Friday, September 7, 2018

A coat of a different color...

We have talked about how genes determine the health of a collie, and now I want to talk about how they also determine a collie’s appearance.  Many breeds of dogs have a variety of coat colors and types.  Collies are known for their sweet expressions and beautiful coats.  Collies have two varieties of coats, the rough and smooth coats.  They have four recognized coat colors.  The colors recognized by the AKC are sable and white, tricolor, blue merle, and white.

Pure for sable smooth coated collie
The sable and white coat can actually come in a variety of shades, from a light, buff color to a dark mahogany.  The tricolor is predominantly black, with white and tan markings.  The blue merle is a rich mixture of grays, blacks and white, which give it a bluish appearance.  And lastly, there is the  white collie, who isn’t actually a solid white color as the name implies.  The white collie will have a predominantly white coat with either sable, tri or blue merle markings.  The white color is not recognized in the European standard.

Rough, mahogany sable - this would be a tri factored sable collie.

Sable headed white, photo courtesy of Darlene Kerr

In Europe you will never see a rough and a smooth bred together, as they are viewed as separate breeds.  In the U.S. rough and smooth collies are allowed to be bred together, but are judged separately at dog shows.  In the U.S. the rough and smooth collies are considered to be two varieties of the same breed.  Because we are allowed to breed these two varieties together, we have more dogs to choose from, and thus we have more genetic diversity.

Rough and smooth collies

A collie’s coat is determined by his or her genes.    Because the gene for the rough coat is recessive , if you breed two roughs together the breeding will only produce roughs.  If you breed a rough and a smooth together, you can have both rough and smooth puppies in the litter.  The smooth puppies from such a breeding would be considered rough-factored.  If you bred two rough-factored smooth collies together, you could end up with both rough and smooth puppies in litter, because smooths can carry the recessive rough gene.  If you bred two pure-for-smooth collies together, you would end up with only smooth collies in the litter.

Tricolor smooth collie, photo by Jerrica Coady-Farrell

Coat color is also dependent on dominant and recessive genes.  If you breed a tricolor with another tricolor, you will only have tricolor puppies in the litter.  If you breed a sable and a tricolor, you will produce both tricolor puppies and sable puppies that are trifactored.  Here is the color inheritance breakdown:
S - Sable
Dominant coat color, sable comes in a variety of colors, from straw to dark mahogany.

PS – pure sable
These collies carry no tricolor gene, and can only produce sable offspring.


tS – tri factored sable
sable collies carrying the tricolor gene along with the dominant sable gene.  Most trifactored sables have a very dark mask and a darker sable coat.

Tri = tricolor
Recessive to sable, tricolors have black coats with white and tan markings.
M – merle
A dominant dilution gene which combined with sable or tri genes, produces merled collies.

BM – blue merle
Bluish gray coat with black splotching and white markings.  Blue merles are the product of a dilution gene with the tricolor gene.

SM – sable merle
Sable and white collies with the merle gene, the sable merle comes in pure for sable and tri factored sable.

tSm – tri factored sable merle
These collies carry the tricolor gene alone with the sable and merle gene.  Tri factored sable merles are usually a darker sable color than PSM.

PSM – pure sable merle
A light sable merle, with no tricolor gene.



W – white
These collies have a predominantly white body, with a colored head.  They are the result of breeding two white parents or white factored parents.  The color white is a recessive gene, and depending on the other gene received, the white collie may have tri, sable or blue merle markings.

Wf – white factored
Colored dogs with a lot of white on their neck, tail tip and white extending upward from their hind feet.  When bred to another white factored or a white collie, they can produce white offspring.

WM – white merle
The white merle results from breeding two merled parents.  These collies inherit the dominant dilution gene from both parents.  They may be all white, or may have a few merle spots.  They may be missing eyes, blind and/or deaf.  They may also have severe impairment to their liver or kidneys.  If bred to a tricolor, these collies will only produce blue merle offspring.
 These are the offspring that may be produced by combining the the following sires and dams:
PS  +  PS  = PS
PS + tri = tS
PS  +  tS = PS and tS
tS + tri = tS and tri
tS  + tS = PS,  tS, tri
Tri + tri = tri
Tri + BM = tri, BM
BM  +  BM  = BM, tri, WM
BM  +  tS  = BM, tS, tSM, tri
BM + PS = tSM, tS
WM + tri  = BM
tSM  +  tri  = BM, tS, tSM, tri
tSM  +  tS  = BM, tSM, tri, tS, PSM, PS
tSm  +  PS  = tS, tSM, PSM, PS
PSM + tri = tS, tSM
White + white = white
Wf + Wf  = non-Wf, Wf, white
Wf BM  +  tri-headed white = blue-headed white, tri-headed white, Wf tri, Wf BM
White  +  non white = Wf

Rough blue merle, photo courtesy of Jennifer Laik


  1. We've seen the charts before. The one thing we remember about Sable Merles is that they can have blue eyes.

    Sherman & Dog Dad

  2. My favorite day in high school biology (many moons ago) was when we studied genetics and looked at all of the ways recessive genes could show up in things. Thanks for brining back those fun memories by illustrating it with collies :)

  3. This is so interesting. I don't think I've ever seen an all white collie and I usually don't see many smooth coated collies in our area, but they're all beautiful. And you're right, they do have the sweetest faces. :)

    1. TheTightwadHomesteaderNovember 16, 2019 at 12:17 AM

      I bought a 5 year sable headed white 2 months ago, her body and tail is pure white. She is pretty and sweet instantly my fav out of my collies. She came with a surprise..puppies no clue she was pregnant or previous owner. She had sables and tris all with broken patterns on the body. More white then color so I'm here trying to figure out if their white factored or actually white.

  4. Wow, so many combinations! They are all beautiful, but I've always loved a blue merle dog. I don't think I realized that merle came in other colors than blue though - very interesting!

  5. I only learned about the rough and smooth coats when I started reading your blog. Until then I had no idea that all collies weren't long haired, like the Lassie dog.

    I was SO surprised when I read all of the different combinations you can have. Wow, just wow!

  6. My Mom and I had a gorgeous rough Collie, Lady, when I was a teen. We adopted her from a farm around the corner. I never realized there were so many combinations! The sable is so pretty! They all are!

  7. Whoa...fascinating info! Who knew I'd be taking a genetics class on a Saturday afternoon? Thanks for sharing. (P.S. Saw your mention over at Heart Like a Dog Pet Blogger Showcase-nice to met ya).
    Your fur-iend,
    Sam 🐾

  8. bookmarked!!, I like your blog!

  9. Appreciate the recommendation. Let me try it out.

  10. Hello are using Wordpress for your blog platform? I'm new to the blog world but I'm trying to get started and set
    up my own. Do you require any coding knowledge to make your own blog?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  11. Thank you a lot for sharing this with all people you
    really realize what you're talking about! Bookmarked.
    Please additionally consult with my website =). We could have a link exchange arrangement between us

  12. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say
    that I have truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I'll be subscribing to your rss
    feed and I hope you write again soon!

  13. Just a smiling visitor here to share the love (:, btw great design.

  14. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Regards

  15. Good day! I could have sworn I've been to this site before but
    after going through a few of the articles I realized it's new to me.
    Anyhow, I'm definitely delighted I came across it and I'll be book-marking it and checking
    back regularly!

  16. Thanks for one's marvelous posting! I really enjoyed reading it, you're a
    great author. I will make certain to bookmark your blog and definitely
    will come back in the foreseeable future.
    I want to encourage continue your great writing, have a nice morning!

  17. Its like you read my mind! You appear to know a lot about this, like you wrote
    the book in it or something. I think that you can do with
    a few pics to drive the message home a little bit, but instead of that,
    this is fantastic blog. An excellent read. I'll certainly be back.

  18. Wow! This blog looks exactly like my old one!
    It's on a totally different subject but it
    has pretty much the same layout and design. Wonderful choice
    of colors!

  19. I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you make
    this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you?

    Plz respond as I'm looking to create my own blog and would like to know where u
    got this from. many thanks

  20. Thanks for the well researched information. I know a lot about Poodle genetics but little about other dogs.

  21. it is interesting to find out more about the dna and the genes and very important for breeders. I just try to read my way through the genetics of Weimaraners, because Neilson carries the longhair gene and I want to find out more about that ;O)

  22. I really like what you guys tend to be up too.

    Such clever work and exposure! Keep up the good works guys I've incorporated you guys to my personal blogroll.

  23. hello collies its dennis the vizsla dog hay yoo guys shoor do come in a luvly varietee of kotes and kolors!!! kind of us like vizslas we come in enny kolor yoo want as long as its red!!! ha ha ok bye

  24. I'm sure I've mentioned that I've always loved Collies, and here in my corner of Virginia, we just don't see very many. But I thought this was so interesting to read about them. I had no idea - And it makes sense that there is (of course) so much to think about and consider when breeding Collies, which is why it's best left to the experts and people like you who love and are devoted to the breed. Thanks for sharing, I really enjoyed this post!

    Hope all is well in your corner of the world!

  25. Hmm, we wonder if Dr. Strange Dog could come up with a new collie color. Maybe a plaid collie.

    Loved reading about the coat colors, but couldn't resist adding some humor.

    Dog Speed,

    Sherman and Gemini

  26. Thanks for sharing this info!
    Much love from our collies to yours!
    Northern Ontario Canadian Collies!