Loyal, obedient, protective, hard-working, intelligent, and oh-so-loving – these are all great adjectives for a German Shepherd dog.
But, what about their appearance?
You have probably seen the stereotypical German Shepherd coat color of black and tan; this is the most popular and easy to identify variation.
Did you know that there are 13 German Shepherd Colors?
From white to black, to blue to red, the German Shepherd coat color variation is a long list. The best part of which is that color actually plays no part in any health conditions, behavioral, or temperament.
Each coat color gives useful information into a Shepherd’s history, so relax and enjoy as we explain each color for the German Shepherd in detail.
Contents and Quick Navigation
- 1. Black and Tan German Shepherd
- 2. Black and Cream German Shepherd
- 3. Black and Red German Shepherd
- 4. Silver German Shepherd
- 5. Liver German Shepherd
- 6. Steel Blue German Shepherd
- 7. Sable German Shepherd
- 8. Gray German Shepherd
- 9. Red Sable German Shepherd
- 10. Bi-color German Shepherd
- 11. Panda German Shepherd
- 12. White German Shepherd
- 13. Black German Shepherd
1. Black and Tan German Shepherd
The most common coat color of German Shepherds is definitely black and tan.
Although this is true, the black and tan coloration is actually one of the recessive genes when it comes to coloration.
The black color usually appears on their back as a “saddle”, they also have black printed across their face like a mask.
Tan coloration is usually located on their chest, sides, underbellies, and on their necks.
The tan color may vary in light or dark tints across different puppies; generally, the depth of the tan is based on the parents and gene inheritance.
As puppies, this coat color appears more black than tan, however as they mature (and out-grow their fluffy puppy fur) their coat lightens to more of a tan coloration.
Famous German Shepherds with this coat coloration include Rin Tin Tin, and is the best coat for show competitions.
2. Black and Cream German Shepherd
The black and cream German Shepherd is simply a lighter variation of the stereotypical black and tan variation.
Their back is covered in a black saddle-like pattern and they will also have a mask of black fur covering their face.
The difference is this coat has a lighter shade (almost like the color of a milk diluted cappuccino) as opposed to tan.
The black coloration against their cream fur can really accentuate their gorgeous black markings.
3. Black and Red German Shepherd
Unlike most of the colors in the list, this color is most suited to show bloodlines, as opposed to working GSD bloodlines.
The black and red German Shepherd strongly resembles the black and tan variation.
One difference is that the tan-colored areas are replaced with reddish-brown areas. This red pigment is much stronger than the tan pigment.
These red areas sometimes appear to be lighter in color (e.g. a strawberry blonde).
The black color on their fur is still the same as the other variations with a black saddle-like marking and a black mask marking.
4. Silver German Shepherd
This silver coat color is yet another beautiful variation of this breed.
These dogs are from working bloodlines of German Shepherds.
Lighter-colored Shepherds are less popular in show rings than those with a stronger darker appearance.
The exact science behind their silver appearance is not yet fully understood, due to their rareness however, it is assumed to be caused by a recessive trait.
A silver Shepherd’s appearance is a lot like the black and tan variation; the only difference is silver replaces the extensive tan markings.
5. Liver German Shepherd
Perhaps one of the rarest German Shepherd colors; the liver-colored coating of a German Shepherd is another beautiful assortment.
The liver color, whilst more common in other breeds, is due to recessive genes.
This means that the “liver” color is a trait which must be carried through the genetics of both the sire and the dam in order for it to appear in the puppy.
The appearance of the liver coat is just like it sounds and unlike most colors in this list, they do not have any areas of black where the mask and saddle are.
However, they still have a mask, and a saddle, however, it is usually a dark or deeper brown coloring on these areas.
This liver-coated breed is not popular among show lines due to its “diluted” genes and is considered a serious fault in the breed standard.
6. Steel Blue German Shepherd
The blue German Shepherd is an astonishing color variation that is extremely rare.
However, like the German Shepherd’s liver color, this color variation is unable to compete in shows as it is declared a serious fault.
Whilst being classified as a serious fault, this color is still recognized by the American Kennel Club.
The blue pigment of this coat variation is purely an aesthetic difference and is attributed to recessive blue genes.
Breeding blue German Shepherd puppies requires both parents carry this recessive gene.
Finding a blue breed is extremely rare, as they are not bred for working or show lines, and are a fashion choice only.
A significant appearance difference of the blue German Shepherd is their gray nose in place of a black one.
7. Sable German Shepherd
The sable coat color of the German Shepherd is the classic coloration caused by the “agouti” dominant gene.
Did you know the very first German Shepherd had a sable coat?
His name was Horand von Grafrath and he was born in 1895. This shows how deep this coloration runs in the history of German Shepherd genetics.
A sable shepherd is not as popular as the black and tan color; which is a surprise to many due to its genetic history.
However, a lot of people favor the appearance of the black and tan breed so breeders have specifically bred this line.
The sable coloring of a German Shepherd is not a solid color and a single hair can actually be a mixture of light to dark pigmentation; this creates an ombre effect.
Some of the sable hairs often turn black towards the tip of the fur.
8. Gray German Shepherd
The Gray German Shepherd is often confused with a silver, black, or even blue GSD. However, this color is actually a distinct color variation recognized by the American Kennel Club.
These puppies are born with gorgeous blue eyes!
As they mature, their eyes turn into a honey color or light brown.
The German Shepherd color of gray is produced by a dominant gene (just like sable).
Gray pigmentation comes from the dilution of darker pigment genes, making this color variation of German Shepherd appear more like their wolf ancestors.
9. Red Sable German Shepherd
The red sable German Shepherd color is another variation on their sable coat which is due to the dominant agouti gene.
These genes however are not diluted like in the gray Shepherd, in this coat, a deep reddish-brown replaces the usual tan in the sable pattern.
This coat coloration has intermingling of red and black over most areas of their body.
10. Bi-color German Shepherd
A variation of the classic black and tan coat of the German Shepherd is the bi-colored color variety.
The bi-colored coat consists of both black and tan with the difference being this breed has more black than tan in their appearance.
The black color in their coat may be as dominant as a 9:1 black to tan ratio.
Frequently bi-color Shepherds are mistaken with pure black German Shepherds.
However, if a German Shepherd shows any sign (no matter how small) of color through their black fur, then they are in fact classified as bi-color.
The bi-color German Shepherd was made famous by living in America’s own White House.
John F Kennedy and his family were the proud owners of a bi-colored Shepherd who went by the name Clipper.
The bi-colored German Shepherd is becoming increasingly popular due to its striking appearance.
11. Panda German Shepherd
The Panda’s appearance is exactly like its name; they closely resemble the coat of a Panda.
Where does the Panda German Shepherd come from and why is it so rare?
The Panda Shepherd is bred from a purebred German Shepherd; so they are not a mixed breed.
This little puppy comes from working bloodlines of GSDs:
- Her mother has pure black fur
- Her father has the stereotypical black and tan color
The reason why they are so rare, and why they look quite different from usual breeds, is because they exhibit a rare genetic mutation.
This mutation is so rare that it is only carried through a single German Shepherd bloodline.
The Panda still has the usual black and tan color, however, their genetic mutation causes white spotting.
In fact, around 35-40% of their body is white.
Surprisingly, they have no white German Shepherds in their ancestry and this dog’s appearance is due to their genetic anomaly.
12. White German Shepherd
The white German Shepherd is one of the more extraordinary German Shepherd colors.
It is a popular belief that this coat variation of German Shepherd is albino, however, this is incorrect.
The white German Shepherd is not due to a genetic disease known as “albinism” which is characterized by a lower rate of melanin production.
This white coat is simply attributed to genetics.
Due to its rarity, the white color is a recessive trait. This means that both parents need to carry this gene for the development of a healthy, white German Shepherd puppy.
The simplest way to ensure white puppies is to mate a white sire and a white dam.
A white GSD was first thought to have been bred through working lines, however, it was seen as a weak characteristic for a strong, working dog and therefore the abolishment of this color began.
Today this color is not yet recognized in any competitions and they are quickly disqualified by the American Kennel Club.
13. Black German Shepherd
Commonly known as a black German Shepherd, the black color variation is definitely striking.
Just like the classic GSD, this breed may exhibit either a medium length or a long length coat.
The coloration of this German Shepherd is solid black.
If a dog has any other colors located in their fur, then they are a bi-colored German Shepherd.
It is common belief that the black German Shepherd has a straighter back than their standard color siblings, however this is yet to be scientifically proven.
You may be surprised to know that the black trait is not a dominant gene. In fact, this black pigment trait is a recessive gene!
So a black puppy is normally the result of the breeding of two black parents, however, a black and tan parent can also produce a pure black puppy.
As long as both parents carry the recessive black gene; then this can be expressed in their litter.
That brings us to the end of our German Shepherd colors list. As you have just read, there is much more to know about these dogs than you think.
Each color presents a little more history into their appearance, genetics, and use (i.e. working or show line).
From brown and cream to red and black, these coat variations are all so magnificent and beautiful; perfect for this loyal, intelligent, active, and loving breed.
When it comes to choosing a Shepherd, choose your favorite coat color as it has no effect on the breed’s temperament, behavior or health.
Which one was your favorite German Shepherd color?