All of the dogs in this photo are traditional purebred chocolate Labrador Retrievers. They are not silver labs. They are not even dilute-carrying labs. They are just a handful of examples, gathered in mere minutes, of how the chocolate color varies in Labrador Retrievers. A special thanks to ALL the contributors. It was fascinating to see all the shades of chocolate even when we take “dilute” out of the equation.

Take a look at what they had to say in the 1970’s about the chocolate color. It will surprise you!

“Chocolate is a more difficult colour to breed with any certainty. There are various types of brown colouring which is what causes the difficulty. For example, a chocolate with yellow eyes and pink eyelids and nose is a different genetic colouring from a dark deep brown with dark amber eyes, and deep brown nose and eye rims. Another difficulty is that chocolate is a “dilute” colour acting as an alternative dominant to black over yellow but as a recessive to black and a dominant to yellow, this being a triple complication. So chocolate mated to chocolate produces a different coloured chocolate from those produced by mating a chocolate to a black carrying a chocolate gene, and again to a chocolate-yellow mating, all these producing different ratios of puppies of differing hereditary pattern from the others.

So the lot of the chocolate breeder is very hard compared to those interested in blacks and yellows, where you can breed just about what you like.

Unfortunately, most combinations of chocolate and the other two colours produce more bad coloured chocolates with light eyes than correct ones, and I have yet to meet a breeder who could say what they were going to produce in any unborn litter. They just keep their fingers crossed that they may produce one, if only one, good coloured, correctly pigmented chocolate with good coloured eyes.

Because of these difficulties, good chocolates are few and far between, as are good breeders of this strange colour. The best advice I can give you if you want to breed chocolates is to learn slightly more about colour-inheritance than you need for the other two colours. Pick the brains of a good chocolate breeder before you start on any mating to produce the colour, and keep introducing blacks carrying the chocolate genes so as to try and darken your colour to dark chocolate, avoiding “milk chocolate” or “chocolate crisps” as the light, ginger-brown, gooseberry-eyed, pink-pigmented Labradors are known in some overseas countries. To be a good chocolate Labrador it must have the deep colour, the attractive eye and the correct pigmentation, as well as all the usual good points of a show Labrador.”

Points to gnaw on…

  • The yellow eyes in chocolate Labradors were not only part of the original Labrador standard, but they were the norm in the mid 1970s, even in Great Britain.
  • Chocolates varied considerably in shade in the 1970s… from light ginger brown to dark chocolate.
  • Chocolate pups resulting from chocolate x chocolate breedings or chocolate x yellow (carrying chocolate) breedings were lighter in color and not desired.


The Labrador Retriever, Katya Darlington, copyright 1977 Great Britain