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Razzy Danes of Minnesota Fawn and Brindle Great Danes

Gentle Giants

Great Dane Club Of America Color Code of Ethics in Breeding


(As endorsed by The Great Dane Club of America)

"It shall be the goal of all to breed forward, never backwards, to attain pedigrees of puppies 
which have the desired color strains endorsed by the Great Dane Club of America"

There are onlInformation for Breedersy six recognized colors; all these basically fall into four color strains:


Color Classifications being well founded, the Great Dane Club of America, Inc. considers it an inadvisable practice to mix color strains and it is the club's policy to be cognizant of the following breedings:

Color of Dane

Approved Breedings

Desired Pedigrees



1. FAWN bred to FAWN or BRINDLE only.
1. BRINDLE bred to BRINDLE or FAWN only.

Pedigrees of FAWN or BRINDLE Danes should not carry BLACK, HARLEQUIN or BLUE upon them.




2. MANTLE bred to HARLEQUIN, MANTLE, BLACK from HARLEQUIN breeding or BLACK from BLACK breeding only.

Pedigrees of HARLEQUIN, MANTLE or HARLEQUIN BRED BLACK Danes should not carry FAWN, BRINDLE or BLUE upon them.




Pedigrees of BLUE or BLUE BRED BLACK Danes should not carry FAWN, BRINDLE, or HARLEQUIN upon them.


4. BLACK from BLACK BREEDING bred to BLACK, BLUE or HARLEQUIN and MANTLE. (See note below)

Pedigrees of BLACK BRED Danes should not carry FAWN, BRINDLE, HARLEQUIN, MANTLE or BLUE upon them.

NOTE: Black Bred Great Danes may be bred to Blacks, Blues, Harlequins or Mantles only. Puppies resulting from these breedings will become Blacks, Harlequins from Harlequin breeding or Mantle. (category 2 above). Blacks or Blues from Blue breeding (category 3 above) or Blacks from Black breeding (category 4 above).






Genetics is not some awful topic far beyond the grasp of the average breeder. A little study and you can help yourself make more intelligent choices when it comes to choosing your breeding stock. Most people ask themselves whether it is even necessary to understand genetics when breeding dogs. Well, you can drive to some place new without a map or directions, using the hit and miss method, and you can probably end up there...eventually, after a lot of wrong turns and wasted time. It is the same with planning litters; you can use the hit or miss method, or provide yourself with a "map" of the rules of inheritance and get there a lot quicker with a lot less mistakes. The good news is coat color genetics are easy to understand and will help a lot in giving you the basics when it comes to the more difficult areas of genetics of conformation, health and temperament.

First, coat color genetics needs to be put into perspective and a few myths need to be dispelled. Good coat color does not alone make a good dog. Poor coat color may remove an animal from breeding consideration, but does not make the dog a bad dog. The breeder is not necessarily to be condemned for mismarks, unless the practice is repeated and the breeder refuses to learn from their mistakes. Some aspects of coat color genetics are easy to control, while others cannot be manipulated at all. Individual dogs (i.e. the sire or the dam) are rarely responsible for mismarks; this is truly an area where it takes "Two to Tango" and if you don't want to produce the same mismarks again, these two should not be bred to each other again. Dogs who produce mismarks are also giving these "off-color" genes to their offspring who appear correct in color. This means even their correctly marked puppies can be expected to throw the same "off-colors", and the genes are just carried on through the generations, popping up again and again. It is a situation where things have just been swept under the rug.

I am going to go about this explanation using the six basic colors and describe how to get proper color and how mismarks can occur. If you want more in depth information; the whys as well as the whats, please refer to your ((handouts)). I will start with the easiest color: Fawn.

FAWNS: fawn x fawn can only produce fawn: no brindles, blacks, solid blues, harls, merles are possible. If you get a brindle from a fawn x fawn breeding, then one of your fawns is really a brindle, and has so little striping it just looked like a fawn.

Mismarks from fawn x fawn: blue/chocolate-masked fawns, no-mask fawns, washy/sooty fawns, fawns with white markings. In all these cases both parents have contributed their genes to produce the mismarks. Both parents will continue to produce correctly marked offspring which also carry the mismark recessive genes, who will also produce mainly mismarks and pups who carry for mismarkings. Of the pups correctly marked, 2 of 3 will carry the genes for mismarking and you cannot tell by looking at them. Bottom Line? Don't reuse individuals in your breeding program who have produced these mismarks, and beware that if you use their correctly colored pups you will have the same problem again and again.

BRINDLES: brindle x brindle can only produce brindle and fawn. There are brindles whobreedings are about 50/50 fawn and brindle. Mismarks from brindle x brindle and brindle x fawn: you can get all the mismarks as outlined above for fawn x fawn breedings. The same advice applies. Some brindles do not carry for mask, even though the stripes merge to give an appearance of a mask; if mated to a fawn with only one gene for the mask, you will get 'white-faced' fawns, i.e. fawns without the required mask. Again, both parents contribute to this situation, and both are passing along those non-mask genes.

BLUES: Blue x Blue: No blacks or harls, merles are possible. Generally a blue to blue breeding produces blues. This is a dilute gene so skin and eye color is also affected as no black pigment can be formed: nose will be slate and dark brown-black eyes are impossible. Mismarks from blue x blue: mismarked fawns and brindles (who will have blue masks and stripes), dogs with too much white, dogs with washy, off-shades of blue.

Black x Blue: No harls, merles are possible. Generally only blacks and blues will be produced. You only get blues if the black is carrying for blue: which means somewhere in his pedigree he should have blue ancestors. All the blacks from this breeding will be carrying the recessive blue, even though they look just like black-bred blacks. Blacks carrying for blue can cause problems if bred to fawns/brindles as they introduce the blue gene which can cause blue masks/stripes and pups who look correct, but carry for mismarkings and will produce blue marked pups.

Mismarks from black x blue: fawns and brindles (and they will either have blue markings or carry for the blue), dogs with too much white, dogs with washy off-shades of blue. Bottom Line? Keep your blue families away from your fawn/brindle families and don't let blacks be used in both color families; i.e. don't breed blacks with fawn/brindle in their pedigrees to your blues, unless you are willing to accept generations of mismarks that will just keep popping up.

BLACKS: Cannot produce harls or merles. Blacks basically all look alike, but are very different in their breeding capabilities, depending on what colors are in their pedigree. Black-bred blacks have only black in their pedigree and only produce black. Blue-bred blacks carry for, and produce blues (as well as blacks). Fawn/Brindle-bred blacks carry for, and produce blacks, fawns and brindles: if there are no blue-carriers these fawns/brindles will breed just like those out of fawn/brindle parents. (They are not contaminated and cannot produce blacks, unless bred to a black.) Harlequin-bred blacks will be discussed under the harlequin family; but note these blacks should not be bred into the other Dane lines because they carry recessive white, even when they don't show it, and will produce offspring who are disqualified from both breeding and showing.

Mismarks from black x black breeding: everything imaginable except merles and harls; even chocolates and bicolor (black and tan) dogs have been reported. Black hides a lot of "sins". (If you get any harl/merle dogs, then one of your blacks is not a black/boston, but a genetic harl mis-identified as a blackand white/boston dog.)

Mismarks from black x blue: described under Blue.

Mismarks from black x fawn/brindle: everything again, including blue/chocolate masking/stripes, if the black carries for blue.

Bottom Line? Black-bred blacks are a sure thing (if you are sure there aren't any chocolates/ blues/fawns/brindles/harl-bred blacks in the woodpile!). Be scrupulous about marking your pedigrees and expect mismarks if you mix up the black families, or breed from stock who has prodcued off-colors/mismarks.

HARLEQUINS: Ah! the horrible harlequins! Just as general advice, harl breeding is not for the novice or the faint at heart. Harls ALWAYS produce mismarks, giving you very few pups to choose from for showing and breeding. Harls cannot breed true. Harls have a smaller gene pool, and fewer superior animals to go to, to correct your line's faults. Harl litters involve culling pups at birth, a practice some breeders cannot tolerate. The color itself is poorly understood and even if you stick to breeding only the correctly marked animals, you will still have lots of mismarks and still have to cull from time to time. The harl family has four basic colors, and all four are often seen in the same litters:

HARLEQUIN: The standard says "pure white base coat with black torn patches irregularly and well distributed over the entire body; pure white neck preferred. The patches should never be large enough to give the appearance of a blanket nor so small as to give a stippled or dappled effect...less desirable are a few small gray spots..saltcolor and walleyes are permitted...nose should be black; a black spotted nose is permitted...faults include white base coat with a fewlarge spots, bluish-gray pointed background...pink noses..."

Harlequins do come in all these less than desirable patterns, and in litters from well-marked parents. To get a harl it is generally believed you need at least one harl parent. Harls whose pattering does not fall within the acceptable ranges as written in the standard should be considered mismarked harlequin and are best sold off as pets and not used in breeding programs as a general rule. Again, using mismarks ups your chances of making mismarks and in harl breeding programs that is already a huge and "un-fixable" problem, so why make it worse than it already has to be, by creating for yourself even MORE mismarks in every litter? Stick to breeding properly marked harls to properly marked mantles/harls if you want to minimize your color issues and lower the percentage of mismarks per litter.

MERLE: The standard says: "disqualifying... a solid mouse-gray color or a mouse-graycolor spots or white base with mouse-gray spots. These dogs may look different that their harl sibs, but may be genetically exactly alike; harls and merles do share a lot of the same genes. Merles are commonly produced from harl x harl and harl x black breedings. There are unconfirmed stories of harlsbreedings. But bear in mind that a harl in one person's eyes is a merle to another breeder. Pedigrees may be incorrectly marked for color. Many novices cannot distinguish harls from merles. Merles can be (and are) used in harlequin breeding programs. But they have decided disadvantages. They produce defective dominant whites (while mantles do not). They are themselves disqualified under the standard (and the breeding of such is considered by many to be unethical). They produce no more and usually less harls than the use of a harl in their place (and there are reports of disasterous health problems when using merles). They cannot produce harls unless bred to a harl (claims to the contrary remain undocumented), so using a mantle seems a better choice generally speaking.

WHITES: "Double-merle" or dominant-whites result from harl x harl, harl x merle and merle x merle breedings (as well as when whites are bred to merles or harls). These dogs carry a double dose of the dominant gene that makes a harl/merle. They are usually 90% or more white, may have odd gray and/or black patches anywhere, and are commonly deaf, sometimes have eye defects, and can also be sterile and may have other problems. These problems can also be seen in any dog who is predominately white, especially if there is no pigment around the ears and on the head. So harls and merles who are lightly marked may be at risk. There are also whites produced by a different gene that is recessive (described under BLACK), which may look basically the same. Many breeders require that all dogs who are white or near- white are culled at birth so as not to rear potentially defective puppies. Many of these whites (about ~50% of double-merle whites) die as embryos, reducing the size of the litter itself, and those who survive to birth must be expected to have serious defects. The common practice of ethical breeders is to humanely euthanize all near white pups at birth. Some whites can produce harls when bred to some blacks, but mostly whites produce nothing but problems for the uninitiated and anyone using whites (disqualifying color and normally also a dog with serious defects) in their breeding program can expect others to have some doubts and concerns about the breeders in question, as well as the dogs themselves.

BLACK: The harl bred black generally will show too much white to be a show specimen as a black. The standard used to say: "disqualifying......and black Danes with white forehead lines, white collars, high white stockings and white bellies" and this is exactly what you need to produce well-marked harls off of blacks. Well marked "bostons" with a white collar, legs, belly and blaze will produce well-marked harls when bred to harls; they are officially referred to as MANTLES. This color is allowed as of April 1999 under the revised (AKC) Great Dane standard as to allow dogs with a black coat or blanket (mantle) and black cap (head) and white markings to include four white legs, muzzle white, throat, belly and tail tip white, with a full collar and blaze preferred. (Breaks in the collar or blanket are allowed and a blaze is not required.)

MANTLE: The dog should carry the characteristic pattern to produce properly marked harls, and the mantledane also should have brown eyes (blue eyes are an indication the dog is not likely a genetic mantle, but rather a mismarked "blanket" harlequin). Black and white dogs who fall outside the range for the Mantledane, and who are mostly black or mostly white should not be used in harlequin breeding programs generally, as they often produce harls with too many or too few spots and they pass on these alterations from the correct pattern unseen to their well-marked offspring. Well marked bostons or Mantledanes are actually preferable partners to harls, all other considerations being equal; you cannot get the dominant-defective white puppies from this breeding (pups routinely born to harl x harl (or merle) breedings). You CAN get recessive-white dogs, commonly called piebalds, plattenhunden, boston-heads, merle-heads and harl-heads, all who lack "patches well distributed over the entire body". Most have only color on the head and at the tail root. This recessive white is tricky because it is often hidden in dogs that are correctly marked themselves. These undermarked dogs can also suffer from ear and eye problems if they are predominately white and/or have white heads/blue eyes.


Harl x Harl: 25% each: Harl/merle/white/black. This does not mean any of the pups will carry the correct markings; it just means expect about 2 harls per litter. Use of harls whose patterns fall outside the accepted range means an increase in mismarks, but use of correctly marked harls only means mismarks will be minimized, not completely avoided.

Harl x Black: 50% black and 25% each merle/harl. If the black is a correct boston, i.e. mantledane, (i.e. not mismarked blacks or a piebald/ boston-head) then what harlsMantleDane or "boston-merles" is the best choice to achieve the ideal coloration under the american (AKC) standard for harldanes. If the black is a solid or mismark, your harls will likely be too heavily marked. If the black is a piebald or boston-head, (i.e. under-marked), you will get more pups without body marking and the correctly marked pups will carry for no body markings and will produce dogs without body markings, as well as pass on the recessive genes that create white bodied dogs. Again the rule of thumb is to achieve the highest possible percentage of correctly marked pups both parents should be correctly marked themselves.

Harl x Merle: just like harl x harl, although some breeders report fewer harls. Dominant- whites can be produced. The merle you use should be a boston-merle for the best effects (to mimick the use of the mantledane). Expect small litters and don't be surprised by a variety of problems if you choose to use this sort of breeding-including others feeling uncomfortable and wondering about your standards and intentions. Many breeders with stud dogs refuse to service merles.

White x Black: Anything can happen here. Remember if both these dogs carry dominants, only the good Lord knows what is hidden underneath. Assuming it is a dominant-white who is fertile you will get all merles or all harls, but generally you get a mix of both. If they carry the wrong recessive white genes, you
differ genetically, but there is no way to tell what kind of brindle it is by just looking at it. Usually you will get brindles, with the occasional fawn popping up. Brindle x Fawn: only brindles and fawns are possible. Some brindles will throw all brindles off of fawns, but most and pepper...eyes should be dark...light eyes, two eyes of different base with black or white or both produced from merle x black you get should be correctly marked. No dominant-whites are possible. Rather that solid black, a may still have all mismarks-no harls at all!! If the white is really a recessive-white, you will get nothing but black dogs with white trim-again all mismarks!! If the black/boston is really a (mismarked) harl, or you use a harl or merle to breed to this white, then half the litter will also be deaf-white. (More things can go wrong than right with this really and the list given is just the basics--very incomplete as to the potential "nightmares.")

If you even attempt this at all, choose a well-marked
and whites from harl x harl or harl x merle breedings, in which the parents, etc., were correctly marked. You must be sure you are really using a double-dominant (defective) white--so the dog in question is normally deaf (at least-may have other health problems). Also remember as the dominant-whites are usually deaf, the white bitches cannot be left alone with the puppies, as they cannot hear them and often crush them, or fail to care for them. So normally a white dog is put to a mantle bitch. White dogs may or may not perform as stud dogs. Extraordinary dogs, extenuating circumstances and super pedigrees are the only legitimate excuse for doing white to black breedings. The whole venture is very risky. Also, always be sure to check contracts as many breeder require all whites be put down. Expect others to doubt your ethical standards if you choose to go this route.

Bottom Line? Stay away from harls if you are a novice, cannot cull, or find the other colorshumor and endless patience to produce decent harls. Bear in mind you will get puppy buyers who are less interested in owning a Dane than having a spotty body. Remember you will have a tough time finding appropriate mates, will generally spend a lot more money all around, and will end up with less to choose from in the litter. Often your best body will be packaged in a "wrong" color and your "show-marked" pups will be pet-quality because of their conformation. Breed from only correctly marked harls and mantles if you want to limit the number of mismarks you will produce (you will probably still have mismarks, though). There are lots of sub-standard harls out there. There is also more superstition and less fact known about the Harlequin variant, and pet theories, based on a few litters, are strongly held, and very confusing to the beginner. Many people choose another color where the odds are greater you will have a good percentage of nice, show and breed quality pups in a litter, and the genetics of color are simplified, so you can concentrate on producing correctly made Danes who truly exemplify t
confusing. You need a w
ell developed sense of he breed.

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