Dogs are incredibly diverse in size, shape, and color, and tricolor is one of the boldest and most recognizable coat types. Tricolor is found in several breeds and, in the most basic terms, means that a dog has three colors on their coat, but these colors come in various shades.
If you’re curious to learn more about dogs with this distinctive coat type, this guide introduces you to 15 beautiful tricolor breeds.
How Are Tricolor Dogs Classified?
A tricolor coat is caused by an allele from the Agouti group called the tan point allele (at). As this is a recessive trait, two copies must be inherited, so the genetic pattern is at/at or, less commonly, at/a.
Tricolor dogs have a base color that is often black—but that can also present as lilac, chocolate, and blue—with white and tan/brown. If the dog inherits the dilute gene (d/d), this lightens the color intensity.
Tricolor is distinct from Merle, which is commonly seen in Australian Shepherds and can be described as a sort of marbled pattern. Dogs with this coat type inherit the M (Merle) gene, and only one copy of this dominant gene is necessary for the Merle pattern to express itself.
The 15 Tricolor Dog Breeds
1. Bernese Mountain Dog
Bernese Mountain Dogs come in two American Kennel Club-standard colors, which are black rust and white and black tan and white, though other variations are also possible. Their coats are medium-length and consist of a topcoat and an undercoat.
These large, hardworking dogs’ ancestors date back to the Roman period, but Bernese Mountain Dogs were developed in Bern, Switzerland to pull dairy carts, drive cattle to market, and protect property. They’re often described as being loving and gentle family companions that have retained the strong work ethic of their ancestors.
The short and smooth-haired Beagle comes in a wide variety of tricolor combinations, including black, white, and tan. The Beagle’s ancestors were rabbit-hunting dogs that were around prior to the Roman invasion of Britain in 55 B.C., but the modern-day Beagle was developed from the deer and hare-hunting hounds that were popular in England in the 16th century.
Beagles are generally considered to be cheerful, sturdy, and extraverted little dogs that, with proper socialization, make excellent family companions, including for families with children.
Chihuahuas are members of the American Kennel Club’s toy group, and they only weigh up to 6 pounds. Diverse in terms of color, one of the most iconic Chihuahua combinations is black and tan with white markings. The Chihuahua’s coat is smooth and often short, but it can also be medium in length.
Chihuahuas come from an ancient line of Mexican dogs. In the Toltec era, the Chihuahua’s ancestors (Techichi) were very prominent. These dogs were larger than the tiny dogs we know today, but the Aztecs later developed the breed to create a smaller version.
Chihuahuas make lovely companions but they’re quite delicate due to their small stature and must be treated sensibly and respectfully by all members of the family.
4. Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
A relative of the Bernese Mountain Dog, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog’s ancestors were Roman war dogs. These dogs entered the Alps with the Roman army and were later bred to pull dairy and meat carts and perform farm work. They’re typically black, white, and red and have short, smooth coats.
The “Swissie” is one of the four Sennenhund dog breeds along with the Bernese Mountain Dog, Entlebucker, and Appenzeller, and is the oldest and largest of all these breeds. Swissies are often patient, gentle, and reliable family dogs.
5. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has a medium-length wavy and silky coat with black and tan, black and white, ruby, or Blenheim coloring. Tan markings are possible. In the 17th century, their ancestors (toy Spaniels) were favored by King Charles I and Charles II, a fact that inspired the naming of the breed we know today.
Toy spaniels of the type favored by the two kings later faced extinction but were revived in the 1920s. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are famous for being very devoted and sweet-natured dogs. These dogs are brachycephalic, however, which means they may suffer from respiratory conditions and other health issues.
6. French Bulldog
French Bulldogs descend from toy Bulldogs that were taken to France from Nottingham, England by the lace makers who kept them as companions in the 19th century. In France, these little dogs’ popularity quickly blossomed, and they were further developed into a breed later named “Bouledogue Français” (French Bulldog).
Frenchies come in a wide range of colors and markings and have short, smooth coats. They’re incredibly popular for their adaptability, friendliness, and affectionate natures, but bear in mind that, like Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, they are brachycephalic due to their short snouts.
7. Entlebucher Mountain Dog
Another member of the Sennenhund group, the Entlebucher Mountain Dog is the smallest of the group. They come in three colors and combinations, including the traditional tricolor combination of black, white, and tan, and have short, smooth coats.
Entlebuchers, like other members of the Sennenhund class of dogs, were bred to work with dairy farmers and were especially talented and agile cattle drivers. These dogs are very dedicated to the task when there’s a job to do, and they’re also known for being very energetic, exuberant, and intelligent.
8. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
One theory is that Pembroke Welsh Corgis were developed at some point after 1107 from herding dogs brought to Wales by Flemish weavers, while another theory is that their ancestors were actually Viking dogs.
Whatever the case, this development produced a well-rounded (quite literally), sturdy, alert, and friendly herding dog. Don’t be fooled by the Pembroke Welsh Corgi’s little legs—they’re certainly not short on speed and agility. They have short double coats that can be black and tan, fawn, red, or sable, and have white markings.
9. Appenzeller Sennenhund
The Appenzeller Sennenhund is a black, brown, and white, medium-sized member of the Sennenhund group. Though not much bigger than the Entlebucher (the smallest member of the group), the Appenzeller has a real presence with bold coloration and a sturdy, muscular build.
Like their Sennenhund relatives, the Appenzeller was bred to herd cattle, keep watch over property, and perform general farm tasks. Appenzellers are generally considered to be highly intelligent, alert, and confident dogs with a vivacious streak. This dog needs plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.
10. Basset Hound
|Origin:||France & Belgium|
|Height:||Up to 15 inches|
Of all the tricolored dogs, the Basset Hound has to be one of the most iconic. The list of possible coat colors for these droopy-eyed delights is long and includes black, tan, and white. They originated in France and Belgium where they were bred to work as scent hounds, using their keen noses to sniff out rabbits and deer. Their name comes from the French word “basset”, meaning “low”.
Basset Hounds, in general, aren’t known for getting up to (too) much mischief and are said to be fairly easygoing. However, they also have a reputation for stubbornness, especially when they catch a whiff of something they want to inspect further.
A very popular dog breed in America, the Boxer currently sits in 16th place on the American Kennel Club’s breed popularity ranking. Boxers descend from now-extinct Bullenbeissers, a large German breed once employed as a game hunter.
In terms of their working history, Boxers have a pretty impressive resume! They’ve been put to work in various capacities, including as police dogs, military dogs, and service dogs. It’s likely that Boxers are so popular because of their often well-rounded and affectionate personalities, intelligence, and endearing goofiness. Well-socialized Boxers are patient and gentle with kids.
- See Also: 3 Boxer Dog Colors (With Pictures)
12. Australian Shepherd
Though it may come as a surprise to some, the Australian Shepherd was developed into the dog we know today in the United States. The breed’s ancestors were Pyrenean Shepherds from around the Pyrenees Mountains, and these dogs made their way to Australia and, eventually, to California, where the breed got its “finishing touches”, if you will.
Australian Shepherds come in four color types: black, red, blue merle, and red merle. They can also have white markings, tan points, or both. They’re impressively intelligent as well as highly active and energetic, which means you’ll need to dedicate quite a bit of time to daily exercise.
Collies come in both short and long-haired varieties, and their coats can either be smooth or rough in texture. A number of colors and combinations, including black, white, and tan, are possible.
Collies’ ancestors were likely introduced to Scotland by the Romans thousands of years ago, and it was here that they were developed as guardians and herders. They were later favored by Queen Victoria, who was an avid dog breeder.
Thanks to their working history, Collies are famously hardworking, quick, and agile. They also have a reputation for being very sweet-natured and loving towards all members of the family with good socialization.
|Origin:||France, Belgium, Spain|
The charming Papillon (“butterfly” in French) hails from Europe, where they were once commonly found luxuriating in royal courts. During the Renaissance period, it was very fashionable to own miniature dogs, and Papillons came about as the result of breeding between spaniels and toy-sized breeds. Papillon coat color combinations include white, black, and tan.
Though they may appear delicate, Papillons are fairly sturdy, swift dogs that excel in agility events. As family dogs, they’re often very affectionate, merry dogs that never fail to bring joy to a household.
15. Bull Terrier
The Bull Terrier was created by breeding Bulldogs with terriers with the intention of crafting a capable fighting dog for blood sports. When this practice was banned, Bull Terriers went on to become popular companion dogs—especially with young, wealthy men— and they continued to be developed in order to improve their temperament.
Today, the Bull Terrier is a smooth, short-haired dog with a large assortment of possible coat colors. Immediately distinguishable by their egg-shaped heads, Bull Terriers may look tough but, with a commitment to socialization and training, they grow up to be sweet, playful, and loyal companions with a real zest for life.
One thing’s for sure: There are a multitude of dog breeds with tricolor coats, many of them iconic for historical and cultural reasons. Some are big, some are small, but they’re all fantastic in their own right. We shouldn’t forget, however, that there are plenty of tricolor mixed-breed dogs that are just as lovely.
If you’re interested in bringing a tricolor dog home, we’d urge you to get in touch with shelters and rescue organizations because these are jam-packed with dogs of all shapes, sizes, and colors looking for their forever homes.