8 Different German Shepherd Coat Color Patterns

Updated on June 23, 2018
Sam Shepards profile image

Sam Shephard is an experienced German Shepherd owner and has learned throughout the years how to optimize the breed's health and wellness.

Source

Not every German Shepherd is going to be a stereotypical tan with a black "saddle" and a black "mask." In fact, this breed's coat thickness, colors, and patterns vary significantly.

Two purebred GSDs (German Shepherd Dog) with excellent lineage can have wildly different colors, ranging from completely white or black to a combination of tan and black. Max von Stephanitz, the founder of this breed, once said, “No good dog can be a bad color.”

Some breed purists today might disagree, but just because the coloring of a GSD isn't show-ring standard doesn't mean it isn't up to breed standard for temperament, personality, and body shape. Before concerning yourself with a dog's physical appearance, you should look to see if it has the right temperament.

But if you still want to pick a puppy based on physical appearance, this article will guide you through the most common GSD patterns as well as coat types.

What Are the Most Common German Shepherd Color Patterns?

  1. Black and Tan
  2. Black and Red
  3. Bicolor (black with cream-colored heels)
  4. Blue
  5. Liver and Tan
  6. Sable or Gray
  7. White
  8. Black

1. Black and Tan

This is the most common and most popular color combination. Famous German Shepherds (e.g. Rin Tin Tin) and show-ring GSDs have this coloration.

These dogs usually have tan or cream legs, underbellies, and necks, with black “saddles” on their backs that stretch from their neck down to their tail. They may also have prominent black “masks” on their faces.

Both the American and the Canadian show lines prefer this coloration. Some dogs will have some “silver” (a very light cream color) on their stomachs, which some breeders find acceptable.

2. Black and Red

Dogs in the German show line often have this coloration. They have the same pattern as black and tan dogs, but the tan part is more of a red or sometimes even a strawberry blonde.

In some instances, instead of black and red, they will be black and silver. The silver part is described as being a light shade of cream. Black and silver German Shepherds are by no means rare, but they are not as commonly shown as GSDs that are black and red.

Source

3. Bicolor German Shepherds

Despite being called “bicolor,” these dogs are actually one solid color: black. Their heads, legs, backs, and tails should be completely black. Sometimes, they have brown on their feet, but in order to be considered a bicolor German Shepherd in the show ring, their heels must be black as well. Dogs with black heels are sometimes aptly called “tarheel." They may also have some dark brown on their faces and around their ears, but any brown or tan features are usually not very prominent.

4. Blue or Liver/Tan

These dogs are rarely seen at shows because these colors are indicative of diluted genes. They may still be considered purebred German Shepherds, but their lack of a typical black coloring indicates that somewhere in their ancestry there was breeding among canines that did not have the proper colors.

Blue is described as a slight dilution of black. Depending on how dark the blue color is, these dogs might still be shown in the ring. Breeders consider light blue to be undesirable, though.

GSDs that are liver and tan have the appropriate saddle and mask markings, but instead of black, they have a rich brown color.

5. Sable or Gray

Sable German Shepherds are more common in working lines than in show lines because working dogs do not have the acceptable coloration pattern for show. They have banded fur, which means that each individual hair is multi-colored. Common colors include silver, brown, black, and sometimes even red. These hairs are usually masked by a layer of black hair.

Their coats change a lot over the first two years of their lives, so it can be difficult to predict what a sable puppy will look like as an adult. Sable patterns come in many different varieties, with black over cream being the most common. Liver over cream, black over red, and silver over cream are also possible.

Gray GSDs are a type of sable, but their fur is more wolf-like in color. This color is often called “wolf gray.” These dogs may have coats that are black over silver or gray over silver.

Source

6. White or Black German Shepherds

German Shepherds can also be entirely white or completely black. The white variety is simply a manifestation of recessive genes, similar to blonde hair in humans, and is not indicative of albinism. Sadly, white GSDs are not permitted to participate in most kennel club shows, but they can participate in obedience and agility competitions.

Black GSDs are also a result of recessive genes. They will sometimes have white patterns on their chests. Unlike black and tan dogs that start out predominantly black but take on a more typical appearance as they age, black GSDs remain black for the rest of their lives.

Source

German Shepherd Coat Types

A double coat with medium length is considered the most desirable. This type of coat may be fairly wiry, depending on the dog. A shorter coat is sometimes considered acceptable by breed standard. Both of these coats should be “plush." This means that there is a fluffy coat beneath the outer coat, which gives the fur some volume.

While longer fur is not accepted for showing, many owners prefer this coat because it makes their dogs soft. Owners also like longer fur around the neck because this gives the dog a lion-like appearance, especially if he is predominantly tan or liver colored.

What coloring does your German Shepherd have?

See results

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • profile image

        Peter 

        5 days ago

        Me and my family have been getting white German Shepards for over 20 years . The breeder we would use in the past retired so we found Rolling H Farm from Tennessee and the dog we had got is one of the best dogs we have had, i highly recommend visiting their web page if you are planning on getting a white shepard. I hope my information helps anyone looking .

      • profile image

        Michael Vaswani 

        3 months ago

        We (my spouse and me) are looking to buy a purebred GSD. We live in Vaughan, Ontario, Canada. Could you recommend a reliable breeder in a 100 mile radius. We do not wish to work with a breeder from the phone book!!! Thank you.

        Michael Vaswani

      • Sam Shepards profile imageAUTHOR

        Sam Shepards 

        4 months ago from Europe

        Hi Angela

        Depends on the genes and colours. I have seen a complete black german shepherd from two black-tan german shepherds. They had a lot of black in them. I have never seen it the other way around, a complete tan or something so I guess it is about dominant and recesive colours genes and combinations. Will read up some more on the genetics of the breeding of german shepherds to add to this article.

      • profile image

        Angela 

        7 months ago

        can a German Shepherd have one pair German Shepherd puppy and the rest of the puppies mixed

      • Sam Shepards profile imageAUTHOR

        Sam Shepards 

        8 months ago from Europe

        Hi Kayla,

        Thanks for your message, but I don't have the statistics on how rare color patterns are.

        The only thing I know is something like Black is more rare than classic Black - Tan etc. When you look at the votes for the poll you could be able to get a general idea. The only issue is, I've put white and black together.

        The color patterns don't match all the color patterns I've desribed. Also some dogs don't completely fit in one or the other category.

        From personal experience which is probably biased and dependend on where you live. But I've seen 10-15 times more black/tan and black/red than pure black.

        I've seen 6-8 times more black/tan and black/red than sable/gray etc.

        Sorry that I'm not more of a help on your question. As an owner I mostly just feel that every gsd I've had was unique. I've had mostly black/tan / black/red variations.

      • profile image

        Kayla 

        8 months ago

        I am 12 living in a small city ,so if i dont spell things right im sorry.I was wondering if it was possible for you to see how rare my dogs are.I have a solid black with black paws.Another one and shes a golden german shepherd with a black face with like red head colored on her back with a white and black striped tail.Another one who is a sable silver german shephered with a black face, white tummy,with silver on is whole back and face.So could you please answer my question?Thank you!

      • profile image

        Kandy 

        9 months ago

        Don't forget the Pandas :) there are panda german shepherds as well

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, pethelpful.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://pethelpful.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)