Dalmatian colors - the science behind it.
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Spotting the Differences: A Guide to the Different Types of Dalmatian Colors

Are you a fan of Dalmatians? With their iconic spotted coats and playful personalities, it’s no wonder why they’re such a beloved breed. But did you know that there are different types of Dalmatians? From size to coat color, each type has its own unique characteristics. In this guide, we’ll help you spot the differences between them so you can pick the perfect pup for your family.

If you’re looking to engage your children in this journey, a recommended children’s book is Unbelievable Pictures and Facts About Dalmatians. For some scientific info and interesting variations of the different Dalmatian colors, let’s get started below!

Different dalmatian Colors

You can find detailed information about the breed standards for Dalmatians, including accepted colors, on the American Kennel Club’s official website. The AKC specifically lists black and liver as the only accepted colors for the spots on Dalmatians in their breed standard section. Here’s a direct link to the AKC’s Dalmatian breed standard page: AKC Dalmatian Breed Standard. This page outlines all the specifications for size, proportion, coat, color, and more, that are recognized for show dogs.

This post will cover the different dalmatian colors along with hash-tagged photos on Instagram. We’ll cover the following color variations:

dalmatian colors
Dalmatian colors

Some Basic Genetic Terminology:

The following article is a bit scientific. Therefore, the following might help with the understanding of the science behind the variations in Dalmatian colors.

Definitions:

Locus: The specific physical location of a gene on a chromosome (plural loci)

Allele –

noun GENETICS

  1. one of two or more alternative forms of a gene that arise by mutation and are found at the same place on a chromosome. A dog inherits two alleles for each gene, one from each parent. If the two alleles are the same, the dog is said to be homozygous. If the alleles are different, the dog is deemed heterozygous.

“Allele” is the word that we use to describe the alternative form or versions of a gene. People inherit one allele for each autosomal gene from each parent, and we tend to lump the alleles into categories. Typically, we call them either normal or wild-type alleles, or abnormal, or mutant alleles.

https://www.genome.gov/genetics-glossary/Allele#:~:text=An%20allele%20is%20one%20of,is%20homozygous%20for%20that%20allele.

Genotype: The combination of alleles that a dog has at a particular locus

Phenotype: The physical appearance impacted by the genotype and/or environment

Recessive: Two copies of an allele are needed to express the phenotype (a recessive allele is hidden in heterozygous dogs)

Dominant: Only one copy of an allele is needed to express the phenotype (a dominant allele will hide the other allele if the dog is a heterozygote)

Doggy DNA Testing

Gain invaluable insights into your dog’s breed, health, and unique genetic makeup with Embark’s easy-to-use Dog DNA Test Kits. Perfect for pet owners and breeders alike, these kits offer detailed information from just a simple cheek swab. Order your kit now and start your journey of genetic discovery!

This test includes testing for Hyperuricosuria (HUA) and Hyperuricemia or Urolithiasis, HUU (SLC2A9). To learn more about HUA and LUA Dalmatians, visit our page: LUA Dalmatians vs HUA Dalmatians: Unveiling the Differences

Black and White Dalmatians

Black and white Dalmatians are the most common type of Dalmatian. They are easily distinguished by their black and white coat, which is made up of black spots on a white background. Black and white Dalmatians are considered standard Dalmatians and are one of the most recognizable dogs, thanks to movies like 101 Dalmatians.

GenotypeColor spotsNose colorGenetic Transmission
BBBlack BlackBlack
BbBlack BlackBlack / Liver

As defined by the American Kennel Club (AKC), Dalmatian Color and Markings are as follows:

Color and Markings: Color and markings and their overall appearance are very important points to be evaluated. The ground color is pure white. In black-spotted dogs the spots are dense black. In liver-spotted dogs the spots are liver brown. Any color markings other than black or liver are disqualified. Spots are round and well-defined, the more distinct the better. They vary from the size of a dime to the size of a half-dollar. They are pleasingly and evenly distributed.

The less the spots intermingle the better. Spots are usually smaller on the head, legs and tail than on the body. Ears are preferably spotted. Tri-color (which occurs rarely in this breed) is a disqualification. It consists of tan markings found on the head, neck, chest, leg or tail of a black or liver-spotted dog. Bronzing of black spots and fading and/or darkening of liver spots due to environmental conditions or normal processes of coat change are not tri-coloration. Patches are a disqualification. A patch is a solid mass of black or liver hair containing no white hair. It is appreciably larger than a normal sized spot. Patches are a dense, brilliant color with sharply
defined, smooth edges. Patches are present at birth. Large color masses formed by intermingled or overlapping spots are not patches. Such masses should indicate individual spots by uneven edges and/or white hairs scattered throughout the mass.

http://images.akc.org/pdf/breeds/standards/Dalmatian.pdf
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Liver Dalmatians

Liver Dalmatians are one of the two recognized color varieties of the Dalmatian breed. They are often referred to as ‘chocolate Dalmatians’ due to their brown or liver-colored spots. While they are not as common as the standard “black and white” Dalmatians, they are just as friendly and make great family pets.

Color variations, like the Liver Dalmatian, have enthralled Dalmatian enthusiasts and genetic scientists for generations. Research and studies have been done to understand the gene mutations that affect these Dalmatian colors.

Coat color is influenced by the production of the two main pigments eumelanin (brown to black pigment) and pheomelanin (light to brownish red pigment). In most mammals, the synthesis of eumelanin or pheomelanin is regulated by two key genes, MC1R (locus E) and ASIP (locus A). In domesticated dogs, a third gene, CBD103 (locus K), also plays an important role. Several other genes have been identified in relation to coat color in dogs, e.g., TYRP1 (locus B), MLPH (dilution locus D), MFSD12 (dilution locus I), etc.

The liver gene occurs on the gene TYRP1 (locus B). The brownish color is a result when the recessive genotype bb is present. In locus B, the genotype “b” is liver and “B” is black. This means that a liver Dalmatian puppy can be born from black parents if both are carriers of the liver allele. For example, if both parents are Bb there is a 25% chance that the pup will be bb.

TYRP1 (locus B) – genotype that is responsible for black or liver

GenotypeColor spotsNose colorGenetic Transmission
BBBlack BlackBlack
BbBlack BlackBlack / Liver
bbLiverLiverLiver
liver = brown

Can I request that it does though? 🤪 

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Can I request that it does though? 🤪

#dalmatian #dalmatianpuppy #cutedogsofinstagram #cutepuppyvideos #happypuppy #happypuppyhappylife #liverdalmatian

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Lemon Dalmatians

Lemon dalmatians are one of the most popular variations of this breed. They are easily recognizable by their bright yellow coats, which make them stand out from other dalmatians. While they are not considered a separate breed, they are still very popular among dog lovers.

Lemon dalmatians were first bred in the United States in the early 1900s. They were created by crossing a yellow Labrador Retriever with a Dalmatian. The resulting puppies were then bred with each other to create the Lemon dalmatian we know today.

While they share many similarities with standard Dalmatians, there are some key differences that set them apart. Lemon dalmatians typically have a lighter coat than their counterparts. They also often have freckles on their faces and bodies. These are truly a beautiful variation in the spectrum of Dalmatian colors.

MC1R (locus E) – genotype mutation that is responsible for lemon

GenotypeColor spots Nose colorGenetic Transmission
BBEEBlackBlackBlack
BBEeBlackBlackBlack
BBeeLemonBlackLemon

You’ll notice that one of the key differences between the Liver and Lemon Dalmatians is the nose color. Liver Dalmatians will have a brown nose, whereas, a Lemon Dalmatian will have a black nose.

If you’re considering adding a Lemon Dalmatian to your family, be sure to do your research. They require just as much care and attention as a standard Dalmatian, and you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared for everything that comes along with owning one of these beautiful pups!

Happy boi

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Happy boi

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In my Sun Dogess era ☀️ 👑 🌸  #dalmatian #era #dogsofinstagram #dogoftheday #lemondalmatian #dalmatianofinstagram

In my Sun Dogess era ☀️ 👑 🌸 #dalmatian #era #dogsofinstagram #dogoftheday #lemondalmatian #dalmatianofinstagram

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Orange Dalmatians

Orange Dalmatians are a unique and relatively rare variation of the breed, displaying a distinctive warm orange hue in their coat. This coloration arises due to a specific combination of genetic traits, specifically the bbee genotype, where the presence of two recessive genes at both the B locus (for liver) and the E locus (for yellow or red pigmentation) interacts. As a result, these Dalmatians exhibit a muted orange or dark salmon color instead of the traditional black or liver spots on a white background. The beauty of Orange Dalmatians lies in their soft, peach-like tones, which set them apart from their more commonly spotted counterparts, making them a standout example of the breed’s genetic diversity.

MC1R (locus E) – genotype mutation that is responsible for orange

GenotypeColor spotsNose colorGenetic Transmission
bbEEBlackLiverBlack
bbEeBlackLiverBlack
bbeeOrangeLiverOrange

If you’re thinking about adding an Orange Dalmatian to your family, be prepared for some extra attention! People will be drawn to your pup’s unique coloration and will want to learn more about them. But don’t worry, these pups can handle the spotlight and love meeting new people.

And that’s a wrap! 🥳 for Miss Pennie’s Birthday 🥳 

It was our first time doing a piñata for these guys and they were all trying to figure it out 🤣 the heat was fire 🔥 today it didn’t help at all 😭 these guys were exhausted 😩 

But that didn’t seem to slow them down they had a blast with all their new toys 🤣 

Thank you allllll 🫶🏼 for her birthday 🥳 wishes! Sending ❌’s and ⭕️’s 

The Spotted Asylum 🌀🤪
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And that’s a wrap! 🥳 for Miss Pennie’s Birthday 🥳

It was our first time doing a piñata for these guys and they were all trying to figure it out 🤣 the heat was fire 🔥 today it didn’t help at all 😭 these guys were exhausted 😩

But that didn’t seem to slow them down they had a blast with all their new toys 🤣

Thank you allllll 🫶🏼 for her birthday 🥳 wishes! Sending ❌’s and ⭕️’s

The Spotted Asylum 🌀🤪
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Blue Dalmatians

Blue Dalmatians are a unique variation of the classic Dalmatian breed, distinguished by their striking coat color, which results from a specific genetic mutation. This blue color is not a true blue, but rather a diluted black, giving the coat a soft, slate grey appearance. The mutation responsible for this coloring occurs at the dilution (D) locus, where dogs with the genotype BBdd exhibit this diluted pigment. In blue Dalmatians, the “dd” genotype means both copies of the dilution gene are recessive, leading to a lighter shade of the black spots typical of Dalmatians. While rare, this coloration does not affect the health or vitality of the dogs but offers an intriguing visual alternative to the more traditional black or liver-spotted Dalmatian. This genetic variation adds to the breed’s diversity, making the blue Dalmatian a sought-after variety for enthusiasts and breeders.

MC1R (locus D) – genotype mutation that is responsible for the diluted black spots.

GenotypeColor spotsNose colorGenetic Transmission
BBDDBlackBlackBlack
BBDdBlackBlackBlack
BBddBlueBlackBlue

Sable Dalmatians

Sable Dalmatians have a distinctive coat color characterized by each hair having a darker tip with a lighter base, which gives a shaded or multi-colored effect. This sable pattern is primarily influenced by the Agouti gene (ASIP), which controls the distribution of pigment in the hair.

For a Dalmatian to express the sable pattern, it typically carries the Ay allele at the Agouti signaling protein gene (ASIP). The Ay allele is responsible for the fawn or sable coat color, where hairs are tipped with black. In Dalmatians, this expression can be somewhat subtle due to their short fur and the breed’s characteristic spotting pattern, but it will still be noticeable, especially in sunlight.

Here’s the typical genetic makeup influencing this coloration:

  • Ay: This is the dominant allele at the Agouti locus and promotes the sable coloration where the base of the hair is lighter, and the tip is black. It is the allele primarily responsible for the sable appearance in Dalmatians.
  • KyKy: At the K locus, which involves the dominant black (K) and non-solid black (k) alleles, sable Dalmatians would have the genotype KyKy, indicating the absence of the dominant black gene, allowing the Agouti gene to be expressed.

ASIP (locus A) – genotype mutation that is responsible for sable

GenotypeColor spotsNose colorGenetic Transmission
ay KykySableBlackBlack

Brindle Dalmatians

Brindle Dalmatians is not necessarily a color, but a beautiful variation of the Dalmatian colors and patterns. Often referred to as “reverse pied”, brindle Dalmatians have a coat that is primarily dark in color with lighter colored markings. While the brindle pattern can be found in many other dog breeds, it is truly unique on a Dalmatian.

The brindle pattern is caused by a mutation in the gene that controls coat color. This means that brindle Dalmatians are not considered true “purebreds” by the Kennel Club standards. However, they are still recognized by many major breed organizations including the American Kennel Club.

CBD103  (locus K) – genotype mutation that is responsible for brindle

GenotypeColor spotsNose colorGenetic Transmission
kyBlackBlackBlack

The KB variant of the CBD103 gene promotes eumelanin (black pigment) synthesis by blocking agouti gene expression at the A Locus which would otherwise inhibit MC1R production of eumelanin. The alternate ky variant of the CBD103 gene disrupts the normal function of the CBD103 gene allowing for agouti (A locus) gene expression and the inhibition of black pigment synthesis. 

Despite not being considered purebreds, brindle Dalmatians make excellent pets and are just as loving and loyal as their counterparts.

Tri Color/Trindle Dalmatians

Trindle and Tri-color Dalmatians represent fascinating variations within the breed, each distinguished by unique genetic markers and distinct visual appearances. Tri-color Dalmatians are known for their classic white coats adorned with black and liver spots, accompanied by subtle tan or rust markings typically around the eyebrows, cheeks, and legs. These additional tan markings introduce a third color, lending to their “tri-color” name. On the other hand, Trindle Dalmatians take this tri-color pattern a step further by incorporating a brindle pattern within the tan markings. This additional complexity manifests as dark stripes or streaks, overlaying the tan with a textured, multi-tonal effect. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for appreciating the genetic diversity and beauty these variations bring to the Dalmatian breed.


ASIP (locus A) and TYRP1 (locus B) – genotypic interaction for tricolor pattern

Genotype at locus AGenotype at locus BColor SpotsTan PointsNose ColorGenetic Transmission
atBBBlackPresentBlackTricolor (tan/sable) with black spots
atbbLiverPresentBrownTricolor (tab/sable) with liver spots

“Tan Points” refers to a specific coat pattern seen in some dog breeds where a lighter colored marking, typically in a tan or cream shade, appears over certain parts of the dog’s body. This pattern is controlled by specific genes in the dog’s DNA. The locations of these tan points are usually consistent and can be found above the eyes, on the sides of the muzzle, on the chest, on the legs, and underneath the tail.

In the context of the genetic discussion regarding Dalmatians, “Tan Points” would imply that the dog not only has the characteristic spots over its body but also has these additional tan markings at the specific points mentioned. The presence of tan points is often a result of the “at” allele at the A (Agouti) locus, which dictates the distribution pattern of the dark and light pigments in the dog’s fur.

  1. Tri-color Dalmatians: This term typically refers to Dalmatians that have three distinct colors in their coat pattern. In Dalmatians, the base color is always white, and the tri-color pattern includes black and brown (liver) spots. This occurs due to the presence of both black and liver genes. The third color, which is less pronounced, usually manifests as tan (sable) or rust markings typically seen on the eyebrows, cheeks, legs, chest, and beneath the tail.

  1. Trindle Dalmatians: The term “Trindle” is a less common and more specific term that combines “tri-color” and “brindle”. It refers to a Dalmatian that has tri-color markings with the addition of brindle patterning in the tan areas. Brindle is a pattern of stripes or streaks of color, often darker than the base tan color, and is overlaid on the tan markings. In trindle Dalmatians, you’d see these stripes within the tan markings of a tri-color pattern.
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✨Honey✨

Meet the newest member to the family 🥹🥹🥹 
She came home today!  We got her from Inky Dink Dalmatians in Cape May, NJ.  We love her so much.

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✨Honey✨

Meet the newest member to the family 🥹🥹🥹
She came home today! We got her from Inky Dink Dalmatians in Cape May, NJ. We love her so much.

#tricolordalmatian #dalmatian #dalmatiannation #baby #puppy #honey #tricolor #dalmatianpuppy #dalmatianlovers #dalmatianworld #dalmatianlove #dalmatianspotlight #dalmatianclub

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Long Haired Dalmatians

Dalmatians come in two coat varieties: short-haired and long-haired. The long-haired variety is not as common as it is a recessive gene. The coat of the long-haired Dalmatian is silky and flowing, and it often has a slight wave to it. The hair on the head is usually shorter than on the body, and the ears are covered with long hair that hangs down. The long-haired Dalmatian does require more grooming than the short-haired variety, but many people find that the extra effort is worth it for the beauty of the breed.

This dog... hatchetjay

#dalmatian #longhaireddalmatian #longhaireddalmatians #puppy #training #demodog #dogtraining #dogsofig #dogsofinstagram #dog #totalk9services #puppyeyes #dalmatianspotlight #dalmatianpuppy #dalmatian_feature #dalmatian_pics #dalmatiannation #puppylove #puppys #dogtrainingtips #dogtrainer #dogtrainers #dogtrainersofinstagram #dogtrainerslife #pupsofig #puppy_tales #puppiesofinstagram

This dog… hatchetjay

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Get your butts on over to #puppydaycare and start enjoying your FREE WEEK! We are having a tail wagging good time around here! ❤️🐾😂❤️

Get your butts on over to #puppydaycare and start enjoying your FREE WEEK! We are having a tail wagging good time around here! ❤️🐾😂❤️

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Look closely ... yes you are seeing spots!  Yes... they are Dalmatians...look again... they are LONG HAIR DALMATIANS !!! Beautiful family ~  AJ & Lauren with their 2 fabulous Long Hair Dalmatians.  #amazinglybeautiful #longhaireddalmatians #dalmatians

Look closely … yes you are seeing spots! Yes… they are Dalmatians…look again… they are LONG HAIR DALMATIANS !!! Beautiful family ~ AJ & Lauren with their 2 fabulous Long Hair Dalmatians. #amazinglybeautiful #longhaireddalmatians #dalmatians

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Oakley & Nellie

Oakley & Nellie

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Conclusion

In conclusion, the diversity of Dalmatian colors [coat] and patterns, ranging from the classic black and white to the rarer lemon and trindle, highlights the breed’s genetic complexity and beauty. Understanding the genetics behind these variations not only enriches the appreciation for the breed but also aids in responsible breeding practices. This guide serves as a valuable resource for Dalmatian enthusiasts, breeders, and potential owners, emphasizing the importance of genetic health and the aesthetic variety within this beloved breed.

The below visual provides a representation of the genetic mutation related to each color variant, giving an insight into the genetic diversity within the breed.

ColorHexDisplayed ColorGenotypeDescription
Black#000000blackBBThis shade captures the intense and pure black seen in their spots, providing a stark contrast to their white coat.
Liver (Brown)#564B51liverbbThis shade may vary slightly in different lighting or conditions, but this HEX value should provide a good representation of that liver brown color typical in Dalmatians with the bb genotype.
Lemon#FDF5E6colorBBeeThis color is often described as “lemon” because it has a very light, almost off-white yellow hue, which is distinctly different from the more vivid yellows seen in other breeds.
Orange#E9967AorangebbeeThis shade, often referred to as dark salmon, captures the gentle orange tint of the coat, distinct from the liver or lemon colors in other Dalmatians.
Blue#788D9CblueBBddThis shade captures the subtle grey-blue appearance typical of the blue coat seen in these dogs.
Sable#C19A6Bsableay KykyThis shade captures the golden to light brown base color with the distinct darker tipping characteristic of the sable coloration.
Dalmatian Colors Chart
Chart by Sharon Uluh-Gunter 2012

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