When it comes to dog coats, there are a wide variety of colors that can manifest. While black, brown, white, and yellow coats are the most common, some breeds exhibit more unusual colors like red. So do red coated dogs really exist? Let’s take a closer look.
The Genetics Behind Coat Color
The genetics behind dog coat color are complex, involving multiple genes. Two important ones are the B locus and E locus genes. The B locus controls the production of brown and black pigment. There are three variants of the B locus gene:
- B – Allows production of black pigment
- b – Allows production of brown pigment
- bs – Blocks production of black pigment
The E locus gene controls the production of red pigment. There are two variants:
- E – Normal extension of red pigment
- e – Recessive red that causes all black hairs to be replaced by red/yellow
Now, for a dog to have a red coat, it must have both the recessive e allele on the E locus and at least one copy of the bs allele on the B locus. The combination allows for the production of red pigment while suppressing black. It is also possible to get yellow/orange shades if the brown b allele is present along with e and bs.
Breeds With Red Coats
There are a number of dog breeds that can display red coats due to their genetics.
|Deep reddish chestnut
|Light red to dark red
|Yellow, fox red
|Light gold to dark red
|Red or reddish-brown
|Light wheaten to red wheaten
As you can see, while black and brown are the most common, red coats are certainly a possibility in dogs. The intensity of the red can vary within a breed from light orange-red to a deeper mahogany. It all comes down to the particular combination of E locus and B locus genes present.
Red Coat Controversies
Speaking of deep red shades, some controversy has surrounded darker coat colors in certain breeds. For example, there used to be ambiguity around whether “true” red Irish Setters could have deep mahogany coats. Many breeders believed such dark shades were undesirable and incompatible with breed standards. However, we now know that these darker reds are a normal part of the genotype. Breed standards have been updated to recognize them.
A similar controversy existed around red-coated Labrador Retrievers. While yellow and fox red shades were accepted, some argued that the very darkest reds were not pure Labradors. But it is now understood that, genetically, rich red is within the range of colors that can occur in Labs and does not indicate impure breeding on its own.
Impact of Health and Diet
While genetics determine the base coat color, other factors can impact the shade. For example, health issues like hormone imbalances can alter pigment production. Diet can also be a factor. High quality foods with nutrients that support coat health tend to enhance natural color.
Exposure to sunlight may fade reds over time into more yellow or orange hues. So darker red dogs who spend a lot of time inside can retain their rich color. Grooming techniques like using subtle color-enhancing shampoos and conditioners can also help keep a vibrant red coat.
Red Color Is Here to Stay
For red dog lovers, the good news is that red coats are not going anywhere. While still less common than other colors, red strains exist in enough breeds that breeders can readily produce red-coated pups. And they have the genetics knowledge to breed lovely rich reds free of the controversies of the past.
So if you dream of having a red furry friend, there are definitely options out there! From Irish Setters to Golden Retrievers and beyond, red dogs can make cherished companions and lifelong memories.
While not the most common canine color, red coats are a distinct possibility in dogs thanks to genetics. Certain breeds like Irish Setters and Redbone Coonhounds are known for their red hues, which can range from light wheaten to deep mahogany. Controversies once surrounded the darkest shades, but we now know genetically red comes in many shades. With supportive diet, grooming, and quality breeding practices, red should continue to delight dog enthusiasts well into the future.