Vizsla Breed

Hungarian Vizsla vs Labrador Retriever Breeds Compared

Written By: Rachel

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If you are looking for an intelligent and active purebred dog, two obvious choices would be a Vizsla or Labrador. But what are the differences between the Hungarian Vizsla vs Labrador Retriever dog breeds?

Both breeds are companionable sporting dogs with a long history in the field as hunters and retrievers. And while similar in many ways there are some key differences you need to know.

So if you want to know more about the differences between Vizsla and Labrador dogs read on. We take an in depth look at the Labrador Retriever vs Vizsla temperament, appearance, exercise needs and more to help you choose between these two lovable breeds.


This article is based on research and personal experience as a Vizsla owner. I’m not a qualified dog trainer, Vet or dog behaviourist.


Hungarian Vizsla vs Labrador Retriever Breed Comparison

BreedVizslaLabrador Retriever
GroupSportingSporting
AKC Popularity32nd1st
OriginHungaryCanada
HealthVery GoodGood
Lifespan12-14 years11-13 years
Prey DriveHighHigh
EnergyVery HighHigh
Family FriendlyYesYes

Hungarian Vizslas are an energetic and versatile hunting dog renowned for their elegant and aristocratic features.

Hailing from Hungary in Europe, they are an affectionate, sensitive, intelligent and friendly companion dog.

The Labrador Retriever is an athletic and strong retrieving gun dog with a solid reputation as America’s favorite dog.

Originally from Newfoundland in Canada, Labradors are an outgoing, friendly, sweet natured and intelligent dog breed.

Both breeds are playful, loving, kid-friendly dogs with strong hunting and retrieving bloodlines and history.

So how do you decide whether a Labrador Retriever or Hungarian Vizsla is best suited to you and your lifestyle?

Well in the following sections we cover more specific Labrador and Vizsla characteristics including:

  • Appearance
  • Temperament
  • Exercise Needs
  • Grooming
  • Trainability
  • Health
  • Suitability As A Family Dog

We’ll take an in depth look at each of these characteristics to help you discover which is the best suited dog breed for you!

Hungarian Vizsla and Black Labrador Retriever sitting facing camera.

Vizsla vs Lab Appearance

AppearanceVizslaLabrador Retriever
ColorGolden RustBlack, Chocolate, Yellow
CoatShort SingleShort Double
SizeMediumLarge
Height (in)22-24 (male)
21-23 (female)
23-25 (male)
22-24 (female)
Weight (lb)55-60 (male)
44-55 (female)
65-80 (male)
55-70 (female)

Aside from their floppy ears and similar medium to large size, Vizslas and Labs don’t look particularly alike.

Unlike other breeds like the Rhodesian Ridgeback or Weimaraner, Labs are not typically confused for Vizslas.

However both do sport a short low maintenance coat. Grooming requirements do differ, but neither has a coat that is difficult to maintain like some long or curly haired dog breeds.

They both also have a friendly happy face, kind brown eyes and athletic build.

The three features that set the Labrador apart from the Vizsla in terms of appearance are their coat, size and color.

Coat

The Labrador Retriever has a short and very dense coat with a thick water resistant undercoat. This thick coat provides excellent protection from the cold and in water.

Labradors shed throughout the year as well as seasonally when they will blow their coat.

Their fur is thick and noticeable when it sheds. Even with regular brushing you will find their hair throughout the house, on your floors, on your clothes and on your furniture.

The short and smooth coat of the Vizsla is much thinner and finer than Labs.

Hungarian Vizslas also don’t have an undercoat so they are much more likely to feel the cold and don’t fare as well outdoors in cold climates.

Vizslas also shed, but due to the shorter and finer hairs and the single coat, it is much less voluminous and noticeable than shedding by Labradors.

Size

Whilst the average height and length of the two dogs is quite similar, there is a distinct difference when comparing the Vizsla vs Labrador size.

Vizslas are lean and muscular, with a smaller frame than Labradors. They tend to be faster and more agile than Labrador Retrievers as a result.

Labs are overall much stockier with a wider head and nose. Their stocky frame contributes to a heavier dog than the Vizsla overall, even when in good condition.

The difference in frame and weight between the two dogs is noticeable when they sit alongside each other and when a Labrador comes barrelling towards you at speed!

Color

There is only one recognized color in the Vizsla breed standard – defined as “golden rust”.

While there are acceptable shades of golden rust from lighter to darker, dark mahogany or pale yellow Vizsla colors are not recognized as part of the breed.

On the other hand the Labrador Retriever breed standard recognizes three colors – black, chocolate and yellow.

There is an acceptable range in color for yellow and chocolate labs, but new “designer” colors such as blue and silver are not recognized as part of the breed.

Three Labrador retrievers in the three breed standard colors, chocolate, yellow and black.

Labrador Retriever vs Vizsla Temperament

TemperamentVizslaLabrador Retriever
PersonalityGentle, loving, eager to pleaseFriendly, outgoing, loving
IntelligenceVery SmartVery Smart
SensitivityVery sensitiveSensitive
AffectionateVery affectionateAffectionate
BarkingAverageAverage
Guard DogNoNo

The temperaments of these two dog breeds are the key to understanding the main difference between them.

Labrador Retrievers are the ultimate all round nice dog. They are intelligent, loyal, affectionate, friendly, outgoing and energetic. They love people, they love other dogs – they just about love everyone and everything!

It is this intelligent and sweet nature that has seen Labradors trained as assistance dogs, therapy dogs, facility dogs and more.

Hungarian Vizslas are also loving, affectionate, friendly and energetic dogs. They have a sensitive and gentle nature but are also playful and highly intelligent.

Vizslas are now also being recognized for their working abilities and trained as working dogs such as Medical Alert Dogs.

The friendly nature of both Vizslas and Labs means neither make very good guard dogs, but they are very alert and can be good watchdogs.

So in some ways they sound pretty similar in terms of temperament. So what is the difference between the Lab and Vizsla personality? It really comes down to neediness and sensitivity.

Neediness

The Vizsla is a demonstrably affectionate and velcro dog that needs a lot of physical and emotional attention from their humans.

They need to be cuddled, petted and snuggled a lot and will spend much of their time at home leaning against you, resting their chin on you or sitting on you when given the opportunity.

Labrador Retrievers also love to be a part of the family and spend time with people.

They can be your shadow at home, but while they love to be patted and have a cuddle too they are more likely to sit down next to you or near you and not expect to be right on top of you.

Labradors like to be with you, Vizslas like to be on you.

Sensitivity

Vizslas are sensitive and some say emotionally complex dogs.

You can hurt their feelings, they have a long memory and can hold a grudge too – as I experienced when accidentally cutting the quick on my Vizsla’s nails.

They don’t tend to fare well with stern words, harsh treatment, being ignored or overly demanding training techniques. Vizslas need a kind and gentle but firm hand from their owner.

On the other hand Labs are more easy going, independent and less complex emotionally than Vizslas.

Labrador Retrievers will better tolerate reprimands and won’t hold it against you.

At the park my Vizsla will often be standing between my legs if she is unsure of the dogs around her. The Labradors are just out there having a ball of a time playing with anyone.

Closeup of Hungarian Vizsla and Black Labrador faces.

Labrador vs Vizsla Exercise Needs

With their hunting and retrieving bloodlines, both dogs love to be outdoors.

Whether its a swim at the lake, a long walk through the woods or a game of fetch at the park, both dogs enjoy spending time outside.

But while both dogs are classified as high energy sporting dogs there is a difference in the type of energy and their exercise needs.

Vizslas need at least 60-90 minutes of high energy exercise each day whereas Labs can get by on 30-60 minutes of daily exercise.

Hungarian Vizslas are renowned for their never ending energy. They are a bit like an Energizer Bunny in that they will just keep going and going and going.

In comparison, while Labs have plenty of energy, they don’t have the endurance of the Vizsla.

How this plays out in the family home is that while your Lab will enjoy a walk or swim then settle down for a nap, your Vizsla will likely come home and want to play fetch in the yard.

Vizslas will eventually calm down and spend plenty of time asleep, but they never seem to run out of energy!

As retrievers from Newfoundland, Labradors love the water and swimming is a favorite activity for many Labs.

Many Vizslas also like the water, but their single coat means they will choose not to swim in cold water and they can’t last as long in the water without getting cold.

Hungarian vizsla running through water with large stick in mouth. Yellow Labrador running through water.

Vizsla vs Labrador Grooming

GroomingVizslaLabrador Retriever
SheddingLowMedium
MaintenanceLowMedium
DroolingLowLow
NailsDarkLight to Dark
Doggy SmellLittle to noneYes

While both dogs have a short coat that is easy to maintain, there is quite a significant difference in the grooming requirements in terms of shedding and washing.

Labs shed a lot and you will notice the hair in your home. Vizslas also shed, but their fine short hair sheds less and is less noticeable.

This is often a point of decision for families who have experienced long haired or high shedding dog in the past as it does require a lot of vacuuming.

While the Labrador coat is easy to maintain like the Vizsla, it does need more regular brushing and bathing as they can get more smelly than Vizslas due to their thicker coat.

Vizslas do benefit from a weekly brush, but it isn’t absolutely necessary. Plus they only really need bathing if they have gone for a muddy walk or rolled in something smelly.

Showering a Vizsla is a pretty quick process and they dry quicker than the Lab too.

The Vizsla is truly a wash and wear dog – with very little maintenance required and is one of the big pros for owning Vizslas.

Labrador nails seem to wear down more naturally and easily than Vizsla nails, which is partly due to the shape and way Vizslas hold their paws.

Nail trimming is something many Vizslas hate, but they can learn to tolerate it with high value rewards and plenty of practice.

Vizsla And Labrador Trainability

Vizslas and Labrador Retrievers are both highly intelligent and biddable dogs who are eager to please their owners.

These characteristics make them very trainable and is why both breeds are used as working dogs in areas such as Search and Rescue and Detection.

As medium to large dogs, training is very important for Vizslas and Labrador Retrievers to ensure they grow up to be well mannered dogs.

A fun, gentle and playful approach to training is the best way to train Labs and Vizslas.

With their hunting and retrieving bloodlines, both have a strong prey drive, enjoy having a job and are adept at picking up new skills and tricks.

Both are mouthy breeds and enjoy carrying toys around in their mouth and training them fetching games is well aligned to their natural retrieving skills.

Labs and many Vizslas are food motivated which helps with training, particularly when they are puppies.

Both dog breeds are well suited to canine sports like agility, tracking and obedience.

Labradors are perhaps easier to train in some ways as they are less excitable and jumpy than Vizslas, but both can be trained well with consistent and persistent training.

Vizsla vs Labrador Retriever Health Comparison

Overall both breeds are healthy, with Vizslas and Labradors enjoying a similar life expectancy of around 11-14 years.

Both breeds are deep chested dogs and have a higher risk of developing the life-threatening condition called bloat. Future owners should understand the risks related to bloat and how to mitigate it.

Genetic tests required prior to breeding will vary by country and the requirements listed below are for the United States.

The VCA and LRC both require Vizslas and Labradors be tested for hip dysplasia prior to breeding in addition to Eyes testing.

For Vizslas the VCA also strongly recommend testing for Autoimmune Thyroiditis, a thyroid disease impacting hormone balance.

Labrador dogs should be tested for elbow dysplasia, Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC) and D Locus DNA test.

Vizsla and chocolate labrador puppies.

Vizsla Or Labrador Retriever As A Family Dog

There is a reason the Labrador Retriever is the Number One dog in America according to the AKC. Friendly, affectionate, active and outgoing they are well suited as family pets.

Labs are calm and kid-friendly and if you can survive the destructive puppy and rebel teenage years they will serve your family well as a devoted companion.

And much the same can be said of Vizslas as family dogs – but perhaps with a few more considerations.

Vizslas are a higher energy dog than Labradors. It is hard to wear a Vizsla out and they need more time outdoors to burn their energy off. But if you spend time running, mountain biking or hiking, the Vizsla is a good choice as a doggy companion.

Hungarian Vizslas are also more needy and demanding than Labs. If you have a baby or toddlers in the house who need your full attention, it can be challenging to attend to the needs of a Vizsla.

So if you are an active family prepared to devote time to the needs and quirks of the Vizsla they will reward you with years of loving companionship.

But if you are looking for a family dog that can fit in around the needs of the family while still being affectionate and fun, the Labrador may be a better choice.

Labrador Or Vizsla – Which Is The Right Dog For You?

If you are looking for an intelligent and companionable dog, the Vizsla and Lab are worthy contenders.

The key differences relate to temperament and energy level. So the right dog for you will depend on the importance of those characteristics.

If you are looking for a hunting companion dog, the best choice will depend on your style of hunting.

For waterfowl hunting, the Labrador Retriever is better suited to the water. If upland game is more your style, the Vizsla is the standout choice.

And if you are still undecided, here are some more Vizsla dog breed comparison guides for you:

Which dog breed do you prefer – Labrador or Vizsla? Let us know in the comments below!

More Vizsla Breed Guides

Or, browse all the Vizsla breed guides here.

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About Rachel

Founder of It's a Vizsla, Rachel is a vizsla owner who loves to research and share practical tips to help other vizsla owners care for their fur babies. She loves getting outdoors and hanging out with her vizsla, Lottie.

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