Saint Bernards may not be as high ranking in the American Kennel Club registrations as other working dogs, but they sure are well-loved by many families because of their gentle but watchful nature. What’s more, they have an impressive build, and they come in a rich array of colors.
The standard Saint Bernard colors are brindle grizzle, brown and white, mahogany and white, orange and white, red and white, rust and white, white and brown, white and orange, white and red, brownish yellow, reddish-brown brindle, reddish-brown splash, and reddish-brown mantle.
Aside from these 13 shades, some Saint Bernard colors are considered faulty by major kennel clubs. These are black and white, albino, solid color, and those who don’t have any white marks.
If you want to learn more about all of these Saint Bernard colors, continue reading this comprehensive guide.
Does Dog Color Really Matter?
You’ll probably come across tons of articles on the internet telling you that dog color doesn’t matter. Their main argument is that there isn’t a substantial body of research that can prove the relationship between coat color and a dog’s personality.
While this is accurate, some experts left out the fact that recent studies and anecdotal records suggest that a dog’s coat color directly relates to its health.
According to research conducted by the University of Sydney, the life expectancy of chocolate-colored dogs is relatively shorter than their other counterparts.
This is in congruence with the claims of a study published in The Canadian Veterinary Journal, which states that some coat colors and coat color patterns relate to some neurologic and neuro-ophthalmic diseases.
Some of these ailments include sensorineural deafness, congenital blindness, and albinism.
Understanding which coat colors are greatly affected by inheritable diseases will help pet owners in choosing the canine variety right for them. Similarly, this will serve as a breeder’s guide in developing dogs that aren’t predisposed to various illnesses.
What Are the Standard Colors of Saint Bernards According to Different Kennel Clubs?
Data from major kennel organizations such as the American Kennel Club (AKC), United Kennel Club (UKC), and Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) report 13 standard colors for the Saint Bernard breed. They are presented in the table below.
AKC Acceptable Colors
- Brindle grizzle
- Brown and white
- Mahogany and white
- Orange and white
- Red and white
- Rust and white
- White and brown
- White and orange
- White and red
UKC Acceptable Colors
- All shades of red and white
- All shades of brown and white
FCI Acceptable Colors
- White with clear red patches
- Broken reddish-brown mantle
- Brindle reddish-brown
Saint Bernard Coat Colors Description
The 13 coat colors listed and described below are considered “standard” by most kennel clubs.
Some other colors might occur, but they still need to be observed and evaluated as to whether they do not carry deadly diseases. This is one of the primary reasons why they are not recognized.
Brindle Grizzle Saint Bernard
Saint Bernards with a brindle grizzle coat have stripes that almost resembles that of a tiger. What makes them more unique is that their base color is a combination of two tones.
To fully visualize what a brindle grizzle Saint Bernard is, let us first describe how the grizzle color differs from brindle.
A grizzle dog has a coat with no discernable pattern. In other words, the colors are well blended that they already appear in almost the same shade.
However, when you look closely, you start to realize the subtle difference. Most grizzle Saints have mixed black and brown hairs, while others have white and red.
Brown and White Saint Bernard
A brown and white Saint Bernard possesses a brown coat that is shiny tan in shade and is often confused with silver-beige. They have white markings in some parts of their coat which is in contrast with their brown or chocolate base.
Some dark shadings are also noticeable on their ears and their eyes have a black mask.
Mahogany and White Saint Bernard
Mahogany and white Saint Bernards have a medium-saturated, reddish-brown coat. They have white markings all over their body, and they have a black mask on their eyes. Black shadings are also found on their ears which accentuate their two-toned coat.
Orange and White Saint Bernard
You’ll often see cartoon versions of Saint Bernards in orange and white coats. This is because this particular type of coloration is pretty typical for this breed.
The orange base is actually caused by the pigment in a dog’s skin called phaeomelanin. This is the same pigment that produces red, cream, gold, yellow, and tan shades.
Red and White Saint Bernard
Red and white Saint Bernards have coats that are primarily red but have white markings on the chest and other parts of the body. They also have a black mask and some black shadings on their ears like their other cousins.
Rust and White Saint Bernard
A rust and white Saint Bernard has a medium brilliant reddish-brown color according to the AKC. This is one of the many variations of the red tone that appears in Saints. Often, dogs with this shade have white markings and black tones on their ears.
White and Brown Saint Bernard
The white and brown Saint Bernard is a bit different from the brown and white. You see, the first color mentioned is always the base color. In the case of the white and brown Saint, white is blanketing the whole body, while their markings are brown.
Similar to other colors, they also have a black mask on their eyes and a black tint on their ears.
White and Orange Saint Bernard
White and orange Saint Bernards are white-coated with some orange shades. This is almost similar to the white and orange pup, but the white tone is more dominant. They also have a black mask on their eyes, and their ears are a bit black-tinted.
White and Red Saint Bernard
A white and red Saint Bernard has more white in their coat than red tones. That’s why they are considered a different color by the AKC. However, the UKC and FCI did not present a clear guideline as to whether they also follow the same rules during conformation shows.
Brownish-Yellow Saint Bernard
Brownish-yellow Saint Bernards got their coat color from a mutation in their genes causing color dilution. This gene is called D Locus and most black, brown, and yellow dogs may be affected by this at some point.
Just like the other color varieties, brownish-yellow Saints have white markings and black shadings.
Reddish-Brown Brindle Saint Bernard
This type of Saint Bernard has a reddish-brown base with stripes similar to that of a tiger. These stripes are usually black or any darker shade.
Reddish-Brown Splash Saint Bernard
Splash is a dog color pattern synonymous with piebald. Saint Bernards with this coat have a reddish-brown base and irregular white patches that occur when the skin cells did not produce any type of pigment.
These markings interrupt the pigmented coat, but it does not come in a ticked appearance just like Great Danes and Dalmatians.
Reddish-Brown Mantle Saint Bernard
The coat of a reddish-brown mantle Saint Bernard has a shaded portion. Usually, this shading is found on the shoulders, back, and side. It can either be a white shading or a reddish-brown shading.
What Are the Required Markings for Saint Bernards?
As per the UKC, white markings are required on the following parts of Saint Bernard:
- Tip of tail
- Nape of the neck
Meanwhile, white markings on the body parts I’ll mention below are considered desirable but not required:
- Blaze between the eyes
- Lower half of the tail
It is also expected that Saints have a dark mask around their eyes and a dark shade on their ears as I repeatedly discussed a while ago. These black tones are desirable, but their absence isn’t really an issue.
What Are the Non-Standard and Faulty Saint Bernard Colors According to Top Kennel Clubs?
The AKC, UKC, and FCI are united in specifying that some Saint Bernard colors are not permitted because they may carry certain diseases. They are as follows:
Solid Color Saint Bernard
If you have fully read the section for Saint Bernard coat colors, you might have deduced that they are always a combination of two or three shades. Some are even more unique because of their patterns like the brindle, splash, and mantle.
In relation to this, Saint Bernards with a single coat color is considered highly undesirable by top kennel clubs. They did not clearly explain why, but the hunch of most pet owners is that they come with tons of congenital disabilities.
Saint Bernards Without Any White Tone on Their Coat
This is another variety that is frowned upon by many. Saints who don’t have any white on their coat but have black masks and black shadings aren’t permissible because they have strayed away from the original standard colors.
Black and White Saint Bernard
There are some Saint Bernards that don’t have any red or brown on their coat. Instead, they are only black and white. It is believed that they are bred for color; that’s why various kennel organizations strongly condemn them.
Albino Saint Bernard
Similar to other dog breeds, albino Saints aren’t also acknowledged because they carry a number of defects including deafness and blindness. You will be able to quickly identify an albino Saint Bernard because they have a pure white coat and their nose and eyes are pinkish.
What Are the Rarest and Most Common Colors of Saint Bernards?
The rarity of a dog is what often predicts its price. I know you’re interested to learn which variety will cost you more, so here are the rarest Saint Bernard colors:
- Brindle Grizzle
- Brownish Yellow
- Mahogany and White
If you want a cheaper Saint (although they are still pricey than other dogs because of their size), here are the colors you should look for:
- Orange and White
- White and Orange
- Red and White
- White and Red
- Brown and White
- White and Brown
It is also common to see white and black Saints, but I would not suggest getting one because breeding them isn’t exactly ethical.
Saint Bernard Coat Genetics: Why Do These Dogs Have Many Different Colors?
Before you dive into this section, I would like to clarify that I am not a geneticist. I’m just a layperson who happens to know about this stuff because I’ve been dealing with dogs for 17 years now. That’s already reflected in my bio, but I think it’s worth mentioning.
So, to start with, let me introduce to you the two pigments that are responsible for the coat color of your Saint Bernard: eumelanin and phaeomelanin.
Eumelanin is the black pigment that turns your dog coat into black. However, there are instances where pups become brown (liver/chocolate), blue, or isabella due to specific genes that alter eumelanin concentration.
Dogs who have these colors are called dilutes. Their eyes and nose may also appear lighter depending on the genes they inherited from their parents.
The other pigment that determines coat color is called phaeomelanin. This is basically red, but it can also produce different shades like light cream, gold, orange, and yellow.
You may be wondering what controls the combination of the eumelanin and phaeomelanin. Well, it is called A (Agouti) Locus, and it contains four alleles that indicate what shade of a particular color a dog will possess.
In terms of the white coat color, it occurs when the cells were not able to produce any pigment. Some Saint Bernards are affected dramatically by this which results in albinism, while some are only mildly affected like those with white markings.
The Effect of Coat Color on a Saint Bernard’s Health and Behavior
There isn’t any pertinent evidence proving that coat color affects a Saint Bernard’s behavior; however, pups with shades that are considered faulty by major kennel clubs are known to be more vulnerable to diseases.
In fact, they often do not meet the expected lifespan of Saints which are 8 to 10 years. The colors I am pertaining to are the albino, black and white, solid color, and those who don’t have any white on their coat.
Here are the diseases that may afflict them:
- Congenital Deafness: According to the MSD Veterinary Manual, congenital deafness is an ear problem manifested by albino dogs. Signs of this condition include failure to respond to any sound, excessive barking, making an unusual noise, and hyperactivity.
- Congenital Blindness: A dog affected by congenital blindness has a cloudy eye appearance and often looks confused, easily startled, and dazed.
- Cardiomyopathy: This is a disease of the muscles of the heart that weakens contractions and results in poor pumping of blood. Unfortunately, there are no early signs detectable to prevent this.
- Seizures: Dogs that were not recognized by kennel clubs are also at higher risk of seizures. There are four types of this condition that your dog may exhibit: generalized seizure, focal seizure, psychomotor seizure, and idiopathic epilepsy.
- Osteosarcoma: This is a bone tumor that usually targets the limbs but can also reach the bones and skull. One of the most common symptoms of this disease is lameness.
- Distichiasis: This is a condition where the Saint’s eyelashes develop in an abnormal area leading to discomfort and vision loss.
If you notice that your Saint Bernard manifests the symptoms of the health issues above, have them checked immediately by an expert veterinarian.
Do Saint Bernards Change Color When They Grow?
Like other dog breeds, a Saint Bernard can change color, but it is not as drastic as you might expect.
The subtle color shift may occur this way: your pup is born with a red shade, but it eventually turns into a deep mahogany color after a few months. This is primarily due to their coat pigment progression.
If in case, your dog is already an adult and you noticed that there are changes to its color, this may be caused by the following:
- Nutritional status
- Skin disease
Saint Bernard Eyes and Nose Colors
Saint Bernards have a less complicated appearance than most breeds. This is evident in the color of their eyes and nose.
Here’s what the AKC, UKC, and FCI wrote as standard eyes for this gentle giant:
|AKC Eye Color Description||UKC Eye Color Description||FCI Eye Color Description|
|Dark brown eyes are ideal, while light eyes are not acceptable.||Dark brown eyes are desirable, while blue eyes are faulty.||Eye color should be dark brown or nut brown. Light eyes are unacceptable.|
Meanwhile, here’s their description of the Saint Bernard’s nose color:
|AKC Nose Color Description||UKC Nose Color Description||FCI Nose Color Description|
|Black is preferred. No mentions of unacceptable colors.||Desired nose color is black, while those with incomplete pigment and exhibits other colors aren’t tolerated.||Expected nose color is black. Nose leather and nostrils that are flesh-colored or without pigmentation is highly unacceptable.|
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Saint Bernards Have Hypoallergenic Coats?
Saint Bernards are not hypoallergenic because no such breed exists. Sure, there may be dogs that do not cause allergies, but Saints are not one of them. This dog is a heavy shedder, so if you plan to purchase one, make sure you have consulted each of your housemates.
RELATED: Facts About Saint Bernard Shedding
Are Saint Bernards With Short Coats Acceptable?
As per the AKC, Saints can come in short or long hair, and both are totally fine. These varieties require the same care and maintenance to make sure that ticks and spotting are prevented.
In buying a Saint Bernard, always remember that they have two to three shades on their coat. This way, you’ll be able to spot breeders who offer non-standard and faulty dogs in the pretense that they are rare.
Most sellers out there are only after profit, so you should be informed about simple but vital facts like what I have presented in this guide.
Also, skip looking for your desired pup color in puppy mills and backyard breeders. You may save a good chunk of money for the Saint’s initial cost, but veterinarian bills will surely pile up as your dog matures.