Is brindle the best? Quite possibly – but beauty is in the eye of the beholder!
Today we’re discussing brilliant brindle breeds, and exploring how this unique coloring came about.
Brindle is the name given to a coat color pattern characterized by a brown base color, overlain with dark brown to black stripes. These markings often form a vaguely tiger-like pattern, but it can appear blotchy in other specimens. It’s probably best to just show you, so here:
Also known as striped coloring, brindle is a great looking color pattern, with plenty of fans. My favorite color pattern in dogs is undoubtedly the black-and-tan look sported by Rotties and Dobbies, but brindle is a close second.
But brindle color patterns do not occur in all breeds; so, if you decide that you want a dog with a brindle coat, you’ll need to select from a few different options. We’ve compiled some of the most amazing brindle breeds below to give you a head start.
Note that not all brindles are created equally: Some are entirely clad in the color pattern, while others have large patches of brindle pattern interspersed with areas of other color (usually white).
Additionally, there is variation in the degree of striping and contrast from one dog to the next. This means that if you are on the hunt for a brindle dog, you must not only select a breed that displays the trait, you’ll need to select an individual that expresses the trait well.
There’s also potential for other breeds to have striped coloring as well, but it’s most common in the breeds we discuss below.
Akitas come in a Baskin-Robins-like assortment of colors, including a few different brindle combinations. Robust dogs, Akitas were originally developed to track and hunt boar, bear and other dangerous animals. They have a willful mind and a protective instinct, so they require proper socialization and training to prevent them from becoming aggressive.
Akitas are probably not the ideal choice for a first-time owner, but they are great for those who have the necessary patience and confidence. It can also be challenging to raise Akitas around other pets, as Akitas have a very strong prey drive, and they may view roommates unfavorably.
Bull terriers are modest-sized dogs that pack an incredible amount of personality into their somewhat-unusual-looking package. The AKC perhaps puts it best, describing them as “playful, charming, mischievous.” Bull terriers occur in 13 different color patterns, including a few different brindle combinations. Despite their impressive, muscular appearance, bull terriers are among the friendliest and loyal breeds.
Bull terriers are often destructive chewers, so it is important to provide them with plenty of safe chewing toys. Opt for toys at the super-rugged end of the spectrum when shopping for bull terriers, as flimsy toys won’t last long at all.
Boxers come in either of two color patterns: fawn (brown) and brindle. The brindle trait is dominant in boxers, meaning that if they have one copy of the brindle gene, they’ll display the trait. This tends to cause the trait to spread through the gene pool fairly rapidly, making striped colored Boxers quite common. Boxers are celebrated for their friendly nature, abundant energy and exceptional patience with children and babies.
Boxers are sensitive dogs, who bond strongly with their families; so, they aren’t the best choice for families that spend a lot of time away from the home. Most boxers demand daily play sessions and plenty of snuggling time with their owners.
Often known as the “American Gentleman,” for his tuxedo-like coat and polite demeanor, Boston terriers occur in five different color forms, including three different brindle variations. A rather small breed, Boston terriers range from about 10 to 25 pounds, making them a great choice for apartment dwellers.
Like many other brachycephalic (short-faced) breeds, Boston Terriers can overheat in hot weather, so they aren’t ideal for those living in hot climates. However, their small size and short coat length also means that they’re not particularly well suited for cold climates either.
Members of the herding group, cardigan Welsh corgis are affectionate little balls fur, available in a variety of colors, including brindle. Smart but stubborn, cardigan Welsh corgis quickly learn new commands, but house training them is sometimes difficult. They are surprisingly athletic, despite their stubby legs, and some are skilled Frisbee dogs.
Corgis have an incredibly dense, long coat that sheds profusely, which may be off-putting to some owners, so be sure you can handle a foot-deep layer of fur in your home before selecting one of these cuties.
Colloquially known as wiener dogs, these long, low and lean pups are extremely friendly and appear to have an optimistic view of life in general. Interestingly, the AKC does not recognize brindle as one of the colors dachshunds display, but several breeders produce dogs that resemble striped brindles and use the brindle moniker when discussing them.
Dachshunds are great with kids, and their small size makes them suitable for apartment living, provided that they still receive ample exercise. However, they are quite alert, protective and vocal, so they don’t make sense for people who demand a calm, quiet home.
Regal and ridiculously big, Great Danes are one of the world’s biggest breeds. They reach about 200 pounds and sometimes stand nearly 3-feet-high at the shoulder, so they aren’t a great choice for people living in apartments, to say the least (from simple space logistics, you won’t have much room to move with a Great Dane around). They are also famous for the buckets of drool they produce on a daily basis, so be sure you consider this before adding a Dane to your home.
Despite their impressive size and intimidating appearance, Danes are lovable, gentle dogs with a calm, dignified demeanor. They occur in nine different color forms, including brindle.
Mastiffs are gigantic dogs that are available in striped brindle, apricot and fawn color patterns. If you’ve got the space available, mastiffs make great companions, courtesy of their loving nature and gentle spirit. Mastiffs have relatively modest exercise needs, and they are often content to lounge about for long periods of time.
Mastiffs aren’t always a great choice for new owners, who may not truly understand what it’s like to deal with a dog that may exceed 220 pounds in weight. Nevertheless, mastiffs are very endearing dogs who love to become members of the family.
Whether you consider these dogs two different breeds or not, brindle-colored individuals are common among the group. Pits and American Staffordshire terriers vary pretty widely in size, with some barely reaching 40 pounds and others exceeding 80 or more. They both have stocky builds and tails that never seem to stop wagging.
Pit bulls and staffies are widely misunderstood, and they are victims of a decades-long smear campaign by sensationalistic media outlets seeking eyeballs and page clicks. Well raised and loved pits and Am staffs are exceedingly friendly, loyal and loving dogs that make great pets for most homes.
Given that the word brindle is in this breed’s name, it isn’t surprising that these tracking dogs are available with a brindle coat pattern. However, most treeing Tennessee brindle owners love the breed for their ability to effectively tree game, rather than their attractive coat patterns.
Treeing Tennessee brindles were originally created in the Ozarks, where they were used to track and tree a variety of different game species. They have very strong noses, and they tend to vocalize continuously while in pursuit of prey. Accordingly, they are often quite popular among hunters who like to work alongside dogs.
However, many of the traits that make these dogs so effective in the field cause challenges in the home. These dogs have high energy levels, and they don’t tolerate being alone very well at all. Additionally, although they’re pretty intelligent, they aren’t especially easy to train.
The Plott is a big and handsome tracking dog, who was originally developed to track and corner formidable game, including bear and wild boar. Plotts are still used extensively for hunting and tracking, but some people also keep them as pets. However, it is important to understand that Plotts can be a bit of a handful, and they’re not suitable for novice owners.
For starters, Plotts need a lot of room to run around. They have tons of energy and they need a lot of exercise to prevent destructive behaviors (like problem chewing or digging) from manifesting. Accordingly, they’re only really suitable for owners with large fenced yards – the Plott is positively inappropriate for apartment life.
However, there is plenty to like about Plotts too. They’re very sweet and affectionate, and they usually get along well with other dogs. They’re also easy to groom and they won’t coat your home in a layer of shed hair.
Greyhounds are another breed that occasionally displays a brindle color pattern. In fact, the breed can display any of several different types of brindle color pattern, including black, blue, red, fawn, liver and combinations thereof.
Although they’re famous for being fleet of foot, greyhounds are typically couch potatoes, who love nothing more than snuggling up with their people while snoozing. They certainly need exercise and the chance to run around for 20 to 30 minutes on a daily basis, but they don’t have as much energy as many people would think.
Note that while greyhounds are typically very sweet, affectionate dogs, those who’ve retired from the racing circuit may have been mistreated for years. This can leave them shy or reactive, which can cause problems for first-time owners.
Like their ancestors the greyhound, whippets were originally used for racing and rabbit-hunting. But, as they required less space and food than greyhounds, they were much better-suited for the working-class coal miners who created the breed. However, modern whippets are rarely used in such contexts, and they usually serve as family pets.
The AKC recognizes 18 different color patterns for the whippet, ranging from white to black and everything in between. However, six of the colors – blue brindle, fawn brindle, red brindle, white & blue brindle, white & fawn brindle, and white & red brindle – feature at least some brindle areas in their coats.
Whippets are sensitive, affectionate and friendly, so they make good pets – even for relatively inexperienced owners. They are quite tidy, as they neither shed heavily nor drool very much, and they are generally healthy animals. They do have quite a serious prey drive, so caution is advised when introducing them to cats or other small pets.
Just like other coat colors and patterns, the brindle color pattern is a genetic trait, caused by a particular combination of genes.
There are a handful of different places (loci) along your dog’s DNA strand that determine her color pattern. These are referred to as gene series, and they are labelled by a letter.
The mutation for the brindle trait is located at the K locus. There are three different variations of genes (called alleles) at this locus. One makes the dog all black, one essentially defaults to other alleles, and, as you may have guessed, the other one makes the dogs brindle. Brindle is dominant over the yellow (default) coloration, but recessive to the black gene.
We should also point out that many different species display a similar color pattern, including cattle, horses, guinea pigs and some lizards. This doesn’t mean that the conditions are related; it just means that they are visually similar. Horses usually (but not always) display the brindle color pattern when two embryos fuse – the resulting chimera exhibits multiple colors because it is essentially multiple horses living in the same body.
Do you like the brindle color pattern? Have you ever had a brindle dog? Let us know all about him or her in the comments below!
Ben is a lifelong environmental educator who writes about animals, trees, outdoor recreation, science and environmental issues. He lives with his beautiful wife and spoiled-rotten Rottweiler in Atlanta, Georgia. Read more by Ben at FootstepsInTheForest.com or @FootstepsForest on Twitter.
Get dog training tips & canine care expertise delivered to your inbox!