There are seven recognized Great Dane Colors
Fawn, Brindle, Black, Blue, Mantle, Harlequin & Merle
There are 7 Great Dane Coat colors recognized as "show" colors.
The seven Great Dane Colors that are recognized as showable colors are Fawn, Brindle, Blue, Black, Harlequin, Mantle and Merle.
What are Great Dane color "families" or "strains"?
Generally Great Dane Breeders group the colors into 3 families, with Black sometimes used in any of the 3 families.
- Fawn/Brindle - Fawns and Brindles are bred to each other, producing . . . no surprise . . Fawns or Brindles. Blacks are sometimes bred to Fawns or Brindles.
- Blue - Blues are generally bred to Blues, producing all Blue puppies. Blacks are occasionally bred to Blues.
- Harlequin - Harlequin, Mantles, Merles and Black/White. The Harlequin family is the most complicated color family because creating a Harlequin requires multiple specific color genes. Harlequins do not breed true. When you breed a Harlequin to a Harlequin, you can produce Harlequins, Black&White/Mantles, Merles or Whites. Harlequins are highly valued as they are very popular, but aren't always produced in Harlequin family litters.
Many breeders, especially Harlequin breeders, routinely color test prior to breeding.
If a breeder does a breeding between color families, like Fawn to a Mantle, does that mean they are a "bad" breeder. No, not necessarily. Sometimes experienced breeders have specific reasons for mixing the color families. How can you tell if a breeder is a good breeder? Read the information on this page, Finding a Great Dane Breeder, and make sure to ask the breeder to explain the Great Dane standard, ask about the importance of structure and ask specifically what structural elements were important in any particular breeding.
Are there any rare colors of Great Danes?
There are no "rare" colors in Great Danes. Breeders who advertise rare colors are generally breeding for a specific color and not breeding structurally correct, sound Great Danes. Why is structure and soundness important? Because you want your Great Dane to lead a healthy athletic life, able to run and jump and play throughout their lives, rather than suffering from arthritis and other joint issues at a relatively young age. To better understand what to look for in a Great Dane Breeder, read Finding a Great Dane Breeder
Great Dane Coat Colors were defined and developed by Breeders over time
In the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th centuries, breeders developed and refined the Great Dane and the Great Dane Standard, which included defining and refining reliably reproducible colors.
Great Dane coat colors are very complicated
Great Dane coat colors are complicated because there are several color genes that affect the Great Dane's color. Some of these genes are dominant and some recessive, what this practically means is that if Great Danes of random colors are bred to each other, you cannot accurately predict the colors of the offspring, too many possibilities exist.
Color Genetic Testing Exists, but not for all Great Dane color genes
Before color genetic testing was available, Dane breeders had developed and practiced breeding practices that allowed them to consistently reproduce certain Great Dane colors, the colors that are currently recognized to be shown. Color genes were hypothesized by careful observation of Great Dane breeding practices and in the last decade, researchers have identified several of the Great Dane color genes.
If all the colors are bred together, how many different Great Dane Colors could be produced?
Various people have put together charts and drawings and made up names for all the various possible Great Dane color combinations, speculating that there are at least 20-30 or more different possible colors. If Great Danes from different color families are bred together, because of the number of colors possible, the breeder loses the ability of accurately predicting the possible colors. What sense does it make if a litter of 8 puppies has a 20% chance of having Fawn puppies, a 15% chance of having Merle, a 10% chance of being Black, a 10% chance of being Mantle, a 10% chance of being Fawntle, a 8% chance of being Brindle, a 12% chance of being Blue, a 15% chance of having Blue Mantles. Breeding dogs with lots of different color genes means that you lose the ability to accurately predict what colors will be produced.
What would happen to the color of Great Danes if all the colors were bred to each other?
People have thought about what would happen if all the Great Danes were bred without regard to color. Because the Black gene is dominant in most cases, it is thought that eventually most Danes would become some variation of Black. In order to get other colors, breeders would have to do what they have already done, start breeding only specific colors to specific colors to start separating out the color genes again so they can accurately predict what colors they will get with breedings.
If breeders have to start over and focus on color predominantly, they will have to place color as the most important aspect in breeding decisions, color above healthy structure and soundness, as well as breed type, temperament and longevity. This is re-inventing the wheel, this work has already been done by breeders 100 years ago and has allowed good breeders of Great Danes to now focus on structure, soundness, temperament, etc. Breeders today, using color testing and following the color breeding recommendations of the Great Dane Club of America, can breed their Great Danes and know what colors will be produced.
Mantle Great Dane
The Mantle Great Dane, added to the list of acceptable show colors in the United States in the 1990s. The Mantle Great Dane is one of the colors produced when breeding dogs in the Harlequin color family. They are striking dogs with their beautiful black base coat with white trim on nose, chest, legs and tail, with a full or partial white color.
Fawn Great Dane
When most people think of a Great Dane, they think of Marmaduke or Scooby, both lovely Fawn Great Danes, the quintessentially Great Dane color. The Fawn is a beautiful yellow gold with a deep black mask and black on the eye rims and eyebrows. Black may also appear on the ears and tail tip.
Black Great Dane
The Black Great Dane is a very regal Dane, with a rich glossy black coat.
Harlequin Great Dane
Harlequin Great Danes are very striking and because of their color they have always been very popular. You see Harlequin Great Danes in movies and music videos.
The Great Dane Standard has a somewhat detailed explanation of the markings of a Harlequin Great Dane, but ultimately it comes down to a Great Dane with a white background coat color and few to many black torn patches on the body.
Blue Great Dane
A blue Great Dane is a beautiful animal, with a glistening steel grey coat. The Blues are unmistakable and we don't see enough of them!
Brindle Great Dane
A brindle Great Dane has beautiful black chevrons (stripes) on a golden brown background. Brindles generally have a black mask and ears.