|By Becky Turner||Visit The Sheltie Forums|
The Sheltie colors are generally defined in three ways: Sable, Black, and Blue Merle. Within these groups, the coats show varying amounts of tan, black, gray and white. However there are many ways these colors and patterns show up in Shelties, and this article aims to highlight them all. We'll also look briefly at the genetics of White Factoring, Color Headed Whites and Double Merles.
Howard is our golden Sable Sheltie
The Sable Sheltie colors range from light gold to dark mahogany. The tan coloring is overlaid with some black.
They also feature patches of white - typically around the neck, chest, and little "socks" on each of the legs. Sometimes these cover just the tips of the toes (or nothing at all) while other times the white socks go all the way up the legs.
The Sable Sheltie is the most common coat color because it is the most dominant gene - the other two being Tri-color and recessive Black.
Sable Sheltie puppies are often born dark then lighten up considerably with the soft puppy coat. The color then darkens again as the dog matures.
A Black (Tri-Color) Sheltie
The next main category of Sheltie colors is the Black coat, comprising of solid black hairs which make up the dominant coat color.
Black Shelties come in two varieties:
The Blue Merle Sheltie
The Blue Merle coat color is created by one Black gene and one Merle gene. It creates a color pattern in which the black hairs are diluted into various shades of gray/blue.
Blue Merles come in two kinds:
Like the other Sheltie colors, the overall pattern is still Irish with predominantly white chests and legs.
The eyes can be blue or merled. This coat pattern can also appear in Sables to produce Sable Merles, which the standard says they should not have merled eyes.
If two Blue Merles are bred together, there is a 25% chance of producing a Double Merle. These offspring have defective hearing and/or vision, so responsible breeders do not match two Merles together.
The Color Headed White or CHW Sheltie -
"Sonia" of L-N-D Shelties
The Color Headed White (CHW) Sheltie is mostly white with a head color like any coat described above.
Unlike Double Merles, CHWs have no hearing or vision defects. They formed part of the breed standard until 1952. Nowadays if a Sheltie coat has more than 50% white markings, they are effectively disqualified from conformation.
However some breeders continue to produce Color Headed Whites with the hope that they will one day be reintroduced to the standard. This coat color is created by breeding two White Factored dogs together.
White Factored Shelties have a good amount of white on their collar, chest and legs. More often than not, they have a strong white stifle running up the back leg which connects with the white on the belly. Aside from this, they have all the usual coat colors and markings of Sables, Blacks and Blue Merles. If you breed two White Factored dogs, the chances of getting Color Headed White puppies are 1 in 4.
Becky Turner is the creator of Sheltie Planet. She lives in New Zealand with her partner, Peter, and their son, Fox. Becky is 100% owned by Howard and Piper Woofington Moon, the Shelties who inspired this site. Visit them on Facebook or The Sheltie Planet Forums.