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Fox Red Labrador Retrievers: Controversy, Puppy Costs & More

The Fox Red Labrador doesn't come without their share of controversy. Read on to find out why, as well as everything else you need to know about this beautiful pup!

Emma Braby

Last Updated: September 3, 2020 | 12 min read

Red Fox Labrador Retriever

The Red Fox Lab, 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 labelled as red in color, he is technically just a deeper shade of the traditional yellow Labrador.

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, nor his 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, but 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 guy is all about.

History

Red Labrador in Fall Leaves
The Fox Red 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 water collecting the quarry of his fisherman master, such as ducks and fish. St John’s Dog is the ancestor of the Labrador, and so impressed were the visiting nobles from Great Britain by 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 today. Ever since his first registration in America in 1917 they have become a firm family favorite across the world, and, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC), he is currently the most popular dog breed in America.

It is unknown exactly when the Fox Red Labrador came into the world. However, they’ve 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 either not registered, and therefore an unknown entity, or they were sadly culled once their color was realized.

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 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.

So, the Fox Red 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. However, despite this, and as with many alternative color dogs, the Fox Red Labrador has suffered color prejudice in the canine world two-fold.

Firstly, kennel clubs across the world do not recognize the Fox Red 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 pup with the AKC then he must be registered as a yellow Labrador.

Secondly, despite being allowed to compete in the show ring, as well as 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 never likely to win or come close to winning. This is simply put, because the judges favor traditional and lighter colors more than the Fox Red.

Unfortunately, for these reasons, if showing your Labrador, in any event, is an important factor for you, then you should either consider getting a more traditional colored Labrador. Or, just accept that your pup is unlikely to win even if he is one of the best in the show. However, if he does win, then 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 the Fox Red Labrador’s 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. This is caused by a pair of genes called the BB genes. 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, on this occasion he will be black. The little b only shows his powers when the bb gene appears. When this happens, you get a chocolate-colored Labrador.

All this has nothing to do with the Fox Red Labrador right? Wrong! This is important because it is all linked to the yellow Labrador, and in turn, this is linked to the Red Fox Labrador! Stick with me.

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. It’s this last ee pair that come together and pack quite the punch, enough to completely block both the big B and little b genes. 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 or not 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 fox red.  So as you can see, the Fox Red is quite a rarity!

Appearance

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

The Fox Red 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 being a lighter shade of yellow. 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 color 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 a thick powerful neck and a thick otter-like tail. They are also cute in their facial expression, with large round eyes that are full of mischievousness.

Generally, as he is not favored in the ring, he is simply not bred for the ring. It is said that the shooting world kept the Fox Red alive, while the conformation world tried to breed him out. For this reason, it would be even rarer to find an English Fox Red Labrador bred for confirmation purposes. It’s more common for American Fox Red 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 of the Fox Red coat, but you aren’t too keen on the Labrador himself, then 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’s oftentimes also mistaken for a Lab & Rhodesian Ridgeback mix.  Those who believe that the Fox Red 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, however, as of yet, there is no evidence for such a claim.

Temperament

Red Labrador Outside
The Fox Red Lab’s 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, who is a Fox Red Labrador breeder comments that this may be due to the fact the gene pool is smaller, and a once barky ancestor may be responsible for this. So, it is not necessarily a Fox Red trait as such, but simply an inherited characteristic from one family member. So this may or may not be the case in your Fox Red Labrador.

Exercise and Training

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

The Fox Red Labrador is a high energy dog who needs at least 60 minutes of active exercise a day. 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 very intelligent pup, and the Fox Red Labrador 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.

Any prospective Labrador owner, regardless of his color, 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 loss of vision.

Nutrition

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

The Fox Red Labrador 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 dogs DNA that tells them that 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 a 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.

The Fox Red Labrador’s grooming needs are similar to any other canine. They are considered to be a heavier shedder when compared to other breeds. He has a double coat which keeps him warm in the colder months. However, because of this he sheds considerably during shedding season, during which he will need brushing every day to keep his coat manageable. When he is not shedding, his coat will require 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 will cost, on average, anywhere between $1,000 and up from a reputable breeder. The Fox Red Labrador Retriever is much rarer. Because of that, you can expect to pay much more as the supply and demand ratio is considerably higher. A Fox Red Labrador 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 Labrador fanciers 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 list registered breeders state by state.

Alternatively, if you would like to rescue and adopt a Labrador Retriever, then you can also find rescue groups listed state by state, who are solely dedicated to rehoming Labradors. There are plenty of rescue groups across America, and if you are sure that 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

When it comes to Fox Red Labs, potential owners seem to have plenty of questions about the breed. While we aren’t breeders, we’ve done our share of research and have compiled a list of common questions we get. If you feel we’ve missed something, feel free to drop us a line in the comments!

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. It’s really about if the Lab is the right breed for you. You should consider why you’d like a Labrador in the first place? If you are after a loving family pet, then either of them will do just fine. If you want to show your pup in registered events, then because of the color prejudice described above, the traditional yellow Labrador is a better choice.

Will a Fox Red Lab maintain his 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, when he is born he will appear much darker than he is. Then over the next few weeks it will become much lighter. Then it will change again, over the following few months. This is the period where his color will darken into the 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 Fox Red Labrador related to the Vizsla?

No, despite the claims that this may be true, there is currently no evidence to suggest that he is related to the Vizsla in any way. The current evidence suggests that the Fox Red Lab is a purebred Labrador. They are simply a darker shade of the traditional yellow. The Vizsla is of similar appearance to the Labrador Retriever. It’s 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.

Final Thoughts

The Fox Red Labrador, or the Ruby Labrador, or the 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 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 don’t mind that he isn’t favored in the kennel club world, then you will certainly have a friend for life!

Leave a Comment

18 Comments

wendy hughes

January 21, 2020 at 11:16 am

Our rescue labrador is supposed to be a red fox. Although very similar to one he runs like a greyhound or certainly some kind of hound. We have had labradors, black and yellow and they were nowhere near as fast at running as this one he runs with head down and is as fast as a greyhound. Could there be any connection. We love him dearly whatever his make! in all other aspects he is typical in looks to the red.

Kelly Wilson

January 22, 2020 at 3:26 am

Sounds like an amazing dog Wendy! Thanks for stopping by and sharing! The only way to really know if there's any connection would be to do a Doggy DNA test. We did one with our Male Rescue Mastiff and used Embark. We were really pleased with the speed and results. Good luck!

Ron Sharperson

February 22, 2020 at 5:23 am

Can you tell me the single best characteristic of a Fox Red Lab? Why choose one over the other labs? Also do they need extra coats in the winter in a cold area, such as winters up to 10,200 feet? I assume a contrasting color to white would help make them visible in the snow. Thanks!

Kelly Wilson

February 22, 2020 at 1:40 pm

Hey Ron! Because Red Fox Labs are the same breed, there's really nothing different other than the color. But yes, the contrast can make them more visible in the snow than a yellow lab. We had a chocolate lab for 13 years, and she definitely blended into the wilderness a little more easily. Thanks for stopping by to comment!

Ron Satterfield

March 20, 2020 at 4:13 pm

I just lost my 10 year old fox red best friend to bone cancer last week. I miss him so much. I was pleased to find your site. Brought back even more good memories. I was very lucky to have him as a friend. Who owned who was often up for debate. I would seek out another fox red in a minute when the time is right. Thank you!

Kelly Wilson

March 20, 2020 at 8:23 pm

Thanks for the kind words Ron! Good luck in your search for a new companion when the time comes!

Shirley

April 11, 2020 at 3:42 am

We purchased a fox red yellow lab. We initially picked a yellow. There were 11 puppies both parents were fox red and in the litter there were 2 fox red. The owner wanted us to take him and said he wanted to make sure he went to a good home. He has a tone of energy the most striking feature is that his hair stands on end like a stripe all the way to his tail. I did not see any mention of this in all the info I read. Is this unusual? My husband says it reminds him of the ridgeback.

Kelly Wilson

April 12, 2020 at 12:29 am

Hi Shirley! Our chocolate lab had a slight tuft of fur down the center of her back too. It's a small flaw but doesn't mean your pup is a Ridgeback. With that being said, if you are unsure and really want to know, get a DNA test. We've used Embark with our pup (whole health and genetics) and it worked very well. Good luck!

Gill

April 12, 2020 at 6:47 pm

Our Fox Red lab runs super fast too and is high energy - very different to our old black lab but he’s a true American style lab retriever that needs extra exercise and craves company all day long. A bit of a culture shock at first but he’s gorgeous 🐾

Kelly Wilson

April 12, 2020 at 10:12 pm

Thanks for the comment Gill! Sounds like a fantastic pup!

Reggie

April 19, 2020 at 10:39 am

Hi, my daughter is just awaiting collection of a red fox lab and was wandering what type of food is recommended (wet or dry? ). She has researched the breed as she has 2 small children and labs are very well known to be a perfect family dog.

All are very excited but have to wait another 4 weeks. Purchased from a KC registered breeder in the UK for added piece of mind. Can't wait to see her.

Kelly Wilson

April 19, 2020 at 10:58 pm

Hey Reggie! Getting a new puppy is always fun! If you look up in the nutrition section of this article, we have a specific nutritional guide for Labradors that you can take a look at. Best of luck!

Tony Oliver

April 30, 2020 at 1:22 pm

I enjoyed your description of The Fox Red Labrador. We have 2 , both Male but unrelated, 3yrs 6 months & 2yrs 6 months. They are a joy to own. We have a large family with 11 grandchildren. All of which have been introduced to the dogs. While they have power and physique they are so good with the children.

I would recommend the color and breed to anyone. I would, however, err on the side of caution if your not able-bodied and unable to give the exercise these dogs need which is a lot. Daily in whatever weather, they will not mind. I can assure you, you will not be disappointed. Good luck.

Kelly Wilson

April 30, 2020 at 5:26 pm

Sounds like a couple of AMAZING dogs Tony! Thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment!

Sandy Dobos

May 25, 2020 at 1:33 am

We’d. Love to have a Red Fox Lab. We’ve had chocolates and yellows and loved them. They all have lived the past 14 years old. I’ve been in Florida this winter and saw someone who has a pup this color and we fell in love. The folks are from near flint Michigan and we live in NE Ohio.

Kelly Wilson

May 27, 2020 at 3:09 pm

Hi Sandy! We don't actually have breeder contacts, but if we do hear of someone locally near you, we will make sure to drop a note here in the comments. Thanks for stopping by to comment!

Jim Jones

June 25, 2020 at 3:46 am

We rescued a female Fox Red Lab about 85 miles from our home in April 2015. I talked to a nearby neighbor where she was found who stated she had been abused by a family "down the road," then her family moved away without her. After making a report with the sheriff's department, I loaded her in my truck took her to her new home.

Despite her abusive past, Lady is a very loving and gentle mother to our other 2 small rescues (1 is a Chihuahua, the other a Shitzu mix). She's very clingy and occasionally appears insecure and wants a petting hand on her, a good ear, and head scratch.

Kelly Wilson

June 25, 2020 at 12:47 pm

Thanks for stopping by to share your story Jim, sounds like an amazing dog!