Even though Pitbulls are highly sought after dogs, some pet owners and shelter staff members are having a hard time identifying them from other canine breeds because of their varying appearance and colors.
This is the alarming result of a study conducted by Maddie’s Fund and the Merial Veterinary Scholars Program reported in UF Health in 2016.
While it is understandable that mislabeling may occur from time to time, we cannot ignore the fact that accurately identifying Pitbulls from other dogs is essential in managing them properly.
To contribute to the body of literature that can help recognize them, I decided to curate all the standard and non-standard Pitbull colors in this definitive guide.
According to major kennel clubs, Pitbull colors include black, black brindle, blue, blue brindle, blue fawn, red, red brindle, fawn, fawn brindle, fawn sable brindle, tan, buckskin, seal, tricolor, and reverse brindle. Meanwhile, merle, black and tan, liver, liver brindle, white or albino, and 80% white are considered non-standard.
Does Canine Color Really Matter?
Usually, I am quick to dismiss this question believing that a dog’s color does not relate to its health and personality. But I guess Science loves proving humans wrong.
An investigation led by the University of Sydney in Australia revealed that a dog’s coat color directly impacts its health and life expectancy.
Specifically, they have figured out that chocolate or liver-colored dogs are more prone to musculoskeletal disorders, cancers, and ear and skin conditions.
Aside from this fact, numerous anecdotal records suggest that white dogs are also predisposed to deafness and other congenital diseases. Intensive research still needs to be done for us to fully understand how coat color affects a dog’s health, and possibly, their personality.
What we are sure of as of this time is that canine color matters because it provides veterinarians and breeders with a substantial baseline for better dog health management.
What Are the Four Pitbull Breeds?
Before I discuss the varying coat colors of Pitbulls, I want to clarify that in the context of this article, I am not solely referring to the American Pit Bull Terrier.
The term Pitbull is an umbrella word used to label breeds that have descended from the Bulldogs and Terriers. Here are four types of Pitbull:
- American Pit Bull Terrier. This is a purebred dog that has been around for over 150 years. However, they are only recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC) and not the American Kennel Club (AKC).
- American Staffordshire Terrier. This is an AKC and UKC recognized breed which is more commonly known as AmStaff. Three U.S. presidents have had this breed as a pet because they are considered the most decorated war dog.
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier. This is the most famous dog in Great Britain and is acknowledged by both the UKC and AKC. Among all the four Pitbull breeds, they are the shortest, standing only at seven inches.
- American Bully. This dog has descended from the American Pit Bull Terrier and was only recognized as a breed by the UKC in 2013. They are the largest Pitbull type as they come with large to XXL sizes.
What Are the Standard Colors of the Pitbull Breeds According to Different Kennel Clubs?
Not every Pitbull type dog is recognized by the AKC, so I also consulted the breed standards of the UKC and the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) to provide you with a list of the acceptable Pitbull colors. They are the following.
|Pitbull Type||Colors Recognized by AKC||Colors Recognized by UKC||Colors Recognized by FCI|
|American Pitbull Terrier||(Breed not recognized)||All colors, color patterns, and color combinations except merle and albino.||(Breed not recognized)|
|American Staffordshire Terrier||All colors, including solid, parti, and patched, are acceptable. All white, 80% white, black and tan, and liver are considered faulty.||(Breed not recognized)||All colors, including solid, parti, and patched, are acceptable. All white, 80% white, black and tan, and liver are considered faulty.|
|Staffordshire Bull Terrier||Blue, black, fawn, red, white, any shade of brindle. Black and tan and liver is not permissible.||Blue, black, white, red, fawn, any shade of brindle are encouraged. Black and tan, liver, and albino are tagged as serious faults.||Blue, black, fawn, red, white, any shade of brindle. Black and tan and liver is not permissible.|
|American Bully||(Breed not recognized)||All colors, color patterns, and color combinations except merle and albino.||(Breed not recognized)|
There may be some confusion about the American Staffordshire Terrier colors because the article on the AKC website states that white and liver are now standard tones.
However, the downloadable breed standard only bears the shades I have presented in the table above. I chose to stick with it because these standards are followed in conformation shows.
Pitbull Coat Color Description and Examples
There are 16 Pitbull colors that are developed by professional breeders in consideration of the standards set by different kennel clubs.
Aside from these, some occasional shades appear due to accidental genetic manipulations. I haven’t included them in this list because they are yet to be studied and recognized.
Black Pitbulls come in a solid black coat or with a white marking on their chest and toes. Because of this type of coat coloration, novice pet owners assume that they are hostile toward humans and other pets, when the truth is, they are quite good-natured.
Black Brindle Pitbull
A black brindle Pitbull has a light-colored base coat and black patterns. Most people call these patterns tiger stripes, but they can also occur in crisscrossing marks.
In some Pits, the black brindle pattern is found near their head and on their rear end. But the common brindle dog appears like the one in the picture below.
Red Pitbulls are simply Pits with red coats who possess a unique red nose. Their eyes and toenails are also red in color as a result of a recessive gene. They are one of the most expensive Pitbull varieties because their coat is not that usual.
Another critical thing to note is that they may come in a solid red coat or they may have white markings just like their other Pitbull cousins.
Red Brindle Pitbull
Red brindle Pits have a light base coat due to the dilution of the pheomelanin on their skin. This may range from light cream to a dark shade while their stripes are a deep red.
Some red brindle Pitbulls have white markings on their chest, and this is totally acceptable.
Blue Pitbulls have been involved in too much controversy lately because some unethical breeders claim that they are a separate breed.
To clear things up, blue Pitbulls are just Pits with a blue coat which ranges from silvery-gray to a deep charcoal color. Some of them have a solid coat, while others have white patches.
It is a well-known fact that blue is a dilution of the black coat color which is caused by a recessive gene. This is why most veterinarians and professional breeders argue that blue Pitbulls are more prone to health and behavioral problems.
Blue Brindle Pitbull
Blue brindle Pitbulls have blue stripe patterns on their skin and a light-colored base coat. Some have no white patches, while others have depending on their genes.
Blue Fawn Pitbull
Blue fawn Pitbulls are a total stunner. They are quite unique because of their silvery-blue coat and their distinctive red nose. If you want to own this type of Pit, you should be ready to shed a good chunk of money because they are expensive.
Interested to learn more about where to buy and how to look after blue fawns? Click here to check out the detailed guide that I wrote.
Blue Fawn Brindle Pitbull
If the blue fawn Pit is already expensive, the blue fawn brindle Pitbull is much more pricey. Why? The combination of colors, as well as the patterns of this dog, are indeed a sight to behold. They have a light base color, silvery-blue stripes, and a prominent red nose.
The fawn Pitbull has a dilute coat color which appears to be yellow-tan in tone. Veterinary scholars believe that this shade is brought about by an allele of the Agouti locus which is also responsible for the sable coloring. In addition, some fawn Pitbulls have white markings, while others do not.
Fawn Sable Pitbull
Fawn Sable Pitbulls are rarer versions of the fawn Pits. They have a yellow-tan coat color, but they also have some black tippings on their hairs. Their coat is fascinating to look at because the base is predominantly fawn, but the etchings are black.
Fawn Brindle Pitbull
Fawn brindle Pitbulls aren’t as rare as the blue fawn Pits, but they also present a rich coat color. They have a cream base color and gorgeous fawn stripes.
Tan Pitbulls possess a coat color that is not quite fawn but is also not light brown. Breeders describe it as light beige, and it isn’t that common to Pitbulls. Most tan Pitbulls have white markings on their chest while some do not.
A buckskin Pitbull has a tan coat with yellow tones according to the American Dog Breeders Association (ADBA). This is often mistaken as a fawn, but they are actually different. Instead of having yellow tones, fawn Pitbulls have red tones.
I’m betting you haven’t heard of a seal Pitbull before, but they do exist. This Pit variety has a coat that appears black at first glance.
But once you view them in sunlight or any bright lighting, you’ll notice that they have a red or brown cast. They are often mistaken as chocolate Pits because of this, but I can assure you, they’re far from being the same.
Reverse Brindle Pitbull
You are already familiar with the typical brindle coloration where the base coat is light in color, and the stripes are darker. But aside from this combination, reverse brindle Pitbull also exists.
This occurs when the base coat is black or any dark shade, while the stripes are light-colored like tan or fawn. Some Pitbulls who are heavily brindled look entirely black, but they have a subtle mark on some parts of their body.
Tricolor Pitbulls possess a combination of three standard Pit coat colors that’s why they are extremely good looking.
An excellent example of this is the combination of a washed-out blue shade, white markings, and fawn tone. Breeders often address this color as lilac tricolor, but this is only a marketing strategy.
Watch this video of the ABKC Super Bully Bowl 3 to get an up-close look of the tricolor Pitbulls.
What Are the Non-Standard and Faulty Pitbull Colors According to Top Kennel Clubs?
As I have stated earlier in this guide, the downloadable Pitbull breed standard used by the AKC for conformation shows still does not contain some of the colors I will be mentioning in this section.
However, articles on their website suggest that for the American Staffordshire Terrier, white, liver, and liver brindle are already standard colors.
I decided to include them here instead of the former section because the UKC and FCI still do not consider them as acceptable tones for the three other Pitbull breeds.
Black and Tan Pitbull
Black and Tan Pitbulls are a bit Rottweiler looking because of their coat color. The black and tan coloring is more common in American Pit Bull Terriers and is fundamentally caused by inheriting two copies of the tan-point gene, which is recessive.
There is much prejudice against black and tan Pitbulls because people thought it is a result of crossbreeding. This assumption shows a lack of understanding of basic genetic principles because the tan-point gene is often not found in the Pitbull gene pool.
Liver or Chocolate Pitbull
Liver or Chocolate Pitbulls have a grayish reddish-brown color that is produced through the dilution of eumelanin in their coat. In some breeds, this color is referred to as red, but I find this misleading because people might think that this has something to do with a dog’s pheomelanin.
Liver Brindle Pitbull
Liver Brindle Pitbulls are dogs with a light base coat and chocolate-colored stripes. Some have white markings in addition to their brindling, while others don’t.
Merle is different from Brindle even though they are both color patterns seen in dogs. A merle Pitbull has a diluted base coat and random patches of another color. If in brindle dogs, the stripes are more uniform, for Merle Pits, the splotches can be seen anywhere.
Here’s a video of a merle Bully for you to further visualize how they look.
White or Albino Pitbull
Albino Pitbulls are white in color due to their inability to produce melanin or pigments, which determines a dog’s coat. True albinos have a pinkish tinge in their coat and eyes.
80% White Pitbull
Kennel clubs do not permit Pitbulls who are 80% white, because similar to the white Pitbulls, they also come with a string of hereditary diseases. A good example of this is a white Pit with black splotches.
Is the Black Pitbull Affected by “Black Dog” Syndrome?
Black Dog Syndrome (BDS) is a phenomenon that occurs in shelters concerning black dogs. To elucidate, it is observed that for so many years, dogs with black coats weren’t adopted immediately as compared to other colors.
There are a number of theories as to why this happens, especially in Pitbulls. Here are some of them:
- Black dogs are portrayed as evil in television shows and in literature, which influences superstitious pet owners.
- Because of their dark coat, the features of a black Pit cannot be clearly seen. Therefore, they are disregarded.
- Some find them less desirable because they appear older than the other colors.
A recent study published in Animal Welfare found out that current adoption data from various animal shelters suggest that black dogs have shorter shelter stays. This means that this phenomenon is probably a myth to the dog population in general.
However, the research also pointed out that black Pitbull breeds, including APBT, AmStaff, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and American Bully, have low adoption rates and are often euthanized not because of their color but because of the negative perception that they are aggressive dogs.
Is the Blue Pitbull Similar to the Blue Nose Pitbull?
Blue Pitbulls and Blue Nose Pitbulls are essentially the same because most blue Pitties have the same nose color. This type of dog is distinct for their silvery-gray coat and nose, which is caused by a dilution on the black pigment in a dog’s skin.
Non-blue nose Pits can actually produce dogs with a charcoal-grey nose which I will later explain in the section for the Pitbull nose and eyes colors.
What Are the Rarest and Most Common Colors of Pitbulls?
Among all the Pitbull colors I discussed earlier, here are the most common:
- Black Pitbull and its varieties
- Fawn Pitbull and its varieties
Meanwhile, here are the rarest coats:
- White Pitbull
- Merle Pitbull
- Tricolor Pitbull
- Blue Pitbull and its varieties
- Blue Fawn Pitbull
- Tan Pitbull
- Buckskin Pitbull
- Seal Pitbull
If you are looking for the cheapest Pitbulls, your best option is to purchase the common-colored ones.
But if you have the budget and you want a Pit that you can flaunt to your friends because they are quite unique, then go for the rare-colored pups. Just be careful in buying and make sure you don’t patronize puppy mills and backyard breeders.
Pitbull Coat Genetics: Why Do Pitbulls Have Many Different Colors?
Pitbull coat genetics require a detailed scientific article to explain fully. I do not want you to suffer from reading such, so allow me to simplify how Pitbulls get their coats by focusing on pigments and a bit of gene.
There are two essential pigments responsible for the color of a Pitbull’s coat. These are the eumelanin and the pheomelanin.
The eumelanin is basically the black pigment that gives a dog its black coat. However, there are some instances where the eumelanin produces liver, blue, and other light colors due to a certain gene.
This gene dilutes the black pigment; that’s why its strength is altered. Eumelanin is also in control of the eyes and nose colors; that’s why some dogs are found to be rarer than others.
The second pigment found in a dog’s coat is called pheomelanin or the red pigment. Again, because of genes inherited from their parents, the concentration of a Pitbull’s pheomelanin may be affected. This is the reason why there are dogs with red, orange, yellow, gold, and cream tones.
The Effect of Coat Color on a Pitbull’s Health and Behavior
There isn’t any pertinent data proving the relationship of a dog’s coat color to its behavior, but numerous researches are linking it to a dog’s health.
Certain shades are proven to have a shorter life span because they are more susceptible to a list of diseases. Below is a detailed discussion of these health issues.
- Deafness. Most merle and white Pitbulls carry the trait that leads to congenital deafness. This is proven through a Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) test conducted by Louisiana State University headed by George Strain.
- Blindness. Blindness is another health issue afflicting merle and white Pits. Gene abnormalities affect both the back and front of their eyes.
- Sun Sensitivity. White Pitbulls are more sensitive to the sun because of the absence of pigments on their coat. Merle Pits also experience this issue because they do not produce enough pigment to shield their coat from UV rays.
- Skin Cancer. Because both merle and white Pit lack pigments, they are at a higher risk of skin cancer. It is suggested that they aren’t exposed to too much sunlight because this is the primary cause of this unfortunate condition.
- Microphthalmia. Some merle Pitbulls have abnormally small eyes that are non-functional. This condition is called microphthalmia, and currently, there is no treatment for this.
- Skin Disease. According to an investigation made by the University of Sydney, chocolate or liver Pitbulls are prone to skin diseases. The most common is pyo-traumatic dermatitis, also called hot-spot or wet eczema.
- Otitis Externa. This is the most common health issue of chocolate Pitbulls which causes inflammation in the ear canal. Pits with this infection exhibit headshaking, scratching, scaly and red skin, odor, and ear discharge.
Do Pitbulls Change Color When They Grow?
Pitbull puppies change color as they mature, so don’t be surprised if your little blue pup turned into brown after a few weeks. This change is very much normal and primarily brought about by a progression on their coat pigment.
However, when they reach adulthood, and there is a subtle development in their color, this may be caused by the following:
- Nutritional status
- Skin disease
Pitbull Eyes and Nose Colors
Here’s a list of usual Pitbull eyes colors according to AKC, UKC, and FCI breed standards:
|Pitbull Type||Acceptable Eye Colors|
|American Pitbull Terrier||UKC: Any color except blue.|
|American Staffordshire Terrier||AKC: Any color except light or pink.|
FCI: Any color except light or pink.
|Staffordshire Bull Terrier||AKC: Dark is preferable, but it may resemble the coat color. Unacceptable colors are light or pink eye rims except when the coat around the eyes is white. |
UKC: Dark is preferable, but it may resemble the coat color.
FCI: Dark is preferable, but it may resemble the coat color.
|American Bully||UKC: Any color except blue.|
And here’s a list of Pitbull nose colors according to AKC, UKC, and FCI breed standards:
|Pitbull Type||Acceptable Nose Colors|
|American Pitbull Terrier||UKC: Any color|
|American Staffordshire Terrier||AKC: Black |
|Staffordshire Bull Terrier||AKC: Black is acceptable while a pink nose is a serious fault. |
|American Bully||UKC: Any color, but usually in harmony with the coat.|
Note that after birth, your Pitbull’s eyes really have a bright blue color. Melanin production does not immediately start once a Pitbull is born, and it would take several weeks before they assume their final eye color. This does not indicate that your pup has a serious fault.
In terms of the Pitbull’s nose, the most common are red and blue. Here’s the description for the two nose colors:
Red Nose Pitbull
A red nose Pitbull boasts of its pinkish/reddish nose which came from a particular dog strain in Ireland. This isn’t acceptable for the Staffordshire Bull Terrier according to AKC.
Blue Nose Pitbull
As discussed in a separate section in this article, blue nose Pitbulls have a charcoal-greyish nose that compliments their grey coat. There isn’t that much fanfare about their history, unlike the red nose Pit.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are All Pitbull Varieties Possible to Domesticate?
The myth that Pitbulls cannot be domesticated is utter nonsense. In fact, all Pitbulls enjoy being trained and mentally stimulated while being taken care of by a family.
This assumption is probably based on the fact that some Pits are not that obedient similar to other dogs that aren’t adequately trained.
What Countries Ban or Restrict Pitbull Ownership?
Here are the countries that ban or place strict conditions on Pitbull ownership: Argentina, some parts of Australia, some parts of Austria, Bavaria, some parts of Belgium, Belarus, Bermuda, some parts of Brazil, some parts of Canada, Denmark, some parts of China, Ecuador, France, Finland, most provinces in Germany, Ireland, Guyana, Israel, Italy, Ukraine, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Norway, Poland, Malaysia, some parts of Japan, Switzerland, Malta, New Zealand, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Spain, Turkey, The UAE, United Kingdom, and Venezuela.
You can read the laws for each country by clicking here.
What a ride! The four Pitbull breeds we discussed have a total of 16 standard colors and seven non-standard shades. That’s quite a lot for dogs that descended the lineage of bulldogs and terriers!
I hope that this guide serves its purpose by educating confused pet owners and rescue shelter staff members all over the world. Knowing the different Pitbull coat colors is a big step to finally identifying them correctly and providing them with proper care.