The Mysterious Color

As coat color/patterns go, “seal” seems to be a mystery. It makes some black dogs appear brown, and some dogs look liver colored (until closer examination reveals a black line down the back, and on the dog’s legs and tail). Seal appears only in a handful of breeds, and to our knowledge, little genetic research has been conducted into it. Consequently, our knowledge of how it’s caused or which locus is responsible for it is less than what is known about other patterns and colors.  Genetics is a “walk in tall weeds” for us, but we can share that current theories include suspicions that seal is either an allele on the A locus, an allele on the K locus (recessive to K, potentially something like a faulty K allele that works in a similar way to brindle), or a modifier on an unknown locus that causes the A locus to partly show through on Kk dogs. Got that?

What does seal look like? In black and white Boston Terriers, the black appears black until bright sunlight hits the coat, and then it has a reddish cast to it making it look almost brown. That said (and as far as we know), a black seal dog will always have a black nose, regardless of how brownish its coat appears.

Seal is an accepted color in the American Staffordshire Terrier and the American Hairless Terrier, but not in Bulldogs (we found one site that “specializes” in “rare” colors in the breed, including “lilac seal” that’s not an accepted color in any Bulldog standard we found). Both Alaskan Malamutes and Boston Terriers accept seal and white, and add “seal brindle and white” to the list of Boston Terrier colors.

We would be beholding to readers if they would share with us pictures of their “seal” dogs in the comments section below (not on Facebook where it’ll eventually get lost in time).

We end with useless trivia (our favorite kind): Seal brown is one of the official colors of Lehigh University, Brown University, the Cleveland Browns football team, and the engineering honor society, Tau Beta Pi.

Image: We found this fine illustration on a Russian website that even Google Translate didn’t translate. We’d very much like to give credit, or seek credit, to the artist. Anyone? 

98 thoughts on “The Mysterious Color”

  1. I had a rescue boxer that was labeled a “seal” coloration – though for all intent and purpose, I could see only the black – and black and white boxers are not a recognized color for AKC.

    • A wonderful picture, Susan, and we appreciate the time you spent sharing it with us!

  2. My dearest Italian Greyhound boy, William, puppy-mill product of god knows what. Definitely seal.

    • Bless your heart for taking in William, Julie, and for sharing with us an illustration of “seal.

    • Here is her mom. When Tina (the puppy) was born, she was black with brown tips on her fur. There was another brindle in the litter that was true black brindle. Black eyes, black faces, the black stripe down the back and black legs.

    • Jackie, this is a fabulous example, and so helpful in the discussion about “seal.” Thank you so very much for helping illustrate “seal.”

    • Both are great pictures, Jackie, and such a help because it’s tough to visualize “seal!”

  3. Thank you for posting this! You’ve solved the mystery of my recent rescues’ coloring. She looks black unless in bright sunlight, only then can you see the brown tones. Most people look at me crazy when I try to explain that she isn’t black. Now I have a color to say! She is most likely a chihuahua/dachshund cross.

    • We’re delighted to have been of some help, Lindsay, and we also learn right alongside our readers. If you get the chance, post a picture?

  4. Seal Italian Greyhound bitch, “Twyla” (Argos Twilight’s Last Gleaming). Twyla’s fawn/red under-shading is especially visible on her neck, eyebrows, and temples.

  5. May be you can see our blue boy’s colour on his shoulder, thigh and under his ears. It comes only in summer.

    • Wow, great illustration, Richard, thanks for sharing it! He’s a handsome boy!

        • Great pictures, Celeste – they are so helpful in getting this color explained (especially the black “stripe”) – thank you!

    • Forgot to say, the brindling is not apparent at birth. It starts to show at 5 weeks old. The dam was seal/white, and the sire was red with black masking and white markings.

      • We LOVE having more information on our website, Celeste, so thank you for posting this!

    • Great illustration, Elmer, thank you! There’s just nothing like a photograph to help educate!

  6. Most of the above are brindle. Seal looks like sun-bleached black. It’s an even color- no points or striping. This is my seal American Staffordshire Terrier. Seal is becomig very common (although not desirable) in the breed.

    • Rosie is lovely, Misti, but we can’t weigh in on her color because Labradoodles are considered to be cross-breeds, or “designer breeds,” and as such, aren’t recognized by the American Kennel Club, United Kennel Club, the Canadian Kennel Club, FCI, or any other widely recognized all-breed purebred dog registry, and thus, have no breed standard that we can consult regarding color. The Australian Labradoodle Association and Australian Labradoodle Association of America are, to our knowledge,the only registries for the breed, and probably the best source for information about colors. Some day, this may change. The Australian Labradoodle Club of America founded in 2005 is focused on obtaining full AKC recognition, but we weren’t able to find a standard on their website either.

  7. Just had a seal aussie bulldog, father is solid blue and mother is red and white pied, father also sired a different litter and had one solid seal pup in that litter too

  8. Here’s my boy. Though not the greatest picture of him, you can very clearly see the black stripe and lighter brown fur on the side. Most people would probably consider him a black dog, but he’s definitely seal. As for breed, he’s a rescue mutt. 🤷🏻‍♀️

    • Thanks for sharing a picture, Lauren! It’s a difficult color to describe and photographs are very helpful!

  9. I think my dog may be seal coated, as he doesn’t seem to fit the description for brindle, sable or agouti. You can find him @bowie.goes.outdoors on Instagram. He looks black in poor lighting, but usually you can see the mahogany tones throughout. He’s a rescue mutt and we have no idea what mix, but malamute and shepherd are common in dogs from the region he was found.

    • Great picture, Jenna, and your observation fits in line with what others have told us about the seal color, namely that it’s tough to see in dim light, but is quite apparent in the sunshine. Thanks for sharing his picture with us!

  10. Our Sasha. She about a year and a half, and we assume she is part GSD, lab and something else. She was mostly black when we adopted her last year, but she has lightened up to this shade! I’ve just been calling her “black” because I honestly didn’t know what else to call her. But my neighbor mentioned the color “seal” the other day, so I just started looking into what exactly that is.

    • Jenee, your neighbor’s suggestion of “seal” is actually a pretty good one, we think.

    • Might want to look up rhodesian ridgeback. This pup very clearly is a rhodie.

  11. My Luna is a seal, they told us she’s a Dutch Shepherd. She is a rescue found in Mexico and we got her at 7 months old she was all black . Her sister, they found her with is all brindle but way lighter brown . Luna is about 2 now and you can totally see the seal colors , especially in the sun 🖤

    • That’s a great example of the color, Kerube, thanks for sharing it here!

  12. Petey American Staffordshire Terrier father with papers, also seal coated. Bitch without papers Red Nose American Pitbull Terrier.

  13. My Thai street dog is seal, black stripe stands out more in winter. She regularly gets people commenting on her beautiful and unusual colour.

  14. First pic was accident. Here is my seal Thai street dog. She regularly has people commenting on her beautiful and unusual colouring.

  15. Seal colored, 11 month old male, intact, Wooldridge Dog (working breed in development) coat length 1/2”-1” in photo. Never exceeds 3”-4” when grown out.

    • Oh how interesting, J! No other “seals” in the background?

  16. This is Chelsea. She’s a rescue so we aren’t sure of her breed. She has the webbed feet and undercoat of a lab and the body shape, ears and temperament of a German Shepherd. I was looking into her unique coloring and came across your site. She was all black as a pup except for a white spot on her chest that is shaped like a dove. The brown coloring appeared when she got a little bit older. It’s only on her rear half though. Do you think she would be considered seal? I noticed a couple other shepherds in the comments with similar coloring. Does it occur in that breed too or is it more likely evidence of American Stratfordshire terrier in her lineage?

    • I take that back. She does have some brown on her front half too. It just doesn’t show up a much in the first pic.

    • Honestly, Anna, we don’t know about the rate of occurrence in the breed, but her coloring sure does look like a seal. Perhaps our other readers can weigh in on this?

  17. Hashbrown is a 9.5 month old rescue from the Dominican Republic. A Reddit user pointed me in the direction of this page — I’d never heard of seal colouring before.

  18. This is my amstaff Indy at 9 months old…. this is interesting reading , I believed his colour was liver….

  19. My pretty girl Jada Reign around 2.5 years old. People I got her from said she was pure pit and 8 weeks old, but ended up being around 4 weeks so I’m not certain about the whole purebred factor. Would love some thoughts on it!

  20. My lil dog Stella is 9 months old and is losing her puppy coat, but it’s being replaced with the seal coat, which I have just learned about. She also has one blue eye and one brown eye and has very webbed feet. They said she was a lab mix, but who knows? I used an app that said she also looked like a catahoula dog. One day I’ll test her genetics. She’s a true rescue MUTT. ❤️

    • What an interesting color she’s becoming, Cindy! Mutt or no, what’s important is that you found each other and have a wonderful future together!

  21. The big dog is 50% purebred chessie, 25% shar pei & 12.5% chow – the rest is a mystery mix. The smaller one is an FMD from taiwan.

  22. This is our new girl, awaiting breed results. I’ve been told her coat is seal.

    • She’s got the most marvelous ears, Becca! And yes, that could very well be a seal coat.

  23. I believe I have a blue seal, the entire litter is seal, they appear blue in the shade and indoors but in certain light almost look orangey brown. This girl has the darker stripe down her back to.

  24. My dads American Staffordshire Blue nose gave birth to a litter of puppies exactly 6 weeks ago today and the pup I picked out turned out to be a seal color. She’s not fully black, she’s like a dark grey with the black line down her back and on the tips of the dark grey fur, are little like, almost blonde tips.

  25. This is our rescue dog Pico. His parents were both pits and he’s the only one of the litter who looks like this. We were lucky to have met someone who had met him as a puppy and saw pictures! You can see his nice black stripe.

    • Wow, Jess, he’ll never get mixed up in a crowd, bless his heart!

  26. I had a trainer ask if my dog Kimbo always had a black stripe down his back. I had only had him for six months and he was a 1.5yo at the time. So, as far as I knew he always had it. I didn’t understand why she would ask until I looked it and discovered seal coloring. Kimbo is a Hurricane Maria survivor from Puerto Rico. His DNA results came back being predominantly Siberian husky, German shepherd, and Chow as the identifiable breeds. Which is interesting… because the first remark I get from anyone who asks about his breed, is if he’s a cattle dog.

    • We’re guessing that it’s probably the ears and his nose that might make people ask if he’s an ACD, Tara – but that’s quite a beautiful stripe!

  27. This is Valerie, she was listed at shelter as a Mountain Fiest. One year spayed. I have not found another Fiest with this color. Nose, head, legs, back and tummy are black. Sides are a mix of tan, brown and black.

  28. My staffy rescue girl is seal. Looks black, but in bright sunlight most of her looks like the color of black coffee.

  29. This is my girl. We get comments on her color all the time, and I finally looked into it and found this thread! She was black as a puppy and every year fades except her stripe and face. She’s a lab/pit mix 😊

    • Isn’t that interesting, Zena? It’s so pretty!

  30. 2.5 yr old FMD (Formosa Mountain Dog/Taiwan street dog). Had evenly dark colored coat when we got him at 1.5 yoa. After a few months of filling out (eating raw), his coated color changed drastically to a noticeable “Seal”.

    • Kay, he’s stunning, thank you for sharing his picture – and isn’t it remarkable how effective a raw diet can be?

  31. This is my little monster, ButterBall! I definitely think she’s a seal color! I’ve been wondering what her color was and thought it was some shade of Agouti. She’s supposedly a purebred (backyard bred) chihuahua. I think there may be some Dachshund in there somewhere!

  32. My dog Gillie, I rescued him at 8 months old. I took home what I thought was a large black and white tuxedo dog. I saw my first photo after taking him home was brown. I soon realized his color has a nap. He looks black facing me and brown walking away.
    Gillie has the black stripe down his back. I call him a giant french roast coffee bean. His coat is slick soft and short but because he is GSD with 1/3 ABT he has fuzzy guard hair undercoat.

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