Fox Red Labrador: Color, Personality, Pros and Cons

What is the most popular dog breed in the United States?

Some people fall for the trap of thinking the Golden Retriever is, but they would be wrong.

The Labrador Retriever is the top dog! It ranks 1st out of 197 American Kennel Club recognized dog breeds.

Many love this dog because of its goofy yet outgoing personality. They recognize Labs as being black, chocolate, or yellow. But, there is another color, the fox red Labrador.

The fox red lab is a very rare type of Labrador Retriever. It is a variant of the yellow lab that has a deep mahogany red coat.

Want to learn more about this one of a kind Labrador? Keep reading…

What Is A Fox Red Labrador?

Fox Red Labrador
The fox red is considered a type of yellow Labrador.

The fox red Labrador Retriever (AKA the Ruby Labrador) is a one-of-a-kind and rare pup. Just like the ruby gemstone, the fox red lab is a jewel to behold!

Their brilliant red coat can be a variety of shades of red ranging from dilute to rusty and bright. Their rusty mahogany red coat is magnificent to see.

At first glance, this dog can easily be confused with a handful of breeds that are more commonly recognized as having red coats. Rhodesian Ridgebacks and Irish Setters are two of the most common breeds to be confused with.

Some argue that they are not purebred. Instead, they believe they are the result of mixing a Labrador Retriever with a Vizsla. However, this belief currently does not have any evidence to support it, though. Therefore, many accept that they are purebred Labradors.

According to the American Kennel Club, the fox red lab is recognized as a purebred yellow lab. This can be confusing because red and yellow are two very different colors! But, genetically the red lab is a dilute version of the yellow coat color.

The traditional colors we have all come to know and love are black, chocolate, and yellow.

Genetically, these are the most common Labrador colors. But, red, silver and charcoal are all possible color varieties too:

Lab ColorDilute

This dog breed is still purebred. They are just a unique color that most people have never heard of or seen before.

Despite having a red coat color, they keep the iconic Labrador personality. They are just as loyal, kind-hearted, and athletic as other Labradors. They are also smarty pants. Labradors rank first in the smartest dog breeds ranking.


Fox Red Labrador
The exact history and origin of fox red Labradors are unknown.

Labrador Retrievers came from the island of Newfoundland, Canada. Their purpose was to help fishermen retrieve fish or nets from the water. Also, early labs made great companions and protectors of the fishermen and their families.

Traditional Labradors were black, chocolate, or yellow in color.

It is suspected that early breeding practices were purposefully selecting for traditional colors and disregarding fox reds because they were odd. Black labs slowly became more and more popular and common. Red colored dogs became increasingly rare.

Eventually, people became more interested in owning Labs of colors other than black. Other colors like Yellow and Chocolate became more popular.

When yellow labs started to boom in popularity, so did red. This is due to the fact that fox reds are simply a darker colored variant of yellows; by breeding yellow labs together, the chance of creating fox red pups increases.

As they started to show up more often in litters, they gained popularity within the hunting community around the 1800s. The retrieving, sporty nature of this breed matched with their darker red color made them very desirable for hunters.

Yellow labs were not as suitable for wildfowl hunters because their light coats could easily be spotted from a distance. This made the fox red lab more appealing as they could remain unseen.

It is believed that the majority that we see today have bloodlines that can be traced back to these wildfowl-hunting pups!


Young Red Labrador Puppy
The nose of some red labs will be a darker pink pigmentation.

The Labrador Retriever appears athletic, yet friendly. They have a variety of facial expressions but maintain a sweet and loving one. They can light up a room with their happy-go-lucky personality and caring eyes.

Fox red Labradors are nearly carbon copies of traditional labs in relation to their appearance and size. They have the same sweet smile and caring eyes.

Two notable features of all labs are their tail and feet.

Labradors have otter-like tails that act like rudders while swimming through water. They can potentially be hazardous in the house if your pup gets too excited! Also, they have feet that are webbed between their toes. Similar to their tail, webbed feet allow this breed to be better swimmers and move more efficiently through the water.


Fox red labradors are the same height and weight as all other types of Labradors. There are even red Miniature Labradors too.

Labrador Retrievers are recognized as a medium to large-sized dog breed.

On average, a fox red male will be about 22.5 to 24.5 inches tall and 65 to 80 pounds heavy as a fully grown adult. A female will be smaller in frame and stature. She will stand about 21.5 to 23.5 inches tall and only weigh 55 to 70 pounds when mature.

These measurements are very close to the size of black, yellow and chocolate Labradors. This is due to their purebred status.


The red coat color is the striking difference between red labs and other Labradors.

This brilliant, bright red color really does look like the color of a fox. Truly, this dog lives up to its namesake, but it should not be mistaken for a red golden retriever!

Fox red labradors also have pigmentation coloration that is slightly different than their black, chocolate, or yellow siblings. Most will have noses and skin that are of a deeper pink color. But, there is also a chance that these features could be darker pigmented or black, depending on their parents.

All Labradors have a double coat, it is important for maintaining their body temperature.

Their double coat allows them to stay warm in the winter and to remain cool in the summer. Due to the fox red’s coat being very adaptable, it is also prone to heavy shedding. Fall and spring are the worst times of the year for shedding in this breed.

Daily brushing and grooming are important for them to maintain a healthy coat. Not to mention, it will help reduce the amount of hairballs in your home!

Red Coat & Shades of Red

Fox Red Lab

Just like there are many shades of yellow-colored labs, there are also many shades of fox red labradors too. Some will be darker than others, and some will be lighter than others. Despite shade differences, all red-colored variants are considered fox red labs.

Their coat can range from dilute rosy red to a deep mahogany red. Some dogs can even be a yellow-red shade and look slightly orange.

The different shades of red are due to different amounts of a pigment known as pheomelanin.

Pheomelanin is the pigment that is responsible for the amount of yellow and red coloration. This is in contrast to eumelanin, which is the pigment that is responsible for black coloration. Both of these pigments are controlled through gene expression or mutation of the melanocortin 1 receptor.

In fact, yellow and red dogs have a mutation on the melanocortin 1 receptor.

This mutation means fox red labradors only express the pheomelanin pigment (responsible for the amount of yellow and red). Therefore, puppies will only be shades of yellow to red depending on how much of the pheomelanin is expressed.

Pups with a high level of pheomelanin and the melanocortin 1 receptor mutation will be yellow. On the flip side, pups with a low level of pheomelanin and the melanocortin 1 receptor mutation will be more of a darker red.

They will keep their red coat color throughout most of their life. As they age, they may gain a salt and pepper color to their muzzle.

Color Genetics

Genes contain DNA that codes a cell’s development and production of a protein.

Labrador coat colors can be explained by looking at the B and E genes.

The B gene is responsible for creating a dog that is either black or chocolate colored. It consists of pair of genes, one from the father and one from the mother. When inherited, this pair can come in three varieties that correspond to different coat colors in puppies:

  • BB – black colored
  • Bb – black colored
  • bb – chocolate colored

The big B is dominant to the little b, making it switch off the little b when paired together.

The E gene is responsible for creating a lab that is yellow or even fox red colored. This only occurs when two little e’s are inherited from both the mother and father. The presence of an ee pair allows for the B genes to be turned off, creating yellow colored labs. Examples of gene pairs that produce yellow labs are:

  • BBee – yellow colored
  • Bbee – yellow colored
  • bbee – yellow colored

If the pair is Ee or EE, yellow or fox red coats will not be produced because the B gene is not being overridden. This will result in black or chocolate labs depending on what B genes are inherited.

  • BBEE or BBEe – black colored
  • BbEE or BbEe – black colored
  • bbEE or bbEe – chocolate colored

By turning the B gene off with an ee pair, the yellow and fox red colorations are made possible!

Most puppies from this ee pairing will be yellow.

This is because the frequency of yellow-colored pups is much higher than the frequency of fox red pups. The higher frequency is due to the fact that additional genes are involved in the creation of red dogs. Fox red Labradors are very rare, they are basically unicorns.

Fox reds only develop when the A and C genes are expressed and highly concentrated.

The A gene is responsible for producing the red coat color; the C gene is responsible for producing coat color dilution or full intensity. Both the A and C genes work together to create pups that are either yellow or red colored.

A highly concentrated A gene, full intensity C gene, and an E gene containing ee (both recessive genes) would produce a true fox red Labrador Retriever.


Red Lab Swimming
This dog breed is energetic but they also enjoy relaxing and snoozing.

Most fox red labradors have the same temperament and personality as black, chocolate, and yellow siblings. They are outgoing, friendly, courageous, energetic, affectionate, and people-pleasers.

They not only make excellent companions, but they are also top-notch athletes. They are all-stars at home and on the field of play. Some of their favorite activities include:

  • Hiking
  • Swimming
  • Fetching
  • Agility
  • Jogging
Breed Characteristics
Family Friendly★★★★★(3)
Energy Levels★★★★(4)
Ease of Training★★★★★(5)
Shedding Frequency★★★★(4)

Fox red Labradors are teddy bears. They simply want to socialize and play! This soft-hearted nature makes them great for households that already have pets.

With proper training and socialization, they make great additions for families with children. The affectionate side of the lab allows them to show off their companionship to all family members. When compared to other labradors, the fox rex has an equal level of love for families.

They love to play fetch and will be your next workout buddy. Many of them are great snugglers and total goof balls! Do not be surprised to see your lab trying to snooze in your lap on the couch! They love to cuddle after a good workout.

Training is a breeze for most owners. Labradors want to make their owners happy and pick up basic training commands easily. They quickly go on to learn many tricks too.

One of the biggest differences in fox red labradors is their barking.

Black, chocolate, and yellows are not known for barking much.

This is where the fox red Labrador is different. Many owners find that their red lab enjoys barking and being vocal. It is thought that this may be due to their bloodline that can be traced back to wildfowl-hunting! They come from a smaller gene pool, which could contain hunting ancestors that were more vocal.

Like most labs, they have a moderate to high prey drive. This is due to their sporting nature and origin as hunting dogs.

Coat color is the only factor that differentiates red Labradors from black, chocolate, or yellow. They all have the same personality, temperament, and physical characteristics.

Are Fox Red Labradors Purebred?

Fox Red Labrador Playing
This breed is an excellent retriever.

Black. Chocolate. Yellow. Those are the three most common coat colors for Labrador Retrievers. Silver labs, charcoal, and fox reds are a novelty and a sight to behold!

The red coat color is not only very rare, but it is not recognized by the American Kennel Club. In fact, Labradors that are fox red are classified as yellow labs.

The American Kennel Club considers yellow labs as dogs ranging from a light cream color to a rusty red. This means that, despite having red colored coats, they are classified as a shade of yellow.

Fox red Labradors may not have a coat color that has its own grouping in the American Kennel Club, but they are considered purebred by their yellow classification.


Controversy arises in the show ring when fox red Labradors are entered into competitions.

A fox red Labrador has never won a Group Show title or a Best in Show title. To many, it seems like judges prefer yellow labs that are truly yellow or light cream colored. This has stirred up controversy and puts red labs at a disadvantage even before putting a foot into the show ring.

Additionally, controversy exists when breeders try to sell tan-colored yellow labs as red.

Owners may not know the difference, but true fox red labradors will have a coat color that is indistinguishable from a fox. They are a beautiful site to see!

How to Spot A Red Puppy

The coat of a fox red pup will be short yet thick, straight, and dense. The most notable feature of a fox red labrador is their striking ruby coloration.

At first glance, you might think a red lab puppy is actually a small fox due to their similar coat colors!

Most fox reds are a dark and deep shade of red, but they can also come in light and medium shades:

  • Lighter shades may be mistaken for yellow labs due to their very subtle red hue.
  • Medium shades may appear to be slightly orange-colored due to the mixture of yellow and red hues.
  • Darker shades are truly a sight to see with their deep red-ruby color.

Are Fox Red Labradors As Healthy?

Labrador Retrievers are known for being a healthy breed.

Just because fox red labradors are a different color does not mean they are any less healthy! The red color variant does not have any adverse effects on health. In fact, fox reds are quite healthy and can live 10 to 12 years on average.

They do share a handful of the same health problems that are common with other Labradors, this can include:

  • Hip dysplasia.
  • Elbow dysplasia.
  • Exercise induced collapse.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy .
  • Ear infections.

Fox reds are very food motivated. Some owners may spoil their pup a little too much and give them a few too many treats. An excess amount of treats can cause them to pack on extra pounds. If this snacking continues, some dogs may become overweight or obese.


We all know someone who has a Labrador that is black, chocolate, or yellow. But the chances are low for knowing someone who owns a red lab.

The fox red Labrador is a very rare variant of the yellow lab with a rusty red coat.

Despite having a unique coat color, the fox red lab is purebred and retains all of the beloved qualities of the Labrador Retriever. They are loving, smart, athletic, dependent, loyal, and hardworking.

Some owners note that their pup likes to bark more than other labs. This may be an ancestral trait passed on from the small gene pool of these hunting dogs.

The history of the fox red is unknown, but one thing is clear: the fox red Labrador is a gem that deserves recognition.

If you have a beloved fox red lab in your life, we would love to hear about them.

Learn More About Labs

English Labrador vs. American Labrador: Top 10 Differences
Golden Retriever vs. Labrador Retriever: Which Is Best?


  1. I have a 5 year old pup (Odin). He is the most amazing companion I have ever had. He is definitely vocal when we’re going swimming 4-5 days a week, or hiking which is typically every weekend. He’s got a very dark Red coat, very well trained and can’t keep him out of the water. Soon to pick up another Red Lab pup.

  2. I have a beautiful fox red named Chance. He’s 3 and 97 pounds. He loves to just press his nose against my face, swim, and play ball.

  3. My daughter has a beautiful 4 yo fox red names Levi. He’s an amazing companion for her, she’s 17 and has health issues. He’s always by her side, so smart, amazingly trained, very intuitive to how she is feeling, and so protective of her. He sounds fierce when he barks, but is the most gentle soul. She won’t go anywhere without him and when out he gets lots of attention, everyone wants to know what he is and he is always the center of attention-he loves it! Don’t know if they are all like him but we consider him one in a million!

  4. My husband gave me a fox red puppy for Mother’s Day several years ago. We named her Phoebe, and wherever I was, she was right by my side. I needed a hip replacement, which had been misdiagnosed for years, but Phoebe seemed to know I was in discomfort, so she’d lay lightly-pressed against that side of my body at night. We’d never allowed a dog on the bed before, but she wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. She was such an intuitive and gentle soul. You can never go wrong with a Lab, especially a fox red.


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