How many dog colors are there?

Dogs come in a wide variety of colors. While there are too many potential color combinations to count, there are some main color categories that dogs fall into. In this article, we’ll explore the main dog coat colors and patterns, look at some statistics on the most common colors, and discuss how genetics determine a dog’s coat appearance.

The Main Dog Coat Colors

While the possibilities may seem endless, most dog coats can be grouped into the following main color categories:

  • Black
  • White
  • Brown
  • Red
  • Yellow/Tan
  • Gray
  • Cream

However, it’s important to note that most dogs are not just a single solid color. Let’s explore some of the main color patterns that create diverse doggy palettes:

Solid Coat Colors

Some dogs have a solid or self coat color that is the same across their entire body. This includes:

  • Solid black
  • Solid white
  • Solid brown
  • Solid red
  • Solid yellow/tan
  • Solid gray

While not as common, some breeds can also have truly solid coats in other colors like silver, blue, liver, chocolate, or cream.

Bi-Color Coat Patterns

Many dogs have coats that feature two main colors. These bi-color patterns include:

  • Black and Tan: Primarily black coat with tan points on the eyebrows, muzzle, chest, legs, and feet
  • Black and White: Large patches of black and white
  • Red and White: Large patches of red/orange and white
  • Brown and White: Large patches of brown and white
  • Blue and White: Large patches of gray/blue and white

Tricolor Coat Patterns

Tricolor coats feature three main color regions. The most common tricolor patterns are:

  • Black, Tan, and White: Combination of black, tan, and white patches
  • Liver, Tan, and White: Combination of brown, tan, and white patches
  • Black, Brown, and White: Combination of black, brown, and white patches

Merle Coat Patterns

Merle refers to a marbled coat pattern where the dog has patches of color mixed with gray. For example:

  • Red Merle: Red/orange color mixed with gray
  • Blue Merle: Black color mixed with gray, creating a bluish tone
  • Liver Merle: Brown color mixed with gray

Merle coats can also occur alongside white patches or tan points.

Brindle Coat Patterns

Brindle refers to black stripes over a lighter background color. Common brindle patterns include:

  • Black Brindle: Thin black stripes over a fawn or brownish background
  • Red Brindle: Dark red stripes over a lighter red background
  • Blue Brindle: Gray stripes over a gray or tan background

Sable Coat Patterns

Sable coats feature banded hairs that create an overall agouti pattern. The most common is a lighter brownish base with black tips to the fur. Other sable variations can include:

  • Gray Sable: Banding with black tips over silver/gray fur
  • Red Sable: Banding with black tips over red/orange fur

In addition to these main coat colors and patterns, there are a few other variations that are less common but can create unique looks:

  • Parti: Large irregular spots of color such as parti-colors of black and white
  • Tuxedo: Specific variation of bi-color with black back and white chest/feet as if wearing a tuxedo
  • Piebald: Large white spotting pattern
  • Roan: Mixing of white hairs with a main coat color such as blue roan or lemon roan

Most Common Dog Coat Colors

While the possibilities seem endless, some main coat colors and patterns tend to be more popular and prevalent among dogs. According to surveys of dog owners and breed popularity statistics, the most common dog coat colors include:

Coat Color/Pattern Prevalence
Black 22%
Brown 18%
Black and Tan 10%
Tricolor (Black, Tan, and White) 10%
Gold/Yellow/Tan 9%
White 9%
Bi-color (Black and White) 7%
Gray 5%
Red 4%
Cream 3%

As shown, black coats are the most common, representing about 22% of dogs. Brown and black and tan follow close behind at 18% and 10%. White coats make up 9% of dogs, while other popular colors include gold/yellow/tan, bi-color black and white, gray, red, and cream.

Genetics of Coat Color

The wide variety in canine coat colors is made possible by the complex genetics that underlie pigmentation. While the specifics can get complicated, we can summarize some of the main genetic factors that influence a dog’s coloration:

The E Gene

The E gene helps determine whether a dog can produce black pigment. There are variants of the E gene that either allow for black pigment production (dominant E) or block it (recessive e). Dogs with recessive ee will not have any black in their coat.

The A Gene

The A gene controls how much black pigment is produced in areas of the dog that are not solid black. Dominant AA allows for maximal production of black pigment. Recessive aa limits black pigment, creating a fawn or tan appearance.

The B Gene

The B gene dilutes any black pigment present, turning it into shades of gray or blue. Dogs with recessive bb will have grayscale coats instead of black.

The K Gene

The K gene is involved in regulating how much dark pigment appears across the dog’s body. Dominant K genes promote solid eumelanin (black) pigment. Recessive ky genes result in a reduction of eumelanin, revealing more of the phaeomelanin (red/yellow/tan) pigment underneath.

The S Gene

The S gene controls white spotting patterns. Dogs with higher amounts of dominant S alleles will have more extensive white markings.

Other Genes

Other genes help control specific coat characteristics like the agouti banding in sable coats (agouti or A gene) or the merle patterning (M gene). Interactions between all these genes influence the final coat color and pattern that develops.

The Answer: Too Many to Count!

When considering all the possible combinations of genetic factors and coat patterns, the number of potential dog coat colors is seemingly infinite. While there are some limitations in the basic color palette dogs can produce, the variations within that palette are remarkably diverse. Each dog’s unique genome along with random chance during development determines their final hue. So in summary, while we can categorize most coats into a reasonable number of types, the specific possibilities are far too many to accurately count!


Dog coats come in a spectacular range of colors. While there are a few main color categories like black, brown, white, and gray, the possible patterns within those colors seem endless. Common variations include solid colors, bi-colors, tricolors, merles, brindles, sables, and more. Genetics play a complex role in determining coat color, with various genes interacting to control the production and distribution of pigments. Black coats are most prevalent, but light and multi-colored coats remain popular. When considering the diversity seen across 400 breeds of dogs, the number of potential coat colors is far too high to practically quantify. But this extensive variation allows dogs to display their uniqueness through beautiful and vibrant palettes of fur.

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