What you propably didn’t know about Irish Terrier colour
Irish Terriers are not red. They are sable coloured, which means they usually have some black hair at some point of their life, at least in puppyhood. The colour is the same as in Collies, Afghan Hounds, ”red” Dachshunds etc. And therefore it is NOT the same colour as in Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers. They are red with flesh-coloured noses and eyerims.
Dogs have 39 pairs of chromosomes, with thousands of genes on each one. Each individual has a pair of each chromosome, therefore two copies of each gene. Each gene comes in two or more forms, called alleles of that gene. The individual gets one of each chromosome from the sire, and one of each chromosome from the dam. If it is carrying two identical alleles of a gene, it is said to be homozygous for that trait. If it is carrying two different alleles of a gene it is referred to as heterozygous.
All Irish Terriers are red or wheaten, but some are brighter in colour. Even in the early days of the breed it was known that usually the brighter colour also means better coat quality.
The classic agouti hair has multiple bands of contrasting color which mark alternating episodes during the growth of the hair when the production of black pigment was allowed and then inhibited. The multibanded agouti guard hair is distinctive from the dark tipped sabled hair in which black pigment was deposited during the initial stages of hair growth but then inhibited for the balance of the growth of that hair.
a-y = ”a” locus red is the body color of a typical Belgian Malinois or a red collie – also called dominant yellow or golden sable.
Typical Belgian Malinois colour.
Individuals with black ears and some black colour in beard apparently have melanistic mask. There is a fourth allele at the E locus, EM. Melanistic masks are relatively common in many breeds such as Boxers, Afghan Hounds etc.
An Irish Terrier puppy at 3 weeks and at 1,5 years of age. The mask is not visible any more, but the dog is EM in genotype. The letters EM are block letters which indiadates that the trait is dominant. If a dog has this allele, it is visible in fenotype. So, when it is gone, it is gone forever.
The FCI standard, written in the country of origin, Ireland, states: ”COLOUR: Should be “whole coloured” being red, red-wheaten or yellow-red. White sometimes on the chest. A small amount of white is frequently to be seen in all self coloured breeds.”
It also says: ”The hair on the ear should be short and darker in colour than that on the body.”
Dog with no mask. He has light eyerims and not the desirable dark shade in the ears.
Dogs with no Melanistic Mask often have light eyerims – even pink. This makes the expression somewhat dull and it lacks fire and animation. The current standard says nothing about the colour of the eyerims but it states that the nose must be black as well as the lips.
Good pigmentation and excellent expression with the desirable dark shade in ears.