With its flecked colors and distinct stripes, a brindle dog truly is a stand-out. But the term ‘brindle’ actually refers to the coat pattern and not a specific dog breed. Created by a canine’s genes, the beautiful brindle pattern can appear just in one area or create an all-over-the body coat. And brindle color dogs can also be one of numerous breeds, both large and small.
So, if you like a dog that stands out from the crowd, a brindle may just be your perfect color match. We explore 22 of the most popular brindle dog breeds to help you find the one to catch your eye.
What is a Brindle Color?
The term ‘brindle’ refers to a specific type of dog coat, which has darker ‘tiger-like’ stripes, irregular in pattern, across a lighter base color. This brindle pattern is caused by a recessive gene – we will delve deeper into this shortly – and can also be seen in other animals, including cattle and horses.
Not all brindle patterns are the same as the stripes, colors and tones may vary. However, two main brindle patterns are acknowledged – the traditional brindle, where the colors are heavier and darker, and the reverse brindle, which sees a lighter color more pronounced, against a darker background. The typical colors for brindle coats include blue, red, brown, dark brown and fawn.
Some dog breeds are also more predisposed to the brindle pattern than others, and most brindle dog breeds tend to have shorter coats.
The Genetics Behind the Brindle Coat Pattern
Now, to the science bit! Just like all other dog coat colors, the brindle trait is caused by a dog’s genetics, namely a specific combination in the gene series in its DNA.
In all dogs, their coat color is determined by a number of different genes which control two key pigments: eumelanin (black-brown) and pheomelanin (red-yellow) and eumelanin (black-brown). It is specifically how a dog’s genetics switches on its coat color and pigment pattern that, in the case of brindle hounds, creates the distinctive tiger stripe pattern.
What Makes a Dog’s Coat Brindle?
That gorgeous striped brindle pattern is caused by a gene mutation at a specific location on a dog’s DNA strand – known as the K locus. At the K locus, there are three gene variations which determine color – one for black, one that defaults to all other colors and one that leads to the brindle pattern.
The gene for brindle coat patterns is a specific type of gene called the Agouti, which controls the distribution of black and red pigments in a dog’s fur. For a dog’s coat to present as brindle coloring, its brindle gene must be dominant to the default gene, but recessive to the black gene. And many brindle puppies are initially born without the stripes, which develop a little later.
Not all brindle coats are the same however, and the presence of the Agouti doesn’t guarantee a specific striped pattern, meaning every brindle coat is totally unique!
What’s the Difference Between Merle and Brindle Dog Breeds?
While they do have their similarities, brindle coloring and merle are two separate canine coat patterns. As we have already seen, the brindle color is caused by a recessive gene in the DNA’s K locus, that results in the distinctive striped pattern.
On the other hand, merle – which represents as patches of diluted pigment on a solid black coat – is caused by a partially dominant gene.
It is possible, however, for dog breeds with stripes to carry the brindle gene mixed in with other colors, including merle, to create a marble of solid colors against a brindle striped coat.
What Breed of Dog has Stripes?
So, now we know that brindle is a coat color and not a specific breed, you can start to work out which breed with brindle in its genes will make your ideal pet. And the good news is that brindle dogs come in all shapes and sizes, including mixed breeds, so there’s plenty to choose from!
We give the lowdown on what we think are the top breeds when it comes to those tiger stripes:
1. Boston Terrier
Known as the ‘American gentleman’ due to his cute tuxedo-like coat and dignified personality, the Boston Terrier is one of the most popular breeds in the US. On the smaller side – between 10 and 25 pounds – this polite yet super-smart chap has five standard coat colors, which include white, black and seal and his short coat can also be found with three brindle stripe varieties.
Originally bred as a fighting dog, Boston Terriers retains a spunky side, but this playful character also makes the Boston Terrier a good choice for families and his size is suited to apartment living, although he does love his time outdoors.
However, as a short-snouted breed (also known as brachycephalic), Boston Terriers are prone to over-heating and can suffer from breathing problems.
Check out our guide on the Best Dog Food for Boston Terriers for more info.
2. Dutch Shepherd
Intelligent and independent, the stunning Dutch Shepherd excels in a job and the breed make for excellent police and service dogs. And, as one of the most handsome brindle dog breeds you can get, his well-defined stripes against a lean yet muscular body is particularly striking.
The coat of the Dutch Shepherd is exclusively brindle and comes in beautiful shades of red gold or silver. However, his coat is rough and can have a curly texture.
A larger, active dog, Dutch Shepherds are best for those experienced with canine training and handling as that sharp brain means he can be dominant. Extremely intelligent dogs, the Dutch Shepherd is willing to learn and super-loyal to his human, making him a joy to both look at and own.
3. Pit Bull/ American Staffordshire Terrier
The jury is still out on whether these are the same or two separate breeds but whichever way you look at them, they were originally bred from the English Staffordshire Bull Terrier and both can display brindle coat tendencies.
Taller and leaner than their English counterpart, Pit Bull/American Staffordshire Terriers are today used as farm dogs or as family pets. And, despite the misconception of the breed as being vicious, the American Bully/Staffordshire Bull Terrier is in fact friendly, loyal and loving when you get to know them.
With their ‘easy care’ short coats, Pitbull/American Staffordshire Bull Terriers can be found in a host of coat colors and patterns, including solid and the more traditional dog brindle coloring, which is one of the most common coats recognized by the American Kennel Club for the breed.
4. Jack Russell Terrier
One of the most popular family pets, not many realize that the Jack Russell Terrier breed can also be one of the most adorable brindle patterned canines.
While rarer than most, the brindle JRT can still be found, although it does tend to be in one area, such as their face or body. And this rarity makes them highly desirable if brindle is your canine thing.
As well as looking pretty with their brindle markings, the Jack Russell is one smart, tenacious cookie, that is also full of energy, so makes a wonderful pet if you have children who love to be out and active. And they are also easy to train, love human company and can be a bit of a clown. What’s not to love?
The national dog of Japan, the Akita is a cool-looking customer that resembles the Siberian Husky. With its lux fur, the Akita was originally bred for hunting and sled work, as well as a guard and watch dog. The result is a confident hunting dog that has a strong prey drive, and so needs a confident, experienced owner to manage his headstrong, protective personality and bring out his best.
Large-boned and tall, the Akita is a handsome dog that also needs early socialization to sort out any aggression, but their loyalty is unbound.
The Akita is also double-coated, with a dense undercoat and short topcoat. Black, white or chocolate – or a combination – are the most common coat colors although Akitas with a brindle coat can be found.
Another short-snouted or brachycephalic dog, the Pug is one of the oldest Chinese breeds and is thought to date back to before 4,000BC.
Diminutive and a little on the stocky side, the clown-like face of the inquisitive and funny pug has ensured he remains one of the most popular family pet breeds today. And his affectionate and playful nature makes the Pug a great pet for children, although he is happy to curl up on the sofa and snooze with you too.
Easy to groom, the Pug’s coat is soft and short, with a lovely gloss and mainly comes in the officially recognized colors of black or fawn. However, brindle Pugs do exist although it is rarer for them to carry the brindle gene and the brindle dog coat coloring is not currently not recognized by the American Kennel Club.
Head over to our review of the Best Dog Food for Pugs.
7. The Boxer
Goofy, upbeat, and downright gorgeous, the Boxer is a firm favorite for many, and their playfulness, intelligence and trainability make them great family pets.
The name ‘boxer’ comes from the breed’s tendency to jump up with their front paws in an adorably pugilistic way! But they are also a little on the sensitive side and need to be at the center of the family, so can become problematic if left alone for too long.
The brindle boxer heritage is clearly recognized and is one of the two official colors for the breed standard, alongside fawn/brown. Both coat patterns can be offset with white, typically along the belly and underside, to create a super-cute looking bib! In fact, brindle boxer coat patterns are dominant in the breed, making tiger striped brindle Boxers a familiar sight.
8. Cardigan Welsh Corgi
Bred for herding duties, the relatively small Cardigan Welsh Corgi has a big heart and make affectionate, funny, and loyal family pets that are easy to care for. And don’t let those short little legs fool you, as this breed is agile and loves to run!
An intelligent breed, the Corgi needs regular exercise to burn off his energy and keep him occupied. But they can also be a little stubborn and their herding instincts mean that they can tend to nip.
When it comes to the Corgi coat, it is a lush affair that is dense and also sheds profusely so be prepared for regular grooming! The Corgi is also one of the smaller dog breeds to carry the brindle gene, along with merle, which is the more popular color. However, you can also get a brindle/merle combo. Brindle or merle Corgis are pretty rare though, with the dominant colors being white, black or tri colored.
Also known as the Weiner, the Dachshund is a unique looking pooch that can have either short or long hair. And both coat lengths have been known to carry the brindle as well as the merle gene. However, these patterned coats, including gray brindle, are not as popular as the traditional black and tan Dachshund coloring. In fact, brindle is not officially recognized in the breed standard as a Wiener color by the American Kennel Club, although it can be found.
As a pet, the Dachshund have friendly, outgoing personalities that love to be the center of attention. And their small size makes them ideal for apartment living. But don’t expect a shy and retiring type with the Daxie as he loves to make his presence known!
Vocal, tenacious, and protective, they can also be on the stubborn side, making life with a Dachshund – brindle or not – a lively and fun experience.
10. Great Dane
From one of the smallest brindle breeds, we move to one of the largest – the over-sized and absolutely gorgeous Great Dane. One of the world’s biggest breeds, the Great Dane can reach three feet to the shoulder and weigh up to 200 pounds, so that’s a lot of dog to care for.
But their personality is one of a big softie, making the Great Dane a true gentle giant. Calm, dignified and loving, the Dane is a joy to own, although they do need plenty of space, as well as exercise. And you do need to be prepared to put up with a lot of doggo drool.
When it comes to their short coat, the Great Dane has seven official colors, and can carry the ‘stripy tiger’ gene to create a beautiful brindle coat. The other recognized Great Dane colors are black, blue brindle, fawn, harlequin, mantle, and merle.
These natural runners are the most popular racing dog in the US and, away from the track, also make wonderful, family-friendly pets. And, although the color is less prevalent than the more traditional colors, such as white, black, merle or apricot, the brindle coloring in greyhounds can be found.
Tall, lean, and lithe, greyhounds can be speedy when out exercising, but then take it down a notch back home where they often transform into the ultimate cuddle monster and couch potato. And their friendly, gentle nature make them a wonderful pet for kids.
When it comes to that distinctive brindle stripe, the pattern adds an eye-catching look to the greyhound. And while rarer, the brindle pattern can come in all the core greyhound colors, including a stunning blue brindle as well as red brindle and fawn.
12. Bull Terrier
Stocky, with an unusual profile, the muscular Bull Terrier is known as an extremely loving dog that can have its stubborn as well as destructive chewing moments so need patient and consistent training. But the effort is worth it, as Bull Terriers are loyal, funny, and charming, and brings a lot of love to their human clan.
Originating from the 19th century, the Bull Terrier is a cross between the bulldog and terrier breeds and was intended as a baiting and fighting dog. Fast-forward to today, and while Bull Terriers now make wonderful pets, they have retained a lot of the energy and, despite its stocky size, agility.
Bull Terriers are also known for a brindle coat, amongst around 13 different recognized color patterns, which also include all white, fawn brindle and tri-color. And the beauty of the brindle gene in Bull Terriers is that it can manifest itself as traditional Bull Terrier brindle, brindle and white or, more unusually, white, and black brindle.
13. American Bulldog
Descended from the English bully, the American Bulldog is a strong and handsome chap. Bred for sports and farm work, the American Bully also makes a loyal pet, who is naturally protective of his human family.
He is agile, muscular, and energetic too, so needs plenty of daily exercise and stimulation to keep him occupied and happy. This means he needs consistent training from an early age, but the rewards are worth it.
White is the traditional base color for American Bulldogs, typically patterned with patches of brindle or solid black or red. They can also be found in fawn and more rarely some dogs can be a blue-tinted merle. Their coat is short, which means they shed moderately all year round, but with regular grooming can be kept under control.
14. Kai Ken
Unlike many of the dogs in our brindle breeds guide, the Kai Ken defaults to the stripy pattern in pretty much all cases, hence it’s other name, the Tiger Dog. Hailing from Japan, this strong, German Shepherd looking canine is a rare breed and is just one of six native breeds that are protected in its own country.
All Kai Ken dogs have a clear brindle pattern to their full coat, ranging from black and red brindle as well as the traditional brown. As a brindle puppy, Kai Kens are actually born with a solid color coat, which then develops its brindle stripes as they grow.
Intelligent and skilled as a hunter, the Kai Ken has a high energy drive but is also loving and attentive and can make super family pets.
15. Irish Wolfhound
Wiry, rangy, and agile, when it comes to the stripy brindle pattern, the Irish Wolfhound will more typically exhibit the reverse brindle coat, meaning their coat remains the lighter color. And these reverse brindle stripes are quite a common occurrence in the breed, although the reverse brindle pattern is more subtle as the Irish Wolfhound’s coat is rough and dense.
Classed as a giant breed, the lifespan of the breed is quite short, living overage between 6-8 years. Temperament-wise, the Irish Wolfhound can be a little stand-offish, especially with strangers, but with patience they will warm to their human and make a laid-back member of the family. But as they were bred to hunt wolf and elk, they do need consistent training and are perhaps not the best choice for first-time dog owners.
16. Glen of Imaal Terrier
Rarely seen outside of its native Irish home of county Wicklow, the Glen of Imaal Terrier is a rare breed in the US, but a sought after one amongst its fans. Bred as a rabbiter and vermin hunter, this is a small, willey dog that looks similar to a Cairn Terrier and loves nothing better to play and chase. However, while laid back in the home, this terrier does have a strong prey instinct so is best in a one pet household.
Stocky, short and with the typical Cairn Terrier-like face, the Glen of Imaal has a rough, medium length double coat which requires consistent grooming to keep it clean and neat. The breed also has three coat colors – wheaten (ranging from cream to red), blue (from slate grey to silver) and terrier brindle.
The brindle coat pattern in the Glen of Imaal Terrier will most likely take its inspiration from the dominant blue color of the breed to create a stunning blue brindle shade although red brindle is also seen.
17. Cane Corso
The distinguished Cane Corso is an Italian Mastiff dog that commonly carries the brindle gene. The result can be a brindle pattern against a black coat, as well as other lighter patterns including shades of red, gray, and fawn brindle. And, with the breed’s short and very shiny double coat, these brindle color patterns can look absolutely stunning – making a brindle Cane Corso a real head-turner.
Originating from Southern Italy, the Cane Corso is an ancient Mastiff breed, and was bred as a watch or guard dog. This makes this statuesque breed intelligent but also dominant so needs careful training. And the sheer size of the breed – the Cane Corso can grow to around 28 inches to the shoulder – means an experienced, patient, and consistent owner is a must.
18. Presa De Canario
Another member of the Mastiff family, this time from Spain, the Presa De Canario hails from the sunny Mediterranean island of Gran Canaria, where it is also known as the Canary Mastiff. A sizeable animal, the Presa Canario was originally a farm dog, bred to herd livestock. He also makes an excellent guard dog but can be protective of his human.
The coat of these herding dogs is short and comes in brown, gold, orange fawn or silver. Tiger and brindle patterns are also a recognized standard, giving this beautiful, muscular dog a majestic look thanks to the unique brindle colorings.
But despite his tough appearance, this lovely canine is docile with his family and while consistent training is a must, will be a loyal and loving pet.
19. Mountain Cur
A member of the hound family, the Mountain Cur hails from the ranges of Kentucky and Tennessee and worked as herders and watchdogs on the isolated farms. Long-limbed and athletic, the Cur has an intelligent face, with the personality to match.
As a hound, they are easily trained and can make a fantastic pet for an active family, who need to be committed to regular exercise otherwise the Cur can become destructive. Their strong prey drive can also cause problems with other pets.
With a smooth, short double coat, the Mountain Cur is a handsome dog, and comes in a nice range of colors, including black, tan, yellow and brown. They are also sought after for their brindle gene, which is either the traditional brindle, or black and brindle mix.
Some Curs may also have white points on their coat. Minimal grooming is needed to keep the Mountain Cur looking good, although they are prone to infections as they can have sensitive skin.
20. Rhodesian Ridgeback
The fierce-looking Rhodesian Ridgeback originated in Africa and was crossbred between the native Khoikhoi dogs and hounds and terriers from Europe to work as hunting dogs. The result is a muscular animal with a strong prey drive that was used as a fearless lion hunter.
Today, the Ridgeback has evolved to become a family pet that has proven to be calm and loving, although they tend to be protective of their human family and so need firm and consistent training and handling.
As a medium-large dog, the Rhodesian Ridgeback makes an imposing figure; they are also fast and athletic and can have an independent personality so not the best choice for a first-time dog owner.
The smooth coat of the breed also only comes in one dog’s coat color – known as ‘wheaten’ which can cover a range of shades, from light flaxen to a deeper red but can also be found with a wheaten and black brindle coat in the traditional striped brindle colors pattern.
21. Treeing Tennessee Brindle
One of the few breeds with the word ‘brindle’ in its name, the Treeing Tennessee Brindle carries the gene that makes the stripy pattern one of its most frequently seen colors on its smooth coat.
Alert, intelligent and friendly, this lean dog is of a medium size and is a prolific hunter. The traditional brindle pattern is the dominant color found in the breed, although you can also find a Treeing Tennessee Brindle in black.
Bred in the Ozarks where they were used to track a range of game species, they are scent driven and can be very vocal. Their high energy levels of the Treeing Tennessee Brindle mean they need to be in an active home with plenty of outdoor space.
The Treeing Tennessee Brindle can also be stubborn when it comes to training and don’t really like to be left on their own.
The Cursinu is an ancient dog breed that originated from the French island of Corsica, where it had been previously known as the Corsican. It was also at risk of extinction in the mid 20th century before breeders made a concerted effort to increase numbers and enable this medium sized breed to make a comeback.
With a muscular body and short fur, the main color for the Cursinu is traditional brindle, overlaid on fawn, brown, tan, or black. White markings on the chest can be included, and the whole look is offset by the breed’s typical warm amber eyes.
Hardy in nature and adept hunters, the Cursinu is loyal and alert and make excellent watchdogs, although their tendency to bark can become a nuisance. But as a family pet, they can be docile and calm, while ready to step the energy levels up, come exercise or play time.
Do Brindle Dogs Have an Increased Chance of Health Problems?
Brindle coats will not cause any issues in relation to your pet’s health as the mutation in the genes to create the pattern is harmless. However, if the dog has been bred with a dog that has the merle gene, then it can increase your pet’s chances of developing health conditions related to the dominant merle gene.
Merle dogs can suffer from certain visual and hearing problems due to the suppression in pigment cells in the eyes and ears. These conditions can include cataracts, blindness and congenital deafness.
Dogs with the merle gene should be tested for such health conditions as a pup.
Just like other dogs, when choosing a brindle dog, you should also consider the likely health issues the specific breed you are opting for may be more prone to.
Are Brindle Dogs More Aggressive?
As brindle is a pattern on a dog’s coat and not a specific breed or type, the tiger stripes do not influence how passive or aggressive a dog will be. In short, the brindle coat has little or no bearing on a dog’s temperament or personality.
When choosing your new brindle color dog, it is also important to factor in the traits of the breed to ensure the dog is the right fit for your experience level and your home set up as well as lifestyle.
The distinct tiger stripe pattern of a brindle coat means whatever breed you choose; you will have a head-turning dog to love and care for. And the beauty of that stripy pattern is that it can be found in a wide variety of brindle dog breeds which come in all shapes, sizes, energy levels and temperaments.
This means that whatever your dog-owning ambitions or pet parent experience may be, you should be able to find the perfect brindle companion.
And, as no two brindle coats are ever truly the same, this means that whatever brindle dog breed you choose, you are getting a four-legged friend that is totally unique!