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Your Guide to Bull Terrier Coat Colours

As an animal welfare worker, Jana worked with Bull Terriers. She had a boarding home for the breed and currently owns a perky specimen.

A standard white with a brindle and white mini Bull Terrier.

A standard white with a brindle and white mini Bull Terrier.

Bull Terrier Colours

A Bull Terrier is classified as either "white" or "coloured." This may seem odd at first. Why are there only two groups when “coloured” consists of many beautiful and distinct shades? The answer is in the breed's history, which reaches back to the 1800s when the first breed standard was defined. The early breeders agreed unanimously that the most desirable trait—more than any other—was the dog's flawless porcelain coat. For a long time, this “rule” was law. Eventually, fans of "coloureds" grew in number and influence. Even so, "white" maintains a category of its own.

White Bull Terriers

"White" dogs once faced their own brand of prejudice. Any blemish (basically just a dot or other colour) would cause the animal to be banned from the show ring. It was not until much later that "whites" were allowed to have markings. However, these were limited to the head (think pirate eye patch or black ears). Even today, to be considered a "white," a dog's entire neck and body must be porcelain.

A common misconception that still floats around is that the "white" is linked to albinism. It is easy to see why some might think so—the pink ears, muzzle and eyelids. These traits are responsible for its slang name “pig dog.” However, an albino will have a reddish reflection in the eyes and pink nostrils. A true "White" sports dark eyes and the nose will also be black. Blue-eyed puppies have been known to be born, but they are not acceptable for showing or breeding, and with good reason as they are usually completely deaf.

Speaking of which, White Bull Terriers risk more of the breed's health problems. Deafness is perhaps one of the longest in its history, traceable back to its main ancestor in the 1800s, the extinct English White Terrier. Coloured dogs can suffer from this handicap, usually in one ear. But the white dogs tend to be deaf more often and sometimes in both ears. Since their skin has less pigmentation or none at all, their risk of skin cancer is also higher.

If you happen to own a "white" with a smidgen of colour, you also need to know what these dogs are called. This is especially important if you want to register your puppy for future showing and breeding.

This happy lark has one red ear. Technically, she is a white and red.

This happy lark has one red ear. Technically, she is a white and red.

The Different Types of White Coat Varieties

  • White: This is your pure white dog. The only colour allowed is the black nose.
  • White and black brindle: Head markings are black with light coloured streaks.
  • White and brindle: Head markings are brownish with dark streaks.
  • White and red: An eye patch or ear will be red.
  • White and red smut: This variety is pretty much the same as a normal white and red. However, “smut” means the animal has a darker face, almost like the muzzle was dusted with charcoal.
  • White, black and tan: Head markings are tan but with a touch of black.
  • White and fawn: Head markings are pure fawn.
  • White and fawn smut: Same as above, but with the dark muzzle.
A beautiful example of a red smut and white female.

A beautiful example of a red smut and white female.

The Four Reds

There is something special about the "Red." The rich rust presents as a clean and attractive arrangement. Usually, the majority of the body is red, with white stockings, tail, chest and muzzle stripe. Some have black marks above the eyes or folding under the chin. This is a highly popular coat colour, perhaps second only to the "White."

  • Red: Most of the dog's body will be red but its paws, chest and chin might be white.
  • Red and white: If there is more white, such as leg socks, a white chest that wraps around the neck and connects to a white face mask, then the dog will fall into this category.
  • Red smut: The same as the full red, just with a darker muzzle.
  • Red smut and white: If the red smut also has a lot more white, or equal to the red, then it will be a red smut and white.

Fawn-Coloured Bull Terriers

Often seen as "Red's" neglected little sister, "Fawn" dogs have their share of supporters and haters. Technically a kind of red, the coat is more sandy or light tan and is also available in the now-familiar variations.

  • Fawn: There are little to no white markings.
  • Fawn and white: Once the legs, neck, chest and face carry white, it is no longer a solid Fawn.
  • Fawn smut: Since the coat is light, the smut muzzle reflects more strongly in the Fawn, giving it quite an attractive look. However, white markings should be limited.
  • Fawn smut and white: A lot of white will place your Fawn smut in this division.
A brindle and white.

A brindle and white.

The Striped Beauties

A brindle Bull Terrier has the kind of beauty and presence that turns heads. Somehow, the breed's build and personality suit them being stripey wonders and few will disagree. Here are the different kinds.

  • Brindle: This will be a dog with a dark coat, usually brown, lined with a darker shade. There may be some white but not too much.
  • Brindle and white: The same as above but with white on the usual areas; chest, legs and face.
  • Black brindle: Kind of the reverse of the normal brindle, the animal will have a black coat with lighter lines.
  • Black brindle and white: A black brindle with large amounts of white.

The Tricolour Coat

Last but not least, let's welcome dogs with three colours. There are two kinds, but both have black, tan and white coats.

  • Black and tan: Even though you might register your puppy as a black and tan, it will show a small amount of white; a toe, the paws or chin. The black will be the colour that dominates the majority of the coat. Tan can show up on the cheeks, legs and chest, appearing in a similar fashion to the tan markings of the Dobermann Pincher.
  • Black tan and white: Perhaps the “official” tri coloured Bull Terrier, the animal's black coat will have large white areas (muzzle, chest, neck and legs). Tan will appear in the same places as in the normal black and tan dogs.

How to Polish That Coat

It doesn't matter what colour your Bull Terrier is, their coat is easy to care for. This short-haired breed enjoys low-maintenance grooming and the dogs normally love the attention. Brushing is also necessary once in a while since Bull Terriers tend to shed. How many times a dog is bathed is up to the owner, but over-washing is not a good idea. Scrub to suit the dog's show schedule or to remove the smell from the dead rat your bullie rubbed its entire body against. Too many baths strip the coat of its natural oils, which is the secret ingredient to that seal-skin shine. When the coat is allowed to produce enough oil, a good combing will spread it all over, and your dog will develop that sought-after healthy glitter.

Questions & Answers

Question: If a white Bull Terrier is mated to a tri-color, what colors can you expect?

Answer: The tri-color parent brings a simple deal to the table. He or she can deliver the offspring of any color. The greatest influence on a tri-color's puppies is the coat genetics of the other parent (the tri's mate). In this case, we are working with a white Bull Terrier. This is where things get a little bit more complex. Despite looking less complicated than a tri-color, white bullies carry additional genes for brindle, fawn, red and black/tan. When a breeder desires a certain result, they must know the history and genetics of the white dog to understand the “hidden” colors. To be sure, a vet can determine the animal's genotype, which can better help predict the color of future litters.

Here's a rough guide of what you can expect.

1. White carrying Red/Fawn – depending on the mate, can produce: white, red and white, brindle and white, tri-color, black brindle and white

2. White carrying Brindle – depending on the mate, can produce: white, brindle and white, red and white, black brindle and white, black brindle, tri-color with white

3. White carrying Black and Tan – depending on the mate, can produce: full white, all color coats

4. White carrying Black Brindle – depending on the mate, can produce: full white, all color coats

At the end of the day, to breed colors accurately, one must know the dogs' genotypes, the coat colors of their ancestors and also record their puppies' colors. This tightens the owner's grasp on an individual dog's ability to produce certain coats.

Question: Is the price of a bred dog influenced by the animal's coat color?

Answer: This is the breeder's decision, but often coat color does play a part in a puppy's price. For instance, many breeders will ask more for a colored puppy than a white one. Other breeders ask the same fee for each puppy from a specific litter, even when they are different colors and have white littermates. Of course, very sought after colors are more likely to hike the price. Red Bull Terriers with good markings can fetch more than usual.

Question: When breeding a pair of black and white Bull Terriers, what colors can you expect the puppies to be?

Answer: It depends on how much color the coat carries. If the "black and white" means that the dogs are predominantly black, with large white markings (neckband, entire chest, feet, thick blaze), then you can expect a mixed brood. About 50 percent could resemble the parents, 25 percent could be born pure white, and 25 percent could be born as solid blacks (although the latter could have limited white markings).

However, if the "black and white" refers to dogs that are predominantly black with small amounts of white, perhaps a dash on the feet or chest, then the entire litter could resemble the parents.

Question: If I were to breed two whites (both with brindle head markings), how likely are they to produce deaf puppies? The female's mother is a brindle and her father's coat is fawn and white. The male's father is a brindle and his mother is a white Bull Terrier.

Answer: There is good and bad news. The good news is that should you hope for brindle puppies, the chances are very good. The bad news is that predicting deafness in dogs is very hard. Congenital deafness is not fully understood, not even by researchers. One can perform a hearing test called the BAER test to determine a puppy's level of hearing, but of course, by then the litter has already been born. Scientists have figured out that deafness in some breeds are linked to coat genetics. In Bull Terriers, those that are most affected are the pure white dogs.

Caution must be taken when there is any suspicion of deafness in a bloodline. Unfortunately, there is no solid way to predict how normal or abnormal a future litter's hearing will be. The only way to give them a fighting chance is to breed from parents with normal hearing. Even better, make sure that all the grandparents have normal hearing as well.

Question: When breeding a pair of black brindle Bull Terriers, what colours can you expect the puppies to be?

Answer: With two black brindle Bull Terriers, you can pretty much expect the entire litter to inherit the same colour. However, genetics can always throw you a surprise, so rather put your chances between 50 and 100 percent. In other words, if there are 6 puppies, expect 3 to 6 to be born as black brindles.

Question: What is the color classification of a white Bull Terrier with a spotted black nose and a black eye?

Answer: The dog is considered a white Bull Terrier. The amount of black is too limited for inclusion in a coat classification. In this case, they are considered markings. To narrow it down, one could describe this dog as a white Bull Terrier with a black eye patch and a spotty nose (also sometimes called a Dudley's nose).

© 2018 Jana Louise Smit


Clayton Evans on June 09, 2020:

I have a 10 month old female that is chocolate black with very little white, her nickname is laces out, because she has a thin white streak like the laces of a football down the center of her face and tiger stripes markings not brindle on all four legs, what color classification would she be considered ?

Amani on January 06, 2019:

I have a brown, light brown, and white.

Jana Louise Smit (author) from South Africa on September 06, 2018:

Hi Steve, I'll be honest, this is the first I hear of this colour on a BT. I know that it does exist with Staffies, though. Perhaps the one you saw was a cross but it's not impossible that it was a rare coloured BT. I hope so, it sounds lovely.

Steve Stubbs on September 02, 2018:

What about the blue/grey type coats as seen on numerous Staffordshire bull terriers? I saw a Bull terrier, which looked like a pure Bull terrier in Devon several years ago with a lovely blue coat & almost gold coloured eyes. Is this colour frowned upon or perhaps the dog was a cross that looked more Bull terrier than Staffie?