Unraveling The Beautiful Calico Dog: Patterns And Personalities

Dogs come in all kinds of shapes and colors. This makes it ideal for people that want to have unique pups for themselves. There is one certain type of dog that has been popular lately, and it is referred to as the calico.

The calico dog is a unique and intriguing canine with a tri-color coat resembling the calico pattern found in cats. Its striking appearance is due to a mix of white, black, and orange fur patches. While rare, this distinctive coat pattern is a result of specific genetic factors.

What defines calico dog breeds?

Being a calico animal means that the coat of the animal has three or more colors. Tri-color dog breeds are a synonym for the same thing. Usually, the colors involved include black, white, and orange. These colors are usually present in distinct patches, creating a patchwork-like appearance. That’s why some also refer to them as patchwork or patchy coat dogs.

The word itself derives from textile and was used for fabric that was white or cream-colored with printed patterns in one or more colors. In fact, the Merriam-Webster dictionary has the definition for “calico” as “cotton cloth imported from India”. It was first used in India, and as the fabrics were shipped to America in the 1700s, the word was spread. After some time, people used the term for animals.

What role does genetics play in determining coat colors?

The coat of dogs is determined by two main pigments – eumelanin and pheomelanin. Eumelanin determines the dark coat colors, while pheomelanin is responsible for the brown-golden color. Mutations in the genes responsible for these two pigments can cause the coat to be darker or lighter. “In most mammals, the synthesis of eumelanin or pheomelanin is regulated by two key genes, MC1R (locus E) and ASIP (locus A). In domesticated dogs, a third gene, CBD103 (locus K), also plays an important role.”, according to Genomia, a genetic laboratory.

Calico dog genetics can be a result of natural or man-made mutations. Dominant and recessive genes come into play, influencing which colors will be more prominent in the coat. Different gene combinations can cause different coat combinations. For example, the Agouti Husky is a result of an interesting gene mutation as well.

Identifying calico dogs: What should you look for?

To properly identify your dog as a calico, you need to observe its coat closely. Look for distinct patches of white, black, and reddish-orange on its fur. These patches can vary in size and distribution, creating a unique pattern for each individual calico dog. Sometimes, it might have a patch of white hair on its chest or around one eye.

People also mention that the personality of the calico dog is of an outgoing and playful nature. These dogs show very affectionate behavior with their families but can act mischievous at times. That said, every dog has a unique personality for themselves and this is not only dependent on the color of their fur. The temperament of the dog will also depend on the breed, age, history, and genes. If the dog is properly socialized and trained from a young age, they are more certainly going to be obedient compared to those who haven’t. Make sure you use positive reinforcement and obedience training for this.

Calico dogs vs. Calico cats: Similarities and differences

Cats are much more known to have this interesting pattern on their coats. In them, the trait is connected to gender, as most of these colored cats end up being female, with two X chromosomes. This is what the Cat Town Oakland organization had to say about these interesting colored cats:

Black and orange fur are both linked to the X chromosome, and since female cats have two X chromosomes, they can have both colors at once. White fur is coded by another gene. Male cats typically only have one X chromosome, so they tend to be either black OR orange, but not both.

In dogs, this connection is not as strong. The coat color is not as heavily connected to the X chromosome so the coat colors can appear in both males and females.

Which dog breeds exhibit calico patterns?

Many different breeds can be born with the right genetics to have this type of coat pattern. However, there are some dogs in which the calico dog characteristics are more commonly present in.

This includes breeds like the:

  • Border Collie
  • Entlebucher Mountain Dog
  • Beagle
  • Papillion
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Australian Cattle Dog
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

These are only a few dog breeds known to have this genetic trait. But many more dogs can have the same type of coat.

What’s involved when caring for a calico dog?

The care requirements of these dogs are similar to those of any dog breeds. They need to have proper nutrition with enough protein and vitamins. The food they eat should contain little carbs and artificial ingredients.

Different breeds will require different amounts of exercise to spend their energy. Some will be easier to train than others. These dogs may require a bit more attention when it comes to coat maintenance, as their distinct patterns can make shedding and matting more noticeable. Otherwise, regular teeth brushing, bathing, and ear cleaning should be done according to the needs of the specific breed. Dogs also need their nails clipped regularly.

How much does this type of dog cost?

The fact that these dogs happen due to a genetic mutation, makes them more rare than some other dogs. This rarity increases the price of the dogs making them expensive. Some dog breeders also try intentionally creating these types of dogs and for that, they use artificial insemination, which is not cheap.

Buying a breed with calico dog patterns will cost you around $1000 – $2000. This price will vary on the breed itself, and on other factors. For example, if the parents of the pup are award-winning, it will cost more than others of the same breed. Make sure that whenever you buy a dog, you do it from a reliable breeder, and not a puppy mill.

You can also try to adopt one of these dogs by contacting local animal shelters. Sometimes they might not have the breed you want, but they do have many dogs looking for a warm home. It will also cost you much less than buying from a breeder.

Are there any myths or misconceptions about these dogs that need clarification?

Some people believe that these dogs are extremely rare, but they are more common than merle dogs for example. One popular myth about these dogs is that they have ESP or other superstitious powers, but this is not true.

An Australian Shepherd Dog as a calico dog example

Final thoughts about the calico dog

These dogs possess a wonderful combination of colors that will steal the attention of any dog lover. The mix of black, white, and orange patches makes their coats interesting and unique. And the fun thing is that most dog breeds have the ability to inherit this type of coat. That is because it happens due to a mutation.

Some dog breeders know how to use this trait and produce dogs that possess these colors. But some dogs are born like this by mistake. Nevertheless, these beautiful pups need just as much care and love as any other member of their species. If you like them, you can try searching for one in a rescue shelter or from a breeder.


Is calico coloring only seen in dogs?

No, besides dogs, cats are also commonly born with this trait. Other animals include foxes, raccoons, rabbits, and tigers among others. You can find this interesting color in many different species.

What other coat patterns are present in dogs?

Besides the calico dog, there are other rare coat colors present in the species. For example, the Phantom Poodle is made with an interesting combination of colors. Then also Merle, piebald, solid-colored, and multi-colored dog breeds exist.

What is a parti-colored coat on a dog?

Parti-color is a coat pattern that is characterized by two colors. One color is used as the base, and the other one is added in patches. This is not the same as bicolored dogs that have two colors with equal representation.

More dog breed resources

Here are a few other resources that introduce other dog breeds you may be interested in or haven’t heard of yet.

You can find a lot more information on other dog breeds on our site Dogisa!

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