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Frenchie Colors and Genetics


You may have noticed that French Bulldogs come in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Where do these colors and patterns come from? Well, you have to know a little about genetics to fully understand.

Genetics 101

Dogs, just like humans, are diploid organisms. This means that they have two alleles at each genetic locus. A genetic locus is a position on a chromosome that contains a particular gene. In humans, one locus may contain the gene for hair color while another locus may contain the gene for eye color. However, each locus contains two alleles. One of these alleles comes from mom and one comes from dad. Mom and Dad each have two alleles for hair color and either one of these alleles have the potential to get transferred to their offspring. There are dominant alleles usually denoted with capital letters and recessive alleles usually denoted with lower case letters. For example, brown hair is dominant and blonde hair is recessive so the allele for brown hair would be denoted as “B” and the allele for blonde hair would be denoted as “b”. A person only needs one dominant allele for that trait to be expressed. However, they need both recessive alleles for the recessive trait to be expressed. When mom and dad pass on the hair color alleles to their offspring, there are three possibilities: BB, Bb, and bb. If the alleles passed on make the combination of BB (meaning both mom and dad passed on the brown hair gene) then brown hair will be expressed. The child will have brown hair. If the alleles passed on make the combination of Bb (meaning one parent passed on the brown allele and the other parent passed on the blonde allele) brown hair will also be expressed. This child will also have brown hair. If the alleles passed on by mom and dad make the combination of bb (meaning both mom and dad passed on blonde gene) the child will have blonde hair. The only way a recessive trait will be passed on is if both parents pass on their recessive allele for that gene.

Since dogs are diploid organisms like humans, the basic premise holds true for dogs and coat color. However, there are many loci for coat colors and patterns in a dogs genetic code. Additionally, there may be more than two possible alleles at each locus. Let’s go over each genetic loci and which combinations lead to which coat colors and patterns.

Genetic Loci for coat color in dogs

The A locus has three possible alleles: ay, at, and a. The “ay” allele is the allele for fawn or sable coloration. The “at” allele is the allele for black and tan coloration (this is where dogs get tan points). Since “ay” and “at” are dominant, dogs only need one copy of “ay” to be fawn or sable and only one copy of “at” to have tan points. Finally, the “a” allele is the allele for black coloration. However, having the “aa” allele combination doesn’t necessarily mean the dog is black. For example, a dog that is dd (Blue) at the D locus and aa (Black) at the A locus will still be blue. However, the “aa” allele combination will make for a more uniform blue coat color. This brings me to the next locus.

The D Locus is the diluted coat color locus. This is where we get the blue coat color from. The allele combination of “DD” simply means that the gene is not diluted. If this was the only locus in play, the dog would be black. The allele combination of “Dd” means that the dog is a carrier of the diluted gene and will not express the diluted color is most cases. The D locus must contain two copies of the d allele to express the blue color. Therefore, the “dd” allele combination will be blue. We get the lilac coloration from the dd / bb combination bringing me to the next locus.

The B locus is the locus for brown coloration or chocolate as we call it in the frenchie world. It has two possible alleles: B and b. Since chocolate coloration is recessive, you must have the two recessive alleles (bb) for the chocolate coloration to be expressed. The “BB” allele combination does not carry chocolate at all. The “Bb” allele combination is a chocolate carrier and could pass it’s recessive chocolate allele on to it’s offspring. However, in order for this offspring to have the chocolate coloration, the other parent must also pass on the recessive (b) allele.

The E locus is interesting because it contains the alleles for cream coloration and for the black masks. Because they are both on the same locus, a cream puppy can not also have a black mask. They can only have one or the other. Much like the blue and chocolate coloration, cream coloration is recessive so the puppy must have two recessive alleles (ee) to express the cream coloration. The allele for a black mask is Em which is dominant so a puppy only needs one copy of this allele to have a black mask. Note, however, black masks can be muted by dark coats. Another interesting fact about the E locus is that if you produce offspring with the double recessive allele (ee), the dog will show as cream even if it has the blue and chocolate allele combinations. Therefore, a dog with the allele combinations of “dd bb ee” will be cream colored. This is the combination that produces platinum puppies.

The K locus is mostly known for the brindle patterns in french bulldogs although it is actually called the dominant black locus. The allele for brindle patterning (Kbr) is a dominant gene. Therefore, a puppy with only one copy of the Kbr allele and having an allele combination such as “Kbr Ky” will show brindle patterning and of course the allele combination of “Kbr Kbr” will show brindle patterning. If the allele combination is showing no brindle (Ky/Ky), then the A locus, B locus, and D locus will determine the pattern on the coat.

The S locus is called the piebald locus and this is where our pied cuties get their patterns. The pied pattern is a recessive trait so a dog needs an allele combination of both recessive alleles (ss). An allele combination of “ns” will carry the pied pattern and can pass it on to it’s offspring. An allele combination of “nn” will not carry the pied pattern and can not pass the trait on since it does not have an allele for the trait.

The M locus is the merle locus and is another dominant gene. The two alleles for this locus are M (the dominant allele) and m (the recessive allele). For a puppy to be Merle, it must have an allele combination of “Mm” or “MM”. However, it is important to not breed puppies with the potential of carrying both dominant Merle alleles (MM) because a very high percentage of these puppies are deaf and/or blind.

Let’s put some of these combinations together to see what we have:

dd Bb atat kyky = Blue with tan points
Dd Bb ata kyky = Black with tan points
Dd Bb aa kyky = Black
Db Bb aa KbrKbr = Brindle
dd Bb aa KbrKbr = Blue Brindle
dd Bb aa kyky = Blue
dd Bb ayay kyky = Blue fawn
dd bb aa kyky = Lilac

There are many different combinations to obtain the many different variations in coat color and patterns we see in french bulldogs and there is much more complexity to the genetics than I have laid out in this post. What is important to remember is that to truly see what a dogs coat color and pattern will express, you must consider all loci together and understand how each affects the other. I hope this post at least gives you a starting point and a little glimpse into french bulldog colors and patterns and the genetics behind it.

If you wish to talk more about this subject or are still unsure as to which allele combination would show which colors and patterns, feel free to send me a message on my contact page.

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My Crazy Wonderful Life as a Frenchie Mama

Why I started this blog

Hello Fellow French Bulldog Fanatics! My name is Becki Leggett and while I have always been passionate about dogs, there is something particularly special about French Bulldogs. If you have owned them , you already know what I am talking about. If you have not yet had the pleasure, I hope to give you plenty of insight. I created this blog to be about all things frenchie, for other seasoned Frenchie mamas, for brand new Frenchie mamas, and for those of you who are not yet Frenchies mamas (but want to be). We also can not forget the Frenchie Daddy’s out there. Frenchie dads love these little bulldogs just as much as their Frenchie Mamas (well……almost!). New Frenchie parents are rarely prepared for the crazy wonderful life that comes along with owning a French Bulldog (or two or three). Why two or three you ask? Well, quite frankly French Bulldog ownership can be addictive. I currently have three myself: one boy and two girls. They are huge cuddlers, but can be very independent at times. They love you with all they have, but can be extremely stubborn. They are very smart and easily trained, but their stubborn streak can make training seem hard at times. They can be going 100 miles per hour one second and passed out and snoring the next second. You will hear people say they are lazy, and while they definitely can be lazy, in my experience they can go, go and go some more. This is especially true of french bulldog puppies. There is a term endearingly named “The Zoomies” that you will learn about in later blog posts. Seasoned French Bulldog owners know this term well. French bulldogs are more than dogs to their owners, they are their kids, their babies, and they require very special care and have varying special needs. Because of this, new (and even seasoned) Frenchie parents have many questions about French Bulldog ownership. I will dedicate all my early posts to answering as many of the frequently asked questions by new Frenchies owners that I can. This includes questions about puppy training, quality food, quality treats, frenchie care, toys, biting, chewing, gender differences, breeding, rescue groups, frenchie colors, litter mate syndrome, and so much more!

A little about my frenchie babies

How did it all start, you ask? Well, I came home from work one day and the first words out of my husband’s mouth were “I want a French Bulldog and his name WILL BE Dozer.” I wasn’t even sure what a French Bulldog was. Even when I researched the breed (because that’s the type of person I am, I research the heck out of everything), I was not 100 percent sold. But, he wanted one, so I started on the search for our new french bulldog puppy. I made several appointments in the closest big city (At the time, I couldn’t find any close to me) to meet some of our potential future “children”. Dozer was the very first frenchie puppy we met and I was in love! To this day, my husband will tell you he (Dozer) is the love of my life and…. I can’t disagree. One thing about male frenchies is they fall in love with you and you can not help falling in love with them. I loved him so much, I wanted a girl so I went on my search for the perfect little girl frenchie. Boy did I find the perfect girl. She is Blue fawn, has beautiful green eyes and she is a perfect mix of doll baby and evilness! I named her Molly. Molly had a merle sister that my husband preferred. Well, fast forward a few months later and we are the proud owners of sisters and as I’ll discuss in another blog, sibling rivalry definitely exists in dogs too! All my babies have many quirky frenchie traits in common, but just like human babies, they all have their own distinct personalities. Dozer is a mommy’s boy for sure, but loves everyone (furry and not). He is a big lover and loves to play with his toys. Molly is my little diva. She is gorgeous and she knows it! Harley (Molly’s sister) loves belly rubs and whenever you place your hand near her to pet her, she rolls on her back to get belly rubs. She is a daddy’s girl, but also loves her mama and she is weary of other people. I will talk more about my babies in future blogs. For now, just know they are very loved and very spoiled!

Topics to be covered in upcoming blogs

One of the most common questions I hear about french bulldogs puppies is: Why are they so hard to potty train? This will be answered along with potty training do’s and dont’s in an upcoming post.

The second most common question I see new Frenchie owners asking is what food they should feed their Frenchie. It can be daunting finding the right food for these sensitive dogs so I will discuss this extensively in another upcoming post. I will also include information on how to choose quality treats.

French bulldogs require a little more care than other breeds of dogs, but it is so worth it. I will write another blog post about proper frenchie care including cleaning their folds, bathing, ear health, teeth cleaning, and more.

Frenchies are ferocious chewers which can frustrate owners when, for example, they chew up their mama’s baseboards so I will dedicate a blog post to toys: do’s and don’t and longest lasting toys.

People often ask whether they should get a boy or girl frenchie so I will dedicate an entire blog post to this subject, including litter mate syndrome and why you should be careful choosing litter mates.

Another hot topic is breeding. I will delve into breeding, differing breeders, and rescue groups in a future blog post.

Ever wonder about all the frenchie colors? My Dozer is Red Fawn, Molly is Blue Fawn, and Harley’s coloring is called Merle. I will explain all the colors, what is standard, and the genetics behind all the differing color patterns produced in french bulldogs.

If you haven’t already figured it out, I am beyond passionate about Frenchies and I hope you find my blog posts helpful whether you are a seasoned Frenchie owner or a new Frenchie owner.