Posts Tagged ‘retriever color genetics’


Remember how I said that it can be hard to tell a brown-skinned red to yellow dogs from some shades of liver?

Well the Chesapeake Bay retriever is a breed that comes in only brown-skinned colors. All Chessies are brown-skinned red to yellows or livers.

The dog pictured above is most likely a brown-skinned red dog. You would get this same color in a brown-skinned golden or most tollers. In Chesapeake parlance, it is a “sedge.”

Now, the dog above was relatively easy to assess. What about this one?


This dog is probably a very dark red Chesapeake, but it approaching something like what we seen in “chestnut livers.”

The dog below is a chestnut liver.


Chespeakes also come in “deadgrass,” which is something like what we call light gold in golden retrievers.


Chesapeake Bay retrievers come in colors that were associated with the Tweed water dog or Tweed water spaniel. In fact, my reading of the descriptions of the Tweed water spaniel suggest that they looked a lot like slightly smaller chessies.

These light yellow puppies could be born to liver dogs, so they were called “light livers.”

In Chesapeake Bay retrievers, black skin pigment does not exist. That means there really is no consequence of misindentifying a chestnut liver or a very dark red.

When the golden was split off from the flat-coat, it was decided very quickly that goldens would have black skin. Brown-skinned goldens are extremely rare. This trait in the Tweed water dog was bred out of them. It still pops up every once in a while, but it is rare compared to the black-skinned red to yellow.

Why did goldens have to have black skin?

Most sources say that the brow-skinned dogs had rather hard expressions.

However, I think there is another good reason.

If you breed a black skinned red to yellow to a liver, you can produce black puppies.

If you’ve accidentally moved a chestnut liver into the golden registry, which did happen, and breed it to a mahogany or dark red golden, chances were pretty good that the puppies would be black. If you breed a brown-skinned red to yellow to a black-skinned red to yellow, you will most likely get a litter that is a heterozygous black-skinned red to yellow in color. However, if that so-called brown-skinned red to yellow is actually a reddish liver,  the puppies will probably be black in color.

Because it is sometimes hard to tell a red to yellow with brown skin from a liver, you simply make brown skin an undesireable trait. Then you don’t have the confusion.

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The silver coloration never existed in Labrador until it was crossed with the Weimaraner.

The silver coloration never existed in Labrador until it was crossed with the Weimaraner.

 The silver coloration in Weimaraners is a diluted liver color. It’s not that different from a solid liver German short-haired pointer.

Solid liver shorthair. Actually quite common in Germany.

Solid liver shorthair. Actually quite common in Germany.

As we know, liver and chocolate dogs are dogs with the recessive brown skin and coat pigment genotype b/b.  This is the same color that appears in the “red” Dobermann (just it has tan markings, which are recessice to solid liver). Dobermanns also have a dilution gene for their colors. It is also recessive. If a black Dobermann gets two copies of this gene, you get a blue Dobermann. If a “red” one gets this genotype, the puppies turn out fawn or “Isabella.”

Weimaraners have the black color in their genotype but no dominant gene for non-dilution. As a result, there are faulty blue weimaraners. In Germany, all the native pointers (the broken hair, the wire-hair, and the longhair) can come in black or black and white. It makes sese that blue weims would exist, because the black gene could come through these dogs. And it’s obvious that the short-haired weimaraner has some relationship to the German short-hair and the long-haired weimaraner has some relationship to the German long-hair. (The black and white German long-hairs are the foundation of the Large Münsterländer).

The two diluted colors that appear in the Labrador are exactly like the Weimaraner’s dilutions. Silver Labs are clearly the same color as the Weimaraner and the Isabella Dobermann. It’s a diluted liver. Charcoal lab is a diluted black, and it’s not that different from a blue Dobermann or a blue Wiemaraner.

It is pretty obvious to me that the silver coloration is the result of crossbreeding, either intentional or unintentional. And it was most likely with the Weimaraner. It is another gun dog. It has retrieving instinct. It has bird sense. It’s also big. I’ve often noticed that Silver Labs are on the large and lanky side of Labradors, which is very much in keeping with their Weimaraner heritage. They also have hound ears, which did exist in the Labrador for a time and sometimes appears today. But this color with the houndy ears in the same dog is just too much of a coincidence.

Don’t gray Newfoundlands exist? Yes, but they aren’t this color. They have black skin and gray shading on their coats.  The reason why this question is asked is because if Newfs are gray, then this color may have always existed in the St. John’s water dog.  It does not.

Another breed that can be ruled out as the ancestor of that coat color is the often mentioned Norwegian elkhound (the gray one for those of you who know that there are two Norwegian elkhounds, a gray and a black). Norwegian Elkhounds are a type of sable. If you crossed this with a Lab, it’s very likely to produce black puppies that can produce gray sables if backcrossed. Gray sables, not silvers. It is possible that Elkhounds were crossed in clandestinely to increase the Lab’s coat and build bone, because the early hunting Lab had evolved more along flat-coat lines as it developed from the St. John’s water dog. It had been crossed with flat-coats  and pointers (maybe also foxhounds) to give it a more gracile frame for running. 

The silver Lab is very likely a result of Weimaraner and Labrador cross breeding. The silver color does not exist in any other retriever breeds, and it doesn’t exist in any of the other descendants of the St. John’s water dog. The Weimaraner has to be the source.

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