Brindle Beauties

Brindle Beauties

brindle great dane
A) claw, B) digital pads, C) metacarpal pad, D) dew claw, E) carpal pad.

A brindle boxer portrait.

The confident, intelligent, and amiable Pit Bull, which encompasses the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Bull Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, are most commonly associated with the brindle coat.  However, it’s not just specific to our beloved Pit Bulls.  Dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, cattle, and sometimes horses are lucky enough to sport the brindle coat.

A) claw, B) digital pads, C) metacarpal pad, D) dew claw, E) carpal pad.

Dogs are not the only animals that sport brindle markings, as seen in this beautifully brindled cow in Iceand.

Many different breeds can have either a full brindle coat, or brindle spots or patches throughout their coat.  The brindle coloring on a dog’s coat consists of red and yellow hairs varying with black, brown, and earth toned hair colors.  They make an irregular pattern that looks like an “S” or “V” shape, and is sometimes described as tiger stripes.

Brindling frequently appears as a brown shade, although we can have silver brindle dogs, too.  These dogs have silver marks on a typically cream-colored background coat.  The striping in some of our silver brindles is black, but the lighter colored coat can make it appear silver to the eye.  It can also result from their biological makeup that blends the colors in their coat. Silver brindle is often seen on the Afghan Hound, Borzoi, and Japanese Akita.

There are three shades of brindle including: light brindle, heavy brindle, and black or reverse brindle.

Light brindle is lighter in color and looks more red or cream than black.  The dark brindle looks mostly black with red or cream stripes, and the black or reverse brindle appears mostly black with very minimal specks of red or brown coloring.

Many of us wonder, where does this alluring attire come from?

Pied brindles, like Bruno, often have eyes of different colors, like the late David Bowie

Pied brindles, like Bruno, may have eyes of different colors, like the late David Bowie

It really is all in the genes!

The brindle color contains these two pigments: black (eumelanin), and yellow to red (pheomelanin).  Black or eumelanin can be turned into liver or blue by different sets of genes changing the structure, or diluting the black, respectively.  The yellow to red pigment, pheomelanin, is one color that varies from a lighter to a darker shade.

The chance of having a brindle coat, and the dog’s background color, is determined by several different genes.  Particularly with these three alleles on the K-locus: dominant black (KB), brindle (kbr), and yellow (ky). The brindle (kbr) is dominant over yellow (ky), and recessive to the black (KB).

This means a dog can be brindle with the genotypes: kbrky or kbrkbr.

The extent of the brindle coloring is determined on the A-locus (the agouti gene) and all the red coloring on the coat will be brindle.  This determines if your dog has: light yellow to fawn to red coloring (ay) , wild sable (aw) , black-and-tan or tricolor markings (at), or solid black (a) on their coat.  If the dog carries the dominant black gene, KB, these colors will be hidden by the solid black color.  It is possible for them to still carry these genes and pass them along to their future offspring. 


his English Bulldog shows clear areas of white mixed with a brindle pattern.

Furthermore, any brindle dog can have white markings and ticking present, and many mixed breeds do. 

There are other genes that dictate the coloring of your dog’s coat.  The genes on the D-locus cause the color of the coat to be diluted, displaying that blue, charcoal or grey coat in black dogs, lilac in brown or chocolate coated dogs, and a champagne hue in our yellow dogs.  This gene plays a major role in our silver brindles, along with the G-locus which is responsible for graying in dogs as they mature.

The genes along the B-locus are similar to a dilution genes on the D-locus.  These genes lighten the black into a brown, chocolate or liver coated dog.

Recent studies show that some brindle dogs tested with dominant black, KB.  This leads us to believe that there are other genetic factors that contribute to the brindle coat.

Common brindled breeds:

  • Basenji
  • Boston Terrier
  • Border Collie
  • Boxer
  • Briard
  • Bulldog
  • Cane Corso
  • Cairn Terrier
  • Catahoula Leopard Dog
  • Chow Chow
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Corgi
  • Dachshund
  • French Bulldog


  • Glen of Imaal Terrier
  • Great Dane
  • Greyhounds
  • Havanese
  • Indian Pariah Dog
  • Mastiff
  • Plott Hound
  • Poodle
  • Pit Bull
  • Saint Bernard
  • Tibetan Terrier
  • Treeing Tennessee Brindle
  • Whippet

Many mixed breeds are fully or partially brindled, too.

Acclaimed to Fame

While the beloved brindle sometimes gets overlooked, there is a significant number of famous brindles ranging from a decorated military dog, to movie stars, to pets living the pampered lifestyle of the rich and famous.

Here are a few brindles with claims to fame:

  • Sergeant Stubby, a brindled pooch, and member of the United States Army, was believed to be a mixed breed of a Boston Terrier or Bull Terrier.  He served in World War I for 18 months, encountered seventeen battles, and became the most decorated war dog of the time.
  • The stunning silent film and talkie star of the 1920’s, Clara Bow, was often spotted with a brindle dog thought to be a Great Dane.  She had such a strong love for our canine companions that had an entire room in her home specially made for them, including dirt for them to play in.  She often took them into town with her, and was once quoted saying, “The more I see of men, the more I like dogs.”
  • Jack the Brindle Bulldog from “Little House on the Prairie” was a brindle Pit bull.  In the story, he was a superb guard dog and true friend.
  • Pete the Pup, a brindle Pit Bull Terrier, launched his acting career in 1925, but it didn’t take off until the late 1920s.  He was best known for his role in the 1930s show Our Gang, which later became The Little Rascals.  There were actually two ‘Pete the Pups,’ the first being ‘Pal the wonder dog,’ and the second being, ‘Second Pete.”
  • The 1950s actress, Grace Kelly, and later Princess of Monaco, had a love for our four-legged friends, and was a proud owner of a brindle Great Dane.
  • Possibly the most popular brindle pup is Toto, from The Wizard of Oz.  Toto was played by a female cairn terrier named Terry.  Terry had a dark brindle coat and appeared in sixteen films throughout her prestigious life.  She charged a whopping $125 a week, which was substantially greater than that of her human colleagues. Terry was owned by Carl Spitz.  Judy Garland developed a bond with the pooch while filming The Wizard of Oz, and wanted to adopt her.  Spitz refused the request.
  • Actress Jessica Biel has a brindle Pit Bull named Tina.  She even gets a weekly feature on her Instagram page called, #TuesdayswithTina!
  • Vin Diesel has a brindle Cane Corso (Italian Mastiff) named Roman.
  • Model and actress Kate Upton has a brindle Boxer named Harley.

Your Own Brindle Beauty

If you’re searching for your very own brindle superstar, consider adopting a pup from Bring Home the Brindle Dog Rescue.  Their specialty is rescuing brindle dogs from high kill shelters in the South.  If you’re interested in inquiring about a new addition to your family, please send them an email at: for an application.

See more fabulous Brindles on our Pinterest board!
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