Why Does The Labrador Retriever Have Such A Unique Head Shape?

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Key Takeaways

  • Two different Labrador Retriever types impact each dog's head shape, including American labs and English labs.
  • American labs have a lean, narrow face with a longer muzzle, while English labs have a blockhead shape, broader face, and stockier build.
  • Labrador Retrievers have a more distinct head shape because of the occiput, which gives them a pointy tip on their heads.
  • The occiput bone is more distinct, refined, and noticeable in male Labrador Retrievers than in females.

The Labrador Retriever is a large breed of dog that is well known for its intelligence and good temperament. But they are known for a unique head shape too.

The Labrador Retriever has a standard narrow or blocky head shape. They also have a distinct occiput at the back of the head for protection because of their hunting nature. American labs are the hunting breed with a narrow head, and English labs are the show breed with a blockhead.

This breed has a long history of success in competitions and becoming one of the most popular household dogs. The head shape is often overlooked, but we have gathered all the information in this guide to help owners better understand this breed.

In this article

Why Does The Labrador Retriever Have Such A Unique Head Shape?

The Labrador retriever has a very distinct head shape compared to other dogs. It’s almost as if it is carved out of a different mold, but the shape varies based on the type of lab.

Most dogs have a broad forehead, with the back of the head being much narrower and sloping downwards towards the neck. On the other hand, the Lab has a much flatter forehead that slopes upwards towards the back of their skull.

All dogs have a bump on the back of the head, Labrador retrievers included. This bump is known as an occiput. However, this doesn't explain why the head shape of a lab is so unique.

This also varies based on the lab breed, and it's nothing to be concerned about. The build of a lab simply makes the occiput more noticeable, and it's a feature to provide added head, skull, and brain protection.

What Is The Labrador Retriever Head Shape?

The American Kennel Club (AKC) provides a breed standard for all types of dogs, including Labrador Retrievers. When reading the breed standard, there is a section that discusses the head shape and skull of labs.

First, it mentions the skull of a lab should be wide, broad, and powerful but without being extreme. The skull and foreface are parallel, with a moderate length stop aligned with the brow ridges.

The head shape is also clean-cut with a chiseled area beneath the eyes. Overly bulky facial features are unnatural in labs. This allows the Labrador retriever to have stronger jaws and bite force.

The problem with these standards set by AKC is a lack of clarity for breeders. They often use words like broad and powerful, causing breeders to aim for blocky head shapes with their puppy litter.

This has caused the lab head shape to evolve with more variety. There are now multiple head shapes worth mentioning, each of which follows these general guidelines by AKC.

Types Of Labrador Retriever Head Shapes

There are two distinct head shapes that most Labrador Retrievers have. This includes a narrow head shape and a blockhead shape.

The head shape depends on the type of Labrador Retriever. There are English labs and American labs, both serving a much different purpose.

“Normal” Head Shape

The “normal” head shape is the most common head shape for the Labrador retriever. You can tell if a Labrador has this head shape if their ears rest high on their head, with the tops of their ears being level with the tops of their eyes.

American labs typically have this standard head shape, including a slightly narrow face. These labs are leaner in the facial area with a longer muzzle.

This head shape will have a broad forehead and a narrowing towards the back of the head. The Labrador retriever with this head shape will have a darker color on the top of the head and around the ears.

The darker coloring helps to create a shadowed and rounded look. A Labrador with this head shape may also have a longer and flatter skull.

Block Head Shape

Most of the Labrador Retrievers with the blockhead shape are English Labs. This is because the English lab is the most common lab used in competitions and shows, and the blocky head shape has seen the most success.

It gives the lab a more refined look with bigger physical standards. The Labrador with this head shape may have a shorter and wider skull.

The Labrador retriever with this head shape will have a lighter color on its forehead, cheeks, and around the ears. The Labrador with this head shape will have a shorter build with a thicker and longer coat too.

One other feature many block head labs have is an otter tail. All lab colors can be bred with this head shape, including black, chocolate, and yellow labs.

Do All Labrador Retrievers Have The Same Head Shape?

Labrador retrievers definitely have a unique and interesting head shape. While it is true that all Labrador retrievers have the same general head shape, each dog does have a unique variation.

As mentioned, there are American Labs and English Labs with different head shapes. Of course, each dog's shape will not be the same.

But the general features will all remain the same. The Labrador Retriever has a longer and narrower head shape, while the Labrador retriever Labrador has a shorter and wider head shape.

Does The Labrador Retriever Color Impact The Head Shape?

Many people believe that the color of a Labrador Retriever has an impact on the head shape. However, this is not true.

The Labrador Retriever’s coat color does not impact the head shape. The color is based on specific genotypes of the parents used to breed the litter of puppies.

Instead, the type of lab it is matters when analyzing facial features like head shape. English labs and American labs will look slightly different because of the varied head shape.

But both of these labs are available in all colors, including yellow, black, and chocolate brown.

Why Does My Labrador Retriever’s Head Look Pointy?

All dogs have had something called an occiput for protection. It helps the brain and skull and provides a strong layer in the head area.

But many people notice the occiput is much more distinct and noticeable in labs. This is especially true for American Labs because they have a narrower head, and the bone creates a pointy look at the top of the head.

It’s even more noticeable when the lab is a smaller puppy. This area is also one of the most sensitive areas to pet a lab.

It feels like a massage, and they love consistent attention around the crest of the occiput. This feature is more defined in male dogs too.

Anybody noticing a pointy head in their Labrador Retriever should have no concerns. This is natural, and this bone is critical to any lab’s anatomy.