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From Genes to Hues: The Genetic Basis of Olde English Bulldogge Coat Color Variations

An Olde English Bulldogge with DNA strand.

The Basics of Genetics and Inheritance

Genetics is the study of how traits and characteristics are passed down from one generation to the next. It involves the understanding of genes, which are segments of DNA that carry the instructions for the development and functioning of an organism. These genes are inherited from the parents and come in different forms called alleles. In the case of dogs, each dog has two copies of each gene, one from each parent.


The process of inheritance begins with the formation of gametes, which are reproductive cells that carry genetic information. In dogs, these gametes are the sperm and egg cells. During the formation of gametes, a process called meiosis occurs, which results in the shuffling and recombination of genetic material. This ensures genetic diversity and allows for new combinations of traits to be passed on to the offspring.


When a male dog and a female dog mate, their gametes combine to form a zygote, which is the first cell of a new individual. This zygote then undergoes cell division and differentiation to develop into a fully formed dog. The traits and characteristics of the dog, including its coat color, are determined by the genes it inherits from its parents.


If one parent has a dominant gene and the other has a recessive gene, the dominant gene will have a greater influence on the coat color of the offspring. This is because dominant genes overpower recessive genes. For example, if a black-coated dog (BB) breeds with a brown-coated dog (bb), all of their offspring will have a black coat color (Bb). This is because the dominant black gene overpowers the recessive brown gene.


However, if both parents have recessive genes for a particular coat color, their offspring will also have that recessive coat color. For instance, if two brown-coated dogs (bb) breed, all of their offspring will also have a brown coat color (bb). This is because there are no dominant genes present to overpower the brown gene.


Genes and Alleles That Determine Coat Color

Coat color is a polygenic trait, meaning it is influenced by multiple genes. There are several genes that control coat color in dogs, including those that determine the amount and distribution of pigments such as eumelanin (which produces black or brown) and pheomelanin (which produces red or yellow). These genes can have different forms or alleles, which can result in variations in coat color.


Coat color in dogs is determined by a complex combination of genes and alleles. There are several genes that play a role in determining the color and pattern of a dog's coat. One of the most well-known genes is the melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) gene. This gene has two common alleles, known as the "E" allele and the "e" allele. The E allele produces a protein that allows for the production of black or dark brown pigment, while the e allele produces a protein that allows for the production of red or yellow pigment. Dogs with two copies of the E allele will have a black or dark brown coat, while dogs with two copies of the e allele will have a red or yellow coat. Dogs with one copy of each allele will have a coat that is somewhere in between, such as a chocolate or liver color.


Another important gene involved in coat color determination is the beta-defensin 103 (CBD103) gene. This gene is responsible for producing the phaeomelanin pigment, which gives color to the red and yellow coats. The CBD103 gene has different alleles that can result in different shades of red or yellow, ranging from pale cream to deep red.


The agouti signaling protein (ASIP) gene is also important in determining coat color in dogs. This gene has several alleles, including A, a^t, and a. The A allele is dominant and produces a black coat color, while the a^t allele produces a sable or wolf-like coat pattern. The recessive a allele leads to a yellow or red coat color. The ASIP gene regulates the distribution of eumelanin and pheomelanin pigments within each individual hair strand.


In addition to these genes, there are several other genes that play a role in determining coat color in dogs. These include the tyrosinase-related protein 1 (TYRP1) gene, which affects the production of eumelanin pigments, and the melanophilin (MLPH) gene, which is involved in the transport of pigments within cells. Other genes, such as the solute carrier family 45 member 2 (SLC45A2) gene and the melanocyte-stimulating hormone receptor (MC5R) gene, also contribute to variations in coat color.


The K locus, also known as the black locus, is another gene that influences coat color in dogs. This gene controls the production of eumelanin and can result in black or liver-colored coats. Different alleles at the K locus can produce variations in coat color intensity and pattern.


The dilution (D) gene is responsible for diluting the intensity of coat color. It affects both eumelanin and phaeomelanin pigments, resulting in lighter shades of black, brown, or red.

The merle (M) gene is responsible for creating a marbled or mottled pattern in the coat. Dogs carrying the merle allele have patches of lighter color on a darker background.


Other genes and alleles also play a role in determining coat color in dogs. For example, the E locus controls whether a dog will have a solid coat color or a pattern, such as brindle or piebald. The S locus controls white spotting on the coat, while the T locus affects ticking or flecking of color.


It is worth noting that genetic studies have revealed that there may be additional genes and alleles that influence coat color in dogs, but further research is needed to fully understand their role. Additionally, it is important to remember that coat color in dogs can be influenced by various factors, including genetic mutations, interactions between different genes, and environmental factors.


Understanding the genes and alleles that determine coat color in dogs is not only fascinating but also has practical implications. Breeders can use this knowledge to selectively breed for specific coat colors or patterns, while veterinarians can use it to identify certain genetic conditions associated with certain coat colors. Overall, studying the genetics of coat color in dogs adds to our understanding of canine genetics and contributes to advancements in breeding and veterinary medicine.


Breeding for Specific Coat Colors

Breeding Olde English Bulldogges for specific coat colors can be a tempting pursuit for breeders and enthusiasts who have a preference for certain colors. However, it is crucial that breeders approach this process responsibly and ethically. While coat color can be an important factor for some, it should not be prioritized over the overall health and well-being of the Bulldogges involved. Here at Nunley Ranch we breed Olde English Bulldogges for important traits such as temperament, functioning ability, genetic health and overall conformation. If we happen to produce an eye-catching color pattern, then that is just icing on the cake.


Check back here for our next blog post that will list coat colors & patterns as well as provide descriptions and examples. You can also follow us on Facebook for updates.



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