Can you guess this dog's genotype? It's breed?
|Image is copyright to Adam Lang over at The Dogs of San Fransisco.|
This dog is an example of merle acting in its usual way, but in combination with different genes than what is considered "normal." Most commonly, the merle gene is seen in combination with either the tan point gene (with or without a mask) or the dominant black gene (harlequin being included in this group), with sable merles and brindle merles sometimes popping up and the other variations occurring less commonly (such as saddled merle, tweed, or masked merle like this dog). The photographer believes that this dog is a chow mix. However, it's difficult to say. I'll come back to that. On to the genotype!
Since this dog has both black and red in its coat, it must be expressing one of the genes on the Agouti locus. In this case, the dog is sable. However, it is carrying another allele? There is no way of knowing, but due to my suspicions about its breed I suspect that this dog is Ayat sable carrying tan point.
As for the intensity of the red in this dog, the red is moderately dark. As such, I suspect the dog is Ccch moderately dark red (dark red carrying moderate red).
This dog also has a mask, however it is once again difficult to say whether the dog is homozygous or heterozygous for the gene. Again, based on my thoughts on this dog's ancestry, I believe that this dog is EmE masked carrying non-masked.
Lastly, this dog is Mm merle. Its phenotype doesn't match with a double merle, so it must be a single merle.
So, that's Ayat Ccch EmE MM or moderate red sable with a merle mask.
Now, back to this dog's breeds. I do see the chow, and one of the most common colors seen in the breed is masked sable. However, where did the dog's merle gene come from? Merle is mainly seen in herding breeds, with only a few other breeds having the gene as well. My suspicions is that this dog is part Australian shepherd, partly because I see some Aussie in the face. If a masked sable (AyAy cchcch EmEm mm) chow was mated to the sort of merle that is most often seen in the Australian shepherd (tan pointed merle, atat CC EE Mm), the entire litter would be masked sable, with approximately half having a merle mask (Ayat Ccch EmE Mm) and the other half having a normal mask (Ayat Ccch EmE mm). Regardless of whether the Aussie parent has white or not, the Irish marked white gene (what is most often seen in Aussies) can be easily hidden by a copy of the solid gene (which seems to be fixed in the chow chow), sometimes with and sometimes without a small amount of white on the chest.