Hair varieties and colours

The dog's coat is made up of two different types of hair. The guard hair, which forms the topcoat, is hard, coarse and longer than the down hair, which forms the short, woolly protective undercoat. Not all breeds have an undercoat, but it is essential in the Nordic breeds.
The coat fulfils a number of aesthetic and protective roles which mirror the dog’s state of health. The coat appearance is determined by the distribution of hair colours and the pigmentation of the nose and skin. Dog coats can be whole-coloured, patterned or modified.

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Coat colours

Whole-coloured coats

Whole-coloured coats contain a single pigment, dark or light, or no pigment at all. There are therefore three types:


Patterned coats

Patterned coats contain two pigments, dark and light, without any white whatsoever. There are five types: masked fawn, dark fawn, brindle, black with fawn markings, and fawn saddle.


Modified coats

Modified coats are whole-coloured or part-coloured coats which can be identified by careful examination but which have a modified phenotypic expression. They are split into three categories:
- Greying coats,
- Merle coats,
- Flecked, ticked, and speckled coats



Hair is a flexible, elastic, keratinous filament. The section which grows out of the skin is actually dead. Just as there are various breeds of dog, there are also various types of hair. Hair varies in length, diameter, texture and form (straight, flexible, wavy or curly). They are also distributed in different ways. Dogs can have a tuft of hair on the head, a mane (like the Chow Chow), fringing on the hind limbs, under the belly and on the tail, or a close-cropped coat, when the hair is longer on the tail than on the rest of the body.

Many different factors influence the hair, including age. In some breeds, puppies have very different hair to adults. A Braque d’Auvergne, for instance, only acquires its mottling with age, while many Dalmatians are born without spots and Yorkshire Terriers are completely black at birth.

The hair lightens with age, particularly around the head, starting with the muzzle. A dog in poor health or on a poor diet will have dull, brittle hair. Light can also turn hair brittle and russet. After clipping, hair is clearer and purer.

Hair grows continuously. Dogs renew their hair by the process of moulting, which generally occurs in spring and autumn, extending over a period of four to six weeks. In dogs which spend a great deal of time indoors, moulting is virtually continuous throughout the year.

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Hair length

• Absence of hair. Hairless dogs, such as Mexican Hairless Dogs and Chinese Crested Dogs, which have crests of hair on the head and the end of the tail. They have a fine, soft and warm skin, with heavy black pigmentation.

• Close-cropped or smooth hair, between 5 mm and 15 mm in length. This is very fine in Pinschers, fine and short in Whippets and thicker in Pointers.

• Short hair, between 15 mm and 4 cm long. This is smooth, stiff and fairly harsh in a dog such as the German Shepherd. It is coarse when shorter, like a Beagle’s.

• Medium-length (4-7 cm) or long (more than 7 cm). hair, which can be fine, silky and wavy like a Setter’s, longer than the height at the withers like a Yorkshire Terrier’s, curly like a Water Spaniel’s, woolly like a Spitz’s or corded like a Puli’s or a Komondor’s.

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Hair characteristics

• Harsh

Wiry to the touch, tousled, trapping a layer of air, like a Picardy Shepherd's, where it is of medium length, and a Griffon Vendéen’s.

• Heterogeneous

Two thirds fairly harsh and one third softer, fur-like, like a Dandie Dinmont Terrier’s.

• Smooth

Shiny looking and neat like a Great Dane’s or a Rottweiler’s.

• Silky

Very fine, flexible and soft like a Setter’s.

• Woolly

Less shiny and thicker looking, like a Poodle’s.

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Hair varieties and colours
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