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15 Shades of a German Shepherd

While so many adore a German Shepherd, not everyone is aware of the various shades that the breed can come in. In fact, many people assume that it only comes in black and tan. This common misunderstanding, however, is far from the truth. In reality, there are 15 different colors that a German Shepherd comes in. Many of them are not recognized by the AKC, but that does not make them any less beautiful.

Pure Black

Have you ever heard about the prevalent superstition that if a black cat crosses your path, it's bad luck? A similar myth revolves around the pure black German Shepherds. Some cultures believe that meeting a pure black German Shepherd at any time during the night is a bad omen. In fact, some believe it hints towards potential death. Needless to say, this color of the dog is quite intimidating to many people around the world. However, that's mostly the only thing different about a pure black German Shepherd. Apart from that, the color has absolutely nothing to do with the dog's personality, traits, or characteristics. For example, while many pure black German Shepherd owners have stated that their dogs are more muscular and more prominent than other forms of German Shepherd, there is no evidence to prove the claim. Similarly, many owners think their pure black dog's coat is more flowy and luxurious than others, but, again, there is no valid or official evidence to prove it.

Black and Tan

Being the most common color of a German Shepherd, most people have misinterpreted that it's the only color that the dog comes in. These dogs have black faces and backs and a very rich tan-colored undercarriage. The interesting part about these dogs is that their skin is considerably darker when they are born. However, as they age and grow older, their coat lightens. Some of these German Shepherds even develop a grey-ish strip along their backs. Some professionals and specialists have referred to it as the "bitch's strip" since it is more prevalent in females than male German Shepherds. A valid reason is that black and tan genes dominate the recessive solid black genes.

Black and Silver

Black and silver German Shepherds, similar to black and tan German Shepherds, often have a silver-ish saddle along and across their backs. However, the hue and pattern of this saddle are different in every dog. What is interesting about black and silver German Shepherds is that this color combination only exists in rare cases. Silver is a very uncommon shade in German Shepherds because it is a recessive gene. Thus, the only time a black and silver combination is possible is when the dog's genes have recessive intensity suppression. Also, black and silver German Shepherds are not common in show rings; they are most prevalent as working dogs. An important thing to remember if you want a black and silver GSD is that these dogs are not easily visible during the night. Hence, a glow-in-the-dark or light-up collar is highly recommended while walking the dog during the darker hours of the day.

Black and Red

In black and red German Shepherds, a vibrant red color replaces all the tan. However, the overall pattern remains pretty similar, with black saddlebacks and faces. The unique red pigment results from pheomelanin, which is a color gene that causes a variety of red shades in German Shepherds. It ranges from a beautiful strawberry blonde to a bolder, deeper mahogany shade. Not only is this color combination trendy and favorable among breeders, but it is also comparatively easier to breed than others since both black and red color genes are dominant.

Cream / Fawn

The cream coloration looks very similar to the red and tan combination, just lighter. However, as beautiful as it is, there is a controversy around this color variation. Most breeders who own cream German Shepherds don't want to showcase them in show rings. Instead, they want to breed dogs with dark tones and shades instead of lighter ones. To some people, this differentiation and bias is bizarre because, apart from the aesthetics, the color does not impact the character or intelligence level of the dog. It also does not change their nose work, obedience, agility, or rally. Cream German Shepherds are just as brave and loyal as other breeds with different color variations.


White German Shepherds are more commonly cited than one may assume. The reason is that many people see these dogs but don't recognize them as German Shepherds. People confuse a white German Shepherd with a white Swiss Shepherd or a Husky in even more unusual cases! Even though these dogs are incredibly beautiful to most dog lovers, they are often disqualified and not allowed to enter dog shows because they are "undesirable." The controversial behavior towards white German Shepherds goes back to 1959 when the Germans decided to cut off the breeding lines of these dogs. They assumed these dogs were albinos and thought that particular hereditary issues "washed out" the dog's authentic colors.


A beautiful reddish-brown rich, and attractive coat paired with amber eyes, this German Shepherd is definitely one of the most stunningly beautiful dogs you will ever see in your life. The color comes from a recessive liver-color gene, and such extraordinarily beautiful puppies are only born when both their parents have one of these genes. However, even these dogs have been left out of dog shows. According to authorities of kennels clubs like AKC, their colors are "permissible" but not as desirable as stronger, richer colors. AKC states that liver-colored dogs have washed out fur and have "serious faults." Therefore, AKC only recognizes a liver German Shepherd if it has a solid liver color. It is not acceptable if the dog has any tan and liver or liver and black patterns.


Being one of the rarest German Shepherds, these bluish-grey dogs are a sight to behold. Their color is simply magical, and their amber or golden-brown eyes are a cherry on top. Sometimes mistakenly recognized as blue Belgian Malinois, these dogs are exotic and very desirable. However, as popular as they are, their controversial fate is very similar to the White German Shepherds. Since it is a product of recessive dilution, health issues and inbreeding practices are common problems. That being said, there is no recorded evidence that there are still health problems associated with these recessive dilution genes at this point.


Another unacceptable washed-out color for the AKC, Isabella, is an unusual color variation in German Shepherds. The fact that AKC does not deem it desirable is a shame because it is one of the most gorgeous shades that the dog comes in. These dogs have stunning eyes with noses of different colors ranging from the liver to pink and any other shades between them. Isabella German Shepherds typically don't have any black color at their eyes, noses, or paws, and their eyes are usually hazel or light blue. Even though many people claim that Isabella dogs have health issues, there is no scientific evidence to prove it. However, it is a recessive trait, and selection of these characteristics usually comes with gene pool limitations and makes certain dogs more prone to having genetic health conditions.


Grey German Shepherds are often confused with blue German Shepherds because of the similar-looking tones, especially in the dark. However, in daylight, these dogs look very different and have a unique look. They're also sometimes referred to as "wolf-grey." Grey German Shepherds typically lack any black pigmentation, differentiating them from sable German Shepherds since the latter has black tips to its hair. Grey German Shepherds result from dominant genes, and they're much easier to breed than other colors. As beautiful as these are, like Isabella German Shepherds, these are unusual, and you're lucky if you find one.


As mentioned earlier, silver is a recessive gene and is not very common in German Shepherds. However, it is still recognized by AKC, and breeders worldwide try to breed these stunning dogs. But even though AKC potentially recognizes them, they are not a priority in the show rings. Breeders and authorities still prefer stronger, vibrant, and darker colors. In contrast, police forces and military teams prioritize getting silver German Shepherd for themselves as working dogs.


People often confuse silver German Shepherd with the sable ones because of the color similarity. The only way to differentiate between a silver German Shepherd and a sable German Shepherd is the patterned coat: if the dog has patterns, it is a sable and not silver. Despite the confusion between two different shades, sable itself is a very classy color for German Shepherds and comes in various shades of its own. Whatever the shade of the hair may be, they always end with black tips. A sable-colored puppy will change its looks throughout its life. Black sable German Shepherds are sometimes all-black when they are born. Similarly, sable tri-color German Shepherds are black and tan when they are young. As these puppies grow up, their colors change; some even take up to three years before developing into a complete sable German Shepherd.


Bicolor German Shepherds appear all-black with black tails, legs, backs, and heads. However, the dog needs to have black heels even if the paws are slightly brownish to be a true bicolor. Some specialists and enthusiasts are curious whether bicolor is even a color or simply a different color pattern. Nonetheless, according to the AKC, it is differentiated as a distinct recessive German Shepherd color and can be showcased in the ring. Despite that, you will probably find these dogs more abundantly in the working lines.


Albino German Shepherds are rare but not very popular in kennel clubs like AKC since they usually have potential health problems like photosensitivity and other issues. Additionally, for a dog to be genuinely albino, it must not have any colors whatsoever, including lack of pigmentation in hair, skin, and even the eyes, which means their eyes are ever-so-slightly pinkish.


Panda German Shepherds have a lot of similarities to Border Collies, but they are extremely rare. More than 40% of the dog is white, even though there are no white German Shepherds among its ancestors. In fact, the genes responsible for a German Shepherd to be entirely white or patchy white are two very different genes. When scientists discovered the DNA of the first Panda German Shepherd that was cited, it showed that she was a pure breed and not a crossbreed. But despite being purebred, panda German Shepherds are not recognized by many breeders and kennel clubs around the globe, including AKC.

Some FAQs About The Colors Of A German Shepherds

What's the rarest shade of a German Shepherd?

Because the unusual combination of blue and liver is so unlikely, the rarest color in a German Shepherd has to be Isabella.

What's the most favorable color of the breed?

It is not surprising to see that black and tan is the most favorable color in German Shepherds. Since the AKC recognizes these colors as the original standard colors of the dog, any other color variations can potentially decrease the chances of the dog being showcased in the ring. So, most breeders favor a black and tan German Shepherd over any other.

Does a German Shepherd have an original color?

The original color of a German Shepherd and the one that is most commonly found and most favored are not the same. The original color of a working German Shepherd was sable which has evolved over time.

In Conclusion

German Shepherds come in various colors, but only some of them are favored for showcasing purposes by clubs like AKC. Nonetheless, their "acceptability" does not affect their popularity among enthusiasts, and their beauty is still appreciated around the globe.


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