Boston Terrier Coat Colors: All About the Breed

Updated on May 17, 2020
Layne Holmes profile image

Layne has worked in shelter medicine for over six years and likes to share her advice with fellow animal guardians.

Boston Terrier Coat Colors
Boston Terrier Coat Colors | Source

Are Boston Terriers Always Black and White?

Boston Terriers are known as the "American Gentleman," and the breed was first recognized by the AKC in 1893. The AKC currently ranks them as the 21st most popular dog breed. Originally bred to chase rats out of garment factories, this breed is the first non-sporting dog ever bred in the United States.

Origin of the Breed

The original Boston Terrier can be traced back to a dog in the 1870s named "Judge"—a brindle-coated dog with a white face—who was a cross between an English Bulldog and an English Terrier. He was purchased by Robert Hooper and later became known as "Hooper's Judge." Judge was later bred with Edward Burnett's all-white female dog, "Burnett's Gyp." Any purebred Boston Terrier, therefore, is related to "Burnett's Gyp" and "Hooper's Judge."

General Appearance

The breed standard today is indicated by white, brindle, and seal-colored (black/brown) coats with a white splash (on the chest), a blaze between the eyes, and a banded muzzle. These dogs have a black nose and brown eyes.

Breed Traits

  • Weight: 12–25 pounds (no more than 25 pounds)
  • Height: 15-17" (at the withers)
  • Breed Type: Non-sporting
  • Size: Standard or miniature (teacup) per the breeder; per the AKC, <15 lbs, 15–20 lbs, and <25 lbs.
  • Appearance: small, compact body; square head, short tail, erect ears
  • Temperament: Boston Terriers are generally easy to train, enjoy cuddling, can be somewhat lazy, and are rarely aggressive.
  • Tail Shapes: corkscrew, curl, or straight and under 2"
  • Standard coat color: black, brindle, seal (color of a wet seal) with appropriate white markings
  • Lifespan: 11–13 years+

The Tuxedo Look

Black and white Boston Terriers are the standard. They have a white chest splash, a white blaze, and white along the muzzle.

A Breed Lover's Compilation

AKC Standards for the Breed and the "Perfect" Coat

For any black, brindle, or seal-colored Boston Terrier, white should appear on the chest, on the muzzle, banded around the neck, up the forelegs to the hocks (rear legs), and the dog should bear a white blaze that does not touch between the eyes.

How Much Do Boston Terriers Cost?

Purebred Boston Terriers generally cost $700+.

Standard and Colored or Rare Boston Terriers

Black and White Coat Colors

Today, black and white Boston Terriers are the standard with a white chest splash, a white blaze, and white along the muzzle—a.k.a, the "tuxedo" look. Purebreds should also have a black nose and brown eyes.

Brindle and White Coat Colors

Brindle is attributed to patterning rather than coat color. Solid brindles are disqualified by the AKC. AKC-standard brindle-coated terriers tend to be rarer. A dog with this coat type should have brown eyes and a black nose.

Seal and White Coat Colors

More commonly identified as brown and white, this coloration is accepted by AKC standards. This coat type appears more black with red undertones when in the light (resembling a wet seal). A dog with this coat type should have brown eyes and a black nose.

Are Rare Coat Colors More Expensive?

Liver, brown, cream, or red coat colors are considered rare, but unfortunately, these types do not meet AKC standards. Breeders may charge higher prices for these coat types. If you are working with someone who claims they breed "rare" Boston Terrier colors but lack documentation (health checks and lineage), be wary. Many inherited health conditions are linked to atypical coloration. Not only will these dogs not meet breed standards, but they may also inherit some serious health issues.

Coloration Terminology

  • Dilute: Recessive presentation of an otherwise dominant coat color. Dilute black can appear brown. Dilute blue can appear red.
  • Merle: Merle coat types are also termed harlequin/dapple. Parents that are both merle and bred may produce double-merle offspring which may be linked to inherited health issues. Note: These types often present with abnormal eye conditions (small eyes) and deafness.

A beautiful dog, but not a "standard."
A beautiful dog, but not a "standard." | Source

In 1914, the AKC breed standards were revised to disqualify the following traits:

  • Blue eyes or traces of blue
  • A Dudley nose (flesh-colored)
  • Docked tail (purebreds are born with a naturally shortened tail)
  • Any color specified below

Disqualified Boston Terrier Coat Colors

Solid Black
Solid Brindle
Solid Seal
Blue (Gray)
Liver (Red)
Champagne (Pale Red)
Solid White
Rare but doesn't meet standards.
Rare but doesn't meet standards. | Source

Are Boston Terriers Healthy?

All purebreds tend to have a higher incidence of inherited health conditions compared to blended breeds or mutts. Boston Terriers, in particular, being a brachycephalic breed, are prone to several health issues:

General Brachycephalic Conditions

This breed is considered a brachycephalic breed, that is, a breed that possesses a short head and boxy muzzle. Because of the condensed airway, Boston Terriers are at higher risk of respiratory complications and may be difficult anesthetic patients (prone to pneumonia). This also makes them likely candidates of chronic reverse sneezing and snoring.

"Roaching" of the Back/Patella Issues

Often caused by patella problems, this conditions results in curvature of the spine as the dog is pushed onto its forelegs. Patella issues (luxations) are common in this breed.

Susceptibility to Heat Stroke

Brachycephalics (short muzzle) are sensitive to heat and cold, but especially heat. They are also fairly exercise-intolerant.

Eye Issues

Their eyes are exceptionally large and sit square in the skull. They are prone to eye ulcers and injury; they are especially at risk from dust, debris, and injurious objects. They may also be prone to a condition called "cherry eye."

White Coat Syndrome

All-white coated or largely white-coated Boston Terriers may be deaf, especially if they have blue eyes.


Albinism is defined as a lack of pigmentation. Albino dogs often have "pink" traits—pink eyes, pink skin in noticeable areas, and tend to burn easily, have a higher incidence of skin cancer, develop allergies more readily, and exhibit generalized sensitivity (digestive, too) compared to other dogs.

A standard male.
A standard male. | Source

Don't Be Misled by Irresponsible Breeders

Irresponsible breeders or backyard breeders are the types that operate puppy mills but claim they breed exceptionally rare colors or "teacup"-sized dogs. They are in it for the profit without any care of how the actual animals being bred turn out. Depending on the recklessness and disregard of the breeder, these puppies may actually be the offspring of similarly marked breeds like boxers or bulldogs. They may also come from poor housing environments.

Certifications and Health Screenings

All breeders should be ready to provide various certificates and proof of health screenings: OFA, CERF eye, BAER hearing, and checks of the heart, patellas, and spine (parents included). They should also be a registered breeder.

Save a Life

If you do not intend to show or breed your dog, please consider adopting from a breed rescue and save a life.

Blue and Chocolate Boston Terrier Puppies Playing



This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Layne Holmes

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    • Layne Holmes profile imageAUTHOR

      Layne Holmes 

      15 months ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks Liz. I have a lot of friends with Boston Terriers. They seem to be popular in South America-Peru!

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      15 months ago from UK

      This is a very detailed explanation about Boston terriers.


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