French Bulldog Coat Color Genetics – Brindle

Dexter is a brindle French Bulldog with a black mask


Brindle is, in the most simplistic terms, a pattern of stripes overlaying the coat of a dog.

In French Bulldogs, these stripes are generally black, and can vary in width from extremely thick, resulting in a dog who appears to be almost completely black ( a coat color which in French Bulldogs is referred to as “seal brindle”) to extremely thin, resulting in a dog who is almost completely fawn, with a few thin stripes of black overlaying their coat (in French Bulldogs, this is usually called “reverse brindle”).

The genetics of brindling are much more complex than early research had assumed them to be.  Almost fifty years later, C.C. Little’s early research into canine coat color genetics is just now beginning to be over turned, thanks to developments into DNA based coat color research. Little believed that brindling was a simple dominant/recessive allele carried along with the “E” locus for coat color. New DNA research indicates that the allele brindle is actually part of the “K” series.

So, here we have a simple break down of the genetics of brindle. Most of this is taken from the very excellent coat color genetics website maintained by Dr. Sheila M. Schmutz, of the University of Saskatchewan.

For a French Bulldog to be brindle, a few other genes have to come into play.

First of all, French Bulldogs have to have the “KB” allele, which allows for the formation of black pigment.

The K allele has the following modifiers —

KB, as noted above, allows for the formation of black.

K br is the exact modifier which allows for the formation of brindling patterns

However, we’re not done yet.

A dog can ONLY be brindle if they also have an E or Em allele. Dogs which have the E allele are not masked, dogs with the Em allele are masked (this can be hidden by the brindling pattern, and not visible to the eye, but is still genetically present). If the dog is e/e, they can NOT be brindle, and can not have a mask.

Dwight, a dark or 'seal' brindle French Bulldog

Dark or 'seal' brindle French Bulldog

So, a dog such as the one to our left, which looks, to the eye of a layperson, to be a simple “black” dog, is in actual fact a fawn dog (because of the e or E allele) with brindle patterning (because of the K br allele), with or without a black mask (Em).

As well, this dog might also be carrying the gene for large areas of white markings – better known to us as ‘pied’ (sp), or the gene for ‘Irish Spotting’ – better known to us as “Boston Marked” French Bulldogs (si).

Bullmarket Versace - Brindle Pied French Bulldog

Bullmarket Versace - Brindle Pied French Bulldog

A dog carrying both the Kbr allele and two copies of the spallele will be a brindle pied dog, as illustrated by the dog to the left.

Because I know the coat colors of both of this dog’s parents, and because I know that he has produced variously colored and/or patterned offspring, from breedings to variously colored/patterned bitches, I can speculate that Rebel was a non dominant brindle dog with the masking gene, and the genes for both pied and Irish Spotting –

Kbr/K EM/E si/ssp

All of this is what makes me personally find Brindle dogs to be the most fascinating and useful color for dog breeders. They have the potential for so much hidden genetics! Your run of the mill brindle dog (which so many novices pass over as ‘boring’) can also be carrying the masking gene, the pied gene or both the genes for white marking patterns.

Genetically, a brindle dog could be any of the following:

E/EM kbr/kbr Si/Si
– this is a brindle dominant dog (two brindle genes) with a black mask, who is also pied

E/EM kbr/kbr S/Si
– this is a brindle dominant dog (two brindle genes) with a black mask who carries the gene for pied (but is not pied themselves)

E/e k/kbr S/S
– this is a brindle dog carrying only one brindle gene, without a black mask, and not carrying the gene for pied or irish spotting

…. etc

Knowing, with a reasonable guess, the coat color genetics of both of the dog’s parents will help you to determine his hidden color genetics, but you won’t really ever know for sure what he is carrying until he has produced several litters, from several bitches of several colors.

Note that there are also possibilities for many of the alleles mentioned above – K can be Ky/Ky, which gives possible expression to the ‘Black and Tan’ phenotype, depending on the interactions with the agouti allele, dogs can be e/e, with no brindling or masking possible, etc… Some of these have been skipped as I plan to discuss them in other coat color postings.

Are French Bulldog Colors Making You Blue?

If things get slow on the French Bulldog mailing lists, there’s a sure fire way to perk things up – color! Any conversation about color is almost assured of devolving into a rousing bout of name calling and ‘so’s yer mother’, which certainly can pick things up on a dull day.

Blue French BulldogFor true excitement, however, we need to talk about the red headed step child of the French Bulldog world – Blue French Bulldogs. Few things can cause more heated exchanges of opinion than the topic of Blue (aka Mouse, aka Dilute, aka Devil Dogs).

Are they a DQ? ‘DQ’ is dog club speak for ‘disqualification’, in this case a disqualification based on color. The dog can still be registered with the AKC, and can still be bred from or bred to, but they cannot be shown. The issue varies with other National Clubs, but Blue or Mouse is not a recognized color by any national club that I’m aware of.

Should people be breeding them? If so, should they still be allowed to be club members?

Do you love them? Hate them? Love their coat colors, hate their yellowish eyes?

Is it time for the FBDCA to address the issue of Blue, once and for all?

Whatever your opinion on the subject, I’ve created a short survey intended to give me an over view of how the general public feels on the topic. I’ll be publishing the results publicly in the next day or two.

For those of you who think that Blues are starting to get a little bit boring, why not step up your game and go Plaid? That’s right, Plaid French Bulldogs are here!

Some background:

Plaid French BulldogPlaid French Bulldogs are the most super awesomest dogs alive today.

We found a rare colony of Plaid French Bulldogs living in an abandoned Chanel warehouse in France, and hired the best Frenchie wranglers in the world to round them up and bring them to North America.

We have devoted ourselves to breeding only the very finest in Plaid French Bulldogs. We select our dogs based on the depth of their pigment, the thickness of their plaid markings, and their exclusive ‘Greenie Glow’ eye color. You won’t find a better Plaidie anyplace in the world.

Genetics are important to us at Plaid French Bulldogs. Each one has been DNA certified as an authentic, 100% pure canine, with zero feline blood. We ensure our dogs are healthy by giving them annual flu shots. As well, we strive to remove genetic defects from our dogs by only breeding the ones that have four legs.

Plaid French Bulldogs require a specialized diet of Pate De Foie Gras, blue rare filet mignon, Mahi Mahi filets and Cherrystone Oysters on the half shell (hold the horseradish). Only the world’s most elite owners can afford to own a ‘Plaidie’.

Learn more here!

French Bulldog Coat Colors – or lack thereof

I thought I’d write a second part to my article on French Bulldog coat colors, since it gives me a chance to get a terrible burden off of my chest –

I’ve been perpetuating a lie.

Yes, it’s true. All over the web, you’ll find sites parroting this line, from my initial article on coat colors and the French Bulldog FAQ –

“French Bulldogs come in a myriad of colors”

This is, I’m afraid, completely untrue. French Bulldogs, in actual fact, only come in one single coat color – the Golden Sabel/Dominant yellow of the Agouti or ‘A’ series. It’s carried as ay. Everything else we see, from brindle pied to fawn pied to ‘tiger’ brindle to blue fawn to ‘white’, is not a color, but a marking pattern, overlaying or somehow modifying that base coat color of Golden Sable.

It’s true. The genetic ‘base color’ of the French Bulldog is golden sable – think deep golden cream. All of the varying shades and colors in between – from vivid reds to pale buttery yellows to black tipped sable, are just variations on this initial color, thanks to modifiers such as the E Extension series or D Dilute series. It’s theorized that so called ‘blue’ or ‘mouse’ French Bulldogs are a result of the D series dilute gene (dd), but this is just conjecture.

While French Bulldogs might not have a wide variety of colors, what we do indeed have is a staggeringly large variety of marking patterns and modifiers to change the appearance of this one color. The basic patterns are –

Brindle, then, is a pattern of black stripes of varying thickness and degree of repetition, overlaying this base golden color.

Pied is a pattern of white markings interspersed with either self colored areas (fawn pied) or brindled areas (brindle pieds)

Heavily marked brindle or fawn dogs, which seem to sit on the fence between dogs with white markings, and pieds, are likely dogs carrying the si or Irish Spotting allele of the S series.

Black masked dogs are dogs of whichever color/pattern, carrying the black masking gene.

Of course, since Frenchies are Frenchies, and nothing can ever be simple in this breed, we have to deal with the appearance of Liver colored dogs, as well as those of Black and Tans. Both patterns are beyond my scope, or that of my outdated “Genetics of the Dog’ reference book, to explain, but I’m sure someone out there can give us a possible explanation for their occasional appearance.

All of what we know about French Bulldog coat color genetics is currently up in the air. Old theories are being overturned, new ones posited, and differences of opinion over the placement and indeed actions of the various alleles are apparently now commonplace.

What’s heartening is that new genetic testing is becoming available which will soon allow us to run a simple test and determine what color and patterns our dogs are without having to rely on the subjective appearance a dog seems to be – something that no two breeders can ever seem to agree on.

Perhaps soon, when asked what ‘color’ my dog is, I can reply by handing you a copy of his genetic blueprint. It would sure save a lot of arguing!

Coat Colors? – Them's fightin' words!

Want to start a fight on a French Bulldog discussion list? Bring up the topic of French Bulldog coat colors. There are few other topics more guaranteed to get threads going of 75 or more responses, or more promising of exchanges like ‘oh yeah? Sez you’ and ‘You wouldn’t know medelian genetics if it jumped up and bit you in the face’.

There’s a fairly simple reason for this, actually – complexity. Few if any breeds come in the staggering array of allowable colors and patterns seen in French Bulldogs. Our standard in North America pretty much states ‘except for these few disallowed colors, have at it, dog breeders!’. To be more precise, the American Kennel Club standard for the French Bulldog says –

Acceptable colors – All brindle, fawn, white, brindle and white, and any color except those which constitute disqualification. All colors are acceptable with the exception of solid black, mouse, liver, black and tan, black and white, and white with black, which are disqualifications. Black means black without a trace of brindle.

Read that again, carefully –

any color except those which constitute disqualification

That means that if I can genetically engineer myself a glow in the dark pink Frenchie, I could register and show it.

Night shows would be particularly interesting to show one at, don’t you think?

The European standards are a bit tougher on colors, with the FCI standard stating –

– Uniformly fawn, brindled or not , or with limited patching (pied).
– Brindled fawn or not, with medium or large patching.

All the fawn shades are admitted, from the red to light brown (café au lait) colour. The entirely white dogs are classified in “brindled fawn with large white patching”. When a dog has a very dark nose, dark eyes with dark eyelids, certain depigmentations of the face may exceptionally be tolerated in very beautiful subjects.

The FCI standard doesn’t need to list specific DQs (or disqualifications), as their standard has a short, concise list of allowable colors, instead. So, rather than the American standard, which tells us ‘anything other than these few colors is allowed’, the FCI standard says ‘nothing other than these few colors is allowed’.

Over in the UK, the standard says –

Brindle, pied or fawn. Tan, mouse and grey/blue highly undesirable.
Brindle: a mixture of black and coloured hairs. May contain white provided brindle predominates.
Pied: white predominates over brindle. Whites are classified with pieds for show purposes; but their eyelashes and eye rims should be black. In pieds the white should be clear with definite brindle patches and no ticking or black spots.
Fawn: may contain brindle hairs but must have black eye lashes and eye rims.

Reading this, one would assume that ‘cream’, as an ee expression of fawn, would be allowed. One would, however, be wrong. The British French Bulldog breeders are almost completely uniform in their rejection of anything other than what we refer to as ‘Black Masked Fawn’ – those smutty, tan colored dogs, with the clear black masks. Even the masked red fawns and red fawn pieds are still rejected. In fact, the predominance of the red fawn pied dogs we see in North America can be traced to a handful of UK dogs exported to the US, dogs which were sold mainly because their color was not showable in the UK.

These ‘DQs’ might not be specified in the standard, but they are still accepted as the norm – and if I’m wrong about this, and attitudes are changing, I’d love to hear about it.

The issue of cream versus fawn versus black masked fawn is of particular interest to most North American French Bulldog breeders, where the exact method of inheritance is still open to debate. I’ll discuss further on the vagaries of coat color genetics another time.

For now, I’ll leave you with the color example chart I created for Wikipedia, and which you can also find on French Bulldog Z. As I state repeatedly on both sites, these photos and their corresponding color descriptions are listed as examples only, and are open to debate. The only truism when it comes to French Bulldog coat colors is there are more descriptive color names than there are colors, and everyone has their own preference.

It should also be pointed out that some color terms are subjective, with each breeder having their own opinion as to what defines ‘fawn pied’, ‘honey pied’, etc. The examples listed below should be viewed objectively, and are open to debate. In other words, don’t bother sending me snippy letters if you disagree with my descriptions, as I already have a file of about 200 of those. Polite debate, however, is welcomed.

Click thumbnails to see full sized images.

Ellie - Dark Brindle French Bulldog

Black brindle – also known as Seal brindle – so dark it may appear black, but closer inspection will reveal at least a few lighter colored hairs.

Tiger or

This color pattern is sometimes referred to as reverse brindle. It refers to the fact that fawn is more predominant than the black brindling. In the dog shown, there is also a black mask present.

Tiger Brindle French Bull Dog

Tiger brindle is a term reserved for dogs with a coat pattern comprising a fairly regular pattern of alternating fawn and black stripes, similar in appearance to the coat of a tiger.

Cream French Bulldog

Pale cream French Bulldog. Creams can range in hue from deep amber to rich butterscotch to palest gold. This color is generally considered to be a dilution of fawn, minus the masking gene.

Red Fawn French Bulldog

This color and pattern are referred to as black masked RED fawn, due to the rich red hues of the fawn base coat. We have seen fawns in all shades, from brick red to honey to lemon yellow.

Black Masked Fawn French Bulldog

This color and pattern are referred to as black masked fawn. The base color of the coat can vary in shade from red to tan. The mask refers to the marking pattern on the face.

Brindle Pied French Bulldog


This pattern is referred to as brindle pied. Brindled areas – areas where fawn is overlaid with black striping – are interspersed with areas of white coat. Markings can be slight, or predominant.

Red Fawn Pied French Bulldogs


Red fawn pied French Bulldogs. Paler versions are sometimes referred to as fawn pied, lemon pied or honey pied. As with all Frenchies, there may be a mask associated with this pattern.


Ticked Pied French Bulldog


Ticked Pied. Dog has obvious freckled markings among the white areas of the body. Only the KCofE standard specifies ‘ticking’ as a DQ, but this pattern still tends to be heavily penalized in show rings everywhere.


Blue or Mouse French Bulldog


This is referred to as blue, or blue brindle. Brindle markings on this dog have a “grey” hue, and base coat color is a solid blue-grey. It has been debated whether or not this color is also what the standards refer to as ‘mouse‘.

Blue Pied French Bulldog


A Blue Pied French Bulldog. “Blue” Frenchies are a result of the ‘d’ or dilute gene. In this form, the dilute factor has caused the black hairs to become blue. Pigment on nose and pads is also a greyish blue in color, and eyes are often blue or yellowish gold. Again, this color has also been referred to as mouse.

Blue Fawn French Bulldog


Blue-Fawn A variation of blue, with coloring being seen most clearly in the masking points on the face. Typically they have green/grey eyes. It is said that they are usually produced by a fawn or red fawn parent.

Liver French Bulldog


This color can be referred to as either liver or brown – each is a disqualification within the AKC or FCI breed standards. Dog has NO brindling, and is a uniform reddish – brown, with self pigmented lips, nose, pads,etc. Eyes have a yellowish hue.

Black and Tan French Bulldog


Black and tan French Bulldog. Undoubtedly the rarest of the disqualified colors, this is still an extremely striking marking pattern. It has been theorized that black and tan was initially designated a dq because it is a dominant marking pattern in canines