German Shepherd Colors: What Is The Color of Your German Shepherd’s Coat?

Are you familiar with different German Shepherd colors? The breed comes in a variety of coat colors, thickness, length, and texture.  However, not all colors are accepted by major kennel clubs.

Here are different German Shepherd colors that exist.

German Shepherd Colors #1: Black and Tan

German Shepherd Colors - Black and Tan

The most common among German Shepherd colors is the black and tan combination. This is the German Shepherd color that most people are familiar with. Rin Tin Tin, a motion picture star during the interwar period and perhaps the most famous German Shepherd, had a black and tan color.

Despite being the most common and most popular among other German Shepherd colors, the black and tan combination is recessive to the sable gene. In black and tan German Shepherds, the tan color ranges from a creamy silver color to deep rich reddish brown. The black parts of the coat can range from a saddle back to blanket back. Some black and tan GSDs may only have small black parts on their back.

Black and tan German Shepherds typically have tan underbellies, on the chest, and on legs. The tan or cream color also trails from the necks down to the tail. Many black and tan German Shepherds have tan or cream eyebrows. Some parts of the black and tan German Shepherd’s face may have a tan color. Many black and tan German Shepherds also have a black mask on their faces.

German Shepherd Colors - Black and Tan 1 The combination of black and creamy tan is the preferred coloration in American show line German Shepherds and Canadian show line German Shepherds. On the other hand, the tan coloration in German show line German Shepherds is deep and rich reddish brown in color.


German Shepherd Colors #2: Bicolor

German Shepherd Colors - Bicolor

Bicolor German Shepherds are actually solid black dogs with a few brown areas on the feet and under the tail. But German Shepherds of this color must have black heels in order to be allowed in show rings. This German Shepherd coloration is sometimes considered a variation of black and tan.

This German Shepherd color is found in various working lines.


German Shepherd Colors #3: Sable

German Shepherd Colors - Sable

Sable is the most dominant among all the German Shepherd colors. This coloration is more common in working line German Shepherds and is not permissible in show line dogs. The first German Shepherd, Horand von Grafath, had a sable color.

German Shepherds with this coloration have banded fur. This means that each strand of their hair is made up of different colors, including brown, black, silver, or even red. Sable fur is often “masked” or has a layer of black hair.

Black over cream is the most common sable color. Other color combinations include black over red, liver over cream, and silver over cream. Sable German Shepherds may also come in “wolf gray”, which is a wolf-like color resembling gray over silver or black over silver. Dark pigments are the most desired shades of fur in sable German Shepherds, but all shades are acceptable.

A sable gene is necessary to produce sable puppies. This means that at least one parent must be a sable to produce sable puppies in a litter.


German Shepherd Colors #3: Black

German Shepherd Colors - Black

Black German Shepherds have solid black colors. This is the most recessive among “acceptable” German Shepherd colors. For this reason, they are less common than sable and black and tan German Shepherds.

Some black German Shepherds have white areas on their chest. When a black German Shepherd has a tan part under his tail or toes, he is considered a bicolor German Shepherd.

Solid black German Shepherd puppies are produced when both parents are black German Shepherds. They may also be produced if both parents carry the black gene recessively.

Why Your German Shepherd’s Nose Turns Pink

Black German Shepherds are found in German and European working lines.


German Shepherd Colors #4: White

German Shepherd Colors - Bicolor

The white coloration is considered a faulty trait. For this reason, German Shepherds with white coats are not permitted in show rings but they can participate in obedience and agility competitions.

There is a controversy surrounding white German Shepherds. Kennel clubs made the white color a disqualifying trait many decades ago. There were two theories behind the disqualification.

  • It was thought that breeding white German Shepherds could dilute the dark and pigmented look of the breed.
  • Having a white coat has been associated with blindness and deafness in dog breeds with double merle genes, such as Australian Shepherds and Collies.

In an attempt to save the line of white shepherds, some enthusiasts established dog clubs dedicated to the white shepherds. This caused the white German Shepherd to be called by different names, including White Swiss Shepherd and the American-Canadian White Shepherd.

After decades of being caught in a controversy, it was revealed that the white color is actually caused by a masking gene. This means that these white German Shepherds are not truly white. Their true color is masked and this makes their coats look white. A white German Shepherd may actually be black and tan, bicolor, sable or black but you will not see these color manifestations in their coats. The masking gene hides the dark pigments in the coats. However, it does not affect the pigment in the dog’s skin, nose, and eyes.

Many people assume that white German Shepherds are not real German Shepherds and that they did not come from the first German Shepherd, Horand von Grafath. But this could be false. Several reports say that Horand had a maternal grandfather who had white coat. This suggests that the white coat or the masking gene has always been in the breed’s gene pool.

Two German Shepherds, regardless of their color, can produce white German Shepherds if they carry this white or masking gene.


Which One Should You Choose?

Max von Stephanitz, who developed the breed, once said, “No good dog can be a bad color.” The founder and creator of the German Shepherd breed preferred function over looks. And many German Shepherd enthusiasts would agree. A dog with a good temperament and ability to perform his job is a good dog regardless of his color.

German Shepherds make wonderful pets, companions, and working dogs. But if you are a first-time owner, we suggest choosing a German Shepherd puppy that matches with your desired temperament and personality. The appearance and looks should only be a minor factor when choosing a German Shepherd pet.

However, if you still favor a particular German Shepherd color, consider visiting the pup first to observe his personality and temperament. This way you can foresee if the pup you wish to pick fits your home and lifestyle.

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