Why Are Brindle Dogs Unpopular? Are They Dangerous?

3D rendering of a female brindle Great Dane dog isolated on white background

The brindled colorations and markings on the coats of certain canines are unique and beautiful. The coloring is hard to breed consistently, and not all breeds can have this coating. However,  most aspiring dog owners look past dogs specifically because of this genetic trait because of the negative associations with brindles.  

Brindle dogs are unpopular because their coloration is associated with the Brindle Pit Bull which is perceived as an aggressive dog as it was bred primarily for blood sport. But brindle dogs are not dangerous as coat color has no bearing on the dog’s personality and is no indication of aggression.

The bias against brindle dogs is undeserved. This article will go beyond their fascinating appearance and help you understand these misjudged canines. 

What Is a Brindle Dog?

A brindle dog can be a dog of a number of different breeds or mixed breeds whose coat has distinct striped colorations. These markings are commonly likened to a tiger’s stripes but blend more subtly between the different brindled colors. 

Brindle coats usually exhibit two pigments:

  • Phaeomelanin – this is a red/yellow pigment that makes up the base of the coat.
  • Eumelanin – this is a black/brown pigment that makes up the stripes. 

A dog’s color genes on the A locus determine these two pigments and control their distribution. So, while the brindle gene is one of the recessive genes on the K locus, the extent of the coat’s brindle depends on the A locus.

Some coats come in what is known as a “reverse brindle,” where the eumelanin pigment makes up the base while the phaeomelanin makes up the stripes of the coat. All of this is down to genetics.

Are Brindle Dogs Aggressive?

Brindle dogs encompass a range of different breeds, each with its own distinct temperament, yet canines bearing this distinctive coloration on their coats are often regarded as aggressive. 

Aggression is not a trait specific to brindle dogs. There is no empirical reasoning behind this generalization, as there is very little correlation between the color of a dog’s coat and its temperament. 

Take, for example, the Whippet that is known for being affectionate, gentle, and calm. Several among this breed of dogs exhibit brindle colorations. 

However, these traits are at odds with the aggression that brindle dogs are infamous for. The same can be said about other brindle breeds such as the Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Great Dane, and Cairn Terrier.

But more than the traits typical of a particular breed, an individual dog’s aggression or lack thereof can be largely determined by its upbringing and training. 

Reasons for the Unpopularity of Brindle Dogs

The bias against brindle dogs is especially evident in rescues and shelters. Several of these organizations have reported that it takes them significantly longer to rehome dogs of this coloration. 

Perhaps would-be adopters just have different preferences in a dog. Or maybe they consider it too great a risk to take in an abandoned dog whose stripes loudly and clearly scream “aggressive.”

But as you will find, verdicts arrived at without a trial are often wrong. 

Beginnings of Brindle Bias

We like to think that we are far more civilized than the Ancient Romans, who packed large amphitheaters to witness gladiatorial battles. But even today, there are some who still enjoy blood sports, only this time, innocent animals become victims to satisfy the thirst for this depraved entertainment.

Dogfighting is a felony offense in every one of the 50 states, D.C., and other U.S. territories, while in most states, the possession of fighting dogs also counts as a felony offense. 

But the ASPCA estimates that tens of thousands are involved in dogfighting throughout the country. 

One of the heavyweight breeds in this blood sport is the Brindle Pit Bull. Its menacing demeanor is matched by its lethal “talents” in the ring. Together, these two factors are the root of the prejudice against brindle dogs that persists to this day.

The Brindle Pit Bull

Pit Bulls are dogs with a ferocious reputation. To some degree, it is warranted. After all, they were bred and trained for blood sport.

The breeds within this grouping known as Pit Bulls were developed by crossing bulldogs and terriers. 

Early on, bulldogs were used in bull-baiting and dog fighting, but breeders were dissatisfied with their performances because they were generally heavy and slow.  Experimental crossings with the lighter and more agile terriers eventually resulted in the creation of breeds that could be trained into being very vicious and athletic fighters. These include: 

  • American Pit Bull Terrier
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • American Bully
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • American Bulldog

In their beginnings, these canines were trained to show aggression only to dogs and not people, as their trainers sometimes needed to handle them in an ongoing fight. 

Pit Bulls that did show aggression towards humans were not put up for breeding so that this trait would not be passed down. But there are still some that are aggressive towards humans.

As a result, Pit Bulls add fuel to the fire now and again, making headlines for their attacks on other dogs or people. 

A review of pediatric dog bite injuries found that Pit Bull breeds were responsible for 53% of these level 1 trauma center visits in the last 10 years. Several animal rights groups have leaped to the defense of Pit Bulls and assert that these misunderstood dogs, too, are victims of irresponsible breeding. 

However, this does very little to change people’s opinions. And as the brindle color occurs frequently in the different Pit Bull breeds, the image of all brindle dogs, in general, is distorted by fear and prejudice.

Do Brindle Dogs Have Health Issues?

Brindles are affected by the ailments common to all dogs in general and are also at risk for viral infections if they are not vaccinated.

However, no known health issues specific to brindle dogs have been observed. The gene mutation that results in the brindle coloration is harmless and does not affect canine health as the merle gene does.

Brindle Dog Breeds

There are 25 dog breeds that carry the brindle gene. This does not include the other breeds that very rarely express it or the mixed breeds that also exhibit this coloration.

This list includes some breeds of dogs bred for the purpose of blood sport and other breeds that are known to be affectionate and friendly. 

  • Akita
  • American Bulldog
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Anatolian Shepherd
  • Basenji
  • Boxer
  • Bull Terrier
  • Bullmastiff
  • Cairn Terrier
  • Cane Corso
  • Cardigan Welsh Corgi
  • Dachshund
  • Dutch Shepherd
  • English & American Mastiff
  • French Bulldog
  • Glen of Imaal Terrier
  • Great Dane
  • Greyhounds
  • Irish Wolfhound
  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • Mountain Cur
  • Plott Hound
  • Presa De Canario
  • Treeing Tennessee Brindle
  • Whippets

The Bull Terriers, Cane Corsos, and Presa De Canarios are seemingly a case-in-point for the aggression of brindle dogs. But some like the Whippets and Corgis say, “Not so fast!”

There is a mosaic of dog temperaments in this list. And while some entrants were indeed bred for aggression, others are known for a range of traits, including affectionate, cheerful, and friendly.

Moreover, the dog fighting breeds have also become excellent companions of late. They are capable of showing affection, gentleness, and loyalty toward their owners. 

And all these without aggression.

Final Thoughts

Much like how we judge books by their covers, brindle dogs are too quickly judged by the colors of their coats. As a result, uninformed dog shoppers and adopters all too often miss out on the chance of having a gentle and affectionate pup with a truly remarkable and unique coat.

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