Malamute Coat Color Genetics
by Nichole Royer

Husky Pattern Domino Locus
Domino is a locus which has been theorized in dogs, but not studied at this date. What is known about this locus comes from a small handful of breeds including Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, Finnish Lapphunds and Lapponian Herders. Due to a very similar effect being produced, it was origionally thought that this gene was likely the same as one appearing in Saluki and Afghan Hounds from which the term "domino" arises. Genetic testing has since suggested that we are not dealing with the same gene, and thus the term "Domino" applied to Malamutes may not be technically correct. For the time being I am leaving it here on my website and will continue refering to it as Domino, but have titled this section "Husky Pattern Domino" to differentiate from the gene which occurs in sighthounds.

Below is the link to the facinating study by Dayna dreger and Sheila Schmutz on Domino in Saluki and Afghan Hounds, and the corresponding information that this is not the same gene found in the northern breeds.

Domino is recessive to non-domino, and is responsible for the appearance of most Malamutes. Domino acts on the agouti locus, reducing facial markings and eliminating the sootiness seen in Agouti dogs. This can particularly be seen in pups, where large white "eyebrows" and a well defined mask on the face right from birth are a classic sign of Domino. Domino also extends the size of the phaeomelanin bands in the coat. In Agouti this eliminates most banding except along the topline, leaving just the dark eumelanin tip on an otherwise light hair, and giving an overall grizzled appearance. In Tan Point dogs, Domino usually produces a phaeomelanin band at the base of the hair. Even when the phaeomelanin band is not present and the coat is solid black, Domino always significantly reduces facial markings.

These dogs will appear to be Agouti or Tan Point as described
for the Agouti Locus..
Compare the adult "awaw" (Agouti) +Domino dog on the left and the "atat" (Tan Point) + Domino dog on the right with the non-Domino dogs pictured in the Non-Domino section above. Note the crisp facial markings on the Domino dogs.
Two Domino pups on the left with their three Agouti (non-Domino) littermates
Dogs that are homozygous for recessive Domino will have crisp clean facial markings from birth and an increase in the phaeomelanin band at the base of their coat. The vast majority of Malamutes are Domino. Domino turns Agouti into Sable or Gray and turns Tan Point into Seal or black and white without the extreme masking necissary to be a true "Black and White" non-domino dog.  It is also not uncommon for Domino dogs to have reduced pigment up the centerline of their nose (we refer to this as a "snow nose"). There is also the tendancy for white markings to express up the centerline of the face. This is seen in split bars, blazes, and stars.  In addition, Domino frequently reduces the intensity of phaeomelanin pigment in the coat making it appear more orange and less brown in tone.

A Domino pup (middle) among his non-domino Agouti littermates at two days old
Agouti + Non-Domino Adult
Tan Point + Non-Domino Adult
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.
Agouti +Non-Domino Pup
Note the sooty color and particularly the face
Tan Point + Non-Domino Pup
Note the solid black color, very tiny "eyebrow" spots, and black face.
Again, compare the "awaw" (Agouti) +Domino pup on the left and the "atat" (Tan Point) +Domino pup on the right with the non-Domino pups pictured  above. Note the crisp facial markings, reduced amount of color, and extended amount of white. This is the classic effect of the Domino locus.
Tan Point + Domino (seal) on the left and a true Black and White (tan point + domino) on the right. A dog can not be a true black and white unless it has this extreme masking as seen in the dog on the right.