Bearded Collies are born in 4 basic colours, black, brown, blue and fawn with white markings. The pigment of nose, eye rims and lips should always follow the coat colour.

The greying effect, that is the gradual lightening of coat colour as the dog grows from puppy to adult, is the result of the gene Greying G which makes black beardies turn slate or grey and brown beardies fade to cream. Puppies can also be tricolour but the tan always change to a cream/white at adulthood.

Leaving aside the greying factor, tricolour/tan-markings and the white markings, we will look at the basics.

All characteristics, including color, are inherited through genes, which are located in pairs on microscopic structures inside of cells, called chromosomes. They are found in the nucleus of every cell, and made up of strands of DNA. Genes exist in pairs. All mammals, get one of each gene from the mother, and one of each gene from the father, ending up with a pair for every possible characteristic.

The genes for colours are written with different letters in the alphabet, with the dominant genes in capitals and the recessive genes with lower-case letters.

The different letters for dogs are: A, B, C, D, E, G, M, P, R, S, and T and they mean:

A (agouti), B (brown), C (albino series which may not be in dogs at all), D (dilution) E (extension), G (greying), K (dominant black or brindle), M (merle), R (roaning), S (white spotting) and T (ticking.)

We are going to concentrate on B and D which represent the four colours in Beardies. Black and Brown are the basic colours and Blue and Fawn the diluted versions.

Dominant and Recessive
Some genes are dominant and others are recessive. The dominant gene is more common because it only takes one parent to pass it on. If a trait is dominant, then as long as you inherit that trait from either of the parents, you will possess that trait. If a trait is recessive, you will only possess that trait if you inherit that trait from both of your parents. A recessive gene is a gene that can only be expressed when no dominant genes are present. As already stated the dominant one gets a capital letter and the recessive one a lower-case letter. In Beardies black is dominant over brown and lack of dilution is dominant over dilution so it's written like this:

b= brown-factored
d= diluted

Phenotype and Genotype
Most people know that you get half of the genes from the father and half from the mother and of course the same can be applied to colour inheritance. When you talk about genes you need to know what phenotype and genotype are. It's easiest explained like this: phenotype is what your eyes see, the actual colour of the dog i.e. the strongest/dominant genes. Genotype is the genes that we can not see but they still play an essential role when it comes to what colours the dog can produce.

BD=Black/Non-diluted   bD=brown/Non-diluted   Bd=Black/diluted   bd= brown/diluted

Phenotype   Genotype genes  
Black Beardie        
  BDBD This dog has double genes for black/non-diluted. No matter what colour this dog is mated to it will only produce black.
  BDBd This dog carries the dilute gene, it's not shown in the dog but it will be able to produce dilutes depending on the partner.
  BDbD This dog has got one gene for black and one for brown but no dilute. It will only produce black and brown.
  BDbd This dog (depending on the partner) will be able to produce all colours.
Brown Beardie        

This dog has double genes for brown/non-diluted and can only give a brown gene to its progeny. However, mated to a black or a blue it will of course produce black since brown is a recessive gene.

  bDbd This dog carries a gene for dilute. It can't be seen in the dog since dilute is recessive but it will produce dilute if it's mated to a partner also carrying dilute.
Blue Beardie        
  BdBd This dog has double genes for black/diluted, it won't be able to pass anything else on but a blue gene. It will not produce any browns.
  Bdbd This dog has a double gene for dilute but will be able to give a fawn gene as well.
Fawn Beardie        
  bdbd This dog has double genes for brown/diluted and can only contribute with a fawn gene in any mating.

So let's have a look at how it works in real life. The genotype of the black ones is the hardest to establish but we will get some information from it's parents and if they have produced any progeny we can get more.

Alistair's Hope And Glory For Malandex
is a black boy with black parents so that doesn't give us much information. His father produced black & blue and his mother black & brown so there's a possibility that Larsson will carry those genes too. Looking at what he already produced; though he mated brown bitches the puppies were all black and it may be that the bitches he mated didn't carry any dilute genes but it looks like Larsson is a dominant black, BDBD, and will only produce black puppies.

CH Philemon Moonshadow Of Moonhill
is another black boy but he has a blue father and with that we already know that he has a dilute gene. But does he have a brown? When we look at what he produced it's safe to say that he has the genotype BDBd because although he mated brown bitches all his progeny are black or blue.

Ch Potterdale Pisces
is black so we know one of his genepairs is BD. His father, Potterdale Paddington was brown so that means Bertie must have a brown gene, b, so far we have BDb for Bertie. His father produced blue so he was carrying the dilute but the question is: did Bertie inherit it? Looking at what he already produced we can guess. He had a litter with a blue bitch but the puppies were all black and brown and he had one litter with a bitch who produced blue with another male so it could be a coincidence but he probably has genotype BDbD and will only produce black and brown.

SE UCH Ramsgrove Ragthyme JW
another black boy but with a brown mother so we know he will produce brown. His father, Tolly seems to have been a dominant black but his mother produced all colours and you just have to look at what Jack already produced to realise that he is genotype BDbd and his puppies have all four colours.

So how do we know what genotype a dog has if it hasn't produced any puppies? We don't! We can guess and assume with information we have from the parents but there is no way of knowing. Unless it's fawn because then the genotype is given.

What about brown mated to brown? Well it's pretty obvious that there won't be any blacks or blues since brown is a recessive gene, which means that the only thing a brown dog can pass on is a brown or a fawn gene depending on the genotype.

And what would happen if we mated blue to brown? Depending on the genotype of the dogs, everything is possible.

Colour Chart. The possible results in different combinations


The Bearded Collie is a breed which has a wide range of colour shades in coat colour. They are born black, blue, brown or fawn, with or without white collie markings and with or without tan-markings.

Tan markings
Tan markings can be found on cheeks, eyebrows, inside edge of back legs and under the tail. Tan is not a colour in Bearded Collies, any of the four basic colours can have tan markings but it is more pronounced on a black puppy. These markings fade and disappear and can be difficult to spot in an adult dog. We don't pay a lot of attention to tan markings in Beardies, they are acceptable but not necessary like in some other breeds. Some breeds should have tan markings and their Breed Standards are very particular on how much or how little and on where it appears.

Slate puppy with tan markings   and the same dog at 10 months
and as adult

Tan markings are a recessive gene. A dog which has itself tan markings must have received the gene from both parents. This also means that two Beardies with tan markings will always produce a litter where all the puppies are tan marked. A dog may produce tan markings without having tan marking itself, if it has received one gene from a parent and is mated to another dog with the gene as well.

The tan gene appears on the A locus, Agouti with the allele being (at).

  Tan-markings     No tan-markings but carrying the gene   No tan-markings and not carrying the gene

The statistic results in different combinations.
The same applies for all four colours.