Dalmatian Colors: Do Dalmatians Only Have Black Spots?

Two liver brown Dalmatian color puppies on a chair

Among all the existing breeds we know, Dalmatians are perhaps the easiest to identify because of their spotted coat. In fact, even kids who aren’t that knowledgeable about canine appearance can effortlessly describe this dog’s coat pattern.

Despite being iconic, many are unaware that Dalmatians not only come in black spots but with liver brown spots as well. The American Kennel Club considers these two colors standard while they also recognize white & lemon, white & orange, white, black & tan and white, liver & tan.

In this guide, I will discuss all the colors I mentioned above, including the faulty ones. I’ll also explain the reason why Dalmatians have spots which will surely excite science junkies out there.

Why Do Dalmatians Have Spots?

The easiest answer as to why Dalmatians have spots is because of selective breeding. I know this doesn’t cut it for those who are looking for a more substantial explanation, so I did some research and consulted some dog experts regarding the presence of spots in Dalmatian’s coat.

Historical documents suggest that through the years of canine development, some mutation may have occurred in Dalmatians; that’s why they developed spots. Specifically, spotted Great Danes and Pointers were mixed in the breed in order to achieve its unique coat.

While this is already a good point of reference in studying the breed’s coat, a recent investigation by BMC Veterinary Research explains that the TYRP1 (Brown) locus found on chromosome 11 are linked to these colored spots.

The history of Dal’s spots may still be blurry because of too many accounts to consider, but what is clear is that in the years that this breed was used as a coach dog, their spots were able to do their job in clearing crowds and signaling the arrival of aristocrats.

Where Are the Exact Sizes and Placements of the Dalmatian’s Spots?

According to the American Kennel Club, the well-defined rounded spots on a Dalmatian’s coat can be the size of a dime or half a dollar. They are preferably very distinct and not intermingling with one another.

Usually, Dalmatian’s spots are smaller on their legs, head, and tail than their body. Their ears are also expected to have some spotting.

What Are the Two Dalmatian Coat Types?

The standard coat of Dalmatians is smooth. However, there are instances where these smooth-coated dogs produce unique Dals with long hair. Below is a detailed comparison of these two coat types.

Smooth-Coated Dalmatian

A smooth-coated Dalmatian is a common type we are all familiar with. The American Kennel Club describes their hair as dense, short, and close-fitting. It is also not silky or woolly, but sleek and glossy in appearance.

Long-Coated Dalmatian

Long-coated Dalmatians are less common, but they do exist. For so many years, they were kept from the public and euthanized because their long coat is considered a disgrace for the breed.

Luckily, in 2015, they gained more attention, and some breeders who felt sorry for them started their development.

They found out that a recessive gene is causing their unusual coat, so even though they are known to exist, they are only allowed on agility and skills events and not on conformation shows organized by various kennel clubs.

RELATED: Long Haired Dalmatian: Facts, Temperament, Pictures, and More

What Are the Standard Colors of Dalmatians According to Different Kennel Clubs?

Kennel clubs do not exist just to stage shows and competitions but also to maintain the breed’s quality and appearance. Following the standards set for Dalmatians, here are the acceptable colors for this coach dog.

Kennel ClubAcceptable Coat Colors
American Kennel Club (AKC)Standard colors are white & black and white & liver brown. Other colors recognized are white & lemon, white & orange, white, black & tan, and white, liver & tan.
United Kennel Club (UKC)White & black and white & liver.
Canadian Kennel Club (CKC)White & black and white & liver.
Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI)White & black and white & liver.

Dalmatian Coat Color Description and Pictures

Below is a detailed description of the standard colors of Dalmatians, including some pictures to help you visualize.

These dogs are the ones who are allowed to participate in breed shows because they conform to the appearance expected of them.

White and Black Dalmatian

The ground color of white and black Dalmatians is white, and their dense spots are black. The spots are well defined and evenly distributed in their body.

There may be instances where the black spots become bronzed or tawny due to varying environmental conditions or simply because of some natural coat changes, so this is not considered a shift to being tri-colored.

Here’s a breed judging video of Dalmatians from Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show for you to have a better idea:

Dalmatians | Breed Judging 2020

White and Liver Brown Dalmatian

A white and liver brown Dalmatian has a white base color and spots which are liver brown. Similar to the white and black Dalmatians, the spots are also evenly distributed and have a rounded shape which may vary in size.

These dogs may experience spot darkening due to natural hair changes and certain environmental conditions.

What Are the Non-Standard Dalmatian Colors?

The following colors are recognized by most kennel clubs but are not permitted to join conformation shows because their coat color is unusual. They may result from genetic manipulations, so they aren’t actually similar to Dals with black or liver spots.

White and Lemon Dalmatian

These white and lemon Dalmatians who have a white base and medium saturated yellow spots on their coat are not allowed in the show ring because their color is not standard.

The UKC even mentions that this Dalmatian variety is disqualified from conformation shows along with tri-colored dogs and albinos.

White and Orange Dalmatian

White and Orange Dalmatian
Photo from @cnr_dals (IG)

White and orange Dalmatians boast of a white base coat and dark lemon spots covering their whole body. The Dalmatian shown in the picture above is extremely rare because aside from the unique coat coloration, the pup is also long-haired.

White, Black, and Tan Dalmatian

White, Black, and Tan Dalmatian
Photo from @mels_dals (IG)

The AKC disqualifies this tri-colored Dalmatian from joining any breed shows because they were bred purposefully to achieve this coat. Usually, their tan markings are found on their neck, chest, head, or tail.

White, Liver, and Tan Dalmatian

White, Liver, and Tan Dalmatian
Photo from @cnr_dals (IG)

This is another tri-colored Dalmatian who is barred by AKC from participating in conformation shows. This one has liver and tan spots which are quite rare for the breed.

What Are the Unacceptable Dalmatian Colors?

The two Dalmatians included in this section are tagged as faulty by major kennel clubs because they are seen to deviate from the standard color and patterns significantly among all varieties.

Some of them are also predisposed to specific diseases, so breeders, as well as show judges, condemn their existence.

Albino Dalmatian

An albino Dalmatian is a dog who suffers from a condition called albinism. These dogs lack pigments that are responsible for coat color production; thus, they appear almost spotless white.

You can quickly identify an albino Dal because aside from having very little faded spots, they also have a pinkish tint on their coat.

Patched Dalmatian

Dalmatians with patches are also disqualified from joining any breed shows because they have solid masses of black or liver hair that is abnormally larger than the spots expected from Dals. Usually, these patches are present at birth and are visibly dense and sharply defined.

Are Rainbow Dalmatians Real?

As hilarious as it may sound, some people do believe that rainbow Dalmatians exist. I know they’ll hate me for this, but I’m going to reveal the apparent truth anyway: rainbow Dalmatians are nothing but dogs painted with a multitude of colors just like what is presented in the photo above.

Dalmatians, or any dog for that matter, do not have the ability to produce pigments in rainbow coloration because there are only two types of melanin that are actually present in dogs.

These pigments only produce black and red in default, and a bit of dilution still won’t create a rainbow pup.

If you really want one of these rainbow spotted Dalmatians, bring your pet to a professional groomer and have them dye spots on your dogs using organic chemicals.

Do Dalmatians Without Spots Exist?

You’ll be amazed to know that when Dalmatians are born, they don’t have any visible spots on their body. The black or liver spots are only present on their skin and aren’t clearly seen on their coat at that time.

Eventually, as they reach two weeks old, their short white hairs form spots with black, liver, or other shades. This will then spread all over their body, creating the coat which has been featured in several blockbuster movies.

If you are wondering if “adult” Dalmatians can be solid white, the simple answer is no. Unless, of course, they are albinos, which means that they don’t really have any pigment on their coat.

What Are the Rarest and Most Common Colors of Dalmatians?

Dalmatians aren’t generally rare since they rank 56 out of 196 breeds in the AKC popularity ranking. However, some of their colors are harder to come across.

The rarest Dalmatians are the tri-colored ones. These Dals have additional tan points aside from their black or liver spots.

Meanwhile, the most common Dalmatian colors are those with black or brown spots. In fact, when someone mentions the breed, we picture them with these colors because they are the ones we often see.

Dalmatian Coat Genetics: Why Do Dalmatians Have Different Colors?

The coat color of Dalmatians is controlled mainly by genetics. Specifically, the E locus, B locus, and D locus.

The E locus is the dominant form of the MC1R gene, which is responsible for eumelanin production in a Dalmatian’s coat. This pigment dictates the color of a dog because it is predominantly black.

On the other hand, the B locus is the dominant form of the TYRP1 which means tyrosinase-related protein 1. This also alters the eumelanin production; that is why we see Dalmatians with brown spots.

For Dalmatians with lemon or orange coloration, genetic results reveal that the D locus is responsible even on pups with lighter noses.

The Effect of Coat Color on Dalmatian’s Health and Behavior

The coat color of Dalmatians does not relate to its behavior as is with other dogs. There are no pieces of research that can attest that Dals with a particular coloration are more aggressive or aloof with strangers.

However, Dalmatian’s color may affect its health. This is evident in albino Dalmatians who may be at risk of the following:

  • Blindness: Due to some deformities that may occur in an albino Dalmatian’s eyes, the majority of them have poor vision or blind from birth. Unfortunately, the chances of them seeing it are totally slim.
  • Deafness: Deafness is already a prevalent condition among all Dalmatian colors, but it is most common in albino Dalmatians. Dogs afflicted with this have a hearing loss since birth, or they are gradually acquiring deafness as they mature.
  • Sun Sensitivity: Since albino Dalmatians lack melanin on their coat, they don’t have any protection from the sun’s UV rays. This may lead to sunburn and various skin allergies.
  • Skin Cancer: This is the worst thing that can happen to albino Dalmatians if they are exposed to too much sun. They may acquire tumors that when left untreated, can cost them their lives.

RELATED: Dalmatian Lifespan: How Long Do Dalmatians Live?

Do Dalmatian Puppies Change Color When They Grow?

It is typical for Dalmatian puppies to change colors as they mature. As I have said a few sections back, they are born pure white, and they only develop spots when they’re two weeks old. It is also possible for their markings to darken or fade due to environmental conditions and aging.

Note that these changes are subtle and natural. If you are expecting your black or brown spotted Dalmatian to turn lemon or orange, you will be in for a disappointment because that’s just not how genetics work.

RECOMMENDED READING: How Much Do Dalmatians Cost? Puppy Prices and Expenses

Dalmatian Eyes and Nose Colors

Dalmatian with dark brown eyes and a black nose

Aside from their coat, the eyes and nose colors of Dalmatian also contributes to their overall appearance. Here are the acceptable colors according to the AKC and other major kennel clubs.

Dalmatian Eye Colors

Kennel ClubAcceptable Eye Colors
American Kennel Club (AKC)The preferred color is black or blue, but a combination of the two is permissible. Usually, the eyes are darker for black-spotted than liver-spotted pups.
United Kennel Club (UKC)Dark brown for black-spotted dogs and light brown to amber for dogs with liver spots are suggested.
Canadian Kennel Club (CKC)Black or brown for Dals with black spots, brown or amber for liver-spotted pups.
Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI)Eye color is similar to spotting.

Dalmatian Nose Colors

Kennel ClubAcceptable Nose Colors
American Kennel Club (AKC)Black or brown
United Kennel Club (UKC)Black or brown
Canadian Kennel Club (CKC)Black or brown
Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI)Nose color is in accordance with the color of Dal’s spotting.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Dalmatians Suitable for Novice Pet Owners?

No. Dalmatians are even possibly the worst dogs for novice pet owners. They are known to be hyperactive, destructive, and aggressive if not given proper and enough mental stimulation.

If you aren’t that knowledgeable on handling them, you’ll probably see yourself driving them to a shelter.

Does Dalmatian Coat Smell?

The Dalmatian’s coat has very little natural oil, so they almost have no smell at all. You won’t have to worry if they like to lounge with you because they don’t carry an irritating odor like most dogs.

You’ll probably find it annoying removing their hairs from your carpet and upholstery since they are notorious shedders.

Do Dalmatians Bark?

The barking tendencies of Dalmatians are not that high. They only bark when they sense potential threats which are typical for canines.

However, I do not speak for the whole Dalmatian population because some weren’t properly raised and manifests extreme barking tendencies.

Final Thoughts

There is no coat more famous and iconic than the Dalmatian’s. You can easily spot them (pun intended) among a huge crowd of dogs because they simply stand out.

If you are planning to buy one, make sure that aside from knowing all their potential colors, you have also done thorough research on their temperament.

They may be a total looker, but I cannot vouch about their behavior, especially if you decided to purchase from a backyard breeder or a puppy mill.

John Carter

My name is John Carter and I absolutely love pets, especially dogs. I've got a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and have several years’ experience working in animal shelters and rescues. My passion for animals started at a very young age as I grow up on a farm with several horses, cows, cats, chickens, and dogs on our property.

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