Why does my Golden Retriever have black hairs?

Are you worried about a few random black hairs that have appeared on your Goldie’s coat? Are you worried that there is something wrong with them? That this could be the start of a complete color transformation?

Rest assured that you have nothing to worry about (unless you are hoping to show this specimen) and that these rogue hairs are related genetics.

But before we plunge deep into the role that gene’s play in the color of the coat of your dog, I want to put this topic into some sort of perspective…

Here are some fascinating facts about dogs that will make your head spin.

Dogs are the most diverse land mammals in the whole world- in that the largest specimen (Great Dane) is about 40 times the size of the smallest specimen (Chihuahuas.) 

That is because we are always tampering with the, breeding different breeds of dogs to make new variations..

Secondly, new dog breeds are being added to the official register with the American Kennel  Club (AKC) all the time. 

In 2020 alone two new breeds have been added- Dogo Argentino and the Barbet. 

In Britain, the Kennel Club last recognised a new breed in 2018, the Black and Tan Coonhound

When you look at all of this, is it any wonder that a few stray black hairs appear on a goldie once every Blue Moon?

Dog’s genes

Of the nineteen thousands genes that make up a dog’s genome, at the moment scientists believe that just 8 of the genes determine coat colour.

There are three pigments within a dog that interact and create a coat’s color.

They are:

Eumelanin- Black, chocolate brown or grey 

Pheomelanin- tan, red, gold or cream

Lack of melanin- white

And the 8 genes control if these colors are present and how they will be distributed across a dog’s coat. 

Obviously with golden retrievers, ordinarily the pheomelanin colors are dominant and the eumelanin and melanin are recessive.

But it only takes a gene to slightly malfunction in order for “rogue” colors to appear. 

By the way, in contrast humans have between twenty to twenty five thousand genes (that we know about at the moment) and that 124 of these help to decide our hair colour.

Black Golden Retrievers

Some of you might be worried about the odd black hair on the coat but at the other extreme there is a lot of interest in whether there is such a thing as a black golden retriever?

To be clear, by this I mean a golden retriever with nothing but black hair. 

And like most other things on the Internet, this is a very contentious issue as these points of view here, here and here detail. 

Some say that they are bred from a line that at one stage had a flat coated Retriever introduced into the mix. 

Other people are adamant that there is no such thing as a black goldie and that what people think are golden retrievers are actually another purebred such as a flat coated Retriever or a cross breed. 

Now that we have looked at how hair color is decided in a dog, about the odd black hair appearing on a golden retriever’s coat and we have listened in on some gossip about whether there is such a thing as a black golden retriever,  let’s take a look at what the experts say…

What is a golden retriever?

Earlier, I mentioned the fact that dogs are the most diverse land mammal to have ever existed.

This is because over time there has been so much experimentation with mating different breeds of dogs.

Dogs are “man’s best friend” but we are constantly striving to improve the quality of this friendship by trying out different combinations.

At the other extreme, established breeds have a protected status, which is monitored by various kennel clubs around the world.

For golden retrievers the biggest kennel clubs are the American, Canadian and British. 

For every pedigree of a dog, these kennel clubs publish breed standards. 

Breed standards are a very detailed description of the qualities that a perfect specimen of a dog should possess.

These tend to be about two pages long and contain about ten different characteristics such as:

Size and Proportion

Head

Color

Coat

These breed standards include allowable variations and characteristics that will lead to disqualification.

The different shades of Golden Retrievers

There are three types of golden retriever- American, British and Canadian.

The American breed standard can be read here, the British can be found here, whilst the Canadian is outlined here

As to be expected, the overwhelming majority of each breed standard is identical.

And in terms of coloring, there seems to be very little difference as the description within each breed standard mentions “lustrous shades of golden.”

However, on Wikipedia, it suggests that British goldies are generally lighter than their American and Canadian counterparts. 

But where does each country stand on “black hairs”? Let’s find out. 

Do the breed standards allow for black golden retrievers?

And the answer to this is a very clear “no”.

But let’s take a look at each breed standard in turn

American Breed Standard

Within the “color” section, it explicitly states that “Any noticeable area of black…hair is a serious fault.”

British Breed Standard

Within the “color” section, “serious fault: Any noticeable area of black…hair”

Canadian Breed Standard

Any noticeable area of black…hair is to be faulted

Now that we have seen what officialdom has to say about black hair on golden retrievers, I want to continue to “play” with this idea of a golden retriever with a solid black coat

Breeds that look like black golden retrievers

There are so many possible contenders in this category, I have had to narrow it down a bit…

I will focus on pedigrees that most look like a black golden retriever.

But of course, several mixes of these pedigrees might get an even closer clone of a black golden retriever.

Flat coated retrievers

I think that these are our joint top contender for dogs most likely to be mistaken for a black golden retriever. 

Temperament wise they are very similar and playful. Their coats tend to be longer and flatter and their heads are much thinner. 

Black HovaWart

It is only from doing a bit of research for this article that I realised that blavk Hovawarts existed.

But the coats of a purebred are too long and too flat but I think that their heads are a very similar shape and size. 

But I think that they are right up there with the flat coated retriever as a dog “most likely to be mistaken as”

Black Labs

Not a surprise because labs are another retriever and it is thought that it was a yellow retriever that was part of the original mix when goldies were first started in Scotland.

But labs are generally slightly shorter than golden retrievers, they are slightly thinner- in part because their coats are dinner and flatter.  

But they have very similar temperaments and the same love of food, tennis balls and sticks. 

Newfoundlands

OK, this might be a bit of a stretch but newfoundlands are just adorable aren’t they?

And have you ever seen one swimming? Wow, that is a sight to behold.

On land, their movement can at best be described as lumbering but get them into the water and they turn into a 70 kg ballerina!

I think that their heads, although much, much bigger than a goldie’s are a very similar shape and they have similar shaped eyes, which are kind and gentle

Bernese Mountain Dog

Black Bloodhound

You what? Now you are losing the plot big time.

But hear me out.

Although it is thought that golden retrievers were a mix between a yellow retriever and a spaniel, soon after a bloodhound was introduced “into the mix” in order to improve the scenting ability of the dogs. 

See? I told you that I wasn’t completely ga-ga…

Other Breeds with complete opposites

Of course, golden retrievers are not alone in having complete opposites that may or may not be be counted.

And one of the more obvious examples of these are damaltians

Dalmatians. 

Can officially be black or liver spotted but long haired versions are around. 

Closing Thoughts

If your goldie has a few stray black hairs, don’t panic as it is just a result of how some hair color related genes are interacting.

It doesn’t mean that there is any wrong health-wise with your dog.

As to the existence of a black golden retriever, officially there is no such thing and they aren’t allowed in any show ring

But if you find yourself a lookalike clone that behaves and looks exactly like a goldie in every way but color, just give it a big cuddle and thank your lucky stars.