The Belgian Malinois is a confident, intelligent, and hardworking dog. Their original breed purpose is to herd, but they excel at protection work in the police and military, too. For the right family, they make great family pets. But they need an experienced owner who can bring out their best side. They are becoming increasingly popular in America, and more families are exploring whether they are the right dog for them. To find the right Belgian Malinois for you, you must thoroughly research the breed.
Learning about their coat colors is an essential part of that process because it can tell you a lot about them and their health. There are five standard Belgian Malinois colors: Fawn, Sable, Mahogany, Red, and Red. There are seven non-standard and rare Belgian Malinois colors: Black, Brindle, Cream, Cream Sable, Gray, Gray Sable, and Liver. Very rarely, you might find other variations in this breed, but they are either not allowed, or it means they aren’t a true Belgian Malinois.
We explore the common and rare Belgian Malinois colors and what the various kennel clubs say about them. We also identify which coat shades shed the most and which might be linked to health problems. As well as the frequently asked questions about the Belgian Malinois coloring, including their signature black mask, variations, and more. Let’s take a closer look.
Most Common Belgian Malinois Colors
The color of a dog’s coat is dependent on two pigments and which genes they inherit. The two pigments are eumelanin, which causes dark shades like black and brown. And pheomelanin is responsible for the amount of yellow and red in a coat. The color genes that a Belgian Mal inherits from their parents affect how vibrant these hues are and what coat patterns they display.
Various kennel clubs have their own dog breed standards, meaning coloring can vary between countries. For example, the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI), the primary European kennel club, only sees fawn with black overlay as a true Belgian Malinois color. The American Kennel Club (AKC) is the leading kennel club in America. According to the AKC’s Belgian Malinois breed standard, the following five colors are the only ones accepted.
Fawn Mals are yellow-tan, varying between light yellow and dark tan. This is one of the most common Belgian Malinois colors, and rich fawns are the preferred hue in the show ring. More often than not, the underparts of their body, breeches, and tail are lighter than their main body color.
The term sable describes a pattern rather than a hue itself. Fawn sable-colored Mals have a fawn coat, but the hair darkens at the tip. The hairs on fawn Mals have black tips, which gives them a black overlay appearance. But the black should not be patchy or form a brindle pattern. Fawn sables have a distinguishable black mask as these hairs are all black. Fawn sables are rarer than fawns but not as rare as red sables.
Mahogany Mals are a dark shade of reddish-brown. This is one of the most common Mal colors, as the AKC prefers rich fawn to mahogany coats and gives them precedence in the show ring. These Mals have a black mask, but because sometimes their coat is dark, it can be difficult to see them. Again, the underparts of their body, breeches, and tail tend to be lighter in color.
Red Belgian Malinois have a red coat that ranges from light ginger to a deep, dark red. Their deep red color results from the increased levels of the pheomelanin gene. Red Mals have black masks, but they can be difficult to distinguish on very dark red coats. Red coats aren’t as common as fawn and mahogany coats, but they aren’t rare either. Like the fawn and mahogany Mals, red Mals have lighter red shades on the underparts of their body, breeches, and tails.
Red sables are similar to fawn sables but have a red coat with black hair tips instead. Again, the hairs around their muzzle, the black mask, are all black. But because some red sables have a deep, dark red coat, their mask can be more challenging to identify. Red sable Mals are the rarest of the standard coat colors.
Rare Belgian Malinois Colors
Rare Belgian Malinois colors are not seen as the standard and, therefore, not allowed in conformation competitions. Responsible breeders usually breed standard colored Mals because there are more of them, and that is what is accepted as standard. Let’s look at the rare Mal coat hues that pop up in litters from time to time.
An all-black Belgian Malinois is rare, as most Mals have another color featured on their coat. All black Mals have pure black fur from root to tip. All of their other features, such as nose, eye rims, paw pads, and lips, are black too. Because all black Mals are rare and exceptionally beautiful, some breeders might sell these pups for an increased cost. But be wary of breeders selling them for a massively inflated price.
Although the brindle coat is typical in some dog breeds, like Akitas or Boxers, this coat pattern is extremely rare in the Belgian Mal bloodline. Like sable, brindle is not a color but a pattern similar to the stripes on a tiger. It’s a beautiful and sought-after pattern. Most brindle Mals have a fawn or red coat with darker streaks, and many of them don’t sport the black mask. Brindle Mals are the rarest coat color out of all of them.
Cream Belgian Mals have almost no eumelanin pigment, which allows the pheomelanin color gene to take over. This makes their coat appear cream, beige, or light yellow. This super soft coat makes the black mask stand out more than any other color on this list.
Cream sable Mals are the same as cream Mals, except their hairs darken towards the tips. They still look cream but with a black shimmer, sometimes making them appear dusty. Again, their black mask and other features are prominent, but not as much compared to creams.
Blue Or Gray
Although the correct term is gray for Belgian Mals, some also call it blue, which is what the same color is called in other breeds. The gray coat results from a dilution gene that causes the coat to appear gray, so technically, it is a diluted black coat. The dilution color gene also makes the other features appear gray or at least lighter than black. These pups do not have the signature black mask. The dilution gene is recessive, which means it needs to be inherited from both parents. This makes gray Mals very rare.
Gray sables have a gray or blue coat, but the hairs are lighter at the root than the tips. This gives them a two-tone gray appearance, so they are sometimes called ombre Mals. Because the hairs are the same color but vary in shade from root to tip, it can be difficult to identify them as gray sables.
Like the gray coats, liver coats result from the recessive dilution color gene. Liver-colored Mals come in shades like yellow, red, or gray, but they are diluted. For example, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a light fawn and a liver-red Mal. But the color of the nose, paw pads, eye rims, and eyes are usually lighter, too, which is the giveaway. The gene responsible for the dilution means that liver color Mals don’t have a black mask or any black on their body.
Belgian Malinois Black Mask & Other Markings
All standard Mal colors sport a mask, as do most non-standard pigments. The mask consists of black hair and should cover the dog’s muzzle. Many black masks extend over the eyes and up to the ears. The AKC breed standard also mentions black-tipped hairs being permissible in the show ring, which is what sable-colored coats are.
The AKC breed standard also states that tiny white markings on any coat color are allowed. These usually appear on the tips of the toes or on the breastbone. But they must be small and never extend onto the neck. If they do, they are disqualified from the show ring.
Belgian Malinois Color Variation
You must be wary of any Belgian Malinois that varies from the above colors. If they do, there is a considerable risk that they are not a purebred Mal and instead a Belgian Malinois mix breed. For example, the merle gene does not exist in the Mal bloodline. So a “merle Mal” is not a true Malinois and must be a hybrid of a Mal and another breed with the merle gene, like an Australian Shepherd.
The white coat color also doesn’t exist in the Malinois breed. And it’s likely they are a non-standard white German Shepherd or another white dog mix altogether. There is also a chance that a white dog is an albino dog, although albino dogs have no pigment and pale blue or red eyes, and other colorless features. Albino dogs have an increased incidence of health and behavioral problems and typically have a shorter lifespan. You must avoid any Mal breeder producing merle-colored or white Mal pups.
You must also be cautious with breeders selling rare, non-standard colored Mals. Although they do appear in litters, they are uncommon. And you need to research the breeder to ensure that they are responsible and breed for health, not color. Some irresponsible breeders and puppy mills breed for color, and they do this by breeding closely related dogs to increase the chance of rare-colored Mals. The only reason for this is to make a more significant profit. And although some of these pups are healthy, breeding this way is irresponsible and increases the chance of health problems.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Belgian Malinois Change Color?
Although some dog breeds can change shades as they age, this doesn’t usually happen in the Belgian Mal breed. A change in coat color can result from excess sun exposure, skin infections, or inherited diseases. If you notice your Belgian Mal’s coat is changing, it’s essential to get them assessed by your vet.
Do All Belgian Malinois Have A Black Mask?
The Belgian Malinois’s signature feature is their black mask. All standard-colored Mals have a black mask, but not all non-standard-colored Mals have it. The only coats that do not have a black mask are the non-standard and rare liver and gray. Instead, they have a diluted color mask. This is because they inherit the diluted color gene, which means they don’t have any prominent black coloration on their coat. Some brindle Mals have a black mask, but some don’t.
Which Color Malinois Sheds The Most?
Belgian Mals have a thick double coat that sheds throughout the year and is much heavier during the shedding seasons. All Belgian Malinois coat colors shed the same. Excessive shedding can indicate a health problem, which your vet must investigate.
What Color Belgian Malinois Should I Get?
This depends on the reason for getting your Belgian Mal. The shade isn’t too important if you want a Mal to join your family as a companion. If you want to compete with your Mal in the show ring, pick a standard color accepted by your chosen kennel club. Picking a color also depends on your preference, but selecting a pup based on their personality is more important than its coat. Remember to avoid any Mal that deviates from the colors listed above.
Now you know about all the colors of the Belgian Malinois rainbow. Some shades, like the fawn and mahogany, are common and standard. Others, like pure black, cream, brindle, and gray, are rare and non-standard. As long as you buy your Belgian Malinois from a responsible breeder, and they sport one of the colors described above, they should grow up to be a well-balanced and healthy canine regardless of what color Mal you pick.