet Insurance Help?

If your pet insurance covers exam fees and your dog needs to be examined, there is a good chance your policy will reimburse those costs based on your policy details. However, if you are a new customer, vet expenses will not be covered until after your policy’s defined waiting periods, so signing up once you have an existing health concern is not going to help this time. Pre-existing conditions are not covered by any current pet insurance plans.

This is why it is a great idea to sign up for a pet insurance policy when your pet is young and relatively healthy to ensure you will be covered when you need it most.

Nutrition

Red Labrador Eating Food
The Red Fox Lab should be fed high-quality dry kibble.

They will eat around 3 cups of food a day. Regardless of color, Labradors are on the continuous hunt for snacks. This is scientifically proven; the POMC is the part of the canine’s DNA that tells them they are feeling full, and the Labrador does not have this.

This means your Red Lab will likely always be hungry. In order to avoid obesity and other weight-related health issues that he is prone to, it is imperative to control his food consumption and feed him food that fits the breed profile.

Grooming

Red Labrador Puppy
Grooming is fairly easy with the Red Lab. Just expect regular shedding twice per year.

Their grooming needs are similar to any other canine. They are considered to be heavier shedders when compared to other breeds. He has a double coat which keeps him warm in the colder months.

Because of this thick double coat, this pup sheds considerably during shedding season. He needs brushing every day to keep his coat manageable during this time. When he is not shedding, his coat requires brushing once or twice a week.

Breeders And Puppy Price

Red Fox Lab Puppy Prices
Expect to pay $1,000 and up for one of these uniquely colored pups.

A traditional colored Labrador Retriever puppy can cost, on average, anywhere between $1,000 and up from a reputable breeder. This color Labrador Retriever is much rarer. Because of that, you can expect to pay much more as the supply and demand ratio is considerably higher. This breed will cost nearer the higher end of the scale. He is not priced as high as other alternative colors. However, as he is rarer than the traditional yellow or black pups, he may cost slightly more.

Be sure to do your research on reputable breeders beforehand. Many Lab enthusiasts comment that reputable breeders should not charge more for rarer colors. However, if he is healthy and you really want this particular color, then paying the higher price is something you should be prepared to expect.

The AKC lists breeders who have listed their pups for sale, either ready to purchase now or litters that are expected soon. The Labrador Retriever Club also lists registered breeders state by state.

Alternatively, if you would like to rescue and adopt a Labrador Retriever, you can also find rescue groups listed state by state solely dedicated to rehoming Labradors. There are plenty of rescue groups across America, and if you are certain you want the Red Fox Lab as a pet, you may have to invest a little more time, but it will be worth it when you find your canine soulmate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is a better family pet, the Yellow Lab or Fox Red Lab?

Neither coat color really matters when it comes to disposition with a family. What really matters is if the Lab is the right breed for you. You should consider why you might like a Labrador in the first place. If you are after a loving family pet, either of them will do just fine. If you want to show your pup in registered events, then the traditional yellow Labrador is a better choice because of the color prejudice described above.

Do Fox Red Labrador puppies get darker? Do they keep the red color?

Yes and no. Yes, he will always be a variant of red throughout his lifetime. He will not randomly turn into a black Labrador. However, he will appear much darker than he is when he is born. Then over the next few weeks, it will become much lighter. Then it will change again over the following few months.

As these dogs grow their color will darken into fox red, sometimes dramatically so. The best way to determine what color he will be is to look at his ears. This is the closest color resemblance to what his real coat will be. Once he reaches the age of 2 to 3 years, his color will remain the same.

Is the Red Fox Labrador related to the Vizsla?

No, despite the claims that this may be true, there is currently no evidence suggesting that he is related to the Hungarian Vizsla. The current evidence indicates that they are purebred Labradors. They are simply a darker shade of traditional yellow.

The Vizsla is of similar appearance to the Labrador Retriever. It is easy to understand why people think this when the Vizsla has the same color coat and a smaller but similar build. But ultimately, they are not related.

Can Red Fox Labs be registered with the AKC?

Yes, they can be registered as the AKC. They must be registered as a dog with yellow coats. Your pup may end up being at a disadvantage to other dogs with a more pure yellow coat. For other events like agility, there will be no disadvantage.

Where do Fox Red Labradors originate from?

Little is known about where the coat color originated. We do know that when the color first appeared, it was looked upon with scrutiny, and those dogs were purposely not bred. Breeders did not want the color to continue. Now breeders have embraced the color, and these pups are bred exclusively for their beautiful red coats.

Final Thoughts

The Fox Red Labrador, also known as the Red Fox Lab, Ruby Labrador, or deep yellow Labrador is a lovely pup. They are quite simply a ray of sunshine. He is not much different from the standard color Labradors, except in his coat pigment. This pup, however, is much rarer and more difficult to find. His coat is rich in color and certainly makes a statement in the Labrador world.

So, if you are lucky enough to get your paws on one of these guys, and you do not mind that he is not highly favored in the kennel club world, then you will definitely have a friend for life.

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