Malamute Coat Color Genetics
by Nichole Royer

Combining Colors
While it is important to understand each locus and its effect on the pigment present in whichever coat pattern a particular dog happens to be, it is also important to realize that each locus does not exist in
a vacuum. Every dog has every locus, and the alleles at each locus will have their effect regardless of what's happening on the other loci. For instance, it's possible for a dog to be both a Red "bb" and
a Blue "dd". This would be called a dilute red or more correctly "Lilac".

Lilac (Dilute Red or Red + blue - "bbdd")
Dilute will still turn black pigment gray, and brown will turn that gray pigment into "red". But the red will appear duller and less vibrant than in a non-dilute red. Lilac Malamutes have pink pigment inside the nose, and no pigment inside the mouth or on the lips and gums.
Above and below

Lilac (Red + Blue) on the left. The color of this dog's pigment, particularly on the nose, is grayer and duller. There is no pigment inside the nose or in the mouth - it is pink instead. 

Contrast this with the non-dilute Red on the right. He has pigment which is much more brown in appearance and the inside of his nose and mouth are fully brown. His coat color is much more brilliant, and he has dark brown rims of color around his outer iris and around the pupil.
Red Sables.
Phaeomelanin is visable in the faces of the dog on the left and many of the pups on the right.
Red Sable ("Cl-bb") and Blue Sable("Cl-DD")
Just as Gray, Seal, Agouti, and Tan Point can all come in Sable, so too can all the variations of Red and Blue. In both cases the phaeomelanin band remains in the coat, producing an "extra" band of red color. In some Red Sable dogs the red phaeomelanin band can be very close in color to the brown eumelanin tip, giving a genetically light Red Sable dog the appearance of a Dark Red. In Blue Sable, dilute will takes the red out of the red/yellow (phaeomelanin) pigment, lightening it somewhat and making it appear dull. Thus Blue Sables are often somewhat washed out in appearance.
This Light Red Sable could easily be mistaken for a Dark Red.

I do not yet have any pictures of Blue Sable Malamutes. If you have one, I would love for a picture of your dog to appear on this website. Please email me at
White combination colors
Red White ("bbee"), Blue White ("ddee") and Lilac White ("bbddee")
Both Red and Blue can also express themselves in White dogs. While the coat color remains the same (white), you can see the effect of these genes clearly in the pigment around the nose and eye rims as well as in the color of the eyes.  On a Red White the pigment will be brown. On a Blue (or dilute) White pigment will be slate gray. On a Lilac White pigment will be a dull washed out light brown as seen in Lilac with pink inside the nose and mouth. Regardless of the other genes involved, the nose of most whites will fade to a pinkish color over time. This is a normal byproduct of the gene which makes the dog's coat white, and is not caused by any other gene. A close look at the pigment around the edges of the nose as well as the lips and eye rims will determine true pigment color.

From a genetic standpoint, White should also come in sable. This appears to often produce darker colored whites. For pictures see this website's section on White Malamutes.

I do not yet have any pictures of Red White, or Lilac White Malamutes. If you have one, I would love for a picture of your dog to appear on this website. Please email me at
This page was last updated: January 20, 2014
© 2007 All text and photos are copyright to Nichole Royer, and/or the photographer.
Unauthorized copying of any part constitutes a breach of copyright law.
Blue (dilute) white on the left. Compare lip and eye rim pigment as well as eye color to the non-dilute white on the right. The pink nose is normal for all variations of white.
Lilac pup. Note the pale pigement
I do not have any pictures of Blue Agouti Malamutes, however this mouse picture shows what blue does to both black and red pigment.  On the right is a normal Agouti mouse (we call this "sable" in malamutes). On the left is a Blue Agouti mouse (Blue Sable in Malamutes). You can see that both the black and red pigment are diluted. These genes act in exactly the same way in Malamutes and produce the same effect.