Keepsake Labrador's Story of Fox Reds

Somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen years ago, I saw the color fox red for the very first time. Immediately I was struck by it as I had never seen anything like in Labradors before. It was then only a matter of minutes before I realized I had fallen head over heels in love with the color fox red. Since that time you could say I have developed a passion for the color fox red. This passion has sort of become a defining characteristic of mine since then, so much so that some of my breeder friends have taken to referring to me as 'Red Dog'.

That first fox red that I saw was a puppy that Sally Kelley of Kelleygreen Labradors, formerly of Oil City Pennsylvania and now located outside of Reno Nevada, had imported from England. This dog was Balrion Red Alert. While he was a cute red puppy, he turned into an even more impressive red dog. At this point in my association with the Labrador breed I was still getting my proverbial feet wet. As soon as I had the opportunity and the money I purchased a female sired by Balrion Red Alert and the foundation of my fox red breeding program was in place.

If only it had been that simple I would have been on cloud nine. Unfortunately there were very few other Fox Red Labradors, if any in this country at that time. Well, I was taught that if you want anything bad enough, then you must be willing to work for it. This is just what I did. I began doing pedigree research and looking for other dogs in this country whose bloodlines could be linked to fox reds even if it was quite a ways back in the pedigree. At first I had moderate success where litters were yielding darker and darker yellows. Eventually among these darker yellows there would be a fox red or two mixed in. Finally about nine or ten years ago, the research into my breeding program began paying off as I had my first litter of all fox red puppies. Nowadays, all fox red litters at Keepsake Labradors are not an uncommon occurrence and are for the most part predictable. Every once in a while I will have a fox red crop up in a litter where I am not expecting it. When this happens I go right back to work researching the pedigrees involved in the breeding as I am always trying to strengthen and diversify the available fox red bloodlines in this country, not to mention to learn a little something else about my favorite color. Often when one of these unexpected reds crops up, if you look far enough back you will find a red dog in the pedigree and it can offer new insight in to a whole new avenue of breeding options that might yield fox red.

It is my understanding that dark yellows and fox reds were the original color of Yellow Labradors. Over the years some lighter dogs would be produced. Since, these dogs were different they were thought to be striking (just as I thought red was striking). One light dog would be bred to another and among the puppies would be some even lighter. This process continued to take place and eventually the lighter yellows began to become the norm. The really dark yellows and fox reds began to be seen increasingly less and this was a large part of the reason why the process of producing fox reds proved to be such a challenging, yet worthwhile endeavor.

There seem to be two types of people in the Labrador world; those who love fox reds, and those who hate them. At first it was a struggle to even get fox reds looked at in the show ring, but nowadays people are starting to come around and give the fox reds a fair shake. The previous statement is truer in terms of specialty (all Labrador) shows, than it is of all breed shows, but nonetheless the tide seems to be turning in favor of the reds. Much of the reason for this is that despite what people might want to do they can not disregard the breed standard (see below) which is clearly inclusive of the fox reds.

What is a Fox Red?

At this point most people are probably thinking, 'That was a nice little story, but I came to this page for information about fox reds'. If it is information you seek, from here on out it is information you shall get. In answer to the question of what a fox red is the simplest and most correct answer that can be given is it is a shade of yellow. In the AKC breed standard for Labrador Retrievers the colors black and chocolate are simply black and chocolate. In the case of yellow, however the standard states: "Yellow--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 here it is clearly shown that fox red is an acceptable variation of yellow in the breed standard.

Now you are probably thinking, 'If they are just a shade of yellow, why are they sold for so much more money?' In addition to the work and effort that has gone into being able to consistently produce quality fox reds, there is a simpler part of the equation. This is supply and demand. There are fewer true fox reds than there are of any of the other colors of Labradors. The demand for them is growing as more people begin to see what a truly striking color this is, and consequently the price that a quality fox red Labrador commands is also on the rise. It is a simple matter of economics.

Since many people are not entirely familiar with fox reds, they often times have concerns. People sometimes think that because the color occurs less frequently than the others that they might be more prone to health problems. Whether the health problems they are concerned with are eyes, hips, elbows, heart problems or allergies, we can emphatically answer that it is wholly untrue that fox reds are more prone to any of these problems than any other Labrador. They are simply a Labrador that happens to be distinguished by a striking less known color.

Below we have included some picture to help you to see exactly what the color fox red looks like. The first picture is of two puppies from different litters. The puppy on the left is light cream, while the puppy on the right is fox red. Also there is a picture of one of my fox red males, Keepsake Brickhouse, to give you an idea of what the color fox red looks like on a mature dog. Finally there are a series of pictures demonstrating some of the different shades of Yellow Labrador Retrievers ranging from darker to lighter.

Red Puppy with Light Cream Puppy
Mature Fox Red
Dark to Moderately DarK Yellow Puppy
Moderately Light Yellow
Light Cream Puppies


Since this page is supposed to be devoted to information we are providing some more in this section through the help of others. In the section below we have provide you with some links that you might find interesting and/or useful. Among these links is the link to the AKC Labrador Retriever Breed standard as well as some other links that discuss the history of the breed and the origin of the colors. We hope that you have found this page informative. If not stop back as we will be making improvements. We are glad you stopped. Take care and have a great day.

To view the AKC Labrador Retriever Breed standard click here.

To read up on the history of the breed as it is told by Just Labs click here.

To get another take on the history of Labradors from the Wikipedia click here.

If you still haven't gotten enough breed history you check out this nice site by clicking here.

Our friend Gregg Tonkin at Little River Labradors has put together a fantatic page with lots of useful information about the history of the Fox Red shade and other general information pertaining to the shade. His page can be seen by clicking here.

Get in touch with us by e-mailing judy@keepsakelabs.com

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