The Isabella Color Legend

As legend has it, Isabella, the daughter of Phillip II of Spain, pledged not to change her linen (underwear) until the fortress was taken during the Siege of Ostend in the Eighty Years’ War and the Anglo–Spanish War. The siege lasted three years, and after all that time, Isabella’s linen had turned a distinct taupe/brown mouse color. Because of her pledge, the coat color of certain breeds (and not just dogs, but horses, bears, and birds, as well) came to be called “Isabellan,” or Isabella.

As much as we like this theory, at least one source (the Oxford English Dictionary) has discounted it because the word was in use before the siege had begun. Some etymologists have suggested that the word began as a corruption of the word, “zibellino” which was a sable pelt similar in color. Others maintain that the Arabic word for lion, izah, is the origin, indicating an intended original meaning close to “lion-colored.”

Isabella is referred to as fawn in some breeds like the Doberman Pinscher. From the AKC standard: Allowed Colors-Black, red, blue, and fawn (Isabella).

Image: Fawn (isabella) Doberman Pinscher by Carmelka/iStockPhotos

4 thoughts on “The Isabella Color Legend”

  1. I think maybe you have the wrong Isabella. We have ‘Isabelle’ quail, cats and horses here in France and the colour is said to have come from two centuries earlier than the Siege of Ostend, from the siege of Granada in 1492. The then Queen Isabella of Spain declared similarly that she would not change her court dress until Granada was back in Spanish hands and by which time the dress had obtained the colour of rust red, white and black. The siege is commemorated in a public holiday in Granada on the 2nd of January and in the colour Isabella or in France, where I live, Isabelle. I raise Isabelle coturnix quail (they are known as Golden Italian and Golden Manchurian in English) and if you are interested you will find more pictures and information on my site. So you see, you can keep the romance of that colour’s legend for your beautiful dogs! All the very best from a cloudy day in Normandie, Sue

    • Thanks for the information, Sue! We’ll do some more digging on this now that you’ve given us a lead. Your bird is quite lovely, and a cloudy day in Normandie sounds very appealing to us!

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