Why Does My Golden Retriever Have Random Black Hairs? [Revealed!]

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So, you’ve noticed that your Golden Retriever has a few black hairs scattered throughout his fur.

What gives??

I’ve noticed this myself on my Golden Retriever, Ellie. She’s very blonde and has a few random black hairs throughout her coat.

Could these random black hairs indicate that my Golden Retriever is not a purebred?

Are these black hairs a cause for concern?

Let’s find out!

Why Does My Golden Retriever Have Random Black Hairs?

A few random black hairs scattered throughout your Golden Retriever’s coat are due to the incomplete penetration of the E-Locus gene which controls the yellow pigment of your dog’s coat. All Golden Retrievers were descended from Flatcoats, so finding a few black hairs in the coat is completely normal and quite common. Some purebred Golden Retrievers are born with black patches of fur caused by Somatic Mutations.

It’s All Down To Genetics

Why Does My Golden Retriever Have Black Hairs - Three Golden Retriever puppies playing with each other.  Two are light golden and one is darker golden.

Did you know that all Golden Retrievers are genetically black?

Their red/yellow coat colour results from the double recessive (e/e) gene, which prohibits black pigment in their hair.

All purebred Golden Retrievers carry the (e/e) gene which means their coats will always be a shade of gold or red, never all black.

To understand coat colour genetics, we have to get a bit scientific.

Dogs have nearly 19,000 genes in their genome, but only a handful of genes determine a dog’s coat colour.

Two basic pigments determine the shade of the coat, Eumelanin (Black) and Phaeomelanin (Red).

Each of these pigments has a default colour that can be modified by genes.

Eumelanin is by default black, but modifications in genes allow for different colours such as brown, grey, or pale brown.

Phaeomelanin is red with a default colour of gold or yellow.

Genes control the intensity of phaeomelanin, making the colour appear stronger or weaker.

This is why you see some Goldens with darker red coats, while others are gold or cream-coloured.

The E-Locus gene controls whether your dog will only express yellow pigment, or whether he can express any other coat colours.

Dogs that have the dominant “E” allele, will produce black pigment, eumelanin.

The recessive “e” allele turns all of the eumelanin into phaeomelanin. This means that the coat colour will be red or yellow.

Two copies of the recessive “e” allele must be present in order for a dog to have a solid yellow or red coat.

Since Golden Retrievers carry two copies of the recessive e/e allele, their coats will always be a shade of yellow or red.

Did you know that Golden Retrievers change colour as they get older? It’s true, however, they will never start turning black.

Genetic Mutations Do Happen

Genetic mutations are rare, but they do happen in some purebred Golden Retrievers.

Some puppies are born with black patches of fur, sometimes on their tail, face or other parts of their body.

But, their coats are never all black.

This is known as a pigmented somatic cell mutation.

Think of it as a beauty mark. It just makes your dog unique.

Enzo is one unique Golden Retriever that has a somatic cell mutation. The short video below demonstrates just how adorable he is:

A somatic mutation is not inherited from a parent, nor is it passed on to any offspring, because it occurs after the egg is fertilized.

Golden Retrievers with somatic mutations are still considered purebred, however, they cannot be shown in AKC dog shows.

Their black patches of fur are considered a fault in the show ring, and they are excluded.

Other than their unique black patches of fur, they share all the same qualities as their siblings.

Speaking of black patches, many Golden Retrievers have black spots on their tongues or on their skin. This is a birthmark that is completely normal too.

Golden Retrievers Descend From Flat-Coated Retrievers

So another reason that would explain the random black hairs found on your Golden Retriever is the fact that all Goldens are descended in part from Flat-Coated Retrievers and other breeds.

A Flat-Coated Retriever typically has an all-black coat, but they also come in liver and yellow colours. Yellow, however, is not allowed by breed standards.

Golden Retrievers were first developed by crossing Flat-Coated Retrievers with Tweed Water Spaniels.

Offspring were then crossed with Bloodhounds, Irish Setters, St. John’s Water Dogs, and Labrador Retrievers.

Often confused as a black Golden Retriever, a Flat-Coated Retriever is its own separate breed.

This brings us to a common question below.

Do Black Golden Retrievers Exist?

A close up image of a Flat-Coated Retriever's head.  The dog is looking off into the distance.

No, black Golden Retrievers do not exist. Don’t let the image above fool you, that’s actually a Flat-Coated Retriever.

As we have learned above, all purebred Golden Retrievers carry the recessive e/e gene that prohibits black pigment in their coat.

While some Golden Retrievers may have somatic mutations that cause them to have black patches of fur, their coats are never all black.

When we look at the breed standards of a Golden Retriever, from the American, Canadian and UK Kennel Clubs, all three recognize similar coat colours.

Essentially, all three kennel clubs allow for any shades of gold as long as they are rich and lustrous.

When it comes to black, all three kennel clubs state that any noticeable area of black is considered a serious fault.

So, according to science and official breed standards, black Golden Retrievers do not exist.

There are, however, dogs that look like black Golden Retrievers, but they are usually a mixed breed or a different breed altogether.

Dogs That Look Like A Black Golden Retriever

A Flat-Coated Retriever chewing a stick while laying on a field of grass.

The obvious first choice of dog that looks like a black Golden Retriever is the Flat-Coated Retriever.

A Flat-Coated Retriever is typically taller and leaner and has an all-black coat, although they sometimes come in liver colour.

Temperament wise they are fairly similar to a Golden. Both are playful and energetic, but a Flat-Coat is often more energetic and remains puppy-like for much longer than a Golden.

Other dogs that could be mistaken for a black Golden Retriever include:

  • Black Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever mix.
  • Golden Retriever and Black German Shepherd mix.
  • Newfoundland, although they are much bigger in size.
  • Black Hovawart, but interestingly, the Hovawart also comes in blonde and looks very much like a Golden Retriever.
  • Any mix of Setter, Spaniel and Retriever could also look like a black Golden Retriever.

Final Thoughts

Finding a few random black hairs scattered throughout your Golden Retriever’s coat is quite common and completely normal.

Genetically all Golden Retrievers are black, however, they possess a unique genotype that prohibits black pigment in their hair.

The only pigment that can be produced is red or yellow, which is why Golden Retrievers range in colour from cream, and gold, to dark red.

The gene responsible for their golden shade is the recessive e/e gene.

Often, due to incomplete penetration of this gene, a few black hairs will come through.

Some Golden Retrievers have more than a few black hairs. Instead, they have big patches of black fur caused by a pigmented somatic mutation.

Somatic mutations do not get passed down to any offspring, nor are they inherited. They are also nothing to worry about and are purely cosmetic.

Have you noticed any black hairs on your Golden Retriever? Let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear from you!

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2 thoughts on “Why Does My Golden Retriever Have Random Black Hairs? [Revealed!]”

  1. It’s amazing to read here that Golden Retrievers are actually genetically black and it is amazing what genes can do with color and mutations. Thank you for this well-researched explanation of why you see random black hairs in their coats. It was fascinating to see the pictures of those rare retrievers with black spots. Are these types more expensive as they are rare?

    • Hi Michel,

      It certainly is amazing how genes work.  

      Golden Retrievers that are born with somatic mutations which make patches of their fur black are very rare.  I am sure some breeders out there would try to charge more money for them, which in itself is a red flag!  Any breeder that is in it purely for money is not very ethical!  Golden Retrievers with somatic mutations are identical to their siblings in every way, except for their unique black hair.  



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