Colours of the Finnish Lapphund - A Rainbow of Possibilities

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Black - With or without Tan and White markings. Tan ranges from palest cream to deep caramel. Easily the most well known and recognised colour for the breed


Brown is recessive to Black. Brown Finnish Lapphunds are found in various shades, with or without Tan and White markings.


Dilute - Blue. the Dilute gene on a Black dog produces Blue. Whilst fairly obvious in a puppy, as adults it's often more difficult to distinguish between Black and Blue. Puppies and adolescents are pictured here to show the difference. This colour is uncommon. Photos © Liv Vesterheim


Dilute - Lilac. The dilute gene on a Brown dog produces Lilac. Due to the recessive nature of both Brown and Dilute, this colour is very uncommon.


Wolf Sable - Black.  Dominant to the Tanpoint pattern. Wolf Sable dogs range in colouring and can be seen with and without face masks. The first pictures are the same bitch as a puppy and adult to show the progression of colour. These are more obvious examples of Wolf Sable but the actual colour can be difficult to identify at birth and again as adults as the sable (black tip) guard hairs can cover the body, giving the appearance of a Black and Tan dog.



Wolf Sable - Brown. Wolf Sable is dominant on the A locus but Brown is recessive on the B locus which can make this colour combination less common. There are many registered 'Brown' Lappies who are suspected to actually be Brown Wolf Sable. The wolf sable can sometimes be hard to detect.



Wolf Sable - Dilute - The first 5 pics are of Savujoen Sinisiipi and show the progression of the colour as the dog matures. I haven't yet found a Lilac Wolf Sable. I suspect it may sometimes pass undetected or be labelled Brown as the colouring is not always as obvious. Dilute and Wolf Sable seems a reasonably uncommon combination and may be harder still to identify on an adult as the colour darkens with age.


Sable (Black) - Sable Finnish Lapphunds range in colour from the palest cream to deep red/orange. Black or Brown pigment and sable tips gives away the base colour. Unlike Creams, the pigment on Sable dogs is usually retained and doesn't fade over time.


Sable (Brown) - theoretically Sable can also come in both dilute Blue and Lilac and i'm sure they exist, but I haven't been able to confirm any. Yet.


Domino (Black) - is a recessive pattern that affects the expression of the base colour. This pattern is apparent at birth with a telling, clear mask on the face. The colour and shading varies greatly.

Domino (Brown) - less common than Black as you need a pair of recessive brown genes, but more common than Domino Dilute (Blue and Lilac)


Cream (Black) - suppresses all other colours with pigment on nose, eyerims and feet giving away the base colour of Black, Brown or even dilutes. Pigment often fades over time on Cream Finnish Lapphunds, and even more so over the winter. These creams have Black pigment.


Cream (Brown) - with Brown pigment on nose, eyerims and feet. Pigment often fades on Cream Finnish Lapphunds.


Patterns and markings - Irish Spotting White markings which can occur on any other colour - usually on chest, legs and feet. Can extend to the face, back of neck or even a full collar. Full body white with patches of colour are not desirable for the show ring and are uncommon.


Patterns - Saddleback - Difficult to detect on a puppy but as it has dominant inheritance is somewhat easier to predict. Deemed an undesirable colour several decades ago and so has become increasingly uncommon. This pattern is unlikely to be produced in Australia. All photos are of Vija Viktoria of Cherryland.


Patterns - Brindle - dominant inheritance. Another undesirable colour in Finnish Lapphunds and so it's unlikely to be produced in Australia.
The brindle pattern is seen where the cream or tanpoint would be, so it can be missed on a black or brown dog with minimal points. These photos below are more obvious examples.


Masks and Spectacles - The traditional signature look of the Finnish Lapphund includes a tan mask. Some are fuller and bright with clear edges, others are less distinct. Finnish Lapphunds can also develop spectacles around the eyes. These can be in addition to a mask or entirely separate.


Ears - Tipped - Finnish Lapphunds occasionally have tipped (or slightly folded) ears. It is equally acceptable for both ears to be erect, or for one or both ears to have the tips slightly folded over.


Brown Eyes - Eye colour should be brown. Whilst dark brown eyes are considered the ideal, coat colour affects the shade of colour with Brown, Wolf Sable and Dilute colour Lappies often having a lighter eye, though usually complementing the coat colour. Occasionally 1 or both eyes are blue. This occurence is linked to White spotting, but unlike Siberian Husky's blue eyes are highly undesirable and not sought after in a Finnish Lapphund.


Snow Nose - A paler stripe down the centre of the nose leather with less pigment. The intensity can vary. Most often seen on Domino but can occur on any dog. In some cases only noticeable in Winter (linked to less sun exposure) and is quite common in Spitz breeds.


The Genetics.

Genes are all tied together into a long strand of DNA. A gene is basically a set of instructions which tells the cell how to produce certain proteins (pigment, in this case). The genetic make-up of a dog is its genotype. The physical appearance of the dog is its phenotype. Genes are made up of two Allele's: one from each parent. Each point on the strand of DNA is called a locus. A 'locus' (plural 'loci') refers to the specific location on the DNA where the gene is found.

Finnish Lapphunds, like most dog breeds, carry loads of genetic markers, we're just going to deal with colour here. For more information on colour genetics visit Dog Coat Colour Genetics

Each dog will inherit 2 Allele's from each of the following loci. The combination of these loci make up the dogs genotype and will determine the dogs overall appearance (phenotype)
The colours are listed under each locus by order of dominance (a dog can't carry 'Ay' Sable and appear 'Aw' Wolf Sable, but can be Ay and carry the lesser allele's Aw, At or 'a' as the other pair on the A locus.
Furthermore, each loci is affected by the others in determining the overall physical colour (phenotype) of the dog
So you could, for example, have a Cream dog (ee) who carried Sable (Ay) or any of the other A locus markings and you wouldn't necessarily know without DNA colour testing.
A dominant 'KK' or "Kk' dog and a recessive 'aa' dog would very much appear the same.

A Locus - Agouti (markings)
2 of the following Allele's will be passed on to a puppy:
ay - Sable - Only one copy needed to make a puppy Sable
aw - Wolf Sable - Only one copy needed to make a puppy Wolf Sable as long as the other allele is at or a
at - Tanpoint - The only possible combinations of a Tanpoint dog are at/at and a/a 
a - recessive solid - two copies needed in order to be recessive solid

B Locus (base colour)
2 of the following Allele's will be passed on to a puppy:
B - Black. If the puppy inherits one B means the puppy can not be Brown.
b - Brown (comes in 3 known variations and at least 1 more unknown - Finnish Lapphunds have been proven to carry all 3 known variants). 

D Locus (Dilute)
2 of the following Allele's will be passed on to a puppy:
D - Normal If the puppy inherits one D the puppy cannot be Dilute
d- Dilute

E Locus
2 of the following Allele's will be passed on to a puppy:
E - Normal (A locus will be expressed)
Eg - Domino (Sighthound type) Eg has been found in several Lapphunds, but negative in other Dominos so we have at least 2 types of Domino in our breed.
Eh - Domino (Spitz or 'Husky' type) Eh can't be tested for at this time and is believed to be the 2nd type of Domino in our breed.
(Eg/Eh are recessive to E and dominant to e but their dominance towards each other is unknown at this time.)
e - Cream (when a dog inherits 'ee' this gene suppresses all other colours)

K Locus
2 of the following Allele's will be passed on to a puppy:
K - Dominant solid (B locus determines whether solid Black or Brown) Proven in Finnish Lapphunds by DNA but not believed to be common.
Kbr - Brindle -currently can't be DNA tested for but is known to exist on the K Locus
ky - recessive non-solid (A locus will be expressed)


There are a couple of rules. The rest are so dependent on the combination that it's too complicated to try to list them all here.

1. Recessive 'ee' trumps every other colour and the dog will appear Cream. Domino 'Eg' or 'Eh' trumps everything but ee.
2. If the dog inherits even one K allele then the dog will appear solid black, unless Rule 1 applies.
3. If the dog inherits even one Ay they will appear Sable, unless overwritten by Rule 1 or Rule 2
3. If the dog inherits even one Aw they will appear Wolf Sable, unless overwritten by Rule 1, 2 or 3
and so on....


Of course, a parent can only pass on what they themselves have to give, so for example, you won't get a Wolf Sable (Aw) dog from two Black and Tan (At) parents

Further Reading
Clear as mud? Don't worry, it can take a while to wrap your head around it. In the meantime the Dog Coat Colour Genetics page is a great resource for plain speaking explanations of colours and inheritance.


I can't recall who put this together or where i found it and i can't remark on the absolute accuracy of the following list, but it does help with some of the word choices i've seen for colours over the years and provides equivalents across several languages

English Suomi Svenska Northern Sami
brindle, striped brindle, raidallinen brindle, randig -
domino domino domino -
grizzle, pale hallava grizzle čuoivvat, čuorgat, čurge
grey harmaa grå ránes, čuorgat
seal karhunmusta seal, svartbrun -
brown seal karhunruskea - -
yellow keltainen gul fiskat, fiskes
cream kermanvärinen, kerma creme lácka
piebald, multicolored kirjava brokig dilkui
tricolor kolmivärinen trefärgat -
summer black, fading black kulomusta bleksvart -
golden, gold kultainen, kulta guldfärgat, guld gollas
blaze laukki, läsi, läsipää bläs -
mask, masked maski, maskillinen mask -
tanpoint merkkivärinen - -
black musta svart čáhppes
black with markings musta merkein svart med tecken čierggis, čebo
black with pale markings musta vaalein merkein svart med ljusa tecken -
black with grey markings musta harmain merkein svart med gråa tecken -
black with white markings musta valkoisin merkein svart med vita tecken -
black and white mustavalkoinen svartvit -
blackish grey mustanharmaa svartgrå -
pale spots over eyes nelisilmä - -
sooty paws nokitassu sotiga tassar -
brown parkki, ruskea brun ruškes
stripe piirto, otsapiirto rand cáhku
ticking, ticked, spotted pilkutus, pilkullinen ticking, prickad dilkui, dávllet
red punainen röd rukses, ruoksat
black with brindle points, trindle raitatassu svart med brindle tecken -
white collar, collared ranssi, kaulus, sepel, ranssikaula krans, halspring čierggis
wolf/wild patterned, agouti riistanvärinen, riista viltfärgat -
saddle pattern satulakuvio, mantteli sadel, mantelfärg -
spectacles silmälasit, rillit, rillipää glasögon čalbmeláset, brillat
blue, slate sininen blå alit
lilac siniparkki, sininen parkki - -
sable soopeli sobel -
socks, white paws sukkajalka, valkotassu vita tassar biddojuolgi
dark tumma mörk -
dark wolf patterned tummariista mörk viltfärgat -
pale, light vaalea ljus čuovgat
white valkoinen, valkea vit vielgat, vilges, čeaskat
wheaten vehnänvärinen, vehnä vetefärgad nisu