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Smoke Blue & Fawn

The diluted version of the colours black and brown

Occasionally you will find Kelpies with a paler coat colour. They may be pencil gray or wheat coloured. The colours of these Kelpies are called smoke blue or fawn. They have a diluted version of the colours black and brown. This gene is called dilution and belongs on the D locus. Dilute is actually what this gene does. It affects the intensity of the eumelanin in the coat, nose and eyes, which dilutes the black to a darker day and the brown to different shades of gray and beige.

Dilution is a recessive gene, which means that both parents must carry this gene for their offspring to be smoke blue or fawn. Two brown parents with dilution heritage can only leave offspring which are brown or diluted brown (fawn), and of course the basic colours black and brown.

As with the brown dogs, different hues of smoke blue or fawn may exist and that is why these two colours sometimes get mixed up. One way to determine the colour of a Kelpie is to look at the nose. A smoke blue dog has a steel grey nose, and a fawn dog has a nose which is coloured towards brown or lilac.

Dilution and health

A common opinion is that this dilution gene somehow is unsound and a flaw of nature, but that is a misconception. As in most recessive genes, the dilution gene could be said to be “flawed” in one way, but it is only flawed in its capacity to distribute eumelanin and melanin equally along a strand of hair. The uneven distribution will cause the diluted looks. This does not affect the dog’s health, only its colour.

The misconception probably comes from a genetic disease called Colour Dilution Alopecia (CDA), which causes hair loss and skin problems. This is common in blue coated dogs, especially in the Doberman. However, all colours can carry CDA or still be homozygote, but only dogs with diluted black or diluted brown may have symptoms.

This genetic disease is prevalent in some but not all breeds, but it does occur in the Kelpie. One theory is that CDA is caused by a specific dilution gene, called the dl gene. This gene is recessive but is probably dominant over the standard d gene.