Picking a color for your Great Dane can be one of the first big decisions! While Great Danes come in a variety of colors and patterns, only seven breed colors are officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC).
If you are interested in entering your Dane into dog shows then this should be taken into consideration as entrants are limited to the officially recognized breed colors. However, if dog shows are not of importance to you, the color should not be considered the primary factor in the selection of a new Great Dane to join your family.
Considerations When Selecting A Color
One consideration for color selection is that of white Danes. Many white Danes experience genetic issues such as deafness, blindness, and other eye-related issues. While these handicaps do not affect all white Danes, you should well understand the implications before adopting one. This is not to say that these Danes cannot still live a happy life, just that they make require special care or training compared to an unaffected Dane.
The Great Dane Club of America has gone as far as to ban the breeding of this color to help prevent the creation of Dane puppies predisposed to these handicaps.
Aside from the previously mentioned common genetic issues found in white Danes, color is not a leading indicator of quality. While you may have a personal preference for the look of one color over another, the overall quality, health, and temperament of the dog is far more important to consider than its color alone.
If you are adopting a Great Dane from a rescue shelter or other similar situation, then it is unlikely you will have much choice when it comes to color. This is once again not typically a cause for concern aside from the previously mentioned genetic issues common to white Danes.
More emphasis should be placed on finding a good temperamental fit, and a thorough understanding of any pre-existing health conditions as the costs of veterinary care can quickly escalate.
The Official Great Dane Colors
The seven officially recognized colors are Black, Blue, Fawn, Brindle, Harlequin, Mantle, and Merle. The color preference for breeding is commonly approached through color families, where it’s considered more acceptable to cross colors within the family than to bridge across families. The families are grouped in pairs as Black and Blue, Fawn and Brindle, ad Harlequin and Mantle.
Note: The following breed color descriptions are listed as described by the AKC Standard.
The color shall be yellow gold with a black mask. Black should appear on the eye rims and eyebrows and may appear on the ears and tail tip. The deep yellow gold must always be given the preference. White markings at the chest and toes, black-fronted dirty colored fawns are not desirable.
Fawn is one of the most widely recognized Great Dane colors, partially thanks to popular television and movie characters such as Scooby Doo and Marmaduke. Fawn coats can also be found in Bloodhounds, Bullmastiffs, Chihuahuas, and Cocker Spaniels.
The base color shall be yellow gold and always brindled with strong black cross stripes in a chevron pattern. A black mask is preferred. Black should appear on the eye rims and eyebrows and may appear on the ears and tail tip. The more intensive the base color and the more distinct and even the brindling, the more preferred will be the color. Too much or too little brindling are equally undesirable. White markings on the chest and toes, black-fronted, dirty colored brindles are not desirable.
Brindle coats can also be found in the Mastiff, Boxer, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Boston Terrier, and French Bulldog.
The color shall be a pure steel blue. White markings on the chest and toes are not desirable.
Blue Danes are very popular due to their striking appearance. Italian Greyhounds, American Pit Bulls, Poodles, Shar-pei, Irish Wolfhounds are examples of other breeds where blue coats can be found. Those unfamiliar with Great Danes will often mistake a blue Dane for a Weimaraner due to the similar appearance of their coats.
The color shall be a glossy black. White markings on the chest and toes are not desirable.
A healthy black coat will shimmer brilliantly in the direct sunlight. As a result, this is particularly useful for show dogs as it helps to accentuate the Dane’s impressive musculature. Solid black coats can also be seen in other breeds such as the Newfoundland, Pumi, Standard Schnauzer, German Shepherd, Chow Chow, and Labrador Retriever.
Base color shall be pure white with black torn patches irregularly and well distributed over the entire body; a pure white neck is preferred. Merle patches are normal. No patch should be so large that it appears to be a blanket. Eligible, but less desirable, are black hairs showing through the white base coat which give a salt and pepper or dirty appearance.
The breeding of Harlequin’s presents unique health challenges not found with the other breed colors. As a result, the preferred breeding approach is to produce litters from the pairing of a Harlequin to Mantle, rather than a Harlequin to Harlequin. More details on the Harlequin color coat genetics can be found here.
Interestingly enough, Harlequin Danes are also frequently mistaken for Dalmatians due to the similarity of their large spots!
The color shall 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 preferred; a white chest; white on part or whole of forelegs and hind legs; white tipped black tail. A small white marking in the black blanket is acceptable, as is a break in the white collar.
Mantle Danes were referred to as “Boston” until the late 1990s due to their similar markings to that of the Boston Terrier. This is still true in some countries outside of the United States.
Merle was recently added to the color standard in May 2018! The Merle coat is similar to the Harlequin coat. It is spotted, with the only difference being in the basic coat color of gray rather than white. White and black spotting is also common. The shade of the gray color varies, as can the number of spots. The pattern of the coat can also be variable, with mixtures of Harlequin or the Mantle.
As hinted at above, there are many variations of the merle coat. Common examples are merle harlequin (or merlequin), fawn merle, blue merle, and brindle merle.
The “Unofficial” Great Dane Colors
In addition to the seven officially recognized Great Dane coat colors, there are several unofficial colors. This is not a 100% comprehensive list as there are many other colors and combinations of colors that can be found in Great Danes. Some of the most common ones with their descriptions can be found below.
As mentioned in the introduction, Danes of these colors can still make fantastic, loving additions to your family. The only restriction per say is the inability to compete in dog shows as they do not fall into the official breed standard.
As the name suggests, the Fawnequin is a fawn-colored Harlequin. The basic coat color is white, with torn fawn patches covering it. There can be variations in the color and spots. Patterns may also include Brindle and Merle.
This is the least common of the Great Dane colors, and as previously mentioned also the most susceptible to genetic defects. White Danes are common in Merle to Merle mating and are almost completely white. However, some markings may appear on the coat.
As you can see there are indeed a wide variety of colors and patterns that can be found in Great Danes. While you may start out having a preference for one color, the sweet hearts of these wonderful creatures will be sure to win you over with time, regardless of their coats color or pattern. I hope that you found this article informative, and please feel free to leave comments below with any outstanding questions that you may have!
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