Great Danes come in 6 "Standard" Colors. These are the colors that are approved for conformation shows. Great Danes come in many different colors that aren't STANDARD.
Fawn: Probably the most commonly recognized color that Great Danes come in.
This is a picture of a fawn female. Generally fawns come with black masks. Some fawns will not have a mask, but they are still fawns. To get technical, fawns are not a color but an agouti pattern. There are 2 masking genes. A fawn with a dark mask will have 2 masking genes. A fawn with a lighter mask will have 1 masking gene. A fawn without a mask, has no masking gene. Fawns can also have blue masks, and they are called "Blue Fawns" which are not a standard color.
Dublin is a darker fawn with some black outlining that is not typical of a "sooty" fawn. He has excessive white, but we think he's handsome just the same.
Here is an example of a fawn with 1 masking gene. The black does not go up above her eyes and her ears are not a deep black. Fawns also have variations in the color of their fawn base. It can be light, like Sophie in this picture and it can be a reddish shade too. Other breeds differentiate between the shades, but in Great Danes, they are all called Fawns.
This is "Trixie" who is a fawn, but appears to be carrying a tan point gene (rottweiler coloring) underneath her fawn. She's lightened as she has aged, and I'll post her updated pictures at a later date. Danes do carry tan point, and some breeders do breed for this color. Trixie is a lovely example of the breed, regardless of her unique coloring.
Brindles: A standard color that is really a pattern!
Here is a beautiful, natural eared brindle. They have a fawn base with black stripes to be show marked. They also can come with or without the masking gene! Black masks are preferred. This boy is the sire to the fawn bitch on the right. Technically though, brindle is not a color but a pattern. The pattern is in the stripes! Great Danes can come in stripes of different colors. Most commonly you can see blue brindles, but occasionally there have been reports of chocolate brindles. This means the color of the stripes is not black but blue or chocolate.
I absolutely love the look of this brindle bitch puppy. She has the prerequisite fawn background (although it is a more reddish color than the paler fawns) but her stripes are not evenly placed and she has very few stripes. This is not "ideal" but it is absolutely gorgeous. She also has 2 copies of the masking gene, as you can tell from her deep dark mask.
Here is Nee, he is an onyx or "reverse" brindle. (Thanks Ang!) They are still technically a brindle, but they appear to have a black base with fawn stripes. Again, this is why brindle is a PATTERN and NOT a color. Confused yet? I hope not! Stick with me. They are not "ideal" but they are preferred by some.
Black is another STANDARD color. In the color standard there are 3 different "kinds" of blacks. Blacks that have fawn/brindle backgrounds, blacks that have blue backgrounds, AND blacks that have harlequin backgrounds. It is desirable in the standard to keep each black with it's background separate from the other colors. Again, this is a recommendation through the Great Dane Club of America.
Here is a black bitch that has a fawn/brindle/black background in her pedigree. In the US, blacks are considered mis-marked if they have white on their feet. This gorgeous girl was deemed unsuitable for showing in conformation due to the white toes on her back feet, and the white on her chest.
Here is another gorgeous black bitch. She also has not been bred to the recommend color standards, since her dam is a mantle out of harlequin breeding and her sire is a black out of blue/black lines. Yet, she is still a stunning example of the breed and as I will say again, how does this harm the dog? (It doesn't.)
Here is another "mis-marked" black (daughter to the black bitch on the left) who is out of a harlequin sire, so her black lines have been not bred to standard, since a black out of fawn lines was bred to a harlequin.
Here is a show marked black puppy out of 2 black parents. She has solid black feet, and a small stripe of white on her chest, which is deemed an acceptably colored black for showing in conformation. Alas, can you tell by looking at her, what her pedigree might say about her? Both parents are blacks produced from breeding a fawn to a blue. (You always produce blacks when breeding a fawn to a blue, unless they carry blue or fawn hidden as a recessive gene.
Blue: Another one of the "approved" standard colors.
Here is a gorgeous show marked blue bitch, dam to our imported male Valor. She has a small spot of white on her chest, but other than that, she is marked according to the standard and would be acceptable to show in the US. She is a multi-Champion in Europe.
Here is a picture of Valor, son of Edana in the picture on the left. He is also considered "Show marked" as he only has a tiny spot of white on chest and no white feet. Blues are supposed to only be bred with other blues or blacks from a blue background, if you follow the Great Dane Club of America's recommend Color Code of Ethics.
Harlequin: The most unique color pattern in all dog breeds. There's that word again "pattern". The harlequin pattern is only approved in the black color. Harlequins can come in every color imaginable. The harlequin pattern is dominant to all other colors and patterns. Harlequins also can come in many different combinations that can be referred to in the Dane community as "lightly marked", "show marked", and "heavily marked" are the most common terms used to describe them. Also used are "harl heads" and "whites" which are a product of harlequin breedings.
Dempsey is an example of several types of descriptions. He is a lightly marked harlequin, but also he is a show marked harlequin. In addition he carries for piebald by the way his markings are distributed. He has what would be a "harl head" except for he has harlequin markings on his body. If he was all white with just the markings on his head, you would call him a "harl head" marked harlequin. And the majority of harlequins marked like that do not produce or carry for the harlequin pattern but do carry for the piebald pattern.
Here is a show marked harlequin that has large merle spots on her show side (which is a fancy way for saying her left side). When showing in conformation, the dogs are circled so that the judges mainly see the left or "Show side". She is appropriately marked and does not carry for piebald. Some breeders prefer to have as little merle on the show side as possible, but in my opinion, it really has nothing to do with the quality of the dog. All harlequins have some merle on them or they would be considered a piebald.
This bitch is a lovely show marked harlequin. She has desirable color on her base because she has a very clean, white background. Although you can tell by her markings that she carries for piebald. When there are markings on the rear, the middle and the head, that generally signals that they are a piebald carrier. This is no way affects her show-ability or breed-ability.
Here is an example of a blanketed harlequin. She almost has a "blanket" of color like the mantle, but she has appropriate spots and markings to classify her as a harlequin.
This is Murphy, another example of a blue harlequin. Who doesn't love this color? I'm partial, as it's one of my favorite "non-standard" colors.
Here is an example of a "heavily marked" harlequin male puppy. You can see that his front legs are black, and he has almost a blanketed spot of black across his back. I find heavily marked harlequins very attractive and I like the variety of patterns that can appear when they are bred.
Here is a lovely example of a show marked harlequin that does not carry for piebald. Because of his markings and also the fact that I know his pedigree, I know he does not carry for piebald. I prefer his markings to Dempsey's on the left because the piebald gene does not help when you are breeding harlequins. Just because a breeder calls a harlequin "Show marked" does NOT mean they are show quality. Do not confuse the two. Some will deliberately mislead you to think they must be show quality if they are show marked. That cannot be further from the truth. (This boy though, is show quality and became the harlequin World Winner 2014 in Helsinki!)
BB is what I would consider a medium marked harlequin. She has nice distribution of patches, but does not have the clean white neck and front legs that is desirable, but not necessary. She also has small patches distributed all over her which can be called a "dirty" marked harlequin, which means black hairs mixed in with the white base, but she is not very "dirty" just more of a medium marked harlequin. Quite showable with this coloration.
Here is another medium marked harlequin bitch that has large merle spots on her "show side". She was actually disqualified in the show ring because of an ignorant judge that thought they were a fawn color, who clearly had no idea of harlequin genetics. She is not ideally marked, but there is nothing wrong with her markings. She is the dam to the male Dempsey at the top of the harlequin pictures. She was bred to a piebald carrier to produce piebald carriers, although she herself is NOT a carrier for piebald.
A beautiful example of a "Blue" Harlequin, which some call a platinum harlequin. He has blue base patches instead of black patches. He has NO black on his body, as you cannot have black and blue on the same dog. It's genetically impossible.
Mantles aka Bostons: They are the last pattern (whoops I mean "color") to be approved into the standard for showing. This pattern is only approved is in the color black. This pattern can come in any color and also carry for piebald. They are an approved partner to breed to harlequins, and you get your ideal "show marked" harlequins by overlaying this mantle pattern over the harlequin pattern. Confused yet? These approved "Colors" are still only patterns and not colors. But I digress..
Here is an ideally marked Mantle for show. He has a full white collar on his show (left) side, and a full white blaze, white front legs and white back legs/tip of tail. BUT he has a LOT of white, which signals that he carries for piebald. Any break in the blanket of black on the back of a mantle means that that mantle will carry the piebald pattern recessive. Unfortunately it's hard to get the properly marked mantle that doesn't carry for piebald. But it is possible!
This is Prima pictured as a puppy. She has PERFECT mantle pattern, and does not carry for piebald. There are no breaks in her blanket and she does not carry white high on her front or rear legs. I am thrilled to own this girl and I cannot wait to see what she produces when she is old enough.
Mira is a lovely show marked mantle with a small break in her blanket (the small white patch on her back). She also sports a bit of kink in her tail, thanks to Grandma Sophie.
Here is another Mantle that shows that she also carries for the piebald gene. She has no black around her right eye and a small break in her blanket above her hips. Also high white on her stomach and up her back legs. She did produce piebald puppies when bred to a piebald carrier. If she was bred to a harlequin that did not carry for piebald, she would not produce piebald puppies.
A "Non-Standard" color of mantle with a blue base coat. A beautiful color, but not approved in the current color standard (what a shame!).
Here is another "mis-mark" color. This little guy is fawn mantle that sports a black mask. Stay tuned for updated pics as he grows. He does not have a full collar or full show markings, but we think he is beautifully handsome anyway!
Merles: A merle is a merle is a merle, so I hear. But did you know a harlequin is also a merle? Merles come in many different colors as well, but the most common is a grey base with black torn patches. Harlequins are identical to merles except for a modifier gene that turns the grey base into a white base! Merles also come in other patterns! Merles are ALWAYS produced when you breed a harlequin. They are not an approved color but they are impossible to get away from if you have any harlequin genetics in play.
Here is what I would classify as the most common or "typical" merle. A grey base coat with black patches, and generally there is white on the chest and or the toes. What a cutie!
Belle is what is called a merlequin, i.e. a merle harlequin. But this is no harlequin! She has a white base with merle patches. She is incapable of producing a harlequin unless bred to a harlequin or a mantle that carries the harlequin gene. She does NOT carry for piebald. I do not advocate breeding merle x merles (harlequin x merles) or harlequin x harlequin. Same difference! Belle produced a lovely litter of 3 harlequins and 7 merles when bred to a mantle that carries for harlequin.
Here is a true "Blue Merle". His spots are blue, not black. Many mistakenly call any merles, blue merles (I am guilty of this when I had my first Dane.) but your typical merle is a black based merle not a blue based merle. Blue merles have blue noses, and blue spots and generally they have a lighter silver look to their base coat.
Here is another example of a merlequin. Again, the white base coat with grey/black patches. He is not a merle mantle, because on his other side he has patches, not a solid blanket. This is Dozer!
Here is a fawn merle. She is actually the product of breeding two AKC Champions together, but the breeding was a cross color breeding. She is absolutely beautiful!
A litter of puppies, the 2 on the left are true blue merles and the 2 on the right are blues.
Piebalds aka Plattenhund
The most common color of piebald is black. They have a white base coat with black, round spots. They have a mantle marked head. You can easily tell them apart from a harlequin because they do not have any merle spots and the spots are ROUND not jagged or torn, like a harlequin. (I borrowed this picture.)
Our Danes can come in different colors. In fact, they come in other colors, even when the pedigree is "color pure" (a term meaning that the colors in the pedigree match to the standard set forth). Off colors can come from color pure pedigrees because the parent(s) carry for a recessive color or pattern that is expressed when 2 carriers are bred together. This can be cause for great surprise or excitement, depending upon if you like the non-standard colors or not.
Here is an example of a white Great Dane. Whites are only produced when you breed harlequin x harlequin (merle x merle). Generally whites are at a minimum deaf, and many have sight problems as well. When breeding this combination, it also creates "lethal whites" that die in utero prior to birth. They are reabsorbed, so they are not physically born. Unfortunately, it is common and accepted practice to breed harlequin x harlequin, and considered more ethical than breeding a harlequin to a solid color that will not produce whites.
The white on the left is "Iris". She is not a product of harl x harl breeding but there were some piebald genes at play which made her white. She has full sight and hearing.
We will add additional colors as they appear. Not listed are blue fawns, blue brindles, chocolates in any variety, etc. I have pictures of many of these colors but do not know their origin, so I won't be posting them, but feel free to email me and I may be able to show you what other colors might look like.