Aussie Genetics
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Australian Shepherd Coat Color Genetics

Genetics of the Australian Shepherd

Genetics of the Australian Shepherd can be a little difficult to understand at first.  I have taken the time to set up this page that will try to explain these genetics to the layman. 

Please take the opportunity to view this explanation.  Understanding these genetics can save you a lot of heartache down the road. 

Color Genetics

Pattern Genetics

There are two basic coat colors of the Australian Shepherd - red & black.  The base color of the Blue Merle is black and the base color of the Red Merle is red.  

Genetically speaking, the blue merle is a black dog with a merle gene and the red merle is a red dog with a merle gene.   The two coat patterns of the Australian Shepherd are merle & solid.

Black is the Dominant color gene; Red is the Recessive color gene.  This means that if both the recessive gene and the dominant gene is present, the color Black will dominate - the red will be hidden.

The genes of the RED dog are denoted as rr
The genes of the BLACK dog are denoted as BB
The genes of a Black red factored dog are Br 

 r = a recessive gene             B = a dominant gene

For an Aussie to be Red, it must carry two red genes because the color is recessive.

The following charts (Mendel's Charts) are representations of the color possibilities of breeding the various color combinations.   When you bred two animals, the resulting baby will inherit one gene from each parent for each characteristic involved.

The following chart show the breeding of a Red dog to a Black dog:

RED x BLACK

    B B
r rB rB
r rB rB

All resulting pups from the RED x BLACK cross will be BLACK (red factored)

The following chart show the breeding of a Black dog to a Black dog:

BLACK x BLACK

    B B
B BB BB
B BB BB

All resulting pups from the BLACK x BLACK cross will be BLACK

The following chart show the breeding of a Red dog to a Black dog that carries a Red gene:

RED x BLACK (red factored)

    r B
r rr rB
r rr rB

50% chance resulting pups will be BLACK
50% chance resulting pups will be RED
ALL pups that aren't RED will be Red Factored

The following chart show the breeding of a Black dog that carries a Red gene to a Black dog that carries a Red gene:

BLACK (red factored )x BLACK (red factored)

    r B
r rr rB
B Br BB

75% chance resulting pups will be BLACK
25% chance resulting  pups will be Red
25% chance resulting pups are Red Factored 
(only the rB pups are red factored)

The following chart show the breeding of a Red  dog to a Red dog:

RED x RED

    r r
r rr rr
r rr rr

ALL resulting pups will be RED

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Australian Shepherd Coat Pattern Genetics

There are two basic patterns of the Australian Shepherd - Merle & Solid.  If you breed Merle to Merle, you need to be aware of the Lethal White Merle gene.  Simply put - Lethal White is the presence of TWO merle genes, one obtained from each parent.  

If there is ONE merle area on the dog, no matter what size it is, the dog is a Merle.

Breeding merle to merle will present you with the possibility of having 25% of your litter carrying the Lethal Merle gene.  These pups will be (or soon become) blind and/or deaf.  To be safe and not have to cull any pups - breed Merle to Solid

To be considered sound:
Each eye must be surrounded with color other than white.

Each ear must be covered with color other than white.

No white on the body behind the shoulder.

No white up the stifle on the hind leg into the body.

The following would be a cross between a merle dog and a solid dog:

MM = solid   Mm = merle

MERLE x SOLID

    M M
M MM MM
m mM mM

50% chance for Merle pups
50% chance for Solid pups

The following would be a cross between a merle dog and a merle dog:

MM = solid   Mm = merle mm = lethal merle

MERLE x MERLE

    M m
M MM Mm
m mM mm

25% chance pups will be SOLID
75% chance pups will be MERLE with a 25% chance of a Lethal Merle gene combination

The following would be a cross between a solid dog and a solid dog:

MM = solid   M m = merle

SOLID x SOLID

    M M
M MM MM
M MM MM

All resulting pups will be SOLID

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