Great Dane Colors


This is a complete guide on Great Dane colors.

I am going to be breaking down everything that you need to know about Great Dane coloring and also show you how some of the colors are achieved.

Here are some of the topics we are going to cover:

So without much being said, let’s get started.

AKC Approved Great Dane Colors

official great dane colors

Dog coats are very diverse in color, pattern, length and texture but there are currently 10 identified genes known for determining canine coat variations although many distinguishing traits are yet to be described at a genetic level.

Coat color is determined by genetics and it will vary according to how the genes of mating parents combine during reproduction.

The American Kennel Club or AKC is basically a registry of purebred dog pedigrees in the United States. The organization was founded in 1884 and they have grown to become the experts in health, training and breed information of dogs.

According to the AKC, there are six approved codes for Great Dane colors. These are:

Black

black great dane

Black Great Danes are produced when there is a black and black mating. There are pure black Great Danes but most of them have little white fur on their bodies, typically on the chest and toes.

There are scientific theories which suggest that the black coat color in Great Danes is a result of melanocytes which are melanin-producing neural crest-derived cells located in the bottom layer of the skin’s epidermis, the middle layer of the eye (the uvea), the inner ear, vaginal epithelium, meninges, bones, and heart.

However, some other studies on the inheritance of coat color in dogs revealed that the brown and black pigment result from different stages in the activity of an oxidative enzyme.

The black dog with white parts is mostly achieved when there is a harlequin and harlequin mating or a harlequin and pure black breeding.

However, black and black mating can also produce a blue Great Dane if either parents had a blue dominant gene.

This goes to show how pure black Great Danes are difficult to produce since there are a lot of boxes that need to be checked for the result to be achieved.

The black color family includes the following colors:

  • Pure black.
  • Black and white.

Black Great Danes can be typically produced from black out of black breeding, black out of blue breeding and black out of harlequin breeding. The most recommended breeding practice is to produce a black Dane through black to black mating but any of the three will breed true.

Black-bred blacks can be bred to any of the subgroup: black, to blue and to harlequin. However, blacks carrying for blue should not be bred to the harlequin color family and similarly, blacks carrying for harlequin should not be bred to blue.

Brindle

brindle great dane

The AKC standard for brindle Great Danes states that the base color should be yellow gold and always brindled with strong black stripes in a chevron pattern.

The black may appear on the eye rims and eyebrows, and may also appear on the ears and tail tip.

The rule of thumb is that the more intensive the base color and the more distinct the brindling, the more preferred will be the brindle color. Too much or tool little brindling are equally not desired as the standard.

However, breeding brindle Great Danes can result in many variations and mismarks. Here are some of the common variations and mismarks of the brindle coat color in Great Danes:

  • Pure brindle.
  • Brindle mantle.
  • Brindle merle.

A detailed article on the genetics of the brindle color in dogs explains that:

Brindle is one of the alleles on the K locus. There are three K locus alleles – KB (dominant black), kbr (brindle) and ky (non-solid black – allows A locus to be expressed). KB is the top dominant and ky is the bottom recessive. kbr sits between the two. It is entirely dominated by KB (so just one KB allele will stop brindle from being expressed), but is dominant over ky, so a brindle dog can have the genotype kbrkbr or kbrky.

A dog with one or two kbr alleles will express whichever alleles it has on the A locus, but any and all phaeomelanin (red) in the coat will be brindled. This means that the extent of the brindling on the coat depends on the A locus. The following list shows how the different A locus genes affect the appearance of brindle.

The article continues to explain that brindle is caused by a complex gene process and is technically a form of mosaicism, where some cells express one allele (KB) and some express the other (ky). Mosaicism can be basically explained as when an animal has 2 or more genetically different sets of cells in their body.

Brindle Great Danes belong to the fawn/brindle color family so they should only be bred to and from fawns and brindles.

There are some recent MC1R studies in dogs with melanistic mask or brindle patterns that have revealed that there is no correlation between MC1R variation and the brindled phenotype and transmission of brindle in Great Danes is consistent with autosomal dominant inheritance.

This means that a dog can only be brindle if either of their parents carry a dominant or recessive brindle gene.

Fawn

fawn great dane

The AKC standard for fawn Great Danes states that the color should be yellow gold with a black mask. Black should appear on the eye rims and eyebrows, but it may also appear on the ears and tail tip.

The deep yellow gold color is given a lot of preference whilst White markings at the chest and toes or a black-fronted dirty colored fawns are not desirable.

Any Great Dane that does not meet the specifications mentioned above is disqualified although there are many fawn variations that do not meet the specifications.

The major variations and mismarks of the fawn coat color in Great Danes are as follows:

  • Pure fawn.
  • Fawn mantle.
  • Fawnequin.

The fawn coat color in dogs is greatly influenced by the Agouti allele and this is a genetic fact that is also true for breeds like the Great Dane.

There is a study on the association of an Agouti allele with fawn or sable coat color in domestic dogs stated that;

Although the genetics of pigmentation is broadly conserved across most mammalian species, pigment type-switching in domestic dogs is unusual because a yellow–tan coat with variable amounts of dark hair is thought to be caused by an allele of the Agouti locus referred to as fawn or sable.

The same study also found in a large survey covering thirty seven breeds, we identified an Agouti allele with two missense alterations, A82S and R83H, which was present (heterozygous or homozygous) in 41 dogs (22 breeds) with a fawn or sable coat, but was absent from 16 dogs (8 breeds) with a black-and-tan or tricolor phenotype.

When it comes to breeding fawn Great Danes the standard and recommended practice is to breed them from fawns and brindles since they belong to the fawn/brindle color family.

Mantle

mantle great dane

The AKC standard for mantle Great Danes states that the color should be black and white with a solid black blanket extending over the body; black skull with white muzzle; white blaze is optional; whole white collar is preferred; a white chest; white on part or whole of forelegs and hind legs; white tipped black tail. A small white marking in the blanket is acceptable, as is a break in the white collar.

Any variance in color or markings described above shall be faulted to the extent of the deviation and any Great Dane that does not fall within the above color specifications shall be disqualified.

There main mismarks and variations of the mantle coat color are as follows:

  • Pure mantle.
  • Merle mantle.
  • Blue mantle.
  • Fawn mantle.
  • Brindle mantle.

Detailed studies on the genetics of the mantle coat color in Great Danes reveal that mantle can come in one of two genotypes. They are either irish homozygotes or piebald heterozygotes.

Irish homozygotes will breed true to the mantle pattern because the dogs will have 2 copies of the gene that produces the irish markings. However, this genetic pattern does not meet the AKC standards of a typical mantle Great Dane.

The recommended breeding practice is to breed mantle Great Danes from harlequins since they belong to the harlequin color family. Breeding harlequins will typically produce mantle Great Dane puppies, as well as harlequins, merles, and some mismarked blacks. However, it is important to note that a mantle to mantle breeding will not produce harlequins, almost all the puppies in this litter will be mantle with occasional mismarked blacks.

Using mantle Great Danes to produce harlequins has many benefits but the major one is that it eliminates to chances of producing White Great Danes which have a lot of health problems as a result of their genetic makeup.

Blue

blue great dane

The AKC standard for blue Great Danes states that the color should be a pure bred steel blue without any white markings at the chest and toes. And since blue is a dilute, it can be bred to blue, black-bred black or blue-bred black.

Blue Danes should not be bred to the fawn/brindle or harlequin color family.

Any variance in color or markings described above shall be faulted to the extent of the deviation and any Great Dane that does not fall within the above color specifications shall be disqualified.

Breeding blue Great Danes can produce variations and mismarks of the coat color. Here are some of the common variations and mismarks of the blue coat color in Great Danes:

  • Pure blue.
  • Blue merle.
  • Blue mantle.

The genetics of blue Great Danes can be summarized as resulting from a d/d dilution of black pigment. Breeding and producing this coat color requires that both parents carry the recessive blue gene so black to black breeding can produce blue Danes provided that both parents are carriers of the recessive blue gene.

A study on the dilution of coat color in dogs state that:

Dilution dog coat color is controlled by genes of D locus. D locus contains a dilution gene, which is recessive, so the d gene is dilution and the D gene is non-dilution. This means that in order for the dog to be dilute it must be homozygous (dd genotype), and if it is heterozygous (Dd genotype) it will have normal, not diluted pigmentation.

The D locus dilution gene affects both eumelanin and phaeomelanin. Dilution dog coat color is characterized by a specific pigmentation phenotype. The specific pigmentation phenotype in dogs with coat color dilution is caused by defective transport of melanosomes which leads to an accumulation of melanosomes around the melanocytes’ nuclei as well as large clumps of pigment in the hair shafts. When homozygous with a dilution gene, a black dog becomes blue…..The gene affects also nose and eye colors. In blue dogs the nose will be blue pigmented.

Harlequin

harlequin great dane

The AKC standards for the harlequin Great Dane states that the base color should be a pure white with black torn patches irregularly and well distributed over the entire body; a pure white neck is preferred whist merle patches are considered normal.

No patch should be so large that it appears to be a blanket and the harlequin color family should not be bred to the fawn/brindle, blue or blue-bred black families.

Variations to the color and markings described above shall be faulted to the extent of the deviation. Any Great Dane that does not meet the above specifications shall be disqualified.

Studies on the inheritance of the harlequin color in Great Dane dogs have concluded that:

Harlequin by harlequin matings produced 60 black, 77 harlequin, 42 merle, and 35 homozygous merle pups. Harlequin by black matings produced 44 black, 26 harlequin, 25 merle, and one white (homozygous merle?) pups. All harlequins produced some merles. These data best fit the hypothesis that harlequin is a modification of merle (Mm) caused by an autosomal dominant mutation that is lethal to homozygotes, and to about half of heterozygotes when combined with the MM genotype. The symbol H is proposed for this mutation.

This goes to show the genetic complexity of the harlequin color family and how difficult it can be for breeders to produce the color.

Rare Great Dane Colors

There are also rare Great Dane colors that are not approved by the American Kennel Club. These colors are more susceptible to genetic defects so they are not really encouraged for beginner Great Dane owners.

Here is a list of some of the rarest Great Dane colors:

White

white great dane

White Great Danes are the most rare Great Dane color and they are more susceptible to genetic defects. Many white Great Danes have a hearing challenge and are mostly deaf although not all of them are born with the problem.

The white Great Dane color is achieved through merle to merle mating and they are mostly complete white. Some other white Danes have a few markings but this is not common.

Two Great Danes that are heterozygous to the merle gene are bred to produce a white Great Dane that is homozygous to the merle gene. These dogs that are homozygous to the merle gene are called double merles and they are more susceptible to many health problems due to genetic defects.

The common health issues experiences by these double merle dogs are auditory and ocular defects. These ocular or eye defects include microphthalmia, conditions causing increased ocular pressure, and colobomas, among others.

Auditory defects can be minor hearing challenges or complete deafness. A recent study on the Prevalence of Deafness in Dogs Heterozygous or Homozygous for the Merle Allele revealed that:

Deafness prevalence in merles overall was 4.6% unilaterally deaf and 4.6% bilaterally deaf. There was a significant association between hearing status and heterozygous versus homozygous merle genotype. For single merles (Mm), 2.7% were unilaterally deaf and 0.9% were bilaterally deaf. For double merles (MM), 10% were unilaterally deaf and 15% were bilaterally deaf. There was no significant association with eye color or sex.

Dog organizations like the American Kennel Club and animal rights groups discourage merle to merle breeding because it produces these double merles that are more susceptible to health problems due to genetic defects.

Merle

Merle Great Danes have a pale to dark grey coat that is covered in darker splotches that are mostly black.

The different merle color patterns that exist for Great Danes are merle, dilute merle, cryptic merle and marlequin.

Merle Great Danes are mostly produced when breeding harlequin colored Danes. The only differences between the two colors is the gene that creates the grey coloring in merles and the white coloring in harlequins.

The inheritance of the merle color in Great Danes is due to the SINE insertion in SILV-gene, which can be of various lengths. The different variations of the merle color in Great Danes are:

  • Marlequin.
  • Blue merle.
  • Brindle merle.
  • Chocolate merle.
  • Fawn merle.
  • Mantle merle.

The majority of merle Great Danes are heterozygous to the merle gene but it is possible to produce a homozygous (MM) or double merle by mating two merles although this is not recommended by the American Kennel Club standards.

Double merles have a lot of health problems due to their genetic makeup. Some of the health issues include ocular defects like microphthalmia and auditory defects which are mostly deafness or minor hearing difficulties.

The American Kennel Club recommends that merle Great Danes be produced from the mating of one heterozygous merle with another Dane of any color. This can help eliminate some of the health problems associated with the merle gene and produce a healthy dog.

Fawnequin

fawnequin great dane

Fawnequin Great Danes have a white base colored coat with fawn spotches that are irregularly distributed. The color is produced by mating two Great Danes with a fawn gene with either of the parents being a harlequin.

You can generally describe a fawnequin as a mismark of the Great Dane breed. The coat color is not recognized by the American Kennel Club as an official Great Dane color but your can still register a fawnequin with the club.

Theoretically, all breeding that produces a harlequin Great Dane can actually produce a fawnequin if the two parents have a recessive fawn gene and either one of them is a harlequin.

Is It Okay To Get A Rare-Colored Great Dane?

Rare-colored Great Danes are always appealing to the eye but they may not be a great option for pet owners especially beginners. This is because rare-colored Great Danes come with a lot of health issues due to the breeding processes.

A good example is the number of white Great Danes that are mostly deaf or facing hearing problems due to their genetics.

If you are getting a rare-colored Great Dane it is important to find accountable breeders because most breeders do not follow proper procedures when breeding these type of dogs.

A fellow internet user Yvonne Navarro had this to say about the rare-colored Great Danes:

I’m sorry, but the Great Dane “colors” here are so far from correct, it’s not even funny. It leads people to believe these colors are normal, when a damnable portion of them come from miserable backyard breeders who try to get these so-called “colors” and kill the puppies when they aren’t successful.

Yvonne Navarro

You should always be careful when getting rare-colored dogs and even if you are getting one from an accountable breeder, it is important to have pet health insurance due to the health challenges that rare-colored dogs face.

What Is The Most Popular Great Dane Color?

The most popular Great Dane color is fawn. There are a number of Danes that are fawn and even the most popular cartoon dog, Scooby Doo was a fawn Great Dane.

What Is The Most Expensive Great Dane Color?

The most expensive Great Dane color is harlequin. The black and white blend of the coat color makes the dogs more attractive and appealing to most pet buyers.

Harlequin Great Danes might also be more expensive due to the challenges that breeders face in order to produce the coat color.

What Is The Best Great Dane Color?

Fawn is one of the best Great Dane colors. The coat color is the most popular and perfect for beginner Great Dane owners.

The Danes are not susceptible to much diseases and their genetic make up is more adapted to the environment since they have existed for a very long time.

What Determines Great Dane Coat Color?

Great Dane coat color is mostly determined by how genes are passed from adults to their puppies and how those genes are expressed in each individual Dane.

Dogs have around 19,000 genes in their genome but only a few of the genes affect coat color.

Dog coat color genetics might sound complicated but the guys from Wikipedia have an easier way to break it down:

Genes of interest have more than one version, or allele. Usually only one or a small number of alleles exist for each gene. So, at any one gene locus a dog will either be homozygous, that is, the gene is made of two identical alleles (one from its mother and one its father) or heterozygous, that is, the gene is made of two different alleles (again, one inherited from each parent).

To understand why a dog’s coat looks the way it does based on its genes requires an understanding of a handful of particular dog coat genes and their alleles. For example, if you wanted to find out how a black and white greyhound that seems to have wavy hair got its coat, you would want to look into the dominant black gene with its K and k alleles, the (white) spotting gene with its multiple alleles, and the R and r alleles of the curl gene.

wikipedia
great dane color chart

Genetics definitely has a major role to play when determining the coat color for your Great Dane.

Each hair follicle is surrounded by many melanocytes (pigment cells), which make and transfer the pigment melanin into a developing hair. Dog fur is colored by two types of melanin: eumelanin (brownish-black) and phaeomelanin (reddish-yellow).

wikipedia

How To Enhance Great Dane Coat Color

Enhancing or improving your Great Dane coat color has everything to do with nutrition and grooming.

Maintaining your Great Dane’s coat requires you to feed them well balanced meals with the necessary nutrients like vitamins and minerals which are crucial for maintaining a healthy skin and coat.

Grooming is also essential for maintaining a healthy coat and improving the coat color. Here are some basic tips for grooming your Great Dane’s coat:

  • Bathe your Great Dane with dog shampoo at least 5 times a year. Frequent bathing can deprive your Dane’s coat with the necessary natural oils.
  • Always dry your dog after every bath.
  • Dry shampoo your Great Dane in-between bath routines.
  • Regularly brush your Great Dane with a short hair brush to remove loose hair, dirt and parasites.

Summary

There are currently six official Great Dane colors approved by the American Kennel Club. These are black, brindle, fawn, mantle, blue and harlequin.

There are also other rare colors that can be produced for Great Danes. These colors are white, merle and fawnequin.

However, rare-colored Great Danes are more susceptible to health problems. For example, white Great Danes have a common problem of deafness.

If you are going to get a rare-colored Dane it is important to get your dog from accountable breeders and also get a pet health insurance since these types are more susceptible to diseases.

Fawn Great Danes are the most popular and also one of the best for beginner owners.

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