The following copyrighted material is presented here with the express written permission of the
International Siberian Husky Club, Inc. This work was originally published in the 1977 2nd Edition of
The International Siberian Husky Club, Inc. presents The Siberian Husky. The article was again published in its entirety in the 1994 3rd Edition. Please respect intellectual property and copyright rights.

Color Genetics©

by Ginny Emrich Rice
(originally published in 1977)

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It is most unfortunate that color research has not been done with arctic breeds and that geneticists do not agree on basic symbols or action of the genes involving color. The paper written by this author in 1963 was the first work to be done on arctic breed coloring. The original article has been revised with an attempt to clarify confusing portions and is now presented.

The following color formuli is my own correlation of genetic symbols recorded by geneticists specializing in color and an attempt to reconcile some admitted difficulties as well as confine the formuli to genes present in arctic breeds. For simplicity the words "and white" have been omitted when describing a single color; i.e. black, grey, copper have been substituted for black and white, grey and white, and copper and white. It is understood that the Siberian Husky retains white under-portions and masks.

It may also be remembered that within each chromosome pair are many other genes whose action affect color, shading, and marking. Some of these genes or factors directly affect color in either a dominant or recessive action while others simply extend or prohibit action. There is NO single gene which is responsible for any one color. No single color dominates over the shade of another color, but rather many dominant and recessive factors serve to produce a variety of color and shade.

While the genotype controls the actual color and markings of the dog, his phenotype creates optical illusions. A longer coat will always appear darker than the identical shade found on a shorter coated dog. The undercoat plays an important role in creating a background for the outer coat lending either a darkening or lightening affect. Physical condition of the dog affects color also as does the shedding period.

The most common factors found in the Siberian Husky coat color which directly affect color are listed below:

Monochrome. A monochrome coat is one in which each individual hair is of one color from root to tip. There are usually some white or yellow hairs intermixed, but these are also monochromatic. Black, copper or white dogs may be monochromatic but never grey, sable or agouti. It stems from dominant genes but is not completely dominant in transmission. There is little shading within this type of coat as compared to the banded variety and it usually appears deeper in color.

Banded. A banded coat is one in which each individual hair is banded with white or yellow. The light band may be found in the center of each hair with color on the root and tip or it may stem from the root with only color tipping. Grey, sable, agouti, black, copper or white colors may be banded. Grey arctic dogs are always banded. Shadings are common among banded coats with a deeper color found on the back, down the shoulders, on the head and in the center of the tail.

Allowance and Restriction of Color. The pigment or color may be allowed to extend far down on the body including the upper portion of the legs, the complete tail, and the belly areas. It may be restricted to only the upper portions of the saddle, only half the tail leaving the tip white, or may be restricted completely resulting in a pure white dog. Masks and markings are the result of restriction of pigment and the extension of white.

Just as pigment is allowed or restricted over the body, it is also allowed or restricted in each individual hair. A full allowance of pigment will permit full depth of color to appear per hair. Dilution factors actually dilute or bleach color. Action of the genes affect the outer coat and undercoat separately.

Red and Yellow may be allowed to create a warm tone or restricted to produce a silvering effect. There is yet another factor called the greying gene which fades black into grey with maturity and continues this process into old age. Other genes oxidize black into yellow but do not affect the points (nose, eye rims, lip lines and foot pads). The recessive of the gene which permits black is brown and in a double recessive form (homozygous) produces brown or copper coats with liver points.

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Genetic symbols of genes affecting coat colors
with regard to Siberian Huskies.

Gene Description Colors Involved
(My summation - under  development)


An epistatic red factor which produces a red color in dogs possessing the factors for a black or brown coat; Distributes dark pigment over the whole body; Dominant allele for self-colored hairs. This would tend to include the monochrome factor with banding as a recessive, but doesn't seem to apply to arctic breeds, who may be homozygous for the recessive factors. It is an epistatic gene which might account for the confusion or the monochromatic factor may be a recessive allele.  


Allowance of red and yellow in banded coats; causing different amounts of light and dark tone on each hair. Agouti factor. Agouti


Restricts red and yellow completely. Chinchilla factor. Silver


Restricts dark pigment; makes sable or tan. Sable


Black. Must be present for black to appear anywhere on the dog. Black, Grey, Wolf Grey, Agouti, Sable, Isabella White


Brown. Must be present for brown to appear and is always accompanied with liver points. No black may appear anywhere on dog when in the homozygous form (bb). Copper coloring. Copper, Light Red, White (w/red points)


Heterozygous pair; dog retains black pigment and may be of any color with black points but is capable of producing copper progeny. Black, Grey, Wolf Grey, Agouti, Isabella White


Extension factor which extends either the black or brown pigment throughout the coat. Works with the B series. All colors


Oxidizes black into yellow leaving points black; not present in Siberians.  


Produces Melanin. Full color allowance. Winge (noted author on color) claims it to be a self-colored coat factor, in contrast to a series of color patterns. Albino gene.  


Oxidizes color into white, often associated with Isabella yellow variation. It does not affect black points but is confined only to coat coloring. Isabella White


Total albinism; very rare in dogs. Is only theoretically possible in Siberians.  


Dilution factor. In its dominant form allow full color or is a color intensifier. All colors


Heterozygous dilution: partially diluting color. All colors


Blue factor when "ach" also appears complete dilution of color changing black to blue and brown to lemon. Slatey blue nose appear with blue coats.  


Winge (author on color) claims this gene is responsible for melanin and essential for coloring.  


Albinism factor; not found in Siberian Huskies.  


Progressing greying from birth to old age. Gene responsible for the wild-coloring or agouti. Possibly present in all Siberians Huskies with its double dominant form causing continual greying. Agouti, possibly all others


Harlequin factor; not found in arctic breeds.  


Interaction factor affecting all other genes. Action is too complicated for simple explanation and is not fully understood.  


Short hair; or normal coat length for breed. Not color related; see Wooly v. Regular


Long hair; in its homozygous form results in long coats with leg feathering and plume-like tails. Not color related; see Wooly


Merle factor. Not present in arctic breeds; recessive responsible for uniform pigmentation and possibly found in arctic breed in homozygous form.  


Roan factor. Not present in arctic breeds. The freckles sometimes found on Siberian Huskies is not due to this factor.  


Total coat color. The coat is of a single color as distinct from coats with various patterns. Not present, in its dominant form, in Siberians. Little (color author) describes the gene as "Ticking factor" but Winge disagrees as does Paramoure (another noted author).  


Sable or dominant yellow. Epistatic to B-E when T is present which produces black. Sable, ?


B-color; restriction black to certain areas of upper region.  


Restricts black to saddle area only. Various colors (NOT copper or light red as no black is present); distinct saddle
visible (ex: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5


Self colored coat not present in arctic dogs except possibly the Samoyed.  


Irish markings; white found on underparts, typical masking on faces, without white located on upper portion of dog, i.e. neck or rump. Most dominant factor of this series in Siberians. Does not affect which color; affects the pattern of color distribution; opposite of Piebald


Neck marks. Allowance of white on neck from a small dot on nape of the neck to full shawl collars. Pattern factor (ex: 1, 2, 3, 4)


Piebald factor. Allowance of white upon rear assembly as well as neck area. White usually extends far up the sides of the dog. Pattern factor


White. White extends itself over complete coat resulting in a pure white dog when homozygous (swsw). White
Pattern factor; NOT A COLOR

Dominance order:

- si, Irish, over all other
- sn, neck marked, over sp and sw
- sp, piebald, only over sw
- sw, pure white is the complete recessive of this series

Just a reminder: All Siberian Husky related text on this page is copyrighted material presented here with the express written permission of the International Siberian Husky Club, Inc. This work was originally published in the 1977 2nd Edition of The International Siberian Husky Club, Inc. presents The Siberian Husky. The article was again published in its entirety in the 1994 3rd Edition. Please respect intellectual property and copyright rights.

Description of Color


Black dogs are separated by several divisions - those possessing the banded coat or those with a monochromatic coat; those whose undercoat is mole or charcoal or those whose undercoat is white or beige or a mixture of all; and those whose pigment is allowed in full depth and extending over the majority of the body or those retaining dilution factors with restriction of pigment to the upper portions of the body only. There are also grizzled and reddish effects. Black Siberians may produce any color within their progeny.

Jet Black. A monochrome coat. Mole or charcoal undercoat. Pigment is allowed to extend far down the body. No dilution factors are present allowing a full depth of color.

Banded/Jet Black. A definite black and white dog similar to the Jet Black differing only in the banding of the coat. Mole or charcoal undercoat. Pigment is allowed to extend far down on the body. No dilution factors are present.

Black and White. A lighter version of the above with a banded coat. Undercoat may be beige, white or charcoal and often a mixture of the three. Pigment may be restricted to the upper portions only. Dilution factors may be present with resulting lighter depth of color. Color per individual hid is often restricted causing the dog to appear grey when out of coat. Yellow or red is often allowed and the center of the back may be a grizzled effect.

Silver Black. Always banded, with a white or charcoal undercoat. Complete restriction of yellow and red tones. When dilution factors are present the overall effect is blue. Pigment is restricted over the body as well as on each hair.

Reddish Black. A full allowance of red creates a reddish tone not to be confused with sunburning or old dry coats. They may be either banded or monochromatic and may possess either charcoal, beige or white undercoats. Pigment may be restricted or allowed to extend over he body as well as per individual hair. There is often an overall cast of red to the dog with highlights behind the ears, in the saddle above the hock and in the center of the tail. It is sometimes an indication of a heterozygous Bb; progeny may be copper.


The major difference between black and grey is the banding of the coat; all greys are banded. The black pigment is restricted to a smaller area on individual hairs and often the entire pigment is restricted over the body. The undercoat is usually beige or silver, at times intermixed with charcoal. There are dilution factors present in many cases. It is sometimes difficult to decide between a light black or a dark grey with the overall general appearance being the final deciding factor. This is the most common of all Siberian Husky colors and grey Siberians may produce any color within his progeny.

Wolf Grey. A full allowance of the agouti gene gives a warm shade with casts of beige, tan, yellow or red behind the ears, above the hocks and in the saddle area. The undercoat is beige. There may be a full allowance of pigment over the body but pigment is restricted per individual hair. It is a full rich color.

Silver Grey. A complete restriction of the agouti genes and addition of the chinchilla factor result in a grey with a silvery tone. No red or yellow hair is intermixed. The undercoat is silver or white and the outer coat is banded with white or silver with black often only tipping the hair. When dilution factors are present the shade becomes quite blue and is accompanied with slatey blue nose. When this occurs the color is referred to as Silver-Blue. It may be either a dark or light shade.

Medium Grey. This is the most common of grey coloring and results from a mixture of heterozygous genes which allows red or yellow tone but not in their fullest depth; the chinchilla factor tends to reduce the richness of color but can not completely restrict it. The undercoat is usually a mixture of beige and silver. Pigment may be completely allowed or restricted.

Seal Grey. Usually found among Malamutes. The undercoat and light portions are beige or yellow reflecting the agouti with addition of more red tones. The outer coat is monochrome black and usually extends far down on the dog. This color is closely related to the typical black and tan found in other breeds. It is rare.


Usually found among Indian Dogs. This is also called the "wild coloring" and is an exacting color requiring special masks and markings; although partial agouti coloring is more common. The white markings are always cream; the mask is always "Dark with a strip". The pigment extends far down on the body with no dilution factors present. The undercoat is charcoal. The outer coat is always banded with black at the root and tip and yellow in the center band. A grizzled effect is usually present in the saddle area. Progeny may be of any color. The points are usually exceptionally black and often associated with black nails and very stiff black whiskers. This is not a common color but is often mistaken for Wolf Grey.


There are two completely different types of brown Siberian Huskies. The most common is called the Copper while the Sable is quite rare and could also be listed as a shade of Agouti. The Copper is a result of a recessive gene in the homozygous form which prohibits black pigment from appearing anywhere on the body. Liver points are always associated with the Copper coloring. Sables have black points and black tipping on their outer fur with a full and complete allowance of red. The mode of color transmission for sable is not known. Coppers must be bred to mates carrying the same recessive gene in order to produce copper progeny; two coppers bred together always produce copper or white puppies.

Copper. Either a banded or monochromatic coat. Points are always liver colored. The undercoat may be either copper, light red, or brown and in banded individuals may be intermixed with cream. Pigment may be allowed or restricted over the body area as well as per individual hair. Dilution factors fade the brown into lemon while a full allowance of color results in a chocolate colored coat.

Orange Copper. Describing a tone allowing more yellow than red.

Chocolate Copper. Describing tone with full depth of color and brown or liver undercoat. The darkest possible brown.

Red Copper. Describing a tone with more red allowance than yellow; a bright color.

Sable. Always associated with black points and black tipping on fur. Always banded. Undercoat is red or chocolate or orange; never beige as in the wolf-grey color. Restriction of pigment , full allowance of color, and dilution factors will influence shade. Very rare in Siberians. Some Sables are born almost wolf-grey and the red tones deepen with age. The may also be termed as Black-nosed Reds.


There are two types of white Siberian, each a result of a different series of genes. The Extended-white is a result of complete restriction of pigments and extension of white over the entire body. The Isabella White is a result of the black pigment being oxidized into yellow or white and is nothing more than a bleached blonde! In the Isabella White there are noticeable buff tones with black points and masks and markings are sometimes visible. This coloring is due to the lack of melanin present and freckles often appear on the muzzle with buff saddles and ears. The genes whose action restricts, dilutes, extends and allows are present but not easily detected as the phenotype is all white. Progeny from either the Isabella or Extended White Siberian may be of any color.

Buff and White. This is a comparatively rare color stemming from the oxidation factors which may be favorably compared to the color of a Palomino horse. The buff usually deepens with age and becomes steadily darker; usually more noticeable in winter than summer. A true buff and white has no black within his coat but has black points.

Pure White. May be monochromatic or banded with silver tipping. Undercoat is silver or white. Black hair may appear rarely and singularly within the coat. Points may be black or liver; standard allows flesh colored points in all white Siberians.

Isabella White. May be either banded or monochromatic. Undercoat is white and may contain some beige or yellow. Buff tones are obvious on ears, saddle, above hock and elbow and in the center of the tail. Points are usually jet black but my be liver or flesh.

White and Black, Grey, or Copper. A basically white dog with piebald markings with color being restricted to the saddle, ears, center of tail and rump. Undercoat is always white or silver but coat may be banded or monochromatic. Pigment is restricted over the body but full allowance may appear per individual hair.

Description of Markings and Eye Color

Color of Markings

White - The most typical shade of markings in Siberians.

Cream - Usually associated with black, copper, sable or agouti and some shades of wolf or medium grey.

Color of Points

Black - Black coloring on nose, foot pads, eye rims, and lip lines.

Liver - Always accompanying copper coloring. Same location as above.

Snow Nose - A pink streak is evidenced in the winter and sometimes associated with bitches in season or in whelp.

Broken - When the color on the points is broken with flesh color; often seen on lip lines.

Nails - The nails are black on strongly pigmented dogs. A combination of black and flesh colored nails is common. Black nails may accompany a liver colored dog.

Description of Markings

Irish - Denoting a mask, white underparts and legs.

Neck Marks - Denoting white on the neck; in size from a dot to a full shawl or mantle.

Piebald - Denoting white on neck and rump area; usually extending up on sides. May also denote a basically white dog with colored ears.

Eye Color

Brown - A dark to light but definite brown eye.

Amber - A light brown that is nearly yellow in tone.

Blue - White with a blue cast.

Bi-Colored - One eye of each color; brown/blue; brown/amber; blue/amber.

Parti - Portions of the eye color are different - blue with a brown spot; brown with a blue wedge; etc.


There are very few rules to follow when breeding Siberian Huskies simply because the Siberian Husky Standard allows all marking and all shades of color including white. The variation of shade among Siberian of the same color is fantastic for there are rarely two dogs alike. There are no lethal or crippling color genes connected with arctic breeds as found in some other breeds. Color breeding while fascinating and exasperating, is the least important factor in the production of high quality animals. A great deal is left to personal taste and preference of tone, markings, and actual color. Full depth of color may be obtained by using individuals without dilution factors and with monochromatic coats and full allowance of pigment over the body and on the individual hair. Silver and blue tones are obtained by avoiding individuals possessing agouti factors and by using animals with the clear chinchilla restricting genes. A warm rich color is obtained by mating Siberian with a full allowance of the agouti factors and with much red and yellow present in their coat. Delicate shading and tipping result from parents with a similar pattern. Much attention should be paid to accompanying factors and less regard for basic coat color for then a breeder can produce just about any shade he so desires.

Coppers and white are complete recessives. Puppies of this coloring are the result of homozygous gene pairs passed from both sire and dam. An all copper litter results from two copper parents but copper puppies may be whelped within a litter of black, grey, or white with correspondingly colored parents. It is a simple case of the two recessive genes within that pair being transmitted to a single pup. The best white puppies (those with blacker points) are usually whelped in a litter with Irish marked siblings and with one colored parent who carries the gene for producing white mated to an all white individual. With this combination, 50 per cent of the puppies should be pure white. The same situation exists in breeding copper for one parent may be copper and the other another color carrying the recessive gene for brown pigment.

Grey appears dominant over basic black and a good percentage of grey parents will produce grey progeny. Agouti factor, or the allowance of red and yellow within the coat, are dominant over chinchilla factors or the restriction or red and yellow. A full allowance of pigment to extend over the body is dominant to restricted body pigment. A full allowance of pigment per hair is also dominant. Color intensifiers are dominant to dilution factors. Short air is dominant over long' coarse over soft. Black dominants over brown; and color over white.

The only really poor color combination is white to copper; the progeny may have liver points with an all-white coat, which while allowed by the Standard is not particularly attractive. Sable to monochrome black has resulted in black pups with rust colored tipping and highlights and is also not as desirable as the pure sable or plain black. Piebald to neck marked results in progeny all bearing the piebald or neck markings but is not considered poor in any way and are actually most attractive and unusual. White reflects his mate's coloring and markings similarly to a mirror for white is completely recessive. It is also wise to mate a poorly pigmented (in regard to points) to one strong in such pigmentation and thus avoid broken lines, eye rims, and pink noses.

Genes affecting eye color have not been studied accurately for presentation with this guide. There appears many interacting genes with complicating actions. Generally accepted is the brown dominance over blue and bi-colored and parti over clear blue eye coloring. It has been recorded that a dog cannot produce progeny with eye color darker than his own; blue excepted. Copper specimens possess either amber or blue eye but never brown eyes.

All rights reserved. Brief excerpts quoted and credited appropriately may appear elsewhere. Contact the ISHC at N7002 Peck Station Rd., Elkhorn, WI 53121-9417, USA for written permission to use any part or the whole of this article in any public forum (newsletter, magazine, book, web site, etc. - electronic or hard copy).
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