Aside from their elegant stance and adorable butterfly-like ears, Papillons also flaunt a great variety of coat colors and markings. Originally, Paps only have solid-color coats but the standards have changed due to genetics and breeding.
The standard Papillons always have parti-colored coats. To be more specific, Papillons boasts of a white base fur with patches of different colors. The AKC has listed five standard coat colors for Papillon: white and black, white and lemon, white and red, white and sable, and white black and tan.
If you want to learn more about Papillon’s standard coat colors as well as the non-standard ones, you should continue reading.
Topics such as coat color-related health issues and the rarity of some colors will also be discussed in this article. Let’s get started!
Does Papillon Color Really Matter?
A lot of people have been asking me lately whether the coat color of dogs matters. If you are planning to get a Papillon, you might also be interested in knowing whether a Papillon’s coat color has something important to tell you.
I understand where your curiosity is coming from so I will explain in this section what a coat color has to say about your dog.
Coat colors matter especially if you are planning to breed standard dogs. The different kennel organizations have set color expectations for each dog breed.
If your Papillon does not fit the coat descriptions as presented by the kennel club, it won’t be recognized as a standard. What’s worse is that the purity of the lineage could also be questioned if a dog doesn’t exhibit the said colors and markings.
When it comes to health, some dog breeds are prone to coat color-related diseases. A study has found out that congenital sensorineural deafness in dogs may be related to coat color or coat pattern.
Significant thinning of coat and hair loss could also be more observed in specific coat colors like blue and gray.
When it comes to temperament, there is limited evidence to support the claim that dogs with darker colors are more aggressive than the ones with lighter shades.
Nonetheless, we could say that in terms of appearance, melanistic dogs– or dogs with black or dark colors– looks more intimidating.
These are just some of the fact-based explanations why dogs’ coat color matters. In choosing your Papillon, you should not only solely consider aesthetics but also the health and needs of your pup.
What Are the Standard Colors of Papillon According to Different Kennel Clubs?
The standard coat colors of Papillons might vary depending on the kennel organization.
In this section, I’ll be guiding you through the standard coat colors of Papillons that are recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), Canadian Kennel Club (CKC), United Kennel Club (UKC), and Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI).
Among the four kennel clubs, only the AKC has specified and listed the color patterns of a standard Papillon.
In general, the four major organizations consider a standard Papillon to be parti-colored. To be specific, their coat should be predominantly white with patches of any color.
Common specifications are also mentioned by each organization. The patches in the head can be any color other than white. The nose and lips should also be pigmented. Lastly, pure white or a pup that isn’t white at all is disqualified.
Here are the Papillon coat color standards per kennel club:
|Kennel Club||Acceptable Coat Colors for Papillons|
(American Kennel Club)
|Parti-color or white with patches of any color. |
Standard colors: White & black, white & lemon, white & red, white & sable, and white black & tan
Non-standard colors: Black brown & white, black red & white, brown & white, fawn & white, red, red white & sable, sable, white, white & liver, white & silver
(Canadian Kennel Club)
|Parti-color or white coat with patches of any color. The head patches can be any color aside from white.|
(United Kennel Club)
|Parti-color or white coat with patches of any color. The head patches can be any color aside from white.|
(Federation Cynologique Internationale)
|Parti-color or white coat with patches of any color. White must be the dominant coat color. A white marking is admitted in the lower head but it should not be dominant.|
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Papillon Coat Color Description and Pictures
Here are the variety of Papillon coat colors that you need to know! I also included pictures so you can have a clear visual representation of what Papillons look like in specific coat colors.
White and Black Papillon
White and black Papillons are one of the standard color coats as per AKC. The coat is characterized by a dominant white color with black head-patches.
The black color must cover the ears on the front extending to the rear side. The contrast of the pure white coat and melanistic black patches makes the butterfly-like ears stand out more.
White and Lemon Papillon
White and lemon Papillons are rare. This cute coat color appears to be pure white during the puppy-age of the dog.
However, as it grows old, the white coat slightly darkens until the pale lemon color appears. As a general rule, the head patches should cover the ears from front to back.
White and Red Papillon
White and red Papillons exhibit white as the predominant color and red as the secondary color. The red color should fully cover the ears, while the nose and lips should be black.
Just like with white and lemon Papillons, white and red Paps could appear to be all white when they are still puppies.
The color red will gradually appear as they grow older. It should be noted that no other colors should appear along with the red patches – only pure white and pure red.
White and Sable Papillon
Some people mistake white and sable Papillons with white and red Paps. Well, there are similarities, but the white and sable Papillons have black hair dispersed on their red or brown patches.
You will also notice that the color of the hair’s base is predominantly red with the black strands more visible at the tip.
Papillon puppies that are white and sable would appear to have a dark coat color which would gradually lighten up as the red hair shafts grow.
White Black and Tan Papillon
Among all the standard Papillon color coats, this is the only tri-color pattern. Pups who have this coat exhibit a dominant white fur with patches of black and tan.
Usually, the tan patches appear on the cheeks, the tip of the tail, inside the ears, and on the pips.
Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between a white and black Papillon and a white black, and tan Papillon. The tan portions sometimes appear too pale to be clearly seen.
Black Brown and White Papillon
Black, brown and white Papillons are categorized as non-standard by the AKC. This tri-color coat pattern is characterized by color patches of brown and black.
The white color should still be dominant as compared to the other colors of the coat. Notice that the black patches are not only seen on the tips of the hair shaft rather they are separated colored patches of hair.
Black Red and White Papillon
Papillons with this coat color exhibit a white coat mixed with black and red hair patches. The black color patches are not seen on the tips of the red hair shaft but as separate patches.
Brown and White Papillon
Papillons with this kind of color sport solid brown patches over their white coat. No other color should be seen along with the brown patches. The hair shaft should also be brown from the roots to the tips.
Fawn and White Papillon
Fawn and white Papillons can exhibit light yellowish tan color. Fawn color appears when the eumelanin, which is the black color pigment by default, is modified by the genes that result in color variations.
Depending on the dilution of eumelanin, the color can appear to be either liver (brown), grey (bluish), and fawn (isabella).
Although not considered as standard coat color, red coat Papillons appear majestic and elegant with their solid red fur that covers their body. Historically, the founding dog breeds of the Papillons that we have today have solid-colored coats.
Red White and Sable Papillon
Another non-standard variation of the Papillon coat is the red, white and sable. Identifying this type of coat needs a closer examination as it can sometimes be mistaken with either a white and red Papillon or white and sable Papillon.
If you look closely at the hair roots of red, white and sable Paps, you will be able to see a small amount of sable banded hair – black hair shafts. This indicates that the coat color on the patches is not solid red.
The sable color refers to a coat where the tips of the hair shaft are black mixed with other colors such as grey, tan, gold, or silver.
The darkness of the shade will vary depending on the distribution of black hair to the other colors. As the lighter color grows, the sable shading will be more observable.
Solid White Papillon
White Papillons look stunning with their elegant and neat solid white color. Although listed as one of the non-standard colors in AKC, an all-white Papillon cannot enter the show ring as it is a severe fault subject to disqualification.
White fur coats are produced through the mutation of a gene– specifically the MITF gene. The Melanocyte Inducing Transcription Factor or MITF gene is responsible for the production of a protein called the melanocytes.
Melanocytes are the cells that produce the pigment of the coat. Due to the changes in the regulation of the MITF, some dogs lack cells producing pigments which causes their coat to turn white.
White and Liver Papillon
A white and liver Papillon exhibits a white coat with patches of the liver over its body. The liver color is linked to the dilution of the B Locus. A liver color can be a pale brown to a darker tone.
Usually, dogs with liver color have their eyes amber in color with their noses turning into pinkish color or brown.
White and Silver Papillon
The silver patches can also be called grey. The silver is a dilution of Papillon’s black pigment. The gene that causes it is recessive so a DD or Dd dog will have a normal black pigment.
The color silver is striking which adds elegance to the butterfly-like ears of a Papillon.
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What Is the Rarest Color of Papillon?
Among the standard colors, the rarest one would be white and lemon. This is due to the dilution of pheomelanin by the D locus.
For the non-standard colors, the rarest would be the solid ones. Pure white and pure red Papillons are rare since the breed typically comes in parti for standards and tri-color for non-standards.
If you are planning to have a Papillon for conformation events, you might not want to get a solid-colored Papillon as they are disqualified. Furthermore, an all-white dog is also prone to color-related diseases!
What Is the Most Common Color of Papillon?
With their unique patches, no two Papillons are the same. Nonetheless, there are still coat colors that are common for Papillons. Here are they:
- White black and tan Papillons
- White and sable Papillons
- White and red Papillons
- Black brown and white Papillons
- Black red and white Papillons
- Sable Papillons
- Brown and white Papillons
Note that the coat colors mentioned above are not arranged in any particular order. All of them often fall under the same price range so if you are on a budget, you should choose them over the others.
Papillon Coat Genetics: Why Do Papillons Have Many Different Colors?
With the various color coats that Papillons have, a day wouldn’t be enough to discuss with you the specific genetics behind each color. Nevertheless, I will do my best to provide you a clear picture of how the coat colors of Papillons vary for each individual.
Just like with us human beings, there are also cells in the body systems of dogs that are responsible for the production of pigments (color) in their bodies.
The cells that produce these pigments are called melanocytes. They are also called melanin and they are classified into two: eumelanin and pheomelanin.
Eumelanin is by default a black pigment while pheomelanin is red. Whichever between the two is produced more by the melanocytes will appear as the coat color of the dog.
But wait, you might ask: if there are only two pigments, how come there are other colors aside from black and red? That is genetics come in.
Genes control the intensity of the two major pigments. Depending on certain genes, the shade or tone of black or red can become darker or lighter through dilution.
When eumelanin (black) is diluted, it can turn into colors such as brown, blue, grey, or fawn. Diluted pheomelanin on the other hand can create colors ranging from red, orange, cream, and yellow.
For the patches and extent of the white coat, the gene responsible is called the S Locus. This gene determines the expression of white markings and patterns in the dog’s body.
These are the basic processes of how the coat colors of Papillons are genetically formed. Some other genes and factors could also affect the color appearance of a dog.
If you want to further study the Papillon’s coat, you can read this veterinary article on the genetics behind their colors.
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The Effect of Coat Color on Papillon Health and Behavior
Throughout my professional years, I haven’t read any study that proves that coat color has something to do with the behavior of a dog.
While some colors might make a dog more intimidating or fluffier, they do not change how they act or react towards others.
However, this is not the case in terms of health. In the previous section of the article, I have discussed with you the genetics behind the coat colors of Papillons.
Although it is amazing how genes dictate the coat color, they could also be the cause of predisposed genetic health problems.
Papillons with solid white coats have a higher chance of acquiring congenital sensorineural deafness.
A study has found out that dogs with white coats are more prone to suffer hearing impairments due to the lack of melanocytes which are not only responsible for the production of pigments in the body but also contribute to cochlear functions.
Papillons with diluted colors such as fawn, silver, and liver are also prone to Color Dilution Alopecia (CDC). This is a genetic disease that causes baldness or thinning of hair.
The puppies may grow with normal hair coats until the signs of CDC kicks in on their sixth week. During this, you will notice thinning of hair on some areas in the head or body.
Do Papillon Puppies Change Color When They Grow?
The answer is no and at the same time, yes. Confusing? Let me explain it further.
Basically, all dogs have pre-determined colors when they are born which are dictated by their genes. The color which they genetically acquired will never change in their lifetime.
If they are born white and red, they will be white and red in their whole life. However, the way they appear when they are born might change as they grow – or to be more specific, as their adult hair strands grow to their fullest extent.
The appearance of a Papillon puppy will change as it grows. A newly-born Papillon might appear pure white during its puppy age but later show its lemon or red patches once fully grown.
At the same time, a black and white puppy might turn into a white and sable while it grows as it develops the sable colored hair.
To conclude, as the Papillon puppies’ hair grows longer and thicker, the stronger or weaker their colors become.
Papillon Eyes and Nose Colors
The AKC standard states that the eye rims, lips, and nose of a standard Papillon should be pigmented black.
Any other color than the abovementioned will not be accepted in conformation events. Also, a Papillon should have dark, round, medium size eyes.
Papillons with liver patches deviate from the standards. Most dogs with liver coats develop a nose color ranging from brown to pink and amber-colored eyes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Papillons Have a Double Coat?
Standard Papillons do not have a double coat. They only have a topcoat. Nonetheless, there are some breeders out there who managed to produce Papillons with undercoats.
They sure appear to have thicker hairs but since Papillons naturally only have topcoats, Papillons with double coats might encounter health problems especially when it comes to body heat regulation.
What Type of Coat Does a Papillon Have?
Papillons only have a topcoat that is abundant, long, fine, silky and flowing flat on the back and sides of the body.
The hair on their feet, face, and muzzle are relatively shorter. The signature butterfly-like ears are fringes with medium-length or silky hair inside the ear lobes.
Since they only have a topcoat, grooming them is easier. They also do not need frequent hair trimmings unlike dogs with double coats. Their long silky coat does not matte and they shed less compared to dogs which have double coats.
Are Papillons Hypoallergenic?
Papillons are one of the breeds you can get if you are allergic to pollen or fur. Since they shed less, you are less likely to inhale their fur.
Also, Papillons do not have a doggy odor which makes them appear neater and more elegant. They are really suited to be house dogs.
Ready to bring home a Papillon? Just always remember that in choosing your Papillon based on color, consider those with health-related issues and of course, the value.
As I’ve presented to you, some Papillons with specific coat colors have a higher risk of acquiring genetics-related illnesses. Some Paps look adorable and stunning but are exposed to life-threatening or life-changing diseases.
If you are concerned with the cost, you should also consider the rarity of the coat color. The more uncommon the pigment, the higher the price you will need to pay.
My name is John Carter and I absolutely love pets, especially cats and 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.
Tuesday 22nd of November 2022
Thank you for the informative article! It’s been really hard to find info on coat color genetics that isn’t either totally dumbed down or so scientific you’d need to take a class just to understand it. I normally would have wanted a little more science, but you’ve been thorough enough I don’t think I need it… I kept thinking “oh great it’s just gonna cut off here without explaining” but there was more! Just out of curiosity, I’m assuming it’s possible for a papillon to have colors/color combinations other than the ones you’ve listed, but would that necessarily indicate it wasn’t pure papillon?