What Determines a Dog’s Coat Color?


After collecting DNA samples from hundreds of dogs, a team of researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine, has identified the gene responsible for the color of a dog’s coat.

The gene concerned makes a protein that is part of a large family called defensins – thought to be responsible for fighting infections, as well as being connected with how we (mammals) deal with stress and regulate our weight.

One version of the gene produces yellow dogs and a mutant version of the gene produces black dogs. All dog coat colors are modifications of yellow and black.

I’ve always thought that a Dalmatian was black and white but, based on its genetics, it’s actually a black dog.

Equally confusing are Irish Setters, also known as Red Setters – genetically they are yellow dogs.

So no matter what fancy name a breeder gives your dog’s coat color – for example Belton, Brindle, Dilution, Harlequin, Merle or Roan – your dog is genetically either a black dog or a yellow dog.

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