Coat (dog): Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The coat of a dog is the pelage that covers its body.

Newfoundland lying next to its combed-out seasonal undercoat.

A dog coat may be a double coat, made up of a soft undercoat and a coarse topcoat, or a single coat, without an undercoat. The terms fur and hair are often used interchangeably when describing dog coats, but in general, a double coat, such as that of the Newfoundland, is called a fur coat, while a single coat, such as the poodle's coat, may be called a hair coat.


Colours, patterns, textures

There is a greater variety of coat colours and patterns found in domestic (tame) dogs than in the wild wolf, even though dogs and wolves are of the same genus. Coat colours in dogs were not likely initially selected for by humans but "were probably inadvertent outcomes of some other process...early selection for tameness.[1] Research has found that tameness brings associated inherited changes, especially in coat colours and patterns.[2][3]

Domestic dogs often display the remnants of counter-shading, a common natural camouflage pattern. The general theory of counter-shading is that when the animal is lit from above, it will appear lighter on its lower half and darker on its upper half, so that when observed from either above or below, it will blend in with the natural background. This type of natural camouflage is most apparent in birds and fish.[4][5 ]

Colour inheritance

A Stanford University School of Medicine study published in Science in October, 2007 found the genetics that explain coat colours in other mammals such as in horse coats and in cat coats, did not apply to dogs.[6] The project took samples from 38 different breeds to find the gene (a beta defensin gene) responsible for dog coat colour. One version produces yellow dogs, and a mutation produces black. All dog coat colours are modifications of black or yellow.[7] For example, the white in white miniature schnauzers is a cream colour, not albinism (a genotype of e/e at MC1R.)

Modern dog breeds exhibit a diverse array of fur coats, including dogs without fur, such as the Mexican Hairless Dog. Dog coats vary in texture, colour, and markings, and a specialized vocabulary has evolved to describe each characteristic.[8]

Genomic research upon more than 1000 dogs from 80 domestic breeds found that coat type (growth patterns of moustache and eyebrows, hair length and curl arise upon mutations in only three genes, RSPO2, FGF5, and KRT71.[9] As the authors of this research note, "Because most breeds likely originated within the past 200 years, our results demonstrate how a remarkable diversity of phenotypes can quickly be generated from simple genetic underpinnings."[9]

Colour names

Brown Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Brown and its variants, including mahogany, midtone brown, gray-brown, blackish brown; the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, whose colour "must be as nearly that of its working surroundings as possible", also uses the terms sedge and deadgrass.
Seter irlandzki profil 5o899.jpg
Red Irish Setter
AustrKelpieChocolate wb.jpg
Dark chocolate Australian Kelpie
Red—reminiscent of reddish woods such as cherry or mahogany—and its variants, including chestnut, tawny, orange, roan, rust, red-gold, reddish brown, bronze, cinnamon, tan, ruby; also includes liver, a reddish brown somewhat the colour of cinnamon or bronze; the breed often determines whether "liver", "chocolate", "brown", or "red" is used to describe the colour, as in a liver German Shorthaired Pointer or a chocolate Labrador Retriever.
Toy poodle.jpg
Apricot Poodle
GoldenRetrDark4 wb.jpg
Dark Golden Retriever
Gold Rich reddish-yellow, as in a Golden Retriever, and its variants, including yellow-gold, lion-coloured, fawn, apricot, wheaten (pale yellow or fawn, like the colour of ripe wheat), tawny, straw, yellow-red, mustard, sandy, honey.
MuttShepherdRetriever 72.jpg
Yellow mixed-breed dog
Yellow Labrador Retriever
Yellow—yellowish-gold tan, as in a yellow Labrador Retriever—and its variants, including blond and lemon. Lemon is a very pale yellow or wheaten colour which is not present at birth (the puppies are born white) but gradually becomes apparent, usually during the first six months of life.
Cream French Bulldog
Cream: Sometimes it's hard to define the line between pale yellow and cream. Depending on the breed and individual, cream ranges from white through ivory and blond, often occurring with or beneath lemon, yellow, and sable.
Black Newfoundland
Black Labrador Retriever portrait.jpg
Black Labrador Retriever
Black: Usually pure black but sometimes grizzled, particularly as dogs age and develop white hairs, usually around the muzzle.
Kerry blue Terrier.jpg
Kerry Blue Terriers
Australian Shepherd 600.jpg
Blue merle Australian Shepherd
Blue: Not the rainbow's blue but rather a dark metallic gray, often as a blue merle or speckled (with black). Kerry Blue Terriers, Australian Silky Terriers, Bearded Collies, and Australian Shepherds are among many breeds that come in blue.
Weimaraner wb.jpg
Silver gray Weimaraner
Miniature Schnauzer 2.jpg
Salt and pepper gray Miniature Schnauzer
Gray—sometimes also called blue—and its variants, including pale to dark gray, silver, pepper, grizzle, slate, blue-black gray, black and silver, steel, lavender, silver-fawn.
American Eskimo Dog.jpg
White American Eskimo Dog
Bichon Frise 600.jpg
White Bichon Frisé
White: Such a light cream that it is seen and described as pure white, making them distinct from albino dogs. A white dog, as opposed to an albino one, has dark pigment around the eye rims and nose, often coupled with dark-coloured eyes. There is often some coat identifiable as cream between the dog's shoulder blades.


Patterns, like colours, might be called by different terms for different breeds.

AustrKelpieLiver2 wb.jpg
Liver and tan Australian Kelpie
Black and Tan Coonhound
Black and tan, liver and tan, blue and tan: Coat has both colours but in clearly defined and separated areas, usually with the darker colour on most of the body and tan (reddish variants) underneath and in highlights such as the eyebrows. Black and brindle and liver and brindle, in which the same pattern is evident with brindling in place of tan, are also possible, but less common.
Border Collie 600.jpg
Black and white Border Collie
CavalierKgChas2 wb.jpg.jpg
Blenheim (Red-brown and white) Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Bicolor (also called Two-color, Irish spotted, Flashy, Patched, Tuxedo) Any color or pattern coupled with white spotting. This can range anywhere from white toes and tail tip to a mostly-white dog with color around the base of the ears and tail. Some breeds have special names for the colour combinations; for example, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel uses Blenheim for reddish brown (chestnut) and white. Irish Spotted or flashy pattern is symmetrical and includes a white chest, white band around the neck, white belly, and white feet or "boots." This pattern is commonly seen in herding dogs, and Boxers, among others.
EntlebucherBall2 wb.jpg
Black tricolour Entlebucher Mountain Dog
Beagle 600.jpg
Tricolour Beagle
Tricolour: Three clearly defined colours, usually either black, liver, or blue on the dog's upper parts, white underneath, with a tan border between and tan highlights; for example, the Smooth Collie or the Sheltie. Tricolour can also refer to a dog whose coat is patched, usually two colours (such as black and tan) on a white background.
Australian Shepherd 600.jpg
Blue merle tricolour Australian Shepherd
CatahoulaRedWhitePair wb.jpg
Red merle Catahoula Leopard Dogs
Merle: Marbled coat with darker patches and spots of the specified colour. Merle is referred to as "Dapple" with Dachshunds.
Tuxedo mixed-breed dog
Red tuxedo2.jpg
Tuxedo mixed-breed
Tuxedo: Solid (usually black) with a white patch (shirt front) on the chest and chin, and white on some or all of the feet (spats.) Common colouration in Labrador mixes that may stem from the St. John's Water Dog ancestral breed.
Great-Dane wo Background.jpg
Harlequin Great Dane
Harlequin: "ripped" sploches of black on white. Only the Great Dane exhibits this coat pattern.
Dalmatian b 01.jpg
Spotted Dalmatian
Spotted Most often dark pigmented spots on a light background. The spotting on dalmatians is unique as it involves mutations in at least three different spotting genes
AustrCattleDogRed wb.jpg
Red-speckled Australian Cattle Dog
GermanShorthPtr wb.jpg
Liver-ticked German Shorthaired Pointer
Flecked, ticked, speckled: also called belton in English Setters
Orange belton (orange and white speckled) English Setter
AustrCattleDogBlue wb.jpg
Blue speckled Australian Cattle Dog
BostonTerrierBrindleStand w.jpg
Darker brindle and white Boston Terrier
Medium brindle Galgo Español
Brindle: A mixture of black with brown, tan, or gold; usually in a "tiger stripe" pattern.
Airedale Terrier with large black saddle
Saddle or blanket: A different colour, usually darker, over the center of the back.
Pomeranian orange sable 600.jpg
Dark orange sable Pomeranian
Shetland sheepdogs.jpg
Lighter sable Shetland Sheepdogs
Sable: Black-tipped hairs; the background colour can be gold to yellow, silver, gray, or tan. The darkness of the coat depends on how much of each hair is black versus the lighter colour.


Texture, like colour and pattern, might be called by different terms for different breeds, even when referring to the same quality of coat. Some terms used to describe dog coat texture are smooth, rough, curly, straight, broken, and silky.

Coat textures vary tremendously. Densely furred breeds such as most sled dogs and Spitz types can have up to 600 hairs per inch, while fine-haired breeds such as the Yorkshire Terrier can have as few as 100, and the "hairless" breeds such as the Mexican Hairless and the Peruvian Inca Orchid have none on parts of their bodies. The texture of the coat often depends on the distribution and the length of the two parts of a dog's coat, its thick, warm undercoat (or down) and its rougher, somewhat weather-resistant outer coat (topcoat, also referred to as guard hairs). Breeds with soft coats often have more or longer undercoat hairs than guard hairs; rough-textured coats often have more or longer guard hairs. Textures include:

The German Wirehaired Pointer's coat demonstrates a rough texture.
  • Double-coated: Having a thick, warm, short undercoat (or down) that is usually dense enough to resist penetration by water and a stronger, rougher weather-resistant outer coat (topcoat), also referred to as guard hairs. Most other coat types are also double-coated.
  • Single-coated: Lacking an undercoat.
  • Smooth-coated: "Smooth" to the eye and touch.
  • Wire-haired: Also called broken-coated. The harsh outer guard hairs are prominent, providing excellent weather protection for hunting dogs such as the Border Terrier or Wirehaired Pointing Griffon.
  • Long-haired: Hair longer than an inch or so.
  • Short-haired: Hair around an inch or so long.
  • Corded coat: for example, see Puli

Show coats

The nature and quality of a purebred dog's coat is important to the dog fancy in the judging of the dog at conformation shows. The exact requirements are detailed in each breed's breed standard and do not generalise in any way, and the terminology may be very different even when referring to similar features. See individual breed articles for specific information.


Every hair in the dog coat grows from a hair follicle, which has a cycle of growing, then dying and being replaced by another follicle. When the follicle dies, the hair is shed (moults). The length of time of the growing and shedding cycle varies by breed, age, and by whether the dog is an inside or outside dog.

Many dogs shed their undercoat each spring and regrow it again as colder weather comes in; this is also referred to as blowing the coat. Many domesticated breeds shed their coat twice a year. In some climates, the topcoat and undercoat might shed continuously in greater and smaller quantities all year.

Hypoallergenic coats

Some dog breeds have been promoted as hypoallergenic (which means less allergic, not free of allergens) because they shed very little. However, no canine is known to be completely nonallergenic. Often the problem is with the dog's saliva or dander, not the fur.[10] Although poodles and terriers (and mixes of poodles and terriers) are commonly represented as being hypoallergenic, the reaction that an individual person has to an individual dog may vary greatly. In treating dog related allergies, it has been found that "Factors related to individual dogs seem to influence the allergenicity more than breed..."[11]

See also


  1. ^ The Domestic Dog By James Serpell, page 37, Cambridge University Press 1995, 2002, ISBN o521415292
  2. ^ Trut, Lyudmila N (1999), ""Early Canid Domestication: The Farm-Fox Experiment"", American Scientist 87 (2): 160–169,  . (A Russian study of pedomorphosis in a 40-year breeding program to domesticate red foxes.)
  3. ^ UNCOVERING THE GENETIC BASIS FOR TAMENESS – A RESEARCH STRATEGY F.W. Albert Department of Evolutionary Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany, 2008 (PDF file)
  4. ^ Klappenbach, Laura (2008). "What is Counter Shading?". Retrieved 2008-10-22.  
  5. ^ Cunliffe, Juliette (2004). "Coat Types, Colours and Markings". The Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. Paragon Publishing. pp. 20–3. ISBN 0752582763.  
  6. ^ Candille SI, Kaelin CB, Cattanach BM, et al. (Nov 2007). "A -defensin mutation causes black coat colour in domestic dogs". Science 318 (5855): 1418–23. doi:10.1126/science.1147880. PMID 17947548.  
  7. ^ Stanford University Medical Center, Greg Barsh et al. (2007, October 31). Genetics Of Coat Color In Dogs May Help Explain Human Stress And Weight. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 29, 2008
  8. ^ "Genetics of Coat Color and Type in Dogs". Sheila M. Schmutz, Ph.D., Professor, University of Saskatchewan. October 25, 2008. Retrieved 11/05 2008.  
  9. ^ a b Cadieu E, Neff M, Quignon P, Walsh K, Chase K, Parker HG, Vonholdt BM, Rhue A, Boyko A, Byers A, Wong A, Mosher DS, Elkahloun AG, Spady TC, André C, Lark KG, Cargill M, Bustamante CD, Wayne RK, Ostrander EA. (2009). Coat Variation in the Domestic Dog Is Governed by Variants in Three Genes. Science. 326:150-153. doi:10.1126/science.1177808 PMID 19713490
  10. ^ "Nonallergenic Dog? Not Really" by Denise Grady, New York Times, 5 Feb 1997
  11. ^ Heutelbeck ARR, Schulz T, Bergmann K, Hallier E (Jan 2008). "Environmental Exposure to Allergens of Different Dog Breeds and Relevance in Allergological Diagnostics". Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A 71 (11-12): 751–8. doi:10.1080/15287390801985513.  
  • Cunliffe, Juliette (2004). "Coat Types, Colours and Markings". The Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. Paragon Publishing. pp. 20–23 and various.  
  • Fogle, Bruce (2000). "The Breed Section Explained". The New Encyclopedia of the Dog. Dorling Kindersley. p. 83 and various. ISBN 0751304719.  

External links

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address