Coat Color

Not really a grooming question but do ALL sheepdogs turn grey? I swear I have seen some with the black coats...or is that just me?
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your not losing it!!!

There are many who stay black and white.

My breeder told me there are some who turn all white, but rare. And the more white they have, especially the head the more chance of them being deaf. Cinde head is all white plus her neck and she is part deaf.

Hope this helps.
By the way there call be a all black to, that I have seem one at our OES rescue picnic. :lol:

As with anything in life there are no absolutes! But for OES very very few remain black once the adult coat comes in. Indeed the vast majority of puppies start to turn grey in certain teltale areas at as young an age as 3 months. Our Dawn Eline, only 4 months old is starting to lighten up in her "skirt" - area below the butt.
When they begin to turn grey, how long it takes and the degree of lightening that occurs varies with every dog. The characteristics of any given line will give a good general indication of how the puppies will turn out but there can be "throwbacks" and unexpected results.

Thanks and Cheers


How old is your OES in the picture? He looks full grown to me and black! Yours is fluffy!

The colouring in my avatar is quite false because of the flash. All the white in the background and on Martin Zephram's head caused the flash to "underexpose" so the grey is poorly defined. If you really want to see Martin's colours visit our website and click on the line grooming photo essay. You'll see how grey he really is, almost silver in some areas underneath. In the photos he is just over 3 and is now 3 1/2.

Gosh how did he get to be that old! No Martin you can't get any older - you have to stay three forever so Daddy and Mommy can have you here forever, ok!

Thanks and Cheers

Carl, you're missing someone in your signature...
Update complete!
Hi everyone,

I have only seen two adult looking black & white OES and I am not sure if they were really adults yet. Maybe thwey were just big older puppies and had lots of coat. I still consider them puppies until around 2 1/2 years old. That was back in 1996 at the national specialty in Cleveland, Oh. I believe these dogs were out of New York and being shown. Other than that I haven't seen any others but maybe my travel hasn't been that extensive.

I know some of my puppies especially the males can take up to three years to turn all of their black and others are turned by 1 to 1 1/2 years old. Traditionally the neck & manes are usually white but it is not required in standard for the breed.

I've had several white head puppies with long white manes and none of them were deaf. I've only had one walleye whitehead with a very long white mane and he wasn't deaf either.

Almost forgot,

I doubt any healthy oes with black puppy coat turn to all white. They may be white for some odd reason but a black puppy coat doesn't naturally turn to white. I've never seen a pure bred white oes except in pictures and I wasn't able to actually verify it was truely a pruebred oes. I don't doubt that it has occured and as with any albino I'm sure they can have all kinds of problems. I've seen several that have a lot of white but they weren't deaf.
Panda turned a year old last month and she's still black and white. Maybe she'll still turn gray??
It is a known genetic fact that the white spotting gene that causes OES to be marked as they are can cause deafness when too many dominant copies of the same gene are passed on. Inbreeding and line breeding over the years have caused this to happen more and more often.
Though as zach said, just because a dog is a whitehead does not mean the dog is or will be deaf. However, if that whiteheaded dog is then bred to another whiteheaded dog of the same line the risk of deafness increases greatly. Since OES are all related, most quite closely when speaking in genetic terms, it is unwise to breed two whiteheaded dogs together in any case. The gene si~si (irish white spotting) then becomes SI~SI and white splashes within the black begin to occur. That is a fault in some countries, and only a preference in others, but it is an indication that the si gene is becoming more dominant.
I'm talking a true whitehead dog by the way. An example is Sky, who is not a true whitehead.She appears to be a whitehead, but has black freckles on her ears that are not seen in full coat.
Stacey, that was a very good explanation of the irish spotting gene, another gene the graying gene would also come into play with OES. Here is an experpt from this site about the Graying gene (G) It also speaks of the Merle gene as well, that is in OES.

G, the graying series. Although only two genes were recognised in this series by Little, this may be a more complex locus, or genes that affect graying may reside at more than one locus. The effect of G, in single or double dose, is the replacement of colored by uncolored hairs as the animal ages, very much like premature graying in human beings. This gene should be suspected in any breed where a dark puppy pales and washes out with age, and the paling is due to interspersed white hairs. The gene is almost certainly present in some Poodles, Old English Sheepdogs, and terriers. The fading may start immediately after birth or after a period of weeks to months has elapsed, and may go as far as it is going to by the first adult coat or may continue through the animal's lifetime. G may or may not be the gene involved in the graying of muzzle and over the eyes in aged dogs, or in the lightening of black to steel blue without interspersed white hairs. This is a series that definitely needs more work.

Yes, the greying gene is what causes the coat to change color, but I was referring to the gene that is linked to deafness, and G has nothing to do with that one. At least they don't think it does. Perhaps in combination with the white it causes more prevalence? I haven't heard that, but you never know.
I'm glad you explained about a "whitehead", Stacey. I am always asked about Bosley's hearing. He does have fairly large, black areas on his ears, underneath the white fur, so now I know he is not a true "whitehead". His hearing is fine, anyway. And BTW, these blotches are now turning grey. :?
I'm glad his hearing is fine, but just so everyone knows, genes are seen phenotypically (what you see) and genotypically (what you get). That means that even with some coloring on the head, it is still possible for him to be deaf, either from infection, virus, or genetically. It is important to keep an eye on any dog... regardless of it's color. It is much more common in dogs with a lot of white, especially those who are not supposed to be all white, such as oes, boxers, dobermans, great danes etc. If you look at the earliest pictures of OES most of them are heavily marked, with only a little white.
If a dog is found to be deaf, or blind etc, the earlier you know the earlier you can begin training differently, in a manner that will best benefit the dog. :)
Stormi, in regards to your mention of the merle coloring in OES, I've had several breeders tell me that merle does not exist in OES. I have argued that the standard mentions it as a color, but they ALL tell me they have never seen a merle in OES as a breed.
I've also tried to argue with them that I belive Dancer IS a merle, and that is one of the reasons I am so picky in regards to the coloring of any male I would choose to use as a stud with her. That merle gene, in combination with another merle gene, even recessive, can cause deafness. It is known to be an autosomal recessive, but in a dog that shows the merle, it must be double dominant. I've asked to see the males undercoat, as well as that of both his parents, just to make sure.
Personally, I think the merle gene has not shown up often in OES, due to the trend of breeding for the black saddle and no white splashes for a while. If that trend changes and white splashes become desireable, I believe we will see more deafness crop up.
It always seemed to me that when we say merle in an OES, we're not talking about a look similar to say, an Australian Shepherd, simply due to the difference in coat-- both length and texture.

Can you take pictures of Dancer up close so I can see what you mean?
I have pics of her coat, shaved down so you can clearly see the different colors and markings. That's the only time it can be seen. Now, if I can just find them! LOL
I saw one that had a very tightly variagated color and a kind of shiny blue quality and I was told she was merle. it was very different and very pretty.
A rescue named Barney was called a merle... here's his pic.
6Girls wrote:
A rescue named Barney was called a merle... here's his pic.

Do you know how old he was in that pic? It's so hard to tell with the coat transitioning. Clyde is 14 months old and his coat is a bunch of colors--black, grey (light and dark), blue, pale silver, white. I would think you wouldn't be alble to really determine until they are a few years old and the coat really settles down.
It's what color it is, and remains, at the skin that matters.
ButtersStotch wrote:
Do you know how old he was in that pic? It's so hard to tell with the coat transitioning.

Barney was about 10 years old.
I've noticed in the last 4 or 5 months that Bunkie's coat is going from a light grey to a dark grey. Especially at her armpits and knees and back of her paws. Is this unusual for the breed to go darker as they age???
No not at all, I've been told by experienced breeders they continue to change through their whole lives.
They go through a few coat changes from baby puppies to mature OES.
There is the baby puppy coat then you start to see a lighter grey coming in at about 6-7 months, usually starting around the back of the legs, across the shoulders then gradually turning a lighter grey, this is called the junior coat. At about 2 onwards the coat starts to darken and again another change to the fully mature coat. These times of coat changes are very hard as they matt and knot easily. Some go real dark with a mature coat others stay a slightly darker grey to the junior coat. Some don't change much in colour from when they were babies, depends on the lines they are from.
Hey Stacey, when are you going to write your book on OES genetics. Sounds like you've done a ton of research and only speaking for myself it sounds really interesting.
So I was looking at Maggie's AKC paperwork and she's identified as a blue merle. Her coat color is very striking. Not sure it shows up in the photos I've taken but it is a very pale frosted/shimmery gray tightly woven with white that is very different than Chumley's flat (adorable) greyness. Who knows if her breeder actually knew what merle is, but it is certainly different than Chum.
Certain medical conditions also cause color change. In dogs with hypothyroidism such as Luke and Rosco the hair comes in black where it was thinning or there were bald patches. In this instance it is not age related.
Don't forget allergies and traumas too. Right after an incident they can have a patch of hair that turns black. It should be temporary but it can make them look funny for a while or if they are new to you the color can be mistaken for permanent.
VerveUp wrote:
Hey Stacey, when are you going to write your book on OES genetics. Sounds like you've done a ton of research and only speaking for myself it sounds really interesting.

I am working on it.... I'm not sure it will ever get anywhere, but at least I will have it to benefit myself and anyone else interested.
Valerie wrote:
So I was looking at Maggie's AKC paperwork and she's identified as a blue merle. Her coat color is very striking. Not sure it shows up in the photos I've taken but it is a very pale frosted/shimmery gray tightly woven with white that is very different than Chumley's flat (adorable) greyness. Who knows if her breeder actually knew what merle is, but it is certainly different than Chum.

When they are registered they are all black and white, I always wondered how the coat color could be anything other than that on their
I dunno but Jasper is looking more bluish and white (err - tanish from him staying dirty all the time, lol) than any other color lately.
I asked that question about color and registering when we did Toby's papers. Since they knew the mother and father, they knew what colors they were and judging by coat texture and which parent he seemed to be more like, they went with that.
The other piece of advice I got was to just put grey and white because they're all sort of grey and white just to different degrees!

I did see a blue poodle this weekend at an agility trial. It's very distinctive and once you've seen a true blue you'd see the difference between blue and grey.

We also put the blue poodle beside a merle sheltie and an almost black bearded collie. The color difference was pretty astounding. It's easier to compare dogs to each other to see what they are or aren't than to just look at one single dog and figure it out. It's like picking out paint swatches in the hardware store. You think you've got it right while you are there but once you get them home it's not what you thought it was. :lol:
So in the states you have to register them yourself? Here the pups are registered as a litter and then also registered individually by the breeder.
They are registered as a litter and by the owner. They make you redo all those questions when you register them yourself.
All the breeder info is on the top and they rest looks like it may just be standard for the breed. They put the variety and coat color questions on the bottom but you only had sheepdog related color choices, no reds or anything like that, to choose from.
I have a question: my sheepdog just turned 3, and she just recently is starting to turn black again. She has like stripes on both sides, and a patch on her back. It started with one stripe but now it is spreading to multiple stripes. I always shave her short for summer. Last June, she was all grey, but this April, it is every where. I know she has some Merle in her... or do you think it is something else?
^^^the adult change is coming in. Simon was all silver at 1.6 and slowly started to change. I look back and its a HUGE difference.
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