All the Saint Bernard dog colors explained
Saint Bernards are impressively large, Swiss dogs that are well-known for their hard-working nature and excellent search and rescue skills.
Whilst they may look intimidating, these fluffy dogs are actually very gentle and a favorite amongst families with young children. As the movie Beethoven shows, Saint Bernards are excellent nannies, very alert, and are still a top choice for those wanting a loyal watchdog.
But did you know that there are many Saint Bernard dog colors? The various major kennel clubs accept these gentle giants in an array of coat colors – not just the standard brown and white we imagine Beethoven having.
Overview of the Saint Bernard
Saint Bernards were originally bred by a monk named Bernard of Menthon who was worried about the number of pilgrims going missing on their journey to Rome. On their way across the Swiss Alps, there was a particularly treacherous path where the weather could change instantly.
Bernard of Menthon decided to build a hospice in this area to rescue tired pilgrims. But he needed a helping paw to do this – which is where Saint Bernards came in.
Saint Bernard-like dogs have been around for thousands of years. In fact, there are accounts of Germanic tribes fighting the Romans with large dogs thought to be related to the modern-day Saint Bernard.
Over the years, the breed standard for the Saint Bernard has somewhat changed and these dogs started to look very different from how they once did.
In the 1900s there was a big drive to breed these pups as they did in the past and return them to their former glory. One of the things mentioned in the new breed standard was coat color and what would be acceptable.
How important is coat color really?
That depends on you and how you want to ‘use' your Saint Bernard. If you're happy for them to be a cuddly couch potato and keep one eye on the kids, then coat color really isn't important.
Similarly, if you've adopted a Saint Bernard as a rescue dog, their coat color really won't affect how well they carry out their duties.
If you want to enter your doggo into a competition or show, however, you'll need to make sure their coat color is in line with the various kennel club breed standards. Some coat colors are not accepted and therefore will be rejected – so in this instance coat color is very important!
Does color have an impact on their health?
There's lots of contradictory information out there about whether coat color really affects the health of a dog. Double merles and high whites, however, can have serious health problems caused by the unique genetics making up their coat color. Ear and eye problems are a particular cause for concern.
When it comes to Saint Bernards, there isn't any pertinent evidence to suggest their coat color really affects their health, temperament, or behavior. Many experts, however, believe that dogs with coat colors that are considered faulty by the major kennel clubs can be more susceptible to disease and many have a shorter lifespan.
These colors (or markings) are solid color, albino, black and white, and those pups who don't have any white markings on their coat.
What's more important to think about?
All dogs are beautiful regardless of their coat color (at least that's what we think).
When looking for a dog or dog breed to adopt, temperament and health are much more important factors than what color they are.
Do you have the experience to care for and train such a large dog? Is your Saint Bernard puppy coming from an ethical breeder who cares about the welfare of this breed?
It's important you do your research before committing to adopt one of these dogs (your local Saint Bernard club or your national breed club are good places to start).
Saint Bernard color and marking standards (according to kennel clubs)
As with many beloved dogs, understanding the breed standard can be a little tricky because the main kennel clubs often disagree on what they would accept as ‘standard'.
American Kennel Club
The American Kennel Club (AKC) accepts the following Saint Bernard dog colors:
- White and red
- White and orange
- White and brown
- Rust and white
- Red and white
- Brown and white
- Mahogany and white
- Brindle grizzle
- Orange and white
United Kennel Club
The United Kennel Club (UKC) accepts all shades of red and white and all shades of brown and white.
Federation Cynologique Internationale
The FCI also accepts white with clear red patches, broken reddish-brown mantle, brindle reddish-brown, and brownish-yellow.
Why are some colors not accepted?
These colors are all standard when it comes to Saint Bernard colors but they're not the only colors these dogs come in. There are other patterns and coat colors but these aren't observed enough for canine experts to be sure they're not related to any potential health problems.
Saint Bernard coat markings
According to the UKC (the kennel club with the most detailed description of markings), a Saint Bernard must have white markings on its noseband, nape of the neck, collar, chest, feet, and tip of the tail.
It's also desired (but not required) that they have a blaze between their eyes, and white markings on their muzzle, tummy, legs, and the lower half of the tail. Saint Bernards should have a dark mask around their eyes and ears that are a darker shade.
All the St Bernard dog colors
Here are all the wonderful colors for these large, adorable pups!
Red and white
This is a fairly common coat color combination for these doggos. They have a red base coat with white patches across their bodies (usually always on their chest).
They also have a black mask and some darker shading around their ears. At first glance, white and red Saint Bernards may look more mahogany or brown but when they're in the sun they're distinctly red-colored and very beautiful!
White and orange
Unlike the red and white doggies, white and orange Saint Bernards have a white base coat with orange markings and white is always the more dominant color. As described in the breed standard, the white patches must still be in the desired places. These pups also often have darker hair around their ears and eyes.
White and brown
That's something else that can be a little confusing – what's the difference between a white and brown Saint Bernard and a brown and white one? In breed standards, the first color mentioned is always the base color. So these pups have a white base coat with brown patches.
White and brown Saint Bernards should have white fur on their nose, the tip of the tail, feet, and stomachs, and a black mask and darker ears are desirable.
Unlike the AKC, the UKC and FCI have not specified exactly how much of the dog's body should be white to classify this dog as this coat color.
Rust and white
According to the AKC, rust is one of the red varieties possible for a Saint Bernard. It's a medium brilliant red-brown and is a particularly striking color for these beautiful dogs. This unique coat color is caused by the pigment pheomelanin and the dogs usually have a black mask and white markings in the usual places.
White and red
Unlike red and white Saint Bernards, these doggos have more white fur than they do red. The AKC makes a strict distinction between the two possible coat colors however the UKC and FCI are a little vaguer. It's desirable that they also have a black mask and darker ears.
Brown and white
Brown and white Saint Bernards have the coat color that most people associate with this adorable dog breed. The brown shade can vary from dark brown to light brown. They have white markings on their body and fairly noticeable dark shadings on their faces and ears.
Mahogany and white
Mahogany and white Saint Bernard puppies are one of the rarest Saint Bernard colors. They have a medium-saturated, red-brown base coat and white markings all over their body. It's likely that they'll have a black mask and darker shadings on the face, head, and ears.
Because this is a fairly rare color for the Saint Bernard breed it's important you do your research when it comes to breeders as these pups can look similar to red and white and brown and white dogs.
Brindle grizzle Saint Bernards have a really unique coat pattern that differs from just brindle. Brindle grizzle dogs actually have a base color that's a combination of two tones and that has no discernable pattern. The two tones are so well blended that they almost look the same shade!
Like other brindles, they have tiger-like stripes and their coat is normally a mixture of black and brown hairs but white and red grizzles do exist.
Orange and white
Orange and white dogs have a beautiful, deep orange-colored base coat with white patches all over their body. Naturally, they're similar to white and orange Saint Bernards but the AKC has strict rules about how much white they need to have to be categorized as either color. They can also have a dark mask and darker hair around the ears and eyes.
Brownish-yellow Saint Bernards get their unique coat color from a gene mutation that causes dilution. The gene which causes this color is called D locus and it can affect many brown, black, and yellow dogs. Just like other St Bernard dog colors, these dogs can have white markings on their bodies and a black mask.
Brindle-reddish brown is a striking coat color that's really impressive on this muscular dog. Saint Bernards with this coloring have a reddish-brown base coat and tiger stripes that can be very pale (and barely noticeable) or totally black.
Broken reddish-brown mantle
These dogs look very similar to reddish-brown Saint Bernards but they have a shaded section that's usually on their sides, shoulders, and back (so it almost looks like they're wearing a blanket)! White can't be the dominant color in the shaded section but reddish-brown with white is allowed. They too have white markings and a dark brown or black mask.
Reddish Brown splash
A splash pattern is exactly what it sounds like – as if pups with this coat color have been splashed with a paintbrush. In fact, splash is simply another word for piebald.
These dogs have a reddish-brown base coat and white markings all over their body which are totally irregular. Ideally, the white markings should still be on their noses, feet, tips of tails, and stomachs. These white patches are caused by irregular pigment production which affects the pigmented part of the coat. They don't, however, look ticked.
The non-standard Saint Bernard coat colors
As already mentioned, just because they're considered standard, doesn't mean that the above coat colors are the only ones Saint Bernards can have. There are lots of other ones which kennel clubs don't accept.
Solid color Saint Bernard
A Saint Bernard in a solid color is very unusual. This is mostly because they are undesired by all the kennel clubs and hard to breed.
Whilst these dogs can come in a number of standard colors and coat patterns, the named colors always have white patches (and must have white patches if you want to enter them into a competition or show).
Many breed experts say that Saint Bernards in a single color – regardless of what the color is –are likely to suffer from congenital disabilities and other health problems.
No white markings
Saint Bernards without white markings are very undesirable. They may be a mix of different colors (and therefore not a solid color) but they should still have white patches on their bodies.
Albino Saint Bernard
Albino Saint Bernards are rare and, like other albino animals, are likely to suffer from many health issues including blindness and deafness. Be wary of breeders promoting the breeding of albino dogs as this is highly unethical. They're not thinking about the health of the dog or the future of the breed and are ensuring that a dog will suffer – which no one wants.
As you can imagine, albino Saint Bernards are bright white and have pink noses. They won't have any other markings and may have red eyes.
Black and white Saint Bernard
When you look at the standard St Bernard dog colors, they always have brown or red tones. A purely black and white Saint Bernard is likely the product of inbreeding (with no other pigment in the gene pool) and so it's highly likely that these dogs will suffer from various health problems. Inbreeding is an unethical breeding practice and should always be avoided.
Will Saint Bernard puppies change color over time?
It's possible for puppies to be born one color and for that to change as the puppy grows older and the pigment progresses.
Although possible, the progression is often very subtle – it's unlikely they'll be born yellow and turn dark brown. But, for example, a red Saint Bernard puppy may develop to become mahogany.
Adult dogs can also change color but this is unlikely to be the result of pigment progression. Skin conditions, sun exposure, and a poor diet can all contribute to the change in a dog's coat color.
Does color affect the price of a Saint Bernard?
Like most things in life, rare dogs cost more than others. And that's the same for these amazing pups. The rarest St Bernard dog colors (and therefore the ones costing thousands) are: brownish-yellow, mahogany and white, and brindle grizzle.
The exact prices of individual dogs will depend on the breeder's reputation and competition in your area.
More common colors for this dog breed include brown and white; white and red; red and white; orange and white; and white and brown.
It's worth bearing in mind, however, that Saint Bernards are still big dogs and therefore expensive. Black and white dogs are also relatively common, but as we mentioned before, we wouldn't recommend getting one of these dogs as they're usually the result of inbreeding and can have lots of medical issues.
What about hair length?
This dog breed usually has long hair (which is part of its iconic look). But short-haired St Bernards do exist, they're just quite rare. Of course, because they're rare this makes them even more expensive than regular pups.
How much do Saint Bernards shed and does coat color affect it?
These dogs are very fluffy and (usually) have long, thick coats. So as you can imagine, they shed everywhere. Many owners recommend brushing them once a day to reduce the vacuuming and to keep their coats glossy and well-conditioned. All Saint Bernard colors shed the same amount – you just need to think whether dark or light-colored hairs would show up more in your house!
Are Saint Bernards hypoallergenic?
Nope! They are not hypoallergenic dogs. All dogs shed a little and it's actually the dander on the hairs that causes allergies (so no dogs are 100% hypoallergenic) but Saint Bernards shed a lot.
These doggies are definitely not a good choice for those who get the sneezes around our furry friends.
Saint Bernard eye and nose colors
Unlike coat colors, the kennel clubs seem to be more in agreement with each other when it comes to the desired eye and nose color of these canines. All clubs state that Saint Bernards should have dark brown eyes and that light-colored eyes – especially blue – are very undesirable. The FCI also accepts nut-brown eyes.
These dogs should have black-colored noses. Noses that are pale, flesh-colored, or that don't have any pigmentation are unacceptable.
Saint Bernard colors – final thoughts
Saint Bernard dogs come in many different colors. Some are accepted by kennel clubs, some are not, and some are often unethically bred.
It's important to do your research before adopting a dog to make sure that you're getting what you pay for (i.e. an ethically bred dog that's healthy and the color you think it is). Never buy a Saint Bernard from a puppy mill and make sure your breeder presents you with all the proper documentation.
These dogs are wonderful family pets who adore being around their owners. Although getting a specific colored dog is essential if you want to enter them into a show, their health and temperament are much more important – especially if you want a happy best friend who's around for many more years to come!
I’m Charlotte, a content and copywriter from the North of England and currently living in Berlin. Animals have always been a huge part of my life, so writing about dogs is a total pleasure! I love all kinds of dogs and their cheeky personalities, but I’d have to say Weimaraners are my favourite!