Sheltie & Collie Colors Explained

CH Starlites Money Talks, "Broker", DARK shaded sable, bi-factored
BISS Am/Int CH TouchTones Ringmaster, "Trivette"

Color ranging from a rich gold to dark brown with black guard hairs.  Often referred to as the "Lassie" color.  

  • Pictured to the left (top) is a VERY dark shaded sable, he is also bi-factored (can produce sable or bicolor)

  • Pictured to the left (bottom) is a shaded sable who is pure-for-sable (can only produce sables)

  • Below (left) is a Red/Gold sable who is pure-for-sable.

  • Below (middle) is a Red sable who is pure-for-sable.

  • Below (right) is a medium shaded sable who is tri-factored (can produce sable or tricolor)

CH Woodhue Comely Kelly, photo courtesy Woodhue Shelties

TouchTone B'Yond The Ordinary, "Derek" photo courtesy TouchTone Shelties

Woodhue Call Me Beautiful, "Cammi"

Acronym for "Any Other Allowed Color" in the Sheltie Conformation ring.  In short, this includes ANY color other than Sable that is allowed in the AKC Conformation ring.  At this point, this includes: Tricolor, Blue Merle, Bi-Black, and Bi-Blue.  These are the colors that Snovali concentrates on (with some exceptions of course).

TricolorBlue MerleBi-Black

Snovali Double O Seven, "James" & Snovali Desire, "Dee" collie pups at 8 weeks old
Black, White & Tan.  Black body, White in the traditional places (chest, legs, etc..) with Tan points on the face & legs.  This is not to be mistaken for a mahogany or shaded sable which actually has a brown base coat over it's entire body with an overlay of black guard hairs.  
  • Pictured to the left are two lovely white-factored tricolor Collies (the bigger one is a Rough male, the smaller one is a Smooth female).
  • Below (left) is a tricolor male Sheltie, below (right) is a tricolor female Sheltie
U-CH Snovali Written In The Sky, "Elton" CH/U-GRCH Woodhue Charmed Elegance, "Piper"
Blue Merle
U-CH Triumph Lord of Illusion, "TJ", bi-factored blue
U-CH TouchTone Positive Proof "Stoney" photo courtesy TouchTone Shelties
Similar to the Tricolor except where a Tri would have black, the Blue Merle has a silver-gray base coat with varying degrees of black spots.  Self-colored (no black spots) are strongly frowned upon. Blue merles are allowed to have one or both eyes blue or partially blue (called a "merled eye").  
  • Pictured here is a Blue Merle with two bright blue eyes and steel gray coloring (more correct).
  • Pictured on the bottom is a Blue Merle with brown eyes but with lighter & flashier silver coloring.  Some dogs get a little darker as they age (pictured here at about 18 months old)
U-CH TouchTone Positive Proof "Stoney" This is a picture of the same dog as pictured on the bottom left, at about 6 years old.  As you can see, he has not darkened in color much at all, and his black spots have gotten rusty from exposure to the sun.


Sable Merle
UKC GRCH Daedream Hot Stuff , Photo courtesy Daedream Shelties
Snovali Bailey Blu, Blue-eyed sable merle
Similar to the Sable except it carries the Merleing Gene.  As adults, it is usually very difficult to determine whether a dog is a sable merle or not.  As babies, they look just like a Blue Merle except for a brownish cast to the coat.  As they age, the spotting fades away to being almost indistinguishable.  Although Sable merles are not frowned upon as such, they should only be used in the breeding programs of experienced breeders with a good understanding of color genetics.  A Sable merle is produced either from a sable merle or by breeding a Sable to a Blue Merle. 

Pictured here are two sable merles,  the top picture is an adult sable merle girl who has been shown in UKC events and has her UKC Grand Champion title and has very little evidence of merling in her color except for a little silver around her ears and in her ruff, the bottom is a Sable Merle puppy with two blue eyes. Blue eyes are ONLY allowed in Blue Merle and Bi-blues in AKC although UKC allows blue eyes in all Merles. At this age, it is still evident that he is a merle due to the dark spots on his back leg.

There is a movement in the AKC Collie Club of America (CCA) to try and have blue/merled eyes allowed in Sable merle Collies but it is unsure whether the movement will be successful at this point.

CH C-Mar Color Code "Cody", Courtesy of TNT Shelties
Woodhue Country Gentleman, "Kix"  courtesy Woodhue Shelties
(Sheltie only) Black & White (Bi-Black) or Blue & White (Bi-Blue).  Marked similarly to the Tricolor or Blue Merle, except for the absence of Tan.  All pups produced by a Bicolor will be either Bi or Bi-Factored. This color is only possible in Shelties and not in Collies. The breed that contributed the bicolor gene to the Sheltie is not in the Collie ancestry.
  • Pictured here is a lovely Bi-Blue (top) 
  • and a Bi-Black (bottom).

Color Headed White
"Alice" Odyssey Thru The Looking Glass

All or most of the body is white, except for the head which is colored as a Tri, Sable, Blue, Bi, or Bi-Blue with varying degrees of white on the face.  Generally any Sheltie or Collie with more than 50% white will be called a Color Headed White, however most define CHW as being primarily white with a colored head and very few, if any, colored body spots.  Currently CHW Shelties are severely penalized in the AKC conformation ring but are perfectly acceptable in Collies.  (as the AKC Sheltie standard reads: "Specimens with more than 50 percent white shall be so severely penalized as to effectively eliminate them from competition.")  However, UKC does allow the CHW Shelties in the conformation ring with several having won their UKC Championship already.
  • Pictured here (top) is a blue merle color headed white Smooth Collie.  As you can see, she is almost completely white except for a colored spot at the base of her tail with a fully colored head.
  • Bottom picture is a bi-blue color headed white Sheltie who is heavily marked (has some body color spots).  She also has blue eyes and one white ear (the white ear disqualifies her from UKC conformation shows)
White Factored
Norrie Lake's Secret Agent, "Spy," white-factored tricolor Smooth Collie
U-CH Snovali Written In The Sky, "Elton"
A Sheltie or Collie that is normally colored but has the genetic ability to produce a color headed white when bred to a white factored or CHW dog. It is often almost impossible to tell whether a dog is white factored or not until they produce a Color Headed White puppy. White factored dogs often have white up the front of the back legs (white stifles) which sets them apart from a non-white factored dog. There are however, dogs that are NOT white factored that have the white stifles and dogs that are white factored that do not. 

The Smooth Collie (top left) is known to be white factored in 2 ways.  1. Her sire is a CHW, 2. She produced 2 CHW puppies in her first litter.

The Sheltie pictured (bottom left) is known to be white factured because he has produced a CHW puppy in his first litter.

Snovali The Dark Knight, "Bruce"

This sheltie shown here is known to be bi-factored and white factored because his mother is a bi-blue CHW.
CH/U-CH Triumph Woodhue Magic Diamond, courtesy Woodhue Shelties
CH Starlites Money Talks "Broker", DARK shaded sable, bi-factored
(Sheltie Only) A Tri or Blue with tan points or a shaded Sable with the genetic ability to produce a Bicolor when bred to a Bicolor or another Bi-Factored dog. This is almost impossible to distinguish for sure until the dog produces a bicolor puppy. If one of the parents of a litter is Bicolor, ALL of the puppies in the litter would be either bicolor or bi-factored.

Pictured here are dogs known to be bi-factored because they have produced/sired one or more bicolor puppies, or have one bicolor parent.

U-CH Triumph Lord of Illusion, "TJ", bi-factored blue

U-CH Snovali Written In The Sky, "Elton"

U-CH TouchTone Positive Proof "Stoney" photo courtesy TouchTone Shelties

Snovali The Dark Knight, "Bruce"

Double Merle
(Double Dilute)
Snowdove's Double Dare, photo courtesy Snowdove Shelties
Also known as the "Defective White" due to the frequency of health problems related to this color.  These problems can range from deafness and/or blindness to more serious internal problems.  A Double Merle can ONLY be produced by breeding two Merles together.  A healthy Double Merle of good quality can be a valuable addition to a breeding program, although a breeder should not set out to produce one unless they are prepared to either provide a permanent home for a defective puppy, or have a severely defective puppy humanely put down.  This is probably the most controversial breeding that any breeder can undertake.  Many times the breeding that produces a Double merle turns out to be a surprise. (see Cryptic Merle)

Pictured here is a deaf Double Merle, fortunately he is sighted.

Cryptic Merle
Windegor Cryptic Blu Diamond, courtesy Gary Tobin (Ontario, Canada)
A Sheltie or Collie that carries the Merleing gene but has little or no silver in the coat to indicate the presence of the gene.  Cryptic Merles are generally Tricolor or Bi-Black in appearance.  The presence of the Merle gene is generally not known until the dog is bred, often when bred to a blue or sable merle resulting in a Defective White (see Double Merle).  (Sable Merles are cryptic by nature as adults so I have not included them in this description)

Pictured here is a girl who is bi-black in appearance with a little silver under her chin and some faint marks on her back.

TouchTone Special Dark, photo courtesy of TouchTone Shelties
"Dilbert," photo courtesy Woodhue Shelties
Dilute (not to be confused with Merled) sometimes referred to as a maltese blue
Now this is something a little more unusual, it comes up every once in a while, usually in the AOAC lines but it can also hide in the sable lines.  Basically the pup/dog looks like either a tricolor (with the tan points) or a bi-black but where there should be black, it is actually a brown or gray, including the nose.  This also helps to distinguish it from the blue merles because they can also be very even in color sometimes but they have a black nose. It is difficult to have a digital photo do this color justice.  Until you have seen this color in person, next to a black dog, you can't truly grasp the difference.  Unfortunately, no matter how nice a specimen the dog is otherwise, this is not a desired color for showing in Conformation because the standard states that "washed-out or degenerate colors" are a fault.

Pictured here are two different shades of dilute, the one on top is more of a chocolate color and the one below is more of a dark slate gray.


Click here to see a picture of a brindle sheltie puppy

This is VERY rare.  It is the one color that is actually DISQUALIFIED in the AKC conformation ring for Shelties.  By definition, Brindle is a striped pattern on the body, similar to tabby stripes on a cat.  Brindle is allowed in many breeds other than shelties and any Sheltie exhibiting this color will have its parentage questioned. Brindle is a dominant color so as such, it has been eliminated from the mainstream gene pool, although it may still be present in some sub-standard breeding situations.

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