Malamute Coat Color Genetics
by Nichole Royer

Chinchilla-like Locus
Traditionally the "C" or Chinchilla locus is responsible for turning phaeomelanin very pale in other species. Thus far studies show that “C” is not the locus which has this effect in dogs. No one has determined what locus it is, however. Thus I'm using "Chinchilla-like" locus instead of just Chinchilla Locus.

The recessive allele at this locus lightens/removes phaeomelanin pigment (the yellow/red band) wherever it appears in the dog’s coat. It does not affect the eumelanin (black/brown) pigment at all. It also has no effect on eye color or skin pigment so nose color remains black. This locus is responsible for changing Sable into Gray, and Dark Sable (or Seal Sable) into Seal.

Cl - Sable
Full color. Both black/brown and yellow/red bands are expressed as are the tan under-parts in some dogs. We usually call this color Sable, however many Agoutis as well as any Tan Point that shows
its tan pigment are also "Cl" or Sable. It is worth noting that genetically the term "Sable" is not correct for this color, and in other breeds Sable refers to another color all together.

The intensity and depth of color in the phaeomelanin can vary greatly in Malamutes from a deep redish brown to a pale off white. Often the very palest off white Sables are mistaken for Gray and Seal. Sable
pigment also changes over time, often becoming darker or lighter as the dog ages. Some Sable dogs show the phaeomelanin pigment in their faces ranging from peach colored to a deep burnt orange. In other dogs
this pigment is not seen.
The only difference between these dogs and the sables shown above is the Chinchilla-like locus removing phaeomelanin from the coat
The appearance and depth of color in the yellow/red phaeomelanin band in sable dogs is controled by modifiers and can vary greatly. The dogs shown below are all genetically Sable.
cl - Non-Sable (or Chinchilla-like dilute)
The black/brown band is unaffected. The yellow/red band is reduced to white or off white. The Chinchilla-like locus is responsible for removing the red or brown color from sables. We call the resulting
colors Gray and Seal.

An interesting side note is that this gene is notorious for “failing” along the line where the top color meets the points – leaving sable “trimmings” where you can still see the yellow/red band in the dog’s coat.
This page was last updated: January 20, 2014
Agouti (which can also be consiered Agouti Sable). The phaeomelanin pigment on the dog on the left is much paler and less intense than the dog on the right.
All three of these dogs are Agouti Domino (gray) Sable  These pictures show how dramatically different the brightness and intensity of the  phaeomelanin pigment can be
Tan Point Domino (Seal) Sable.
The dog on the right exhibits the colored face found on some sable dogs.
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