Color & Texture

by Joan Gordon


First off you must realize that the standard represents a blueprint which was written by early breeders for other breeders, and contain all the clues necessary to breed the correct colors. The men who wrote it may not have known much about genetics, but many of them owed their livelihoods to the breeding of matched colored carriage horses which allowed a higher price for pairs of distinctive colors. They knew how to obtain all the different colors and using that knowledge they wrote it into the Yorkie Standard.

Your dog if it had no hair, but only had skin pigment showing, would have the exact required color pattern on it's skin as written in the standard. All the way from the back of it's head, down it's neck to the root of it's tail there will be blue skin. The shade will correspond with the depth of the dog's blue hair. The blue skin extends down the forelegs to above the stifle. The end of the dog's tail would have a darker blue tip than the dog's back color.

The skin pigment on your Yorkie's head chest, throat, the underside of the the tail and the breechs is a flesh color. The back of the dog's ears are a darker flesh color. The flesh colored skin pigment of the forelegs extends up to the elbow, on the hindlegs the flesh colored skin pigment extends from the foot to just below the stifle, a thin strip of flesh colored skin extends up towards the belly on the front side of the hind legs. The underside of the dog; including the inside of the hind legs is usually a slightly lighter flesh color. This description is of a correct pigment pattern for silk texture.

So you ask what does it matter? It matters because it is the map that controls where your dog's color will be. Deviate from this pigment color and you'll go one of two ways in your colors. You'll get an unclear Gold and an incorrect Blue: if the blue skin has invaded the territory belonging to the flesh colored skin. Or you'll get an extremely light gold with gold extending down the neck and a very pale blue pigment with gold creeping up thru the shoulder, the thighs and around the base of the tail as the flesh colored skin has invaded the blue territory. Correct silky textured dogs always have correct color pigment patterns - woolly coated dogs always have the blue pigment invading the flesh colored pigment. Cotton-coated dogs usually get a mixed bag. The blue skin may extend into the tan on the head and the flesh skin may extend into the shoulders. Very extreme silver dogs will have flesh colored pigment where the blue pigment should be. The gold will be an extremely pale gold even though they have silk texture.

To understand why this saddle pattern must be correct you'll first have to understand the way color in hair is arrived, and the difference in textures that go with each of those colors.

Hair is formed from a substance called keretin and the walls of the shaft of each hair are clear. The hair itself contains no color nor do the pigment particles. There are a number of layers of dermis tissue in the layers of the skin. The pigment that colors hair is produced by pigment glands housed about four layers down. The top layers although well pigmented, do not produce enough pigment to color the hair. The pigment particles produced by these glands are also colorless.

There are three active sections of a hair that serve a specific purpose in the arrangement of the pigment globules. That arrangement causes certain patterns that affect the refraction of light. The first section of the hair is the root. The root of the hair is slightly flared and as the skin moves in its various motions, this flared root gathers and sucks up the microscopic particles of pigment.

The second section of the hair is an enlargement above the root that is a barrel shaped section called a follicle and it is the manner in which the pigment is transmitted from the follicle, that determines the pattern arrangement in the shaft of the hair. The microscopic pigment particles migrate through the follicle and up through the shaft of the hair by their own electrons. This explains the presence of different patterns formed by the same color pigmentation and of density in the various patterns that refract light to reflect the different colors and shades within these colors. The refraction and reflection give us the colors we optically identify.

The third section is the shaft of the hair that extends out of the skin above the follicle and makes the body coat and holds the permanent pigment arrangement. Hence the necessity for the correct pigment pattern for each of your hair colors.

For instance if the opening of the follicle is wide and pigment can easily pass into the shaft of the hair in such abundance and intensity that no light is reflected from it, the color is black and dull. The hair is thick. If there is no opening in the follicle at all no pigment enters the hair, it is white, since there is no pigment in the hair it can neither refract light in or to reflect it.

The arrangement that forms the other patterns is caused as the pigment leaves the opening of the follicle and enters the shaft of the hair determining the color and what shade the color will optically appear. Where shading is desired in each hair the sensity of the pigment as it travels along the shaft of the hair.

To obtain the highly desired rich gold the opening of the follicle is drawn extremely small and pigment is forced by it's electrons into a thin smear that coats the inside of the shaft of hair. The smear coating on the inside of the shaft of the hair refracts light and reflects it back giving off a shining golden hue. The hair is fine, shiny and cool to the touch and is silky in texture.( See A)

A.jpg

A lighter gold has lesser pigmentation and it has a glow but not a shine. In this hair more than two thirds of the center of the shaft is open and the pigment layers are thinner than that of the gold. (See B)

B.jpg

Blond or pale gold is a strong dilution of both of the above. There is little pigment in this hair. It has a very thin pigment layer and a much larger center opening and gives off very little shine of it's own. (See C)

C.jpg

The pigment pattern for blue is somewhat complex. The pigment leaves the follicle in an intense fine line, migrates up through the center thebfull length of the shaft of the hair. Pigment is sent from this line to the outside shaft of the hair in three partition like formations (picture in your mind a ventian blind). This causes a thin curtain - like pattern allowing light directly to the intense pigment core. However, light is not refracted completely from one wall to the other wall of the shaft, and reflection back from the so called partition creates a haziness within the shaft of the hair that is perceived optically as blue. The texture of this hair is fine, strong and very shiny, and is cool to the touch, silky in texture. (See D)

D.jpg

A Blue-Grey color is achieved at the point when black hair is intermingles with enough white hair to give the optical appearance of Blue-Grey. Unlike true grey or Steel-Grey it is not caused by the receding action of the pigment glands failure. The Blue-Grey pattern of coloring once achieved does not continue growing lighter or darker because of age. This texture is usually woolly, heavy and does not give off and natural shine. The texture of this being wooly allows it to snarl easily. It is warm to the touch. (See E)

E.jpg

Steel-Grey and Grey are caused by the continued failure of the pigment glands in the upper skin layers failing to produce pigment particles, which causes the pigment glands in lower layers of skin to take over. Being fewer and weaker, less black hairs are produced. The failed upper layers produce more and more white hairs, this process continues all of the dog's life - but a short period the color appears optically steel-grey. This process can continue so that by old age the dog is an extreme pale grey. The texture is cottony, soft, thick and gives off not natural shine, and is warm to the touch. The texture of this coat allows it to matt easily usually close to the skin.

F.jpg

The Blue-Black dog's pigment is extremely compact, the layers of the pigment particles are in stacks perpendicular to the outside shaft of the hair. As some of the black hairs die they are replaced by white hairs. The additional sheen picked up by the black is caused by the pigment being at a slight angle and the very edges pick-up sufficent light to cause the reflection of a highlight which mixed with the white hairs gives a optically blue-black appearance. The hair texture is smooth, fairly fine and silky but does not have the pattern to give a true blue color and it does not have the ability to dilute to blue.

There are two types of silver. The first is a blue dog whose dilution factor instead of shutting down continues to dilute and dilute, so that the pigment that leaves the follicle in an intense line becomes a thinner and thinner line so that although it has the correct hair color pattern is cannot reflect enough haziness back to really appear dark blue.

The second silver has pigmented skin of a very pinkish blue or even flesh colored. The hair is between a white and a black containing some pigment in the center so that some light is refracted and reflected back. The texture is fine, silky, and does have a shine. It tends to be wavy.

Returning to the standard you will find only one texture mentioned. It says "Hair is glossy. fine and silky in texture." These are the description of the correct blue and gold and this texture is the only one that carries the color patterns in them to produce the desired ones. The genes that determine colors also determine texture. Hence the standard which says "Quality and Texture (and quantity which is another gene) are of prime 'importance'. It's like the line in the song "You can't have one without the other".

So now we've determined that you need a gene to place the blue and the gold pigment skin pattern and genes to have the correct color pattern in each hair along with the accompaning texture.

The next gene you need is the one that assures the age at which the blue skin will retreat from the head allowing only the gold to grow and a gene to tell your black puppy that it is time to kick in the color pattern in each hair for the blue. Connected to this is the gene that tells the dilution factor to stop at a specific color and to maintain it at that color. The gold gene includes one to have the gold shaded correctly, so that it comes in darker at the base and lightens as it extends to the tip.

You will need a gene to tell your texture to be straight and not wavy. Two genes one for each color, that will determine the quantity of hairs per square inch and that will determine the speed that the coat will grow. Lighter blues have heavier coats and grow faster. Both the woolly and cottony coats very rapidly.

The correct silk blue and gold grows slower, but it arrives at maturity with equal length and density by adding layer upon layer of hair much the same way a baby does.

Since a Yorkie is actually a brown dog with a blue saddle- just as an Airdale and many other breeds are. They only way you can lighten or darken your dogs color (I do mean the blue as well) is to plan your breeding on the color of the gold. The blue color and the gold compliment each other. Light gold equals light blue - rich gold color equals dark blue. Bred this way they can pass it to the next generation. Lots of you do this without knowing it. Gold is the first thing anyone checks on their newborn puppies.

Cottony dogs normally have a pale gold either uncleared or almost cleared with the gold pigment saddle pattern creeping into the Blue areas.

Woolly dogs normally have a brighter gold head, with a lighter shade of gold on their legs. The gold area onthe head has usually not cleared of all the blue pigment skin so the pigment saddle pattern of the blue is in the gold's area.

The blue-black harsh texture silk Yorkie is hard to grow coat of any length as the hair tends to snap off at the tip. This type has an extremely bright gold closer to orange or red. The coat usually lacks quantity. They are a throwback to some particular ancestor. They are always extremely sound, very outgoing and very showy.

Years ago Mrs. Annie Swan, of the Invincia Yorkies, told us to keep one in our breeding program. She said everyone kept a so called "Red". They occasionally appeared from silky coated parents. No one ever showed them, but since they had the ability to return color pattern to it's proper boundaries and the ability to darken the color of a lighter dog when bred to them, they were on occasion bred in. Bred to cottony or wooly texture they usually have little effect. Bred to silk texture they improve color. Bred together they usually produce themselves and occasionally a lovely colored silk dog - but this is the exception.

The last gene in the color inheritance package is for dark pigmentation for the eye-rims, the lips, a black nose, black toenails and black pads. Breeding color and thus texture on a Yorkie is a difficult challenge particularly as a lot of these desired genes are recessive, but it can be done. We are unfortunately plagued with pedigrees that include every texture in the book, making it doubly hard to achieve our goal. We've arrived at a point where some dogs have more than one texture appearing on them.

The only words mentioning black in our standard concern being born black and the statement "not silver blue and not mingled with fawn, bronzy or black hair" and that the gold should not be intermingled with sooty or black hair. No where are there any words that a Yorkie should be grey or even steel-grey. The words woolly, cottony, soft, dull, or harsh also do not appear. Everytime the wrong texture is bred in we add another wrong gene to the gene pool, making it harder for future generations of breeders.

The gold on a Yorkie is covered in the standard in three and a half sections. The number of words-approximately eighty-seven describing it, outweighs those on the blue-approximately fifty one.

If our dogs pedigrees were such that they only contained the genes for silk texture, all our battles with color would be over. Then all our puppies would be correct. As it stands now people breed a woolly or cottony textured dog to a silk textured dog for whatever reason, and yes they can get a good colored silky puppy. The reason of course is that since most pedigrees today are a mish mash of texture genes, is that if the silky parent is dominant over the inheritance of the puppies he or she is going to nick some silk genes in the wrong textured parent's pedigree. But the next generation can and will probably produed the other coat texture, just like any other inherited fault. Many people buy this theory of breeding wrong textures in because they have gotten a puppy that's correct by breeding this way. They forget that the silky textured ancestors in their pedigree can come forward when given an opening from a silky parent.

Like getting rid of any other fault, and wrong texture is a fault, you don't breed it in. It takes time, commitment and patience to breed only silk texture to silk texture, thus putting those wrong colored woolly and cottony textured dogs so far back that like any other undesireable inherited fault they disappear only to come out once in great while.

The formula to obtain desired colors with their silk texture is to breed only silk to silk in every generation. Your dogs will then only produce this as that will be all that is available in their genes.Then you can lighten or darken your colors by breeding for gold, without this game of breeding for blue by adding wool or cotton texture, which only throws you whole gene pool out of whack.

As a final note. Altho this article is all about colors, do not forget the other parts of your dog. I've never seen any reason for us or anyone else to spend time growing a show coat on an unsound dog. I always figured it was rather like putting an expensive designer's model on my figure. All the faults will show up despite the cost of the outfit, ruining the look of the dress or your dog's show coat. A show dog must meet the standard, but he must have a sound body, a good head and expression, be a proper size and have a sound temperment to carry and show off his or her's show outfit.

To quote Mrs, Raymond-Mallock, of the Ashton - more Yorkies written in 1907-" What we want is a sound Yorkshire Terrier with a lot of coat, not a lot of coat with an unsound Yorkshire Terrier." Or to quote Mrs.Goldie Stone of the Petit Yorkies writing in 1930 -"They should appear as proud as Kings and Queens sporting their blue and gold mantles that flow around them like water as they move."

A Yorkie is a small long coated blue and gold shining silky textured terrier who is proud and arrogant, mischievious, loving who is able to carry this off because he can trot smoothly around his world. He knows he's better than any other dog and surely smarter than his mistress or his master.
Joan B. Gordon - June 7th 1998

This is the property of Mary Elizabeth Dugmore. Neither part nor all of it may be reprinted without her permission. Joan B. Gordon



About Joan Gordon


Joan Gordon

Joan has been showing Yorkie's for 50 years this year. She orginally bought and finished 5. Finished 19 American Bred 54 imported and 168 homebred Champions. She has written two books and collected every piece of Yorkshire Terrier Memorabilia she could get her hands on from all over the world. A trip to her home in Glenview Illinois is a delightful experience and education in itself.

She met her husband when she was 6 years old. Their families vacationed in the same location each year. They will also celebrate 50 years of marriage together this year. They are best friends and have been all of their lives.

She has been crowned the "Godmother of all Yorkshire Terriers" and certainly the breed would not have been the same with out her loving hand. She's been a mentor to so many of us that our breed has benefited from her hours of devotion and I am proud to call her my friend.

Thanks Joan for all of your help with this and many of the other things on my page.


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