The Dalmatian standard in all countries calls for a dog that is either black or liver (brown) spotted with a short smooth coat. However, there are quite a few other colors that appear from time to time, and there are long-coated Dalmatians as well. This page will show those variations in coat color and length, and attempt to provide a simple explanation of the genetics involved.
For more color pictures and information see Color - Page 2.
See "But Is It A Dal?" for information on miniature Dals, Dal crosses and maybe-Dals. (The latter page may be of use to Rescue Organizations in identifying Dals and Dal Crosses.) For a discussion of Dalmatian spotting, check out the Spot Page For information on patches, as well as great pictures, check out The Patch Page.
Because of all the pictures, these pages may load slowly, so please be patient.
NOTE: If you judge Dalmatians, please remember that these variations are NOT common, and it's very unlikely that you will ever encounter any of them in the show ring.
Black OR Liver
Not black AND liver on the same dog.
Robert & Marla are obviously black while Morris & Eloise are distinctly liver (brown). Black (identified as "B") is the dominant color, while liver (identified as "b") is the recessive color. Black-spotted Dals may be "BB" - pure for black, which means the dog does not carry the liver recessive and can only produce more black-spotted Dalmatians. Blacks may also be "Bb" - liver-factored, which means that although the dog is black, it can produce livers if bred to another Dal with a liver gene. Livers are always "bb" and do not carry black, as liver is the recessive color. Liver to liver will only produce more livers, but a "bb" liver to a "Bb" - liver-factored black may produce both colors. Liver to a "BB"- pure for black dog will only produce black, since livers must receive a "b" from each parent. Robert is "Bb", a liver-factored black, and when bred to "bb" liver Eloise, he produced "bb" liver Morris and "Bb" black Marla. Click here if you are having trouble differentiating between the blacks and the livers in this picture.
No, this is neither a light liver nor a "rare golden Dalmatian".
Robert introduces himself to Ziggy who is a lemon-spotted Dalmatian.
Lemon is caused by the presence of the recessive "e" gene. Dominant "E" is for the extension of dark pigment and a dog that is "EE" or "Ee" will be either black or liver spotted (depending on which B/b gene combination it also carries). A dog that carries two copies of recessive "e" will have no dark pigment, and its spots will be a yellowish color. The color may vary from a pale yellow to a bright orange, but all are generally referred to as Lemon in the USA. The dog will have either a black or liver nose and eyerims, depending on whether he is also BB, Bb, or bb. In England, the liver nosed dogs are considered to be orange. (In Pointers, the black pigmented dogs are referred to as oranges, and the liver pigmented dogs as lemons, although some lemons will actually be a darker shade than some oranges.)
Not to be confused with liver.
This Dal Mocha, has orange spots and a black nose. This should not be confused with liver, as livers are more "chocolatey" in color, and always have brown noses. To make things more confusing, if this were an English Dal he would be considered lemon rather than orange, because of his black nose. He would however be the right color for an orange Pointer!
White? No Spots?
No, actually very pale lemon.
This puppy is very faintly marked in pale lemon, but appears to be almost white. Lemon spots often come through slowly and are not always distinct on puppies. Lemon varies in color from very pale yellow to dark orange. This puppy has a liver nose and eye rims and if she were an English Dal would be considered orange, because of her nose color.
To see a heavily marked lemon Dal click here, to see a lemon Dal with a black Dal click here, to see a lemon Dal with a liver Dal click here, and to see a lemon patched Dal click here
It looks gray, but the color is called "blue".
Indy Blue is a blue-spotted Dalmatian. She has blue-gray spots, a dark gray nose, and her eyes are a mixture of gray and gold. Blue dogs are seen in many breeds and are caused by the action of the "d" gene for dilution, acting on the "B" Black gene. Indy had a black and a liver parent, but each carried a copy of the recessive "d" which was passed on to her. Liver can also be affected by the "d" gene and results in a pale tan dog (the Isabella Doberman is such a color). There are references to blue-spotted Dalmatians in several old dog books, but they seem to be very uncommon. Indy is a registered Dalmatian, but has of course been spayed. She was registered as black, since there was no option for blue! For more pictures of Indy click here.
Again, not black and liver on the same dog.
These Dals are tri-colors, the dog in the center is a liver tri. True tri-colors are actually bi-colored dogs showing the tan-point pattern that is typically seen on breeds such as Dobermans and Rotttweilers. The dogs are either black/tan/white OR liver/tan/white. They have black or liver spots where the Dobe would be black or red, and have tan spots where the Dobe would be tan. Tri-color is NOT black spots on a liver dog. Tri-colors are caused by the presence of the A(t) gene. Normal spotted Dals would be A(s)A(s) and have only black or liver spots. A dog with two copies of the A(t) gene would be a tri-color. A dog that was A(s)A(t) would be a carrier of tri-color. For more excellent pictures of tri-colored Dals, click here
The dog is actually striped, and is NOT a mixture of black and liver.
These two obviously brindle-marked dogs are also purebred Dalmatians. The dog on the left was registered as a liver - because they KNEW he wasn't black, and figured he must be liver. (Our registration applications don't offer brindle as an options.) Brindle is not a color, but rather a pattern of dark stripes on a fawn background. Brindle does not show through on normal black or liver spotted Dalmatians, but does show through on the tan areas of tri-colors (see below). Geneticists disagree on the exact inheritance of brindle. For a larger sharper brindle picture click here.
Some breeds call them "trindles".
These tri-colored Dalmatians also carried the genes for brindle. The black spotting covers the brindling over most of the body, but the brindling shows through in the tan areas. Brindle tris seem to be just as common as clear tris, so it may be that brindle is more widespread than we think, but is normally hidden by the black or liver.
These dogs are not tri-colors.
These dogs each have a single spot of a different color. This is thought to be a localized mutation of the spotting color. A single liver spot on a black-spotted Dalmatian is the most common, and these dogs are probably liver-factored. This is the first lemon spot I have seen on a black, and the dog is probably carrying "e" lemon.
Mosaic spots on livers.
The liver-spotted Dal on the left has a single orange spot on her neck. The liver-spotted Dal on the right has a single orange spot right above her ear. Click here to see a larger picture of CC. There have been reports of dogs I'm still looking for a picture of a liver dog with a bright yellow spot - I've seen them, but don't have a picture yet. There have also been several reports of liver dogs with a number of yellow spots, and I'm hoping to add a picture of one.
Spots that are both liver and lemon
This dog is a typically marked liver-nosed lemon - the slightly darker ears are not uncommon in lemons - but several of her face spots are rather unusual. These spots have light colored centers and dark (liver) edges. The gene "e" that makes dogs lemon (or orange) does not allow for the presence of dark (black or liver) pigment (referring to coat color, not rims and noses), but in this case the double dose of "e" apparently didn't eliminate all the dark pigment. I've had reports of these dogs, but this is the first I've seen pictures of.
This pup does not fit any of the above categories.
This white pup is from a litter of registered Dalmatians. He was a deaf pup that was donated to Dr. Strain, who refers to the pup as an "albino tri-color", because the very faint spots are both black and brown. However, they do not appear to be in the standard bi-colored pattern. The pup had a solid black nose and eyerims and black-spotted footpads. He's not really an albino, just a very white puppy! No other information was available. For a large picture of this pup, click here
My own term for an interesting anomaly.
There are some black-spotted Dalmatians that have areas of brownish hairs, usually on the insides of the front legs, on the hock area of the rear legs, or on the ears. These areas are not distinct like on the mosaics, and are often visible only in certain lights or at certain times of the year. I suspect these dogs either carry brindle, which is not being completely "covered" up by black, or possibly a single copy of the A(t) tan-point/bi-color gene. Recessive genes are not always perfectly hidden.
Fawn or Sable
I've never seen one, but I think they must exist.
A fawn or sable Dalmatian would probably look like a lemon, but would have some scattered dark hairs, the fawn fewer than the sable. If these dogs also carried the genes for brindle, the brindle would NOT be hidden. This might explain the existance of the all-over brindles. Since tan or yellow spotted Dals are all labeled "lemon" no one would pay any attention to existance of dark hairs on a color that shouldn't have dark hairs. This pup may be a sable Dalmatian. Note the dark hairs mixed into the brownish spots? Unfortunately, we don't know if he was actually a purebred Dalmatian.
Yes, these dogs are actually purebred Dalmatians.
Many smooth-coated breeds produce an occasional long-coated dog. Dogs carrying a single copy of the long-coat gene would look like normal Dals, but if two of these dogs were bred together, approximately 25% of the offspring would have long coats. There are also modifiers that affect coat length, so there is considerable variation in the normal smooth coat. Long-coated dogs have significantly longer hair than the fuzzy smooth-coated dogs. Click here for a long-haired pup that was one of two long-hairs in a litter of ten from two normal-coated registered Dalmatians.
For additional information on color genetics. check out this site.
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