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One of the most recognizable attributes of the Yorkie dog breed is their glossy, colorful coats. Yorkie coats are unique both in the way they resemble human hair rather than dog fur, and because they change colors as the dog and its hair grows.
Although the American Kennel Club imposes strict rules on the official colors of the Yorkshire Terrier, Yorkies can come in a variety of color combinations, and every Yorkie looks a little bit different.
This guide to Yorkshire Terrier coloring and the included Yorkie color chart will help you understand why Yorkies change colors, what they should look like at different stages of their lives, and what rare Yorkie colors are out there.
In this guide:
>> Read more: Yorkie Hair Growth & Care: How to Manage a Healthy Yorkie Coat
Yorkie color chart
>> Read more: Yorkie Growth Chart: How Big Will My Yorkie Get?
Why do Yorkies change colors?
Genetics are complicated, but here’s how it works in a nutshell.
Every cell in your dog’s body contains 39 pairs of chromosomes, one from their dad and one from their mom. And every one of these chromosomes includes thousands of genes. These genes carry all of the information that makes your pup unique: their sex, size, color, personality, and more.1
If one parent passes along a dominant gene and the other a recessive gene, the dominant gene will manifest in your dog. If both genes are dominant or both are recessive, you can get rarer, unexpected results. This is why every Yorkie looks, acts, and is a little bit different.
When it comes to Yorkie colors and the way they change, it all comes down to melanin. “Despite the huge variety in coat color,” says Dr. Lynn Buzhardt, “there are only two basic pigments that determine the color of canines: eumelanin (black) and phaeomelanin (red).” These two pigments mix in varying degrees to create all of the colors you see in a dog.
As puppies, the black, sable eumelanin in Yorkies dominates. However, as Yorkies age, their genetic makeup instructs some of the eumelanin to lighten, producing blue or silver Yorkie fur. In other areas of the body, the eumelanin recedes entirely, and the body produces phaeomelanin instead.
The genes each Yorkie inherits from its parents will determine how light or dark its coat is, and where different colors will manifest. But no matter what, purebred Yorkies should have one of a set list of color combinations.
>> Read more: How Much Does a Yorkshire Terrier Cost? Yorkie Price Range & Considerations
Yorkshire Terrier coloring: How many colors are there?
Traditionally, the AKC recognizes four colors pairs for the Yorkire Terrier breed:
- Black and tan
- Black and gold
- Blue and tan
- Blue and gold
However, some nonstandard variations of the breed may have brown, white, and red mixed in. A Yorkie’s colors depend on the genes passed on from their parents, as well as the age of the pup.
Color variations could also result from a dog having an impure bloodline. We’ll break down the typical Yorkie colors based on each stage of a dog’s life, below.
>> Read more: Yorkie Names: Good Names for Females, Males & Puppies
Yorkie puppy coloring
The genes passed from parent to puppy in the Yorkshire Terrier breed create a unique type of coat that doesn’t just come in specific colors, but that changes colors as the puppy ages.
Black and tan Yorkie
All standard, purebred Yorkie puppies are born with black and tan coats, although some might describe the colors and black and brown.
The proportion and location of each color will vary by dog, but typically, a pup will have a predominantly black coat with tan points on the tips and undersides of the ears, above the eyes, around the mouth, down the chest, and sometimes on the feet or tail. This will persist for most of the dog’s first year.
Black and gold Yorkie
The shade and proportion of every pup will differ, as will the rate at which its hair changes colors. Because of this, it’s also possible to have a black and gold Yorkie, especially if the dog’s coat is in the process of changing, but the lighter phaeomelanin is progressing at a faster rate than the dark eumelanin.
Is there such thing as a sable or all-black Yorkie?
No—there’s no such thing as a black Yorkie that’s purebred. It’s common for a brand new Yorkie puppy’s coat to be almost entirely black, but upon close inspection, you should see a few patches of tan hair, and this lighter hair will only continue to expand as the Yorkie ages.
A truly all-black Yorkie is probably the result of a crossbreed between a Yorkshire Terrier and another dog with black fur.
A hint of this cross-breeding may be in the dog’s coat consistency. Not only would it be all black, but it may have a rougher, more brittle consistency, characteristic of some breeds with wiry fur. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with these pups, but they won’t be able to grow the long, glossy coat characteristic of Yorkshire Terriers, and they won’t be recognized by the AKC.
>> Read more: Do Yorkie Puppies Shed Their Puppy Coat?
Adult Yorkie coloring
As Yorkies grow up, their coat colors will start to change. The color change will be a gradual process that varies by dog, but typically, you should notice your dog’s black fur start to turn to blue at around the six-month mark.
Blue and gold Yorkie
Most adult Yorkies will eventually settle into a blue and gold coat. This could also be described as a simple lightening of the coat.
Starting at around six months of age, the black hair from the puppy’s formative years will begin to lighten into a grayish steel blue color. It may be hard to notice at first, especially without direct sunlight, but over time the change should be unmistakable.
Along the same lines, the puppy’s tan points should start to lighten. It’s common for the dog’s roots to be a darker bronzy color and then a lighter gold color at their ends, although this depends entirely on your dog and the length of the Yorkie haircut you’ve chosen for your dog.
At two or three years of age, your once black Yorkie puppy should look completely different, often with a fully golden head and chest and a gray-blue back.
Blue and tan Yorkie
Just as you can have a black and gold Yorkie, you can also have a Blue and tan adult Yorkie. This is the result of the phaeomelanin in a Yorkie’s genes expressing itself in a darker hue.
Of course, whether a color is tan or gold is somewhat subjective and up for debate. However, blue and tan is officially its own color category in the AKC’s Yorkshire Terrier registry.
Rare Yorkie colors
Although the four color combinations mentioned above are historically the official colors of the breed, there are nonstandard color combinations you may find. Some of these color variations are simply the result of cross-breeding with other dogs. Other variations are the result of breeders intentionally mating two dogs with recessive genes.
There may be health implications that result from breeding a dog for color rather than health, so make sure you do your research on the breed and the breeder before purchasing a dog with a nonstandard coat.
>> Read more: Most Common Yorkie Health Issues
Parti Yorkies usually have a tri-colored coat of blue, white, and tan, although blonde and chocolate Partie Yorkies also exist. Some people will also refer to these pups as White Yorkies, but none of them have a completely white coat.
Producing a Parti Yorkie requires breeding two parents with the recessive S-Locus gene that manifests itself in white hair around the dog’s body.
However, whether the Parti Yorkie is a purebred Yorkshire Terrier is a matter of debate. Some people believe at some point in the breed’s lineage, a Yorkie was bred with another breed, such as a Maltese to produce the white hair.
Despite this debate, the AKC now recognizes the Parti Yorkie as an official member of the Yorkshire Terrier breed, although they are disqualified from showing in conformation shows due to their nonstandard coat.
Chocolate / Brown Yorkie
Some breeders advertise brown or Chocolate Yorkies. These Yorkies can be produced by crossbreeding Parti Yorkies with other Parties or standard Yorkies that both have the recessive b allele gene that lightens the coat’s eumelanin.
However, some people also believe the Chocolate Yorkie was only made possible by crossbreeding somewhere up the family tree.
Golden Yorkies, as the name implies are blonde or golden all over. This comes from a predominance of the phaeomelanin gene across the board. Whether this is a true genetic possibility for a purebred Yorkshire Terrier is unlikely, although a true purebred Yorkie could have much more golden or tan hair than blue—especially after three years of age.
Red Yorkshire Terrier
Red Yorkshire Terriers, or sometimes “Red-Legged Yorkies,” are another variant of the breed. Again, the red (think bronze) coloring comes from the phaeomelanin gene, which is the same gene component that gives us the Golden Yorkie, only a greater abundance of the melanin makes the hair appear darker. This is more common on the underside of the dog, especially around the chin, chest, and legs.
Max, The Dog Tale’s resident Yorkie, happens to be a red-legged Yorkie. We didn’t realize this until he started to grow up and his colors didn’t lighten, but he’s still the dark shades of black and red he was when he was just a puppy.
>> Keep reading: Are Yorkies Hypoallergenic?
- Buzhardt, L. “Genetics Basics – Coat Color Genetics in Dogs” https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/genetics-basics-coat-color-genetics-in-dogs