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What exactly does it mean when a breeder tells you that you’re looking at a brindle dog?
Others might say that they have a “tiger coat,” but when you look at the dog they certainly don’t look much like the ferocious feline.
In this article, we will take you through everything you need to know about the brindle coat, what it actually means and looks like, and why it occurs in some dog breeds.
We’ll also share our list of the best dog breeds to consider adopting if you are looking for a gorgeous brindle-colored pup to join your family.
What Is A Brindle Coat?
What exactly do experts mean when they describe a dog as brindle? A brindle dog looks like it has black stripes on a red coat. This sounds a lot like a tiger, which is why the color is also sometimes called that, but brindle dogs don’t look much like tigers.
The term brindle actually comes from an old Scandinavian word imported to England by the Vikings. It then appeared in scene one of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, where he described a “brinded cat.”
The genetic basis of the color is that the dog has a pheomelanin base color, which expresses a red or yellow pigment. They will then have stripes that are eumelanin, so black or brown, but how exactly the two come together on a dog’s coat is highly variable.
The base color can be affected by the intensity locus, while the stripe layer can manifest with alternative colors including merle, liver, greying, and recessive red. Brindle dogs also quite commonly have white markings and ticking on their coat.
Brindle patterns can often look very similar to tricolor coats, with the difference only being determined on fairly close inspection.
What Causes The Brindle Color?
Brindle is a genetic variation known as mosaicism in which some cells express one K allele, and others another.
There are three K locus alleles that affect a dog’s color: KB, which is dominant black, kbr, which is brindle, and ky, which is non-solid black, which allows an A locus to be expressed as well.
The KB allele is dominant, and the ky allele is the most recessive. The kbr allele sits between the two.
It will not manifest if it is partnered with a KB allele, which will overpower it, but the kbr allele will express itself if it is partnered with a ky allele. In general, then, you can expect a brindle dog if they have a kbr and ky allele or two kbr alleles.
Dogs with an expressing kbr allele will show whatever alleles it has on the A locus, but any and all pheomelanin in the coat will be brindled. The extent of brindling depends on the A locus.
If the A locus is ay (sable) the dog will be a solid brindle, perhaps with darker areas on its back and around its head.
If the A locus is at (tan points) the dog will be black with brindle points.
If the A locus is aW (wolf grey)the brindle will appear broken or patchy, though this combination is rare.
If the A locus is aa (recessive black), the dog will appear solid black but will still be able to produce brindle-colored pups.
It is very difficult to test for these genetic traits, and there are currently no commercially available tests to check for brindle.
Breeders control for or encourage this color trait based on their experience of breeding, but can’t guarantee what color a pup will manifest when they grow up.
Best Brindle Dog Breeds
If you are keen on adopting a dog with a brindle coat, consider some of the following breeds as among the best brindle dogs.
You do, very occasionally, see brindle Labrador retrievers. Read more about them here.
Boxers are an incredibly popular breed, and one of the best dogs to adopt if you are looking for a brindle pup.
They are a high-energy, family-friendly dogs, and are also very easy to groom. They can adapt to apartment living as long as they get enough exercise, and tend to be very easy to train.
- 21-25 inches tall
- 60-70 pounds
Boxers have a short, sleek coat that sits over an athletic body, and they will be either fawn or brindle in color. They will very often also have white markings.
Their coat requires minimal grooming as they tend to groom themselves, but be aware that they drool a lot!
Boxers are intelligent, alert, fearless, and friendly. They will be a loyal companion if you take the time to care for them properly.
These dogs are eager to please and highly trainable, but they should be thoroughly trained from a young age before their size makes controlling them more challenging.
Boxers do best as house dogs, but also need to be taken out to exercise at least twice a day for about 30 minutes each time.
They love their people, so they will struggle if they are left at home alone for extended periods of time on a regular basis. They can develop anxiety, which often manifests in destructive behavior.
Sadly, the flat noses of boxers do mean that they can be prone to an array of health conditions from respiratory problems to dental decay. Regular check-ups with your vet are a must if you are the pet parent of a boxer.
If you prefer a smaller dog, French bulldogs often have brindle coats. They are a popular breed because they are on the small side and have a goofy, fun-loving, and friendly nature.
Their size, friendliness, and trainability make them great dogs for first-time owners.
- 11-13 inches tall
- 19-28 pounds
These dogs have a short, smooth, shiny coat that tends to be fine. You will commonly see them in fawn, cream, and various expressions of brindle. They are moderate shedders, but it is relatively easy to keep this under control with regular brushing.
French bulldogs are great because they love to play but are equally happy relaxing on the sofa. This means that they adapt well to apartment living, but still bring a lot of positive and fun energy to the household.
While they can be quite stubborn, ultimately they want to please their people so they are trainable with appropriate positive reinforcement.
They were bred as companion dogs, so don’t expect to be able to leave them alone at home most of the day when you are at work as this can result in depression.
This is another dog with a flat face often accompanied by health problems. They can be prone to breathing issues, allergies, and also dental issues. They can struggle to regulate their body temperature in warmer climates.
Cardigan Welsh Corgi
These well-established dogs from the United Kingdom are commonly seen with brindle coats. These are affectionate little dogs that do well in apartments and can suit a busier owner but be aware that they tend to be barkers.
- 10.5-12.5 inches tall
- 25-38 pounds
These Corgis have a classic double coat with a short undercoat and a longer and thicker topcoat.
They can be red, sable, or brindle, and you also sometimes see them black with brindle points or blue merle with a tan or brindle mask. They usually have white markings on their legs, chest, neck, muzzle, belly, and tail tip.
Despite originally having been herding dogs, Cardigan Welsh corgis have adapted well to family living. They may still try to herd smaller children and pets, but with proper socialization, they will quickly become bright and alert members of the family.
Unlike many dog breeds, these dogs can be left alone at home for a while when everyone is out at work and school. Make sure to give them plenty of exercise and attention when you are together to maintain their health and happiness.
These are generally healthy dogs, but breeders should be controlling for orthopedic conditions such as intervertebral disk disease. They can also develop vision issues as they get older.
Greyhounds with brindle coats look very distinctive since their short hair can make the unique color pattern pop!
While they are known for their athletic ability, greyhounds are actually lazy housemates that will love just chilling out. They’ll be an affectionate addition to the family.
- 25-30 inches tall
- 60-80 pounds
Despite their name, greyhounds can be any color including fawn, black, grey, white, or brindle. They need daily brushing to manage their coats as they tend to be high-shedders.
Greyhound puppies are playful and happy, and there are also many adult greyhounds that need homes after their career on the track. They tend to be naturally laid back and easy to train, which makes them great pets for first-time owners and families.
They do have a high prey drive and love to run, so they need plenty of exercise, but if you let them off leash you may not be able to catch them if they go after a squirrel or rabbit. They run at about 45 miles per hour.
Greyhounds are generally healthy dogs, but they can develop hip dysplasia if they are over-exercised as a puppy. They may also be sensitive to anesthesia and other drugs and should be tested for this before any kind of operation.
These pups are considered among the oldest breeds and look a lot like the dogs painted on the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs.
You almost never saw these dogs with a brindle coat until the 1980s, when they were mixed with dogs from central Africa to help combat some health concerns. Now brindle Basenjis are very popular pups.
- 16-17 inches tall
- 20-25 pounds
These dogs have a short coat and tend to groom themselves in the manner of cats. They do shed, but their hair is very fine. They will be chestnut red, black, tricolor, or brindle with white feet, chest, and tail tip.
Basenji dogs are highly energetic and need lots of exercise. A minimum of 30 minutes of solid exercise a day is required. They tend to be escape artists, so be sure that your garden is fully secured if you intend to leave them alone in the backyard.
These are highly independent dogs that can be challenging to train. Their natural prey and survival instincts mean that they are more likely to follow their instincts than any instructions you might give them.
While they make great family pets, they need to be raised with children and other pets from childhood so that they learn appropriate behavior.
These are one of the few dog breeds that always come with a brindle coat. They were originally bred as an all-around working dog for farms, and today they make great police dogs and service animals.
They are one of the rarer shepherd breeds and make excellent family companions.
- 21-25 inches tall
- 50-70 pounds
While Dutch shepherds could have a short, long, or wire hair coat, it will always be brindle in color. It is part of the breed standard listed by the American Kennel Club.
They range from sandy gold to red chestnut in their base color. Too much black or white in the coat is seen as a fault.
Dutch shepherds love family living and will be very loyal to their loved ones. They make good guard dogs because they aren’t overly vocal, and will only raise the alarm for a genuine reason.
They can tolerate being left alone for relatively long periods of time without developing anxiety.
They are intelligent and easy to train with positive reinforcement, but they do need plenty of exercise. Hikes and walks are often preferable to running and jumping games.
Dutch Shepherds are probably the healthiest of the shepherd breeds. This is why their pups can sometimes be a bit more expensive, but you may save on veterinary bills in the long term.
Jack Russell Terrier
While the brindle gene is not as common in these little bundles of energy as some other dog breeds, if you come across one you’ll be very pleased.
These are intelligent and affectionate dogs that are easy to train and will make great companions for children and excellent guard dogs.
- 10-15 inches tall
- 13-17 pounds
These dogs have a double coat with a coarse texture that will be either smooth or broken. A broken coat is slightly longer with some extra hair around the eyebrows and beard.
They are usually white with black, tan, or tricolor markings, but they may also be white with brindle markings.
While Jack Russell terriers are highly trainable, they just have so much energy! This is both physical and mental energy so they need stimulation pretty much all the time.
If you aren’t entertaining them and wearing them out, they will likely do this themselves. You may not be best pleased with how they decide to do this.
Despite the fact that they love being outside, this is a family dog and should live inside with the family. If not, they can develop separation anxiety. In addition, they can’t always be trusted in the yard by themselves as they are excellent diggers and escape artists.
Jack Russell terriers are one of the healthier purebred dog breeds, but watch out for issues with their eyes and ears.
Are brindle dogs healthy?
Brindle is a natural coloring for many dog breeds and is also seen in other animals such as cats, rabbits, and horses. It is considered normal and healthy and not associated with any health conditions.
Is brindle rare in dogs?
The rareness of the brindle color depends on the dog breed. While brindle tends to be very rare for dogs such as Labradors and Jack Russell terriers, all Dutch shepherds are brindle.
One of the most distinctive dog coat colors that you will see is brindle, which looks a bit like a fine and undefined tiger stripe. Pet parents tend to either love or loathe this characteristic.
Unfortunately, it is incredibly difficult to test for a brindle coat, so you may not know whether your pup will be brindle until they grow into their skin.
Good breeders will be able to control for this characteristic relatively well without endangering the overall health of their pups. Speak with them if this is a characteristic that you are particularly interested in.
The brindle color does nothing to affect the overall personality or health of a pup. It is just one of the many distinctive traits that will make your dog unique.
Are you a fan of brindle dogs?
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