site logo

Breeding For Color And Markings

Every one who has a Boston terrier for sale knows that a handsome seal or

mahogany brindle with correct markings, with plenty of luster in the coat,

provided all other things are equal, sells more readily at a far higher

price than any other. When one considers the number of points given in the

standard for this particular feature, and the very important factor it

occupies in the sale of the dog, too much attention cannot be given

breeders for the attainment of this desideratum. I am, of course,

thoroughly in sympathy with the absolute justice that should always

prevail in the show ring in the consideration of the place color and

markings occupy in scoring a candidate for awards. Twelve points are

allowed in the standard for these, and any dog, I care not whether it be

black, white, gray, or grizzled, that scored thirteen points over the

most perfectly marked dog, should be awarded the prize. But be it ever

remembered that the show ring and the selling of a dog are two separate

and distinct propositions. In the writer's opinion and experience a wide

gulf opens up between a perfect white or black dog comporting absolutely

to the standard, and one of desirable color and markings that is off a

number of points. I have always found a white, black, mouse, or liver

colored dog, I care not how good in every other respect, almost impossible

to get rid of at any decent price. People simply would not take them.

Perhaps my experience has run counter to others. I trust it may have done

so, but candor compels me to make this statement.

I find that this condition of things is somewhat misleading, especially to

beginners in the breed. They have seen the awards made in the shows (with

absolute justice, as already stated), and have naturally inferred that in

consequence of this, breeding for desirable colors was not of paramount

importance after all. Only a month or two ago an article appeared in a

charming little dog magazine, written evidently by an amateur, on this

question of color and markings. He had visited the Boston Terrier Club

show last November, and speaking of seal brindles, said: If this color is

so very desirable it seems strange that so few were seen, and that so many

of the leading terriers were black and white, and some white entirely,

then follows his deduction, viz., the tendency evidently is that color is

immaterial with the best judges, so that a breeder is foolish to waste his

time on side issues which are not material. I can only state in passing

that if he had a number of dogs on hand that were of the colors he

specifies, black and white, and some white entirely, it would doubtless

seem strange to him why they persisted in remaining on his hands as if

he had given each one an extra bath in Le Page's liquid glue. Pitfalls

beset the path of the beginner and this book is written largely to avoid

them. When one reads or hears the statement made that color and markings

are of secondary consideration or even less, take warning. The reader's

pardon will now have to be craved for the apparent egotism evidenced by

the writer in speaking of himself in a way that only indirectly concerns

canine matters, but which has a bearing on this very important question of

color, and partially, at least, explains why this particular feature of

the breeding of the Boston terrier has appealed to him so prominently. My

father was a wholesale merchant in straw goods, and had extensive dye

works and bleacheries where the straw, silk and cotton braids were

colored. As a youngster I used to take great delight in watching the dyers

and bleachers preparing their different colors and shades, etc., and was

anxious to see the results obtained by the different chemical

combinations. When a young man, while studying animal physiology under the

direction of the eminent scientist, Professor Huxley, whose diploma I

value most highly, I made a number of extended scientific experiments in

color breeding in poultry and rabbits, so that when I took up breeding

Boston terriers later in life this feature particularly attracted me. I

was predisposed, as a physician says of a case where the infection is

certain, hence I offer no apology whatever for the assertion that this

chapter is scientifically correct in the rules laid down for the breeding

to attain desirable shades and markings.

When we first commenced breeding Bostons in 1885, the prevailing shades

were a rather light golden brindle (often a yellow), and mahogany

brindles, and quite a considerable number had a great deal of white. Then

three shades were debarred, viz., black, mouse and liver, and although

years after the Boston Terrier Club removed this embargo, they still

remain very undesirable colors.

The rich mahogany brindle next became the fashionable color (and

personally I consider it the most beautiful shade), and Mr. A. Goode with

Champion Monte and Mr. Rawson with the beautiful pair, Druid Merke and

Vixen, set the pace and every one followed. A few years later Messrs.

Phelps and Davis (who, with the above mentioned gentlemen, were true

friends of the breed), sold a handsome pair of seal brindles, Chs.

Commissioner II. and Topsy, to Mr. Borden of New York, and confirmed,

if not established, the fashion for that color in that city. I think that

all people will agree, from all parts of the country, that New York sets

the style for practically everything, from my lady's headgear to the

pattern of her equipages, and the edict from that city has decreed that

the correct color in Boston terriers is a rich seal brindle, with white

markings, with plenty of luster to it, and all sections of the continent

promptly say amen!

I have taken the pains to look up a number of orders that we have recently

received, which include (not enumerating those received from the New

England States, or New York), three from Portland, Oregon, one from

California, one from St. Louis, one from Mexico, four from Canada, two

from Chicago, and one from Texas, and with the exception of two who wished

to replace dogs bought of us ten or twelve years previously, they

practically all wanted seal brindles.

These orders were nearly all from bankers and brokers, men who are

supposed to be en rapport with the dictates of fashion. It goes without

saying that what a public taste demands, every effort will be made to

attain the same, and breeders will strive their utmost to produce this

shade. Many who do not understand scientific matings to obtain these

desirable colors have fallen into a very natural mistake in so doing. In

regard to the mahogany brindles they say, why not breed continuously

together rich mahogany sires and dams, and then we shall always have the

brindles we desire. Like produces like is a truism often quoted, but

there are exceptions, and Boston terrier breeding furnishes an important

one. A very few years of breeding this way will give a brown, solid color,

without a particle of brindle, or even worse, a buckskin. If the

foundation stock is a lighter brindle to start, the result will be a mouse

color. The proper course to pursue is to take a golden brindle bitch that

comes from a family noted for that shade, and mate her with a dark

mahogany brindle dog that comes from an ancestry possessed of that color.

The bitch from this mating can be bred to dark mahogany brindles, and the

females from this last mating bred again to dark mahogany males, but now a

change is necessary. The maxim, twice in and once out, applies here. The

last bred bitches should be bred this time to a golden brindle dog, and

same process repeated, that is, the bitches from this last union and their

daughters can be bred to dark mahogany brindle dogs, when the golden

brindle sire comes in play again. This can be repeated indefinitely. A

rule in color breeding to be observed is this: that the male largely

influences the color of the pups. If darker colors are desired, use a

darker male than the female. If lighter shades are desired, use a lighter

colored male.

If a tiger brindle is wanted, take a gray brindle bitch and mate to a dark

mahogany dog. Steel and gray brindles are in so little demand and are so

easy to produce that we shall not notice them.

In regard to seal brindles. A great many breeders who do not understand

proper breeding to obtain them have fallen into the same pit as the

others. In their desire to obtain the dark seal brindles they have mated

very dark dogs to equally dark bitches, which has resulted in a few

generations in producing dogs absolutely black in color, with coats that

look as if they had been steeped in a pail of ink. A visit to any of the

leading shows of late will reveal the fact that quite a number of

candidates for bench honors are not real brindle, except possibly on the

under side of the body, or perchance a slight shading on the legs. A

considerable number are perfectly black, and are called by courtesy black

brindles. As well call the ace of spades by the same name. A serious

feature in connection with this is, that the longer this line of breeding

is persisted in, the harder will be the task to breed away. In fact, in my

estimation it will be as difficult as the elimination of white. One

important fact in connection here is that black color is more pronounced

from white stock than from brindle. I recently went into the kennels of a

man who has started a comparatively short time ago, and who has been most

energetic in his endeavors to produce a line of dark seal brindles, and

who is much perplexed because he has a lot of stock on hand, while first

rate in every other respect, are with coats as black as crows and not

worth ten dollars apiece. He seemed very much surprised when I told him

his mistake, but grateful to be shown a way out of his difficulty. A visit

to another kennel not far from the last revealed the fact that the owner

was advertising and sending largely to the West what he called black

brindles, but as devoid of brindle as a frog is of feathers. His case was

rather amusing, as he honestly believed that because the dog was a Boston

terrier its color of necessity must be a brindle. He reminded me a good

deal of a man who started a dog store in Boston a number of years ago who

advertised in his windows a Boston terrier for sale cheap. Upon stepping

in to see the dog all that presented itself to view was a dog, a cross

between a fox and bull terrier. When the man was told of this, he made

this amusing reply: The dog was born in Boston, and he is a terrier. Why

is he not a Boston terrier? Upon telling him that according to his

reasoning if the dog had been born in New York city he would be a New York

terrier he smiled. Fortunately I had Druid Pero with me and said: Here

is a dog bred in my kennels at Cliftondale, Mass., that was a first prize

winner at the last New York show, and yet he is a Boston terrier. After

looking Pero carefully over he exclaimed: Well, by gosh, they don't look

much like brothers, but I guess some greenhorn will come along who will

give me twenty-five dollars for him, and on inquiring a little later was

told the green gentleman had called and bought the dog.

How to breed the dogs so that the brindle will not become too dark, with

the bright reddish sheen that sparkles in the sun, is the important

question, and I am surprised at the ignorance displayed by kennel men that

one would naturally suppose would have made the necessary scientific

experiments to obtain this desirable shading. Only a short time ago a

doctor, a friend of mine, told me he had just started a kennel of Bostons,

buying several bitches at a bargain on account of their being black in

color, and that he proposed breeding them to a white dog to get puppies of

a desirable brindle. He seemed quite surprised when told the only shades

he could reasonably expect would be black, white and splashed, all equally


The system adopted in our kennels some years ago to obtain seal brindles

with correct markings and the desirable luster and reddish sheen to the

coat is as follows:

We take a rich red, or light mahogany bitch, with perfect markings, that

comes from a family noted for the brilliancy of their color, and without

white in the pedigrees for a number of generations, and mate her always to

a dark seal brindle dog with an ancestry back of him noted for the same

color. The pups from these matings will come practically seventy-five per

cent. medium seal brindles. We now take the females that approximate the

nearest in shade to their mother, and mate them to a dark seal brindle dog

always. The bitches that are the result of this union are always bred to a

dark seal brindle dog. The females that come from the last union are bred

to a medium seal brindle dog, but now comes the time to introduce a

mahogany brindle dog as a sire next time, for if these last bitches were

mated to a seal brindle dog a large per cent. of the pups would come too

dark or even black. This system is used indefinitely and desirable seal

brindles with white markings can thus be always obtained. To the best of

my recollection we have had but one black dog in twenty years. We have

demonstrated, we trust, so that all may understand how golden, mahogany,

and seal brindles are obtained, and how they may be bred for all time

without losing the brindle so essential, and we now pass on to the

consideration of a far harder problem, the obtaining of the rich seal

brindles from all undesirable colors, and we present to all interested in

this important, and practically unknown and misunderstood, problem the

result of a number of years extended and scientific experiments which, we

confess, were disheartening and unproductive for a long time, but which

ultimately resulted in success, the following rules to be observed, known

as The St. Botolph Color Chart.

In presenting this we are fully aware that as far as we know this is the

only scientific system evolved up to date, also that there are a number of

breeders of the American dog who maintain that this is an absolute

impossibility, that breeding for color is as absurd as it is impractical,

but we can assure these honest doubters that we have blazed a trail, and

all they now have to do is simply to follow instructions and success will

crown their efforts.

We will enumerate the following colors in the order of their resistance,

so to speak:

No. 1. White. This color, theoretically a combination of red, green and

violet will be found the hardest to eliminate, as the shade desired will

have to be worked in, so to speak, and it will take several generations

before a seal brindle with perfect markings that can be depended upon to

always reproduce itself can be obtained. Starting with a white bitch

(always remember that the shades desired must be possessed by the dog), we

breed her always to a golden brindle dog. The bitches (those most

resembling the sire in color being selected) from these two are mated to a

dark mahogany brindle dog, and the females from this last union are mated

to a dark seal brindle dog. It will readily be observed that we have bred

into the white color, golden, mahogany and seal brindle and this admixture

of color will give practically over ninety per cent. of desirable

brindles. Always see that the sires used are perfectly marked, from

ancestry possessing the same correct markings. This is absolutely

imperative, where the stock to be improved is worked upon is white.

No. 2. Black. This color is the opposite of white, inasmuch as there is an

excess of pigment, which in this case will have to be worked out. Breed

the black bitch to a red brindle dog (with the same conditions regarding

his ancestry). The females from these matings bred always to a dark

mahogany brindle dog. The females from the last matings breed to a medium

seal brindle dog with a very glossy coat, and the result of these last

matings will be good seal brindles. If any bitches should occasionally

come black, breed always to a golden brindle dog. No other shade will do

the trick.

No. 3. Gray brindle. This is practically a dead color, but easy to work

out. Breed first to a golden brindle dog. The females from this union

breed to a rich mahogany brindle, and the bitches from this last litter

breed to a seal brindle dog.

No. 4. Buckskin. Breed bitch to golden brindle dog; the females from this

union to a red brindle dog (if unobtainable, use mahogany brindle dog, but

this is not so effective), and the females from last union breed to a seal

brindle dog.

No. 5. Liver. This is a great deal like the last, but a little harder to

manipulate. Breed first to a golden brindle dog. The females from this

union breed to a seal brindle. The bitches from this union breed to

mahogany brindle dog with black bars running through the coat, and the

females from last mating breed to seal brindles.

No. 6. Mouse color. Use same process as for gray brindles.

No. 7. Yellow. A very undesirable shade, but easy to eliminate. Breed to

mahogany brindle dog as dark as can be obtained, and bitches from this

mating breed to a seal brindle dog.

No. 8. Steel and tiger brindles I class together, as the process is the

same and results are easy. Breed first to a red brindle dog; bitches from

this union to a dark mahogany brindle, and then use seal brindle dog on

bitch from last mating.

No. 9. Red brindle. No skill is required here. Breed first to mahogany

brindles, and bitches from this union to seal brindles.

We have now enumerated practically all the less desirable shades, but let

me observe in passing, in the process of color breeding that the law of

atavism, or throwing back, often asserts itself, and we shall see colors

belonging to a far-off ancestry occasionally presenting themselves in all

these matings. Once in a while a dog will be found that no matter what

color bitches he may be mated with, he will mark a certain number of the

litter with the peculiar color or markings of some remote ancestor. Just a

case apropos of this will suffice. We used in our kennels a dog of perfect

markings, coming from an immediate ancestry of perfectly marked dogs, and

mated him with quite a number of absolutely perfectly marked bitches that

we had bred for a great number of years that had before that had perfectly

marked pups, and every bitch, no matter how bred, had over fifty per cent.

of white headed pups. We saw the pups in other places sired by this dog,

no matter where bred, similarly marked. We found his grandmother was a

white headed dog, and this dog inherited this feature in his blood, and

passed it on to posterity. The minute a stud dog, perfect in himself, is

prepotent to impress upon his offspring a defect in his ancestry, discard

him at once. I have often been amused to see how frequently this law of

atavism is either misunderstood or ignored. Only recently I have seen a

number of letters in a leading dog magazine, in which several people who

apparently ought to know better, were accusing litters of bulldog pups as

being of impure blood because there were one or two black pups amongst

them. They must, of course, have been conversant with the fact that

bulldogs years ago frequently came of that color, and failed to reason

that in consequence of this, pups of that shade are liable once in a while

to occur. It is always a safe rule in color breeding to discard as a stud

a dog, no matter how brilliant his coat may be, who persistently sires

pups whose colors are indistinct and run together, as it were.

Remember, in closing this chapter, that as eternal vigilance is the price

of liberty, so the eternal admixtures of colors is the price of rich

brindles. If one has the time the works of an Austrian monk named Mendel

are of great interest as bearing somewhat on this subject, and the two

English naturalists, Messrs. Everett and J. G. Millais, whose writings

contain the result of extensive scientific experiments on dogs and game

birds, are of absorbing interest also.