The French bulldog is the UK’s number one dog breed in terms of popularity, and not only are they the most popular with puppy buyers but also the breed that saw the highest number of new pups of the breed registered with the Kennel Club in 2018.
This is particularly notable as 2018 was the year that saw the French bulldog move up into first place in terms of puppy registrations, taking this position from the Labrador retriever, which had previously held the top spot since 1993.
There are now a huge number of French bulldogs in the UK and most of us see a few dogs of the breed regularly when out and about, and yet the breed has only really gained traction in the UK and started to be widely known about in the last decade to fifteen years.
During that time, French bulldogs have gone from being a novelty so unusual that few dog owners would have been able to pinpoint the breed of a Frenchie that they did see, to being a ubiquitous sight in the UK’s dog parks, and thousands of new French bulldogs are bred and sold each year to meet demand.
French bulldogs are small, squat and stocky dogs with relatively heavy musculature for their size, and their flat, brachycephalic faces and comically pointed ears give dogs of the breed a very unique appearance. However, the appearance of individual French bulldogs can of course be hugely variable, and dogs of the breed with exaggeratedly flat faces and prominent eyes have become popular in recent years, despite the deleterious effect that these traits can have on the dog’s health.
Another way in which French bulldogs differ from each other is in terms of the range of colours and coat patterns that dogs of the breed can be found in; there are ten colours recognised for the breed in the UK by the Kennel Club, as well as a “colour not recognised” option that can enable breeders of Frenchies of other colours to register their dogs too.
As well as the breed’s recognised and accepted colours for registered pedigree dogs, there are also a variety of other colours you might see listed in French bulldog adverts that are not reflected in the breed standard, and which are often described as rare or unusual, and in many cases, with significantly higher prices than the norm to match.
French bulldogs in so-called rare or unique colours are in great demand among puppy buyers – sometimes even more so than dogs of the breed in standard colours. But despite the way that French bulldogs in rare or unusual non-standard colours are often advertised, these colours are not necessarily a good thing, and they’re a source of great debate within the breed as a whole.
Some rare French bulldog colours actually come with a greatly increased risk of health problems for the dogs that exhibit them, and for this reason, French bulldogs of some colours cannot actually be registered with the Kennel Club at all, even using the “colour not recognised” option.
However, few French bulldog puppy buyers begin their search for the right dog knowing a great deal about the breed’s colours, desirability or pedigree status, and unscrupulous French bulldog puppy sellers often cash in on this naivety by inflating prices, and failing to inform puppy buyers about the true status of their dogs’ colours.
This means that it is hugely important for all prospective French bulldog puppy buyers to do their own research about the breed as a whole, and to take a deeper look at French bulldog coat colours and how they are viewed within the breed.
This sort of information isn’t always easy to find, and you will often get a lot of conflicting information if you talk to other French bulldog owners and breeders, who may not be fully informed themselves – or that have a vested interest in keeping you in the dark to incentivise a sale!
In this article, we will provide an in-depth explanation of French bulldog colours – including the colours that are accepted within the breed standard, and the meaning of the Kennel Club’s “colour not recognised” designation. We will also discuss the various so-called rare French bulldog colours and examine their true rarity, and talk about the problems that can come with buying a Frenchie in a non-standard colour.
Read on to learn all about accepted colours within the French bulldog breed, and the truth behind so-called rare French bulldog colours like blue and merle.
Let’s begin by examining the French bulldog colours that are considered to be acceptable, normal and desirable within the breed, which is reflected by their inclusion within the Kennel Club’s list of breed standard French bulldog colours.
The Kennel Club in the UK lists ten colours (plus “colour not recognised”) within the French bulldog breed standard, but all of these colours fall within one of three larger umbrella colour groupings, which are brindle, fawn, and pied respectively.
Accepted colours within the breed standard are colours that can be chosen by breeders when they register a new litter of puppies with the Kennel Club, which means that their pedigree registration certificate will state the exact colour the dog displays.
Here are the Kennel Club’s accepted colours within the French bulldog breed, along with a short description of each of them and how they present.
Brindle is a colour and pattern combination that consists of a mix of hairs incorporating both fawn and black together, which is accompanied by dark eyes and a black nose. The general term “brindle” encompasses both light and dark shades of the colour depending on the mixture in the coat, but it is further broken down into sub-sections that are each listed within the breed standard separately.
This means that the option that is simply called “brindle” is usually used to register French bulldogs with a medium shade coat, that is neither very light nor very dark.
Dark brindle French bulldogs have the same combination of black and fawn hairs in their coats as a regular brindle Frenchie, but with a greater emphasis on the black hairs, resulting in a dark brindle coat colour. Dark eyes and a dark nose are required with this type of brindle too.
Light brindle French bulldogs are brindles that have more fawn in their colour mix than black, which results in a lighter or paler shade of brindle across the coat in its entirety. Black noses and eyes are once more desirable with this colour.
Brindle French bulldogs of any shade are permitted to have small areas of white within their coats in line with the breed standard, which generally presents in a little area of white on the dog’s chest, but that can be on any part of the body. Again, brindle and white French bulldogs should have a dark nose and dark eyes.
Fawn French bulldogs can be quite variable in terms of patterning, and this is reflected with several different colour and pattern options available to register fawn Frenchies with the Kennel Club.
The exact shade of fawn displayed by any dog can vary from very pale to quite dark, and may come accompanied by a darker muzzle or face too. The nose and eyes of a fawn French bulldog should once again be dark in colour.
A good example of the fawn colour in French bulldogs should be uniform and clear, without too many darker hairs mixed in or a mucky or dirty appearance due to the presence of darker hairs.
The registration option simply described as fawn is used for dogs that have the fawn colouration across all of their coat without other markings or colour patches.
Fawn French bulldogs whether light or dark in colour may also have a black mask or muzzle on their faces, which is simply known as fawn with a black mask for colour registration purposes.
Fawn and white French bulldogs have the fawn colouration across the main part of their body, but also have white areas, which are often on the chest or in other isolated areas.
A fawn pied French bulldog is a Frenchie whose coat consists of a mixture of fawn and white, with the white areas covering more of the coat in total than the fawn areas.
French bulldogs that are simply registered as “pied” are French bulldogs that once more have white across most of their coat, with the other colour being any of the brindle variants we mentioned above. You can read about the pied coat colour in French bulldogs in more detail within this article.
White French bulldogs are, as the name implies, Frenchies whose coats are wholly white, or white aside from tiny areas of other colours, although pure white is preferred. White French bulldogs are actually classed with pied dogs of the breed for showing purposes.
If a French bulldog that is otherwise eligible for pedigree registration with the Kennel Club displays one of the ten colours listed above, they can be registered as being of this colour for pedigree registration, and this colour will be indicated on their paperwork.
In order to register a French bulldog puppy as a pedigree with the Kennel Club in the specific colour that they display, the pup’s appearance must fall within the parameters of one of the colour variants described above. “Colour not recognised” is provided as an option to enable French bulldog breeders to register puppies of colours other than those ten listed, in order to gain pedigree status and registration paperwork for them despite their non-standard colour.
Most of the other colours that French bulldogs can be seen in outside of the breed standard can be registered using “colour not recognised,” although this is not the case for all of them, which we will examine in more detail when we look at the breed’s non-standard colours within the next section.
If a French bulldog puppy is registered as “colour not recognised,” they will still be full pedigrees and receive the associated paperwork, which is enough for many puppy buyers and French bulldog breeders. However, there are some limitations to this colour designation too.
Colours other than the ten listed within the breed standard are considered to be undesirable or even unnatural within the breed as a whole, and deliberately breeding Frenchies in these colours is discouraged by the Kennel Club and their affiliated French bulldog breed clubs like the French Bulldog Club of England.
It is worth noting that despite the provision of the “colour not recognised” option by the Kennel Club, any French bulldog colours other than the ten mentioned as accepted are classed by the Kennel Club as being “highly undesirable,” and the Kennel Club do not promote or support the breeding of Frenchies in non-standard colours.
For showing purposes, only colours within the breed standard are considered to be desirable and acceptable, and the Kennel Club’s own guidance states that dogs of other colours “should not be rewarded in the show ring,” which effectively means that they cannot be shown.
Whilst you would theoretically not be stopped from submitting an entry to a Kennel Club show for a Frenchie in a non-breed standard colour, your dog would not be able to win a place on the day. Whether or not you would actually be allowed to show your dog in the ring is another thing; on paper, any registered Frenchie can enter the eligible show class, but as show classes are often grouped by colours within the breed standard, there may not even be a class available to enter.
If you did find a class for Frenchies in a Kennel Club affiliated show that was not specific to a colour group and entered your non-standard coloured dog, you will almost certainly raise the eyebrows of both the judges and the other competitors, and may not get a very warm welcome from them either. You may be asked if you understand that your dog cannot win a place and questioned about your reasons for entering.
Additionally, if for some reason your non-standard colour Frenchie was registered as a pedigree using another set colour option to bypass the restrictions, this would be investigated as a result of the show examining the dog’s paperwork. This in turn may result in the revocation of the dog’s pedigree papers or reclassification within the “colour not recognised” section, if this is viable for the dog in question.
Whilst ten different accepted colours and colour combinations is quite a reasonable number for one dog breed to exhibit within the breed standard, there are a whole host of other colours that Frenchies can be seen in too, but that are not accepted within the breed standard.
These colours also tend to be viewed very poorly by Frenchie breeders who adhere to the breed standard and do not promote or endorse variations, but such colours are often in great demand among puppy buyers.
There are a few reasons why these other coat colours are not accepted within the breed standard, and for some such non-standard colours, health issues can accompany the inheritance of the colour trait too, adding an additional reason for objections. We will cover exactly which of the French bulldog rare colours can cause health issues when we look at these colours individually in a little while.
Before we go on to talk about the colours that fall outside of the French bulldog breed standard and that are often described (rightly or wrongly) as rare, let’s first look at why other colours are not accepted within the French bulldog breed standard, and why both the Kennel Club and French bulldog breed clubs take a very strong position against them.
The ten colour variants that are reflected within the French bulldog breed standard are the colours that dogs of the breed exhibit naturally, and that are an integral part of the breed as a whole. Exactly how so-called rare French bulldog colours were first introduced to the breed in the first place is a matter of some debate and may even vary depending on the colour in question, but those “rare” colours are not considered to be naturally occurrent within the breed, and are likely to have been introduced in the first instance by outcrossing to other dog breeds that do possess said colours.
This means that Frenchies in rare colours may have non-Frenchie ancestors somewhere in their breed line, even if the dog has pedigree paperwork of known Frenchies going back several generations and are fully eligible for pedigree registration themselves.
Genetic mutations can occur naturally in all animal species from time to time and in individual dogs, some of these may result in a new colour appearing in an individual dog or litter. This could theoretically be how some rare colours were first developed in Frenchie breed lines, but there is no recorded incidence of this happening, and this is only a theory.
Even if this has happened, pups that fall outside of the breed standard in this way should correctly be viewed as anomalous, and not used for breeding from themselves, in line with Kennel Club policy and that of most French bulldog breed clubs.
There is also the possibility that the bloodline of a Frenchie in a rare pup came from outside of the UK, and the French Bulldog Club of England specifically states that many unscrupulous breeders who produce rare colours import dogs from outside of the UK (often from Eastern Europe) to establish their initial breed lines.
The process of outcrossing to another dog breed is one that is only formally endorsed by the Kennel Club and breed clubs if it is performed for a very good reason – such as to increase genetic diversity to reduce the occurrence rate of hereditary health problems within a breed. Outcrossing to introduce new, unusual and non-standard colours falls well outside of this goal.
Additionally, to be able to produce breed lines of Frenchies in non-standard colours and to reliably reproduce the colour trait in question, it is necessary to choose from dogs of that same colour you wish to produce, if not for every mating match, then at least for many of them, so that the “desirable” colour trait isn’t bred out.
This limits the number of individual dogs available to breed so-called rare French bulldog colours, and this can result in the spread of hereditary health issues that don’t pertain to the colour in question specifically, but that are more likely to occur from mating matches made from a relatively small gene pool.
Also, some rare French bulldog colours come with an increased risk of health problems for the dogs that possess them in and of themselves, as the genes required for some rare colours also directly cause congenital defects too.
The practice of selling French bulldogs in unusual colours is in itself contentious, even when the dogs are healthy – because such colours are often marketed as rare and highly desirable, and this is very subjective.
We’ll look at the actual rarity of non-standard Frenchie colours when we examine each colour individually, but regardless, marketing a dog in such a way as to make a trait that is formally regarded as undesirable sound as if it is in fact highly desirable and a good thing, is considered by most breeders of standard French bulldog colours to be immoral.
You can read more about some of the main causes of controversy surrounding rare French bulldog colours and “colour not recognised” Kennel Club registration within this article.
There are quite a number of undesirable or non-standard colours now found within the French bulldog breed, which are often marketed as rare or highly desirable. We’ll look at the more widely known of these colours next, along with the truth behind their rarity, and any specific problems or challenges that accompany each shade.
We’ll also explain whether or not each colour mentioned can be registered with the Kennel Club using the “colour not recognised” option.
Blue French bulldogs are often in great demand with puppy buyers, because they have a distinctive, unusual and attractive coat colour. Blue French bulldogs have a coat that can range in shade from a pale to a dark steely blue, and that may also incorporate patterning such as pied and blue depending on their genes.
Lilac French bulldogs are Frenchies whose coat colour has a lilac or purply sheen to it, although this is really a type of blue colour and many Frenchies that some would consider “lilac” will be described in other ads as just being a light blue shade.
Chocolate French bulldogs may also be described as brown or liver, and they tend to be a fairly dark, rich colour.
Black French bulldogs have all-black coats, and whilst brindle French bulldogs contain a variable amount of black hairs within their coats, all-black French bulldogs are rather different.
Black and tan French bulldogs have a colour and pattern distribution that can be quite variable, but that often follows the sort of mix across the coat that you would expect to see in breeds like the Doberman pinscher or Rottweiler. Black and tan colouration is actually genetically dominant, which means that this is a colour that could soon spread widely across the breed as a whole if selective breeding isn’t used to control this.
Merle French bulldogs are perhaps the most contentious of all of the non-standard French bulldog colours, and whilst a merle coat is often very complex and beautiful to look at, Frenchies that inherit it often inherit more than just a nice colour.
The merle colour within the French bulldog breed is associated with greatly elevated risk factors for the dogs that inherit it for a range of hearing and vision issues, and potentially, sensitivity to the sun too. Whilst not all merle French bulldogs will have health problems associated with their colour, a significant number of them may be blind or partially sighted in one or both eyes, and deaf or hard of hearing in one or both ears as a result.
Double-merle French bulldogs are Frenchies bred from two merle parents rather than one merle and one dog of another colour, and the vast majority of double merle Frenchies have hearing and/or vision problems, and around a quarter of double merle Frenchies are both deaf and blind. They also have an increased risk of being born with malformed or abnormal eyes too.
This means that double merle French bulldogs are even more risky and prone to serious health issues than single merles.
The practice of breeding French bulldogs in non-standard or so-called rare colours is a source of great debate within the breed as a whole, as we explained earlier on. The formal position taken by the Kennel Club and affiliated French bulldog breed clubs is that breeding Frenchies in non-standard colours is a bad thing, and should not be endorsed or promoted.
However, there are a significant number of breeders who specialise in so-called rare French bulldog colours, and a lot of demand for them among prospective French bulldog puppy buyers.
Breeders and sellers of non-standard French bulldog colours often play down the reasons behind the objections to their breeding practices, particularly if the colours of the dogs they produce are not associated with health issues directly relating to the dog’s colour. However, it is worth remembering that not all of the objections to these non-breed standard colours relate directly to health problems.
Frenchie breeders who are trying to sell “rare” colours don’t often make a point of fully informing prospective puppy buyers about the limitations of such colours in terms of showing potential, and using such dogs within later breeding programmes of breed standard puppies either.
When it comes to health issues within French bulldogs of rare colours, the two main colours to be wary of are blue (and blue variants like lilac) and merle.
Blue French bulldogs may inherit complex and chronic skin issues due to the colour’s correlation with colour dilution alopecia, which can result in a lifetime of expensive vet’s fees, complicated care requirements, and the dog’s coat often looking sparse and in poor condition. If you have chosen a dog on the basis of a lovely coat, the appearance of the coat itself is obviously an important factor, and the added risks of blue Frenchies can serve to ruin the dog’s appearance as well as affecting their health.
The lack of reliable, impartial information available to puppy buyers considering choosing a puppy of a so-called rare colour means that many first-time buyers don’t even know that some colours can cause problems in the first place. Every prospective Frenchie buyer has a responsibility to find out all about the breed and any individual dog they are considering buying, but this can be challenging if the buyer isn’t aware there is a particular issue to investigate in the first place.
If you are keen to show you future dog or use them as the basis of a breeding programme of your own to produce breed standard or show quality dogs, you will fall at the first hurdle if you choose a French bulldog in an unrecognised colour to do this.
Additionally, French bulldogs in colours that are advertised as rare or in great demand are often sold for much higher prices than the norm, when in reality, the rare colour does nothing to improve the dog’s quality or true value and in formal terms, reduces it as it falls outside of the breed standard.
Ultimately, if you buy a French bulldog in a colour other than the ten listed as desirable within the breed standard, they are considered to be of an undesirable colour, and viewed accordingly within registration and showing circles.
The ten different recognised French bulldog colours provide a wide range of options for people looking for a new Frenchie puppy, and the different pattern combinations and colour mixes within breed standard dogs are numerous and provide a lot of choice.
Even if you have no strong views either way on the rights and wrongs of non-standard French bulldog colours, it is wise to choose a dog in a breed-standard colour if you have no marked preference, for all of the reasons we have outlined within this article.
If you have your heart set on owning a Frenchie in a specific colour and it falls outside of the breed standard, you should consider your reasons for this very carefully. Dogs should not be chosen wholly or mainly on the basis of their coat colour; the personality of the dog, and how well it fits in with your lifestyle is much more important.
Additionally, most of the so-called “rare” French bulldog colours can be found in dogs of other breeds within their breed standard as normal and acceptable colours, and if you do your research you may well find the perfect fit in a dog of another breed.
French bulldogs outside of breed-standard colours are of course legal to breed, buy and sell and so the only person who can make a decision about buying one is you – but ensure that you get the facts and weigh up the pros and cons before you buy, and take special care over blue French bulldogs and particularly, merle French bulldogs.
Blue and merle Frenchies both have specific health conditions assoc