We have examined whether black/yellow coat colour in Labrador retrievers is controlled by allelic variants at the extension locus. As the gene encoding the melanocyte-stimulating hormone receptor (MC1R) has been shown to correspond to the extension locus in several species, we have determined the genomic MC1R sequence in Labrador retrievers with black and with yellow coat colour. Using primers based on the fox (Vulpes vulpes) MC1R sequence we initially isolated and sequenced the innerpart of the canine MC1R. By means of inverse PCR we succeeded in the characterization of both flanking regions of the MC1R gene (Genbank: AF064455). Comparison of the complete MC1R sequences of a yellow and a black Labrador retriever revealed a single C-->T mutation at nucleotide position 916 in the yellow dog. This transition changed the codon for arginine at position 305 into a stop codon, resulting in the elimination of the evolutionary strongly conserved 10 carboxyterminal amino acid residues. With an allele-specific-oligonucleotide (ASO) test it was shown that the mutation cosegregated with the recessively inherited yellow coat colour in the Labrador retriever. Golden retrievers also appeared to be homozygous for the mutation. Seventeen other breeds were all negative for the mutation. Since the Labrador and Golden retriever are closely related, we suggest a common founder for the yellow coat colour in Labrador and Golden retrievers.