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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Coat Colors and Marking Patterns in Boxers

The Boxer breed is derived from early mastiff-type dogs used in hunting on feudal estates. Historical documents and drawings show that those early dogs were either fawn or brindle, with or without black masks. In the 1830s, English Bulldogs were crossed with Barenbeissers, the Boxer's immediate ancestors, which introduced white markings covering some or all of the body. Today, Boxer breed standards around the world list Boxer colors as fawn and brindle, consider the black mask an essential part of the breed, and allow white markings not to exceed 1/3 of the body.

In a very technical sense, genetically all Boxers are fawn - brindle is actually a marking pattern, and not a base coat color. However, convention is to call the coat colors fawn and brindle and for most purposes this is adequate. Modifiers affect the depth of color and the degree of brindle striping, as well as the amount of white markings. Fawn, brindle and white are the only coat colors/marking pattern genes that exist in the Boxer breed. Although many claims are made about "rare" colors such a black, blue, or black-and-tan, because the Boxer does not possess the genes for these colors, they can only have come from another breed.

Coat Colors in Boxers
Fawn Boxer
Fawn: Solid colored coat ranging from light tan to dark deer red.
Brindle BoxerBrindle: Black stripes on a fawn background.
Light Brindle BoxerLight Brindle: Mostly fawn with sparse black stripes (subset of Brindle).
Reverse Brindle BoxerReverse Brindle: Black stripes so heavily concentrated that the fawn barely, although clearly, shows through (subset of Brindle.)
Black Labrador Retriever. Photo by Eduardo Millo / FlickrBlack: Solid black coat. The Boxer does not carry the gene for a solid black coat, but some Boxer mixes display this color.
Blue Brindle Whippet - Photo by Paul L. Nettles / Flickr Blue/Blue Brindle: A dilution of black which can affect coat, brindle stripes, and the mask. The Boxer does not carry the dilution gene, but some Boxer mixes display this color.
Black-and-Tan Doberman - Photo by Pato Garza / Flickr Black-and-Tan: A solid black coat with tan points, generally on the legs, chest, and head. The Boxer does not carry the gene for a black-and-tan coat, but some Boxer mixes display this color.

White markings occur to varying degrees in Boxers and are caused by the extreme piebald gene. A dog without any copies of this gene is called plain or classic; a dog with one copy is called flashy; and a dog with two copies is called white. While the difference between the three genotypes is usually obvious based on their appearance, because of modifiers some genetically flashy dogs may look as if they are genetically plain. Most Boxers in North America have some white on their belly and throat, even if they are genetically plain. In general, if the white on the feet is confined to the toes the dog is probably genetically plain. White Boxers are still fawn or brindle in color, it is just obscured by the excessive white markings.

White Markings in Boxers
Plain Boxer
Plain: White markings confined to the tips of the toes, belly, throat and chin, and small amount on face. No white on the neck.
Flashy Boxer
Flashy: White socks or stockings on the feet and legs, a white full or half collar on the neck, white stripe, blaze or wishbone on the face.
Semi-Flashy Boxer
Semi-flashy: Less white than a flashy, more than a plain. White socks, stripe or small blaze on face, may or may not have white markings on neck.
White Boxer - Photo by Mara 1 / FlickrWhite: White covers most of the body, but patches of color may be present. Typically patches appear on the ear, eye, or back.

Canine coat color genetics is a complex field that is seeing significant advancement, as the mapping of the canine genome has allowed researchers to identify specific genes responsible for different colors and marking patterns. This is especially helpful for breeds with a variety of coat colors, such as Great Danes. Fortunately Boxer coat color genetics are rather simple, with essentially two colors and one marking pattern and straightforward modes of inheritance.

For more information:
Boxer Coat Color Genetics
Boxer Marking Pattern Genetics
Dog Coat Color Genetics


  1. We're getting ready to purchase a boxer. The advertisement said the boxer was a rare chocolate. I can't find any information on Chocolate boxers so I'm thinking the couple is full of it and trying to artificially inflate the price. Has anyone heard of a type of boxer called chocolate?

    1. Your instinct is correct. :) There is no such thing as a "chocolate Boxer". (Well, I have seen some Easter candy....) There's bound to be another breed in the mix, because the Boxer does not carry the genes responsible for that coat color.

      Some information on finding a responsible Boxer breeder is here:

      Good luck in your search!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. We purchased a boxer that is flashy brindle but he has a white wishbone that proceeds all the way back and connects to the white on the neckline like a Mohawk..he's beautiful but I've tried to find pics to see what he will look like older, and there is none like him, is this rare?

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