Siberian Husky Coat Color, Based on DNA
an update and information page for owners and breeders of Siberian Huskies
This webpage was posted on August 7, 2018 and last updated on August 8, 2018 by Sheila Schmutz
The Siberian Huskies Tested
Our lab has not conducted a complete coat color study of Siberian Huskies. However, some dogs of this breed have been included in our other studies over the years. This webpage is based on the DNA results of those dogs.
Call names that were provided are used here, not the registered names of the dogs.
In regard to coat color, the standard for the Siberian Husky in the Canadian Kennel Club standard states: "All colours (solids and blended shades) and pure white are allowed and all markings. A large variety of markings are found in the Siberian Husky, especially around the head". This is of course not entirely true. Brindle and merle and Harlequin, for example, do not exist in the Siberian Husky at this time. Such statements are often used to imply that judges in shows should not favor some of the typical colors over others.
The standard for the Siberian Husky in the American Kennel Club standard has a similar statement: "Color: All colors from black to pure white are allowed. A variety of markings on the head is common, including many striking patterns not found in other breeds."
White, a MC1R mutation
Both standards mention pure white. We will therefore begin with that coat color, which we have studied in collaboration with Dr. Rob Loechel and later Dr. Tosso Leeb. A unique mutation the MC1R in white sled dogs, such as Siberian Huskies, was detected by Dr. Loechel originally and confirmed by the other research labs. All of the white dogs had either two copies of this mutation or one of it and one of the "e" alleles common to many breeds. Both of these alleles introduce a premature stop codon in the gene.
Three other variants in the MC1R gene was found only in Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes: p.H270D, p.Q278K, and p.R301C; but not in the 89 dogs of other breeds from which sequence for this region was obtained. Almost all Siberian Huskies and all Alaskan Malamutes have white facial markings that might be considered unique to these breeds (see above photo collage). These white facial markings include arched white areas up over the eyes, the entire muzzle and extend out onto the sides and below the neck. Some dogs have a pigmented streak up the bridge of the nose, with or without pigmented areas under the eyes. Ruling out, or confirming, an association with this phenotype was somewhat difficult. However, only two Alaskan Malamutes and two Siberian Huskies had a 270D allele, and four Alaskan Malamutes and 3 Siberian Huskies had a 278K allele, and yet most had the white facial pattern. This suggests that neither of these two alleles is associated with this facial pattern.
On the other hand, all six Alaskan Malamutes were homozygous for the 301C allele. Likewise eight Siberian Huskies in this study, with this white facial pattern, were also homozygous for the 301C allele (some shown in upper row). However, some Siberian Huskies that also had white facial markings were homozygous for the 301R allele (lower row). These data suggest that the white facial marking is not caused by this variant either. No other obvious phenotype could be associated with it.
Although Lover (dog C) looks like it might be a red dog, it did not test with the e/e genotype typical of red dogs in other breeds. The e allele was found in some Siberian Huskies tested, as one of the two alleles the dog had. Therefore it is possible that some Siberian Huskies would be red due to a e/e genotype.
Seven Siberian Huskies were tested at the ASIP gene, and all were homozygous for the wild type allele (aw/aw, including the three dogs show in the upper row of the collage. It is likely that all Siberian Huskies have this ASIP genotype.
The DEFB gene is known as the K locus. There are 3 alleles at this locus: KB (black), Kbr (brindle), and ky (allows both black and red pigment). The Siberian at the left, Cico, had a ky/ky genotype. Although his coloring is relatively pale, one can see both black and red in his coat.
All three dogs in the upper row of the collage (Hank = a, Dulli = b, and Lover = c) also had ky/ky genotypes, as did all the Siberian Huskies we've tested so far.
The TYRP1 gene is known as the B locus. Dogs homozygous for one of the 3 types of b allele are brown. Such dogs have no black at all. Their nose leather, eye rims, lips, pads, etc. are brown instead of black.
Although we have not tested any Siberian Huskies for these brown alleles, I "assume" that Dulli (dog b) is brown. This coat color may be called copper is this breed. It's quite likely that Dulli has brown and red bands on some of his hairs since he is aw/aw and ky/ky. This is not very easy to see in a photograph.
Coat Color Variation
It is clear from the photos shown on this page, as well as Shelby and Darby shown here, that the degree of pigmentation or darkness/lightness varies considerably in Siberian Huskies. What gene or genes are responsible for this is not yet understood.
Dog Coat Color Genetics Main Page
Sheila M. Schmutz, Ph.D. (Professor Emerita)
Department of Animal and Poultry Science
University of Saskatchewan
Saskatoon, Canada S7N 5A8