HARLEQUIN PATTERN & COLOR: WHY "fawnikins"
ARE HERE TO STAY.
An Explanation of the variety of mismarks found in harlequin breedings.
Harlequin coloration & pattern is dominant* to ALL other colors
& patterns, both accepted & rejected, in the Great Dane breed.
Therefore a Harlequin can carry, sight unseen, any & all colors
and patterns, & can produce anything from a "blue boston"
to a fawn porcelaine("fawnikin"), when bred to another Dane
who is also carrying for the same sorts of pattern/color. When this
occurs, the take-home message is that BOTH parents are carriers of the
masked (i.e.hidden or "recessive") pigment/pattern seen in
the unexpected puppy. AND most all of the correctly marked littermates
will carry for such hidden traits as well.
Harlequin color is inherited seperately from harlequin patterning. This
is obvious as Mantles, black dogs with a blanket pattern, are routinely
born to Harlequin parents. The Mantle or blanket pattern, just like
the Harlequin pattern, can be inherited seperately from the pigment
color. The harl pattern without the harl black pigment is traditionally
called "porcelaine." (Porcelaines can be merle, blue, fawn,
brindle, or even odder colors. Americans call them fawnikins, merlikins
#, etc., depending on their pigment shade, but they are as a group porcelaines,
both genetically & traditionally.) The Mantle pattern, which Americans
called "boston," can be found in any color traditional to
the breed, as it is simply a recessive form of white spotting, seperate
from the Harlequin white (a dominant gene complex). Under both patterns
piebald, or color-headed white can hide, as can a variety of recessive
pigments, including blue and chocolate, as well as fawn and brindle.
This seperate inheritance for pigment & pattern means you can have
blue "mantles" (boston patterned dogs), brindle "harlequins"
(porcelaines with brindle color), merle-heads (a white dog with a colored
head, in this case merle), and so on. So from "bluikin" to
"fawntle," Harlequins can produce an array of colors/patterns
not seen in other dane litters; most of them disqualifying, of course.
(You can also have pinto or piebald dogs who are white with black-or
other coloured spots--who did not inherit the harlequin pattern, but
if black, inherited harlequin pigment. For more info on the piebald
or recessive spotted dane, read the "Piebald Danes."
In the history of the breed it is a rather recent event that Harlequins
have been specifically seperated out from the other colors and their
breeding restricted to only Harlequins & Mantles. So many Harlequins
do carry for fawn/brindle and/or blue. Anytime you breed two Harlequins
together who both carry for fawn, for example, you can expect (statisically)
one in four of the pups in the litter to be fawn-coloured: either fawn,
fawn boston, fawn piebald, fawn merle or fawnikin; depending on what
pattern, along with the fawn pigment, they inherit from their sire &
dam. This is actualy an inescapable part of Harlequin breeding. (This
applies as well to Mantle to Mantle breedings, who can produce all colors
& all patterns BUT the harl/merle/porcelaine dominant variant. And
merles and whites as well carry for a variety of masked traits.) Harl
family breedings always produce mismarks; merles are the most common,
but multiple other mismarks are well documented & as most pedigrees
are unmarked as to carriers, their appearance is often a surprise (even
"Color pure" pedigrees really do not matter much to this
phenomenon. There are many documented cases of harls bred "pure"
for many, many generations who suddenly produced blues or fawns in their
litters. The fact that, for generations, color discrimination was not
much of a factor in Dane breeding, combined with the fact that harlequin
pattern & color is dominant to all other colors & patterns in
the Great Dane, means that harls carry "sight unseen" for
the other allowed, & even now rejected, colors & patterns (from
chocolate to piebald) traditionally seen in the breed. A further recognized
phenomenon in a genetic population, that, the rarer a trait becomes,
the harder it is to completely eradicate, means that these odd colors
& patterns will likely always be with us & will "pop up"
from time to time in our litters.
Marking pedigrees is the only way to help lessen the surprise (without
a gene test**), as you cannot produce any of these recessive colors/patterns
unless BOTH parents are carriers for that color/pattern. So if you get
"fawnikins" or blue piebalds, then simply note on the pedigree
that the parents both carry for this color/pattern. If you want to avoid
the further production of such mismarks, do not breed the two dogs who
produced them to each other. But, know, that both of them are still
passing along to their offspring the same recessive colors & patterns
that they have produced, & therefore some of their offspring can
produce the same in the future. That is they are all "carriers."
That is why, for 10, 20, 30, even 50 generations, the blue or fawn was
carried, sight unseen, then "suddenly" shows up in a "color
pure" pedigree--nobody marked the pedigree & it's simply impossible
to cull out all the carriers, so the recessive genes just continue to
be passed on...often unknowingly.
Mismarks are part of Harlequin breeding & Harlequin litters. We
all are accustomed to seeing merle and black & white (boston-type)
mismarks on a routine basis. Whites, & even piebalds are not that
uncommon either. Brindle, blue & fawn bostons, as well as harlequin-marked
but other than black (i.e. porcelaine) pups and various merles are a
less common occurance, but still part of the Harlequin legacy &
are here to stay, "color-pure" pedigrees or not. (Fortunately
with the AKC Limited Registration program a reliable option now exists
to make certain these mismarked, but otherwise charming pups are not
bred.) It is important that we document in which way our harls are carriers
of recessive genes: hiding this information away is counterproductive.
To minimize the expression of undesirable color genes, less than superior
bloodstock of potential carrier status should be culled (removed, not
killed) from breeding programs, and all pedigrees should be carefully
marked so that carriers can be identified. There will then be few (if
any) surprises when two carriers are bred to each other, plus the expression
of disqualifying mismarks can be reduced by not breeding two carriers
together when other options exist.
Naturally the deliberate breeding of mismarks, dogs disqualified under
the breed standard, as well as the casual or even careless breeding
of any two Danes to hand that results in indiscriminant color-crossing
and "rainbow" litters is entirely a seperate phenomenon from
the sincere and dedicated GDCA COE Harlequin hobby-breeder who produces
litters to the standard, and, among the mismarks in such litters, is
the occassional "fawntle" or "blueikin." The former
is simply an expression of a larger sloppy and careless approach to
breeding. The latter is simply an occassional result of the Harlequin
heritage and so no negative reflection per se on the breeder on the
dogs in question.
FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE:
The historical series in the GDR by Jill Evans documents the variety
of recessive colors carried by harlequin bloodlines, plus she has a
wonderful article to explain basic Great Dane coat color genetics,available
at the GDR website: www.gdr.com/past/strip.html
More articles on coat color genetics and the harlequin family variants
are available at the CHROMADANE website on the links page.
*This term is used loosely & generically as used by the layman,
to mean the expression of this phenotype can carry various unexpressed
alleles, not in the strict sense of a series of alleles at a given locus
**Test breeding (using a blue dog, for example to test for a blue carrier
harlequin) seems a bit extreme for something as innocuous as mismarking,
& the rejection of an otherwise superior harl who is a fawn carrier
also seems too extreme a measure (given the dog in question _really_
is a quality specimen) in a gene pool as restricted as that of the harlequin
family of danes.
#It would really be impossible for a "merlikin" to be a Harlequin
with merle patches, as a dog with both harl and merle genes is a Harlequin.
Merlikins, at least some of them, may be tweed variant merles (hhMMtwtw),
so no carry the H=harlequin gene(s) under the Sponenberg Hypothesis.
Some may well simply be MM whites which are misidentified, while others
are surely simply piebalds. MM "whites" are not necessarily
white and in fact many have a noticeable amount of color, especially
on the body (if pigment is not well retained on the head). So-called
"merlikins" with torn patches nearly always breed as whites
to all reports, so are likely genetic whites, the others, with head
color and rounded patches are likely piebalds.
This message written and prepared by JP Yousha for the purposes
of education and can be reprinted to that end.
All copyrights © remain with the author.
*multi-titled/certified harlequin family danes*