Colors/Markings/Other Traits

Colors, Markings & Other Physical Traits

The most common color patterns within the English Shepherd breed are:

  • Sable & White
  • Black & Tan (also known as tanpoint)
  • Tri-color
  • Black & White
  • Clear Sable & White (also referred to as Tan and White)

While these patterns are the predominant ones listed within the ESC Breed Standard, there are other variations that are recognized as being a part of the English Shepherd heritage and as such, will occur within the breed. It is our hope that the photos shown below and on the linked pages, will help the English Shepherd owner and breeder better identify coat color patterns in their adult dogs and puppies. If you would like to submit a photo of your English Shepherd to appear on these color pages, click here. Submissions are always welcome.

Common Color Patterns

Sable and White

Submitted by Rebecca Wingler

The sable coloring can range anywhere from a pale honey-gold color through a deep mahogany red. These coats do have black tipped hairs. The black can range from light sprinkling to a heavier shading of black within the coat. The sable gene is dominant to the tanpoint gene. As a result, a sable English Shepherd may carry two sable genes (ayay) or one sable and one tanpoint gene (ayat).

Most sable English Shepherds have some white on them, even if it is only a small amount. The amount of white can range from minor white markings (usually on the chest and feet) to the Irish White markings (chest, feet and/or legs, tail tip, muzzle, with or without a collar and face blaze). White markings are due to the White Spotting genes.

It is possible to have a sable English Shepherd with no white at all – solid sable. Some people mistakenly refer to these dogs as black and tan since the coat color is sable, with black tipped hairs. These dogs are not black and tan, but are sable dogs with no white markings.

There is another type of sable coloring referred to as “Seal” where the dog tends to look black and white. This color will be addressed under the Variations section. Dogs that are “Clear Sable” and “Saddleback Sables” are not actually sable dogs at all. The clear sable coloring is addressed further down in this section, while saddleback sables are addressed under the Variations section.    Page 2

Black and Tan (Tanpoint)

Submitted by Laura Rogers

Submitted by Laura Rogers

The tan coloring can range from a pale honey-gold color through a deep mahogany red. The black hairs are usually solid black in color. The tanpoint gene is recessive, which means all black and tan English Shepherds carry two tanpoint genes (atat). Variations within this coat color include the Open Face B&T/Tri-color, the Saddleback Sable and the Red and Tan.      Page 2

Tri-color

Submitted by Marcy Oerly

Submitted by Marcy Oerly

The tan coloring can range from a pale honey-gold color through a deep mahogany red. The black hairs are usually solid black in color. The tanpoint gene is recessive, which means all tri-color English Shepherds carry two tanpoint genes (atat). Variations within this coat color include the Open Face Tri-color, the Saddleback Sable and the Red Tri-color.

The amount of white carried on a tri-color English Shepherd can range from minor white markings (usually on the chest and feet) to the Irish White markings (chest, feet and/or legs, tail tip, muzzle, with or without a collar and face blaze). White markings are due to the White Spotting gene.        Page 2

Black and White

Submitted by Kathy Lofthouse

Submitted by Kathy Lofthouse

The black hairs are usually solid black in color and are caused by the Dominant Black gene (K). Only one copy of the gene is required. The black coloring actually masks either the sable or the tanpoint coat. Variations within this coat color include the Seal and Ghost Tri-colors.

Most black English Shepherds have some white on them, even if it is only a small amount. The amount of white can range from minor white markings (usually on the chest and feet) to the Irish White markings (chest, feet and/or legs, tail tip, muzzle, with or without a collar and face blaze). White markings are due to the White Spotting genes. It is possible to have a black English Shepherd with no white at all – solid black.   Page 2 

Clear Sable and White

Submitted by Cheryl Johnson

Submitted by Cheryl Johnson

The clear sable coloring can range anywhere from a pale honey-gold color through a deep mahogany red. These coats do not have any black in them. The clear sable coloring is a recessive gene (e) and both parents must carry this gene in order for it to be expressed on the puppy.

The amount of white carried on a sable English Shepherd can range from minor white markings (usually on the chest and feet) to the Irish White markings (chest, feet and/or legs, tail tip, muzzle, with or without a collar and face blaze). The white markings are due to the White Spotting gene. It is possible to have a clear sable English Shepherd with no white at all – solid clear sable.     Page 2

Variations

Black and White Variations

Ghost Tricolor Revealed 04/06/08

Submitted by Jean Rawlings – Open Face Ghost Tri-color

 

Ghost Tri-color – Underneath it all, these dogs are genetically tri-colors/tanpoint. There is some variance in the black pigment so it is not completely covering the base coat color. This allows for markings to shine through especially on the face or legs. It may become more pronounced as the dog ages.

 

 

 

Submitted by Rebecca Wingler

Submitted by Rebecca Wingler


Seal – These dogs are genetically sable. There is some variance in the black pigment so it is not completely covering the base coat color. This allows for the sable coat color to shine through over the body of the dog. The seal coloring can range from a dog that appears black with some red highlights (not a summer black – black coat that fades to red due to sun bleaching) to a brownish looking coat. The undercoat may be gray or sable in color. Seals are black pointed. Wherever the color goes to a point on the dog, then the color should be going black. In other words, the black pigment will be more obvious there. This would include tail tip, feet, tips of the ears, muzzle near the nose, and areas closest to the belly. White markings may cover these telltale signs. Seal dogs should have black nose leather, but there are some seal English Shepherds with dark brown noses instead.       Page 2

Black and Tan Variations

Liberty

Submitted by Rebecca Wingler

 

 


Open Face Black & Tans/Tri-colors – As adults, these dogs have a sable face with little to no black hairs on their face. There is usually a widow’s peak marked with black hairs at the top of their faces.  Page 2

 

 

S. Curtis Indi again

Submitted by Savannah Curtis

 

 


Saddleback Sables – As adults, the black hairs are confined to a “saddle” on the back of the dog.   Page 2

 

 

 

Submitted by Cheryl Johnson

Submitted by Cheryl Johnson

Red Tri-color/Red and Tan – These dogs not only have the tanpoint gene, but also inherit the recessive Brown gene (b) from both parents. The addition of the recessive brown changes what should have been black to a brown coloring instead. The tan on these dogs has a little different hue to it than the normal tan coloring. All areas of the dog that would have normally been black are brown, including foot pads, noses and eye rims. Puppies are born with this coloring.       Page 2

Dilutes – Blue

S. Curtis Blue pups

Submitted by Savannah Curtis

Dilute gene (d) is recessive, so the dog has to inherit the gene from both parents. The gene can affect the Dominant black, tanpoint and/or the sable genes by giving the dogs a bluish or gray cast to their coats. With the black coats, the blue color is present at birth and continues to be noticeable even as an adult. With sables, the blue color is present at birth, but tends to fade somewhat as the dog gets older. Nose color will gray or bluish.     Page 2

White Spotting Gene

All of the variations below are recessive genes.

Rose Marie Belforti 2014 Danny Boy2

Submitted by Rose Marie Belforti


Irish White (si) – This is typically associated with a white chest, muzzle, feet or socks and a white tail tip. This may or may not include a full collar or a face blaze.  Page 2

 

 

 

ike_2012_7-1_4

Submitted by Carol & Rhyan Ross

 

 

 

 

Piebald (sp) – These dogs will have not only the Irish White markings, but white that extends up into and/or over the body of the dog.      Page 2

 

 

 

 

Rascal

Submitted by Rebecca Wingler

 

 

Extreme White (sw) – These dogs will be mostly white with a little bit of color markings here and there.  Page 2

 

 

 

Other Markings

Karlie Templin Scout

Submitted by Karlie Templin


Brindle (kbr) – While being a dominant gene, it can only be expressed on dogs that have tan in their coat. It can show up within the tan markings on a black and tan or tri-color dog or over the whole body of a sable dog. It is described as black stripes. This gene carried by some of dogs within the Guy Wilson lines, but not all of them.  Page 2

 

 

Terri Stahl Hudson 2013

Submitted by Terri Stahl

 


Ticking (T) – While it is a dominant gene, it is only expressed on dogs with white markings. These “freckles” or spots show up mainly on the legs and muzzles of the dogs. On an excessive white English Shepherd, it can appear over the entire body. Page 2

 

 

Janet Shlanta 2013 Iris

Submitted by Janet Shlanta

 

 


Split Face/White Head – This is thought to be a separate gene from the White Spotting gene, which can also affect the width and length of the blaze.        Page 2

 

 

 

 

Barbara Brown 2013 Tiger Lily

Submitted by Barbara Brown

 

 

Black Mask (Em) – While it is a dominant gene, it is only expressed on dogs with tan/sable on their faces. It can be seen on sable or black and tan English Shepherds. If the dog also has a white muzzle, there may only be a thin black line of the mask showing.

 

 

 

 

 

Other Physical Traits

Caroline Betts 2014 Pie

Submitted by Caroline Betts

 

 

Blue eye – Historically, the watch eye has been a part of the breed. This is when the dog has one blue eye and one brown eye. While this seems to be a common occurrence in dogs with a split face or white head, it can occur in dogs without this extra white on their heads. There have been reported cases of two blue eyes in the breed as well.

 

 

 

Caroline Betts 2014 Buddy

Submitted by Caroline Betts


Natural Bobtail – As the name states, this is a dog that is born with a natural bobtail. It is an accepted trait within the Breed Standard and can range anywhere from no tail (maybe one digit in the tail) to half a tail in length. A natural bobtail is caused by a dominant gene, and it is thought that most natural bobtailed English Shepherds carry only one copy of the gene.

Page 2

 

Rear Dewclaws – While front dewclaws are functional and firmly attached, the extra rear dewclaws may not be. These tend to occur in black and tan lines or where black and tan lines have been folded into a breeding program. Not only can there be rear dewclaws, but double rear dewclaws are possible as well. These can be removed from the puppies up through the third day of life. After that it is considered surgery.