Breeding and color genetics.

Great Dane color genetics Basics.                                                                                            

Breeding Great Danes can be rewarding but also heartbreaking. Knowledge is power.

Why would you want to know this if you don’t breed? Because this will help you chose a breeder and a puppy.

There is about 28 ? different colors of Great Danes only 6 are Standard and showable.

It does not mean all the others are bad or unhealthy and so forth BUT there are some that is a really unhealthy, more about this later.

I am going to try and explain in simple so any one can understand. I will refer to the standard first but this article is not about showing or what is allowed and what is not. Not every one likes to show. I will how ever call a spade a spade and say when something should not ever be done.

Let’s start with the basic 6 colors.

Some photos in this article are taken from google image search.


Black puppy Legendar
Black puppy Legendar       

Solid Black no white markings.


Black or miss marked black can be Bred to Black, Blue, Harlequin. It is best to stay with what the family history says if you want to be able to predict litter colors more  accurately. Also think of the breeders after you that might want to do this.   Also remember white markings can be inherited by any off spring if one of the parents have it.


Black Adult Legendar
Black Adult Legendar
Missmark Black
Missmark Black

Miss Marked black mostly comes from Harlequin or mantle breeding. White markings on chest or toes is less desirable when wanting to show. When you buy a pet this is no fault and very common.






Fawn Puppy Legendar
Fawn Puppy Legendar            

Fawn brown color with black mask black aloud on ears and tail.

Fawn and Brindle are part of the same family any where either is found the other might be possible.

Only fawn and brindle should be bread together according too standard. 

White markings works the same as with black.







BRINDLE                           Brown with dark brown and Black stripes.

Breeds like Fawn Above.                             






Blue is an interesting gene. It Dilutes all Black in a dog resulting in Blue. Blue should be bred to Blacks from Blue lines and Blues according to standard. Just because 2 blue dogs are put together does not mean you will have an all Blue litter of puppies depends a lot what the colors of the previous generations were. You will probably have some Blue but can result in most black too. This Gene can be carried sight unseen and any color Great Dane can carry it. When both parents are carriers you will have some Blue puppies.

Blue Bred By Legendar
Blue Bred By Legendar










Harlequin has white base coat with torn patches spread unevenly across the body,a clean white neck is preferred when showing. Harlequin should be bred to Black or Mantle according to Standard ( if going off color then to any solid color dog) NEVER to another Harlequin and NEVER to a Merle. Some will claim that it can be done safely I do not agree on taking such risks. You wont risk your human child being blind or deaf so why would you want to risk breeding special need puppies. 2 Harlequins together is also lethal meaning most puppies will die in the uterus. More on duble Merle (DM) Great Danes later.                                                                                                                                                                                    

Shinex Bred Harley of Legendar                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    MANTLE                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             










Mantle appears as if a blanket have been thrown over the back. White neck and white Blaze on the face. White belly and feet with white tip on the tail. Breeds to Black and Harlequin and Mantle.








Grey base color with black torn patches.

Still a lot of debate on if Merle can be safely used in a breeding program. Merle can not yet be shown and is not yet a standard color in South-Africa this might change in the near future.

Merle should not be bred to Merle or Harlequin EVER.

Can be bred to solid colors like black and Mantle is safe as well. Same as with Harlequin. Merle will almost always be present in Harlequin litters. 


Now for every color above there is even more variations. Be very careful these colors can be called “rare”. It is not it’s been in the Great Dane breed for a very long time and the only reason you don’t see it is because its not bred for mostly. There are breeders out there that do breed these colors and I will not comment on whether it is right or wrong. Some will call it unethical … I do not believe that, simple reason being not every one shows and some just want a stunning healthy pet.

Color is not the most important thing to look for when buying a Great Dane but rather the health and temperament of the dog. Breeders should health test no matter if they are standard colors or not standard colors, I believe if a breeder puts health and temperament first above all and breed close to the breed standard according to look  and gives life time support that will take back the dog if something should happen,that is what makes an ethical breeder.

I am a believer of beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that its every individuals personal choice. Color testing can help in this regard to avoid any hiccups. Breeders should Breed for healthy dogs and not just dogs that can win in a show ring if they are both,fantastic. 


Now lets use a Black Great Dane as an example.What you see is a black dog, but if your black Great Dane is not from generations of only black to black breeding it could hide several surprises. You would expect to only get black puppies if 2 black dogs had puppies together, but you can also get Fawn, Blue, Brindle etc. How this happens is that these genes are carried unseen and black masks it.

If both parents carry the same “recessive” Gene a puppy of that color will be conceived.

Think of color genes as little painters each carrying their own special paint pot carried for generations and generations. 7 or 8 generations back can be seen in a new generation today. This is true for all colors not just black.


Now lets look at the other colors.



Can result from normal Black to Harlequin breeding if both parents carried Blue.

Can result when Harlequin is bred to a Blue.

There might also be other combinations that can result in this color.

Blue Harlequin is allowed to Show and to Breed in SA and UK.



Results from Harlequin and Fawn combination parents. 

Can also come from parents having fawn in the pedigree and carried unseen. 





Combination of Brindle and Harlequin.

Brindle can also be carried unseen and then when to dogs of standard color gets bred a surprise like a Brindlequin can result.





Just as the normal standard Mantle except all black is effected by the dilution gene and colored Blue.








             Both mom and dad carried fawn.

              Both carried blue.

               Color seen on both mom and dad was black.

                The Blue and fawn genes integrated and made a fawn pup and blue diluted color                          fawn lighter and mask and ears blue.



CHOCOLATE google image
CHOCOLATE google image

                            Dark brown. Nose and foot pads all chocolate.







Chocolate Harlequin

google image
google image

 All will work the same as with Harlequin except it has Chocolate instead of black patches.








  Part of the Chocolate family. 







Ok so I am going to stop here.This list can go on and on and on for every color you see on this list there is about 4 more all healthy Danes if bred correctly.

some not on the list above is:


Lilac Harlequin

Chocolate Fawn

Chocolate Merle

Chocolate Brindle

Merle Brindle

Blue Brindle

Blue Merle





lets now see about those Double Merle pups so please if anyone tries to sell you an all white Great Dane think twice. if there is white pups in the litter think twice. Blindness and hearing problems are just a few to mention in a double Merle.

Double Merle google image
Double Merle google image