Pomeranian Colour Palette
For the past 120 years Pomeranians have been bred in a wonderful variety of colours and colour patterns. The UK Breed Standard of 1892 listed admissible colours and this list was tweaked from time to time to include colours as they were developed but the Stud Books of the day show many other variations occurred and were exhibited.
The 1892 Standard includes: white, black, blue, brown, black and tan, fawn, sable, red and parti-colours. Grey and shaded sable were added in 1901, Orange in 1906 and Beaver and Cream in 1909. Fawn, grey and sable were omitted in 1909. The current UK Standard does not list every variation but simply states 'All colour permissible, but free from black or white shadings' - however at shows whole colours and shaded sables are given preference (if exhibits are of equal merit) over colour patterns. At early shows black and tans and parti-colours were shown in Any/All Other Colours or special Parti-colour classes. In America (AKC) all colours and colour patterns are allowed and judged equally. At present there are no disqualifying colours or colour patterns in either country. The FCI Standard allows 'black, brown, white, orange, grey shaded and other colours' (including black and tan and parti-colours). See notes below on black and tan in the UK
Poms were very fashionable in the early 1900s attracting many fanciers because of their colour and small size. It was once said ladies owned a Pom of every shade to match their gowns. Author Miss Ives noted in 1911 sables were not a 'fashionable colour' ten years ago. Interesting colours recorded in the KC Stud Books (but not mentioned in the Standard) pre-1910 included brindle, racoon sable, dove, smoke blue, chocolate, red chocolate, slate grey, grey sable,wolf colour, brindle sable, fawn and silver, chocolate and brown, lemon and white, chocolate and white, grey and white and various degrees of mismarks for example: - black, white spot on chest white tips to 3 feet. And over in America by 1921 they even had blue mottled Pomeranians!
Poms are very popular in America with 13,215 registrations in 2008 compared to 830 in the UK that year (761 in 2009 - about 58% lower than 1908). Unfortunately comparison of total registrations 1990-99 & 2000-09 shows a decline of almost 38% in the last decade.
Perhaps as a consequence of a limited gene pool and lower registrations, some of the colours in the Standard are no longer found or are very rare in the UK.
We would like to thank Pom enthusiasts and specialist breeders in America and Canada for contributing beautiful examples to illustrate this page.
With every colour will be information about the earliest Pom recorded in Kennel Club records or in some cases colour identified at shows by reliable eye-witnesses.
Please consult the Breed Standard for the country in which you live for more information.
It took some time for early breed fanciers to agree on the colour 'orange'. Miss Ives felt some of the early examples were actually fawn, cream or red. It was quite common for early Poms to have a brown nose, for instance Ch Mars born 1906.
Gateacre Lupino was bred in Italy in 1897 and was the first in the KC Stud Book to be registered as orange.
Orange should be 'as self-coloured and bright as possible' with no white shadings and black pigment on the nose.
Toybox Lets Get Fizzical at Dunnichen (right) and Veteran Pom 'Mouse' below
Red - Red colour shown by Rorygarnet Dad's Other Girl at Pomkins
Historic Infomation - Red - Alfio born in 1892 was registered as 'red'. Red and orange colours were found in the Italian Volpino - early breeders often purchased Italian dogs - additionally they always had a black nose and eye rims. Miss Ives described her Volpinos as 'brilliant red'. Red should be very rich and intense and can be as deep as the colour of an Irish Setter.
On the left - Playalong Black Bandana - bred by Pat Phillips and below a Veteran black with a touch of frosting - Toybox Abracadabra
Historic Information - Fritz shown for several years starting in 1874 was registered as 'black'. Smut shown in 1864 was most likely black in colour. Black Poms should be jet black and in sunlight a bluish hue is preferred over a rusty hue (called foxy black in Germany). As they age the muzzle area usually develops white hairs giving a frosted appearance. Some black Poms have white tips to their toes - this results from incomplete colour development (migration of melanocytes) before birth. The earliest black in artwork belonged to Major General Charles Lee about 1770/71 - Spado or Mr Spada accompanied Lee to America in 1773. Read more about his fascinating tale at www.pomeranianproject.com
Historic Info - Blue Boy born in 1884 was the ancestor of many blue Poms. The desired colour was very pale and was often described as Maltese blue (as in the cat), pigeon, smoke blue, lavender and pearl grey. Blues were sometimes bred with a light clear cream to lighten up the blue.
Photo of Blue puppy sent to us by Laura from Toypomz
Historic Info - Puck born in 1892 was KC registered as a chocolate. Although the colour stated in the UK standard is light or dark brown the desired colour is a rich chocolate.
AKC/UCI Int Ch Genstar's Diamond Gypsy Owned by Geneva Coats of Vixen Poms - Photo by Becky Cockrum
Historic Note - Babsie born in 1897 was the first Cream in the KC Stud Book. Creams should have black noses and black eye rims. Cream Poms are usually almost white at birth and have no dark undercoat or hairs. See note on Cream Sable.
Close up below of Cream to show no dark roots and colour is solid to the skin.
left - Mimi's Lil'-Ponderosa Powder Girl owned by Sherry Cartwright
Historic note - Mr Eaton's Topsy shown in 1864 - many other Poms shown in 1860's were white but an illustration of Topsy in 1864 proves he was a white dog. White Poms should have black noses. Many early white Poms had fawn or lemon shading behind their ears and this is undesirable. The most interesting early white was painted by Wheatley in 1775 and is almost identical to the first 2 Pom champions Rob and Konig of Rozelle and differs from the classic Gainsborough type. Artist N. Hone also painted a small delicate white in 1776 representative of another type again. The Italian variety was often depicted on ancient Greek and Roman artifacts.
Historic Info - Marland Buff born in 1903 was perhaps the first Pom KC registered in the Stud Book as beaver. Between 1903 and 1909 when this colour was added to the Standard only about a dozen Poms are found in the records so it's a wonder this colour was included. Beaver is a dilute of chocolate and is a sort of greyish beige - it has never been popular. Beaver Poms have self coloured points.
Sable dogs can be clear sable, lightly tipped sables or shaded sables. To make this even more confusing the definition of sable differs from breed to breed whereas in Pomeranians it is generally thought to refer to dogs with black, chocolate or dark blue tips to guard hairs, in other breeds it can mean a darker tip than the root area not necessarily being a dark colour - sandy brown tipping for example.
Evidence suggests sable originally had a different meaning (other than the current interpretation) for Poms in the Victorian era and was more like the term sable when applied to Collies. For instance 5 1/2 lb Prince of Orange born in 1890 was registered as 'bright sable, with even collie markings' but author Rawdon Lee said he as in fact 'orange and white'. Ch. Brilliant was registered as 'sable and white' but was described as 'fawn and white' by Mr Lee. Black and sable was also an early way of describing black and tan. It eventually came to mean black or dark brown tippings on a whole or shaded coloured dog.
The term 'sable' was removed from the Pom Standard in 1909 but the term 'shaded sable' first appearing in 1901 was left in. Shaded sable in the UK Standard encompasses various colours provided they are shaded throughout with three different colours. Sometimes the word sable is used to describe shaded sables - however there are sables that are not shaded as in the case of clear sables (with almost no dark hairs) or lightly tipped sables with dark tips restricted to muzzle area, back and tail tip. Shaded sables invariably have a 'widow's peak'
They should always have black pigment on their noses. Miss Ives (1911) advised breeders to keep sound colours clear of sable mixtures as the whole coloured progeny of mixed-colour unions 'will be of little reliable value, either as stud dogs or breeders'.
Orange Sable & Orange Shaded Sable - demonstrated by Toybox Hasta la Vista del Pomkins
Historic Info - Coniston Fop born 1895 - registered 'orange sable'. Ch. Dragonfly born 1903 was registered 'shaded sable' but was in fact an orange shaded sable i.e. shaded throughout with 3 or more colours but with an overall orange appearance.
Mr Brown's Tiny Boy was registered as orange sable but was felt by contemporaries to be a rich, orange with no white shadings - perhaps an example of a clear sable.
An orange shaded sable should have a brilliant orange undercoat, not overwhelmed by over-dark tippings and the breeches and tail turn-up should be a rich cream (Ives 1911).
Red Sable or Red Shaded Sable
Illustrated by Pomkins Regal Bee - notice the 'widow's peak' typical of shaded sable
Windsor Marco born about 1888 and owned by Queen Victoria was sometimes called red but was in fact a rich red sable. His tail turn-up and breeches were pale creamy white.
Cream Sable/ Cream Shaded Sable
Toybox Fancy Wee Dandy at Dunnichen - below
Although this term is in general use worldwide, it is controversial in the UK – some believing that the ‘cream’ is no more than a diluted orange. In fact many geneticists and others feel that most cream coloured Poms are ‘probably dilute orange sables or dilute orange – Ledbetter 1987.’
Researching colours in the Kennel Club Stud Books is often complex because in the past 50 years some dogs registered as light wolf sable are felt to have been cream sable, some registered as cream sable have been evaluated as cream, others registered as cream sable have been referred to as light orange sable, dirty cream, sable or light wolf sable!
The American Pomeranian Club defines Cream as a very pale orange, liver or yellow colour even throughout with no white shadings’. With all this in mind if we are prepared to call all cream whole coloured dogs cream then using the same yardstick it is appropriate to use the term cream sable.
Historic Info - The term 'cream sable' seems to have been used in UK registrations as of the late 1960s - Marshbury Cream Soda born 1970 was registered as 'cream sable'.
Wolf Sable/ Wolf Shaded Sable
below - Morrell Regal John and Glenvalley Vanilla Spice of Pomkins AW (B)
Historic note - Ch. Ruffle born in 1892 was KC registered as 'light sable, black shaded saddle' but described by everyone who saw him as a wolf-shaded sable. Ch. Dainty Boy was registered as 'fawn and black' but is always recorded as the 2nd wolf sable Champion. This colour pre-dates the Kennel Club and was called 'wolfsgrau' in Germany. Most early examples would have had light grey or silvery hue with black tippings but in Edwardian England breeders often intentionally bred wolf sables to orange or orange sables in order to add warmth to the undercoat colour - resulting in a tawny hue.
It is not a requirement in the UK for wolf sables to have the full attributes (spectacle markings etc) of wolf sable Keeshonds but is often desired elsewhere. The Prince of Wales circa 1793 owned a wolf sable painted by Thomas Gooch.
Black and Tan pattern
below - Can Ch. Starhaven Ohso Tan N Dark -owned by Christine Hansen from Firespritepoms
Squirrel born 1904 was registered as black and tan but both before and after this date other were registered as 'black and sable'. Queen of May born in 1907 was registered black and sable but was described in Miss Ives book as an exceptionally pretty black and tan.
This colour pattern was deemed 'highly objectionable' in 1909 UK Standard but this was changed later on to 'highly undesirable'. According to the 1898 Standard black and tan (and black, brown and blue) should be free from white - there are no early references to pencil markings or thumb spots. Black and tans often have white hair in the tail area and this occurs in other Spitz breeds, like the Finnish Lapphund. The black in a black and tan is jet black and the 'tan' can range from cream to a rich mahogany rust colour.
This pattern is very popular internationally in the States/Canada and in all FCI countries there are colour specialists who do well at shows. Black and tan Poms can be shown in the UK (we have no disqualifying colours) but judging decisions may be influenced by the prejudicial clause in the Standard. There are some beautiful variations of the 'x and tan' pattern including blue and tan, black and silver and chocolate and tan.
Parti - Colour
Orange/White Parti and black/white parti puppy - both bred by Robin's Wee Bears
Historic note - Leyswood Tom Tit was born in 1897 and registered as 'chocolate and white parti', however, prior to this some of the Poms registered as black and white would have also have been parti-coloured and not black mismarks. Other variations included blue and white, orange and white and red and white.
Mafeking of Rozelle (1902) often called a parti was actually a tricolour and he did very well at shows. The UK Standard uniquely does not state that the background or main colour should be white as in other Standards. Interestingly in Miss Ives book she discussed black and tans and tri-colours in the parti-colours section! The Pom Club went to great pains to convey the fact white markings, chest or feet on non-white dogs were mismarks and not parti's. Early parti-colours include the diminutive chocolate and white painted by Le Brun in 1776 and the well-known black and white 'Fino' owned by the future King George IV and painted by Stubbs in 1791 and 1793.
Lil Ponderosa Making Up Time - Left and below Lil Ponderosa Sparks A Flyin' - bred by Sherry Cartwright
Historic Note - Litter mates Halliford Bob and Ivis born 1898 registered as 'dark brindle' - bred by Mrs E.J. Thomas a founding member of The Pomeranian Club in 1891. In America there are specialist breeders devoted to this beautiful colour pattern.
Puppy left and as an adult - Photos of 'Smudge' from Alane Levinsohn
This colour described by the Kennel Club as 'a dark colour giving a marbled effect' is bred and exhibited in the USA. It has been a controversial colour and continues to be so. As you can see Merle Poms are very attractive but must be bred with caution by very knowledgeable people - two merles cannot be bred together without a high possibility of potentially serious health issues.
First noted in America in 1921 - this is a very ambiguous term, markings in a merle can sometimes be called blue or grey mottled and also the markings on non-merle sporting breeds are often called blue mottled, as in a roan or heavily ticked dog. We'll leave this for the colour specialist to figure out!
Further information on Colours:
The American Pomeranian Club - very good pages with photographs of colours and colour patterns.
Genetics of Coat Colour Excellent site on the genetics of coat colour (all breeds) with photographs
Dog Coat Colour Genetics Superb website explaining colour genetics