The Black & White Great Dane is a beautiful and highly sought after dog. It only however appears due to a unique gene known as the Harlequin gene
What is a Black & White Great Dane?
There are many ways different breeds can achieve a Black & White look. Each of these can lead to a different type of patterning but there is only one genetic combination that can lead to this for a Great Dane. You may suspect that it relates to similar genes which lead to the Piebald coloring of a Border-Collie. Whilst this is genetically possible it is highly unlikely that you will see a Piebald Great Dane in practice. The most common cause for a Black & White Great Dane is due to a unique gene referred to as Harlequin. This is a gene which is only found in certain breeds of dog.
Harlequin is a unique patterning that is only officially recognised in a Great Dane. The look itself is most comparable to that seen in a dalmation. It is a combination of the Merle genetics which are seen in a large number of breeds with the Harlequin gene. Due to health issues around the Merle/Harlequin genes it is rare to see this combination and a number of breeders look to avoid breeding these dogs. The Harlequin gene effectively works as an enhancer on the Merle gene. It takes the Merle patterning and enlarges the markings as well as turning the base coat from Grey to White. Similar to the Merle genetics only one copy of the Harlequin gene is required for this to modify the Merle effect.
Often people believe that you can get Black & White spotted Great Danes. They believe that the pattern itself is similar to that of a Dalmatian. Whilst Great Danes do share the spotting gene there are further genetics that lead to an amplification of this effect in other breeds.
Another way this coloring can appear in Great Danes is known as Black & Mantle. This will be identifiable by the top half of the Great Dane being largely black, this contrasts with the largely white underbelly. This is where the dog has the base black color combined with an effect know as Irish Spotting. This can also be referred to as a Boston Great Dane.
Are Black & White Great Danes rare?
Whilst not being the most common sight amongst Great Danes it is not rare. The most common Great Dane coloring is Fawn, this means a large share resemble the most famous of all Great Danes being Scooby Doo. With there being different types of the Black & White coloring it can lead to different approaches from breeders. It can be considered risky however to breed Harlequin Great Danes due to potential health problems, responsible breeders can however minimise this risk by never breeding two Harlequin Great Danes together. This does however lead to a reduced chance in producing Black & White Great Dane puppies.
What Colors can a Great Dane be?
Below is a list showing possible color combinations for a Great Dane. This list is not exhaustive but shows the different combinations that can be combined from the official color list from the AKC (American Kennel Club)
Recognised Great Dane Colors
- Fawn Great Dane – Also known as sable this will be a largely brown color with a black mouth and ears.
- Black Great Dane – Solid black coloring.
- Blue Great Dane – Solid blue coloring can also be referred to as grey.
- Brindle Great Dane – Largely covered in a fawn base coat with darker areas akin to tiger stripes throughout.
- Harlequin Great Dane – White base coat with patches of black fur.
- Harlequin Mantle Great Dane – Similar to Harlequin Great Dane with larger areas of white particularly on the underside.
- Mantle Great Dane – Black predominantly on the top with white on the bottom half
Unrecognised Great Dane Colors
- Blue Mantle Great Dane – This presents as largely Blue on the top of the dog with a white belly/lower half.
- Blue Brindle Great Dane – Whilst described as Blue this will be a largely Fawn dog with a Blue instead of Black brindle effect.
- Blue Brindle Mantle Great Dane – This is similar to a Blue Brindle Great Dane with the difference being a White lower half largely on the feet/belly.
- Blue Fawn Great Dane – This will be a Fawn Great Dane with a Blue mask
- Blue Fawn Mantle Great Dane – This will be a largely Fawn Great Dane with white on it’s lower half. This will then be combined with a Blue features around it’s face.
- Blue Merle Great Dane – This will lead to a combination of the Blue undertone with darker Blue/Black marbling effect throughout.
- Blue Merle Mantle Great Dane – This is the same as a Blue Merle Great Dane but with white along it’s lower half/face.
- Blue Brindle Merle Great Dane – This will again show as a largely Fawn Great Dane but will have a mix of patterning colors throughout.
- Blue Brindle Merle Mantle Great Dane – This is a combination of almost every type of patterning available, this is unlikely to be in reality but is genetically possible.
- Blue Fawn Merle Great Dane – This dog will only have blue around their face and this will be the only area with the Merle effect.
- Blue Fawn Merle Mantle Great Dane – This will contain the Blue and Merle effects around it’s face whilst also have white features on it’s underside/lower half
- Blue Harlequin Great Dane – This will appear as a Blue & White Great Dane, this will be the same as that of a regular Harlequin with Blue patches instead of Black.
- Blue Harlequin Mantle Great Dane – This will appear almost identical to that of a Blue Harlequin, the difference being that it is likely to contain larger patches of white especially on it’s underside.
- Blue Fawn Harlequin Great Dane – This dog will have a white base coat with a fawn merle patterning and blue markings around it’s face.
- Blue Fawn Harlequin Mantle Great Dane – This will be similar to that of Blue Fawn Harlequin with larger areas of White.
- Brindle Mantle Great Dane – This will appear as a Brindle Great Dane with areas of white present largely on it’s underside.
- Fawn Mantle Great Dane – A largely fawn dog with large areas of white on it’s underside and lower part of it’s face.
- Merle Great Dane – A Grey base coat with darker patches from the Merle patterning.
- Fawn Merle Great Dane – A completely fawn dog with a darker face with small patches of merle patterning present in this area.
- Fawn Harlequin Great Dane – A largely white dog with a patches of fawn patterning throughout.
- Brindle Harlequin Great Dane – White base coat with brindled patches of fur.
Harlequin Great Dane Health Issues
Unfortunately there are a number of health issues linked to the Harlequin gene. It appears that these are often similar to the effects that can appear in Merle but with enhanced effects. The majority of Harlequin dogs can and will have long lives but it is important to look out for the below issues which can appear.
- Deafness – There is an increased risk of deafness or hearing issues compared to a regular Frenchie
- Blindness – Dilation of the pupils can be an issue which can lead to night blindness and in some cases complete blindness.
- Further Eye Issues – There is also a risk of eyes being off centre, additional eyelids, missing tissue or in some cases being born without eyes.
- Immune Deficiency – A high risk of a having a weakened immune system.
In the circumstance that a dog has two copies of the Harlequin gene then unfortunately these dogs are unlikely to make it past the embryotic stage. This shows the severity of breeding two Harlequin dogs and this should never happen.