What’s all the fuss about colors?
Hmmm. Where to begin. Mi-Kis come in a wide variety of colors, some more common and some more rare in the breed. And then there’s the “Mi-Kis can change color” thing or the “sometimes they will silver” thing.
To be sure, canine color genetics is a pretty complex subject. For simplicity’s sake, most genetic terms and explanations will be left out of these examples.
Two basic terms that will be helpful are dominant and recessive.
The dominant version of a gene shows its specific trait even if only one parent passes the gene to the child. An example is when a child inherits the dominant brown eye gene from it’s dad, the child will have brown eyes no matter what eye color gene the child inherits from it’s mom.
The recessive gene shows its specific trait when both parents pass the gene to the child. An example is when a child inherits the recessive blue eye gene from both mom and dad, the child will have blue eyes.
Let’s see if we can shed some light on the subject of Mi-Ki colors.
Color Marking Patterns
A Mi-Ki of any color will be either a solid or a parti. Solids and partis aren’t colors but rather color marking patterns. The solid marking pattern is dominant to parti, which is recessive.
A solid Mi-Ki is basically a solid color without any large areas of white markings. Occasionally, a solid may have small patches of white markings on it’s chest, paws or forehead. A solid may also have tan points above the eyebrows, on the cheeks and legs and under the tail.
A parti will have a white spotting pattern with white markings covering the legs and tummy. Some partis will also have a white collar, chest or tail and may also have white markings on their faces and the tops of their heads. A parti may also have tan points above the eyebrows, on the cheeks and under the tail.
Every color can be expressed as either a solid or a parti. For example, you can have a solid chocolate or you can have a parti color, chocolate and white. The same holds true for every other color; solid apricot or apricot and white, solid black or black and white, solid blue or blue and white and so on.
Varieties: Long & Smooth
Mi-Kis come in two, beautiful varieties, the long coat and the smooth face. Interestingly, variety type can have an affect on color expression in our breed.
Long coats and smooth face (affectionately called “smoothies”) Mi-Kis look very similar as puppies. An experienced breeder can usually tell the difference between them at two weeks of age. After that, it’s difficult to visually determine the variety type again until the puppies are about six weeks of age. At any age, a puppy’s DNA sample can be analyzed to find out which variety type they are.
The most obvious difference between the varieties is facial hair. The long coats have a beard and mustache and lots of hair on top of their heads. The smooth face’s don’t have these attributes. A smooth face has a foxy appearance.
There are some other differences too. The coat won’t be as long on a smooth face and the smooth face won’t have much hair on it’s lower legs. As they mature, smooth faces will get feathering on their legs and around their mane area and fringing on their ears.
Both varieties have the beautiful, heavily plumed tail that curves over the back.
Long coats are fairly easy to groom as long coated toy breeds go, but the smooth faces are much easier to groom. Smooth faces almost never mat.
Another difference between the varieties is a surprise to many people. While long coats are considered low or non shedding, smooth faces can be light shedders.
Long and smooth varieties are judged by the same standard except for the length and distribution of the coat.
Color changes for a particular color can be different depending on whether the Mi-Ki is a long coat or a smooth face.
Both the long coats and smooth faces have the amazing temperament and personality Mi-kis are known for.
It is not uncommon for a Mi-Ki to change color, sometimes dramatically, from puppyhood to adulthood.
Both solid and parti color Mi-Kis can have a black mask around their muzzles. Long coats usually lose their masks by adulthood and smooth faces usually keep their masks.
Both solids and partis can have tan points. Sometimes tan points will lighten or silver as the puppy matures.
White markings usually stay white although on rare occasion white markings will silver.
Many of the genes that affect color expression have been identified but many are still somewhat of a mystery. We know that Mi-Kis have a dominant greying gene and a recessive silvering gene. We’re not sure if there are other genes responsible for graying or silvering in our breed.
Long coats are more likely to lighten or silver than smooth faces. Accordingly, smooth faces keep their rich color hues much more often than long coats.
See more photos of how Mi-Kis change color in our “Color Changes” Gallery.
Red Sable is by far the most common Mi-Ki color.
It’s a bit of a misnomer for the long coats because most long coat, red sables don’t look red at all. At birth, they sometimes look red but most often look like a shade of brown with black tipping. They can also look so dark they almost appear black. By maturity, most long coat, red sables will lighten to a medium brown, light brown, apricot, gold, caramel or cream color (or a combination thereof) with black or gray mixed in and/or black or gray tipping. Some red sables will keep a darker red hue but that is more rare. The most rare long coat, red sable would be a deep red or a rich, mahogany red at maturity. I’ve only seen one long coat Mi-Ki that was a beautiful Irish Setter red and white at maturity.
Red sable smooth faces will often look just like the red sable long coats at birth. But, smooth faces can change colors differently than long coats and the red sable is a perfect example of that. Most red sable smooth faces that are born looking brown will turn to a beautiful red or mahogany red by the time they are adults.
See examples in our “Color Changes” Gallery.
Black or black and white are not uncommon newborn colors in our breed. But, many of the puppies that are born black or black and white will silver or gray to some extent by adulthood. It is more rare for a black puppy to keep it’s rich, black color as it matures. Often, the Mi-Kis that will stay black instead of silvering or graying have a shiny black appearance as puppies.
Solid cream, white and cream, or white and apricot are fairly common colors in our breed. The puppies that are born with these lighter colors usually experience the least amount of color change. There may be some lightening or sometimes the apricot will lighten and darken with the seasons but the changes are usually much less significant than with the other colors.
Brindle coloring is fairly common in Mi-Kis. Brindle is a pattern of irregular stripes that can look red and black, brown and black, fawn and black, and other color combinations. In long coats, it’s pretty easy to see the brindle pattern during the puppy’s first few weeks of life. It can be very difficult to see the brindle pattern in adult long coats. It’s usually easy to see the brindle pattern in smooth coat puppies and adults. Long coat brindles may lighten and change color and often turn gray. Smooth coat brindles will usually keep their rich, brindle color.
Ahh, chocolate! Chocolate Mi-Kis are rare and quite in voque right now.
Chocolate is a recessive trait. A chocolate will have brown eye rims, nose leathers, lips and paw pads. Eye color will not be the usual dark brown but will be hazel, amber or green.
Chocolates come in several variations. A dark chocolate that keeps it’s rich, dark color with only minimal lightening is the most rare and sought after of the chocolates. More often, chocolates will lighten to a toffee or light brown color. There are also chocolate and tans. Then there are the chocolates that don’t look chocolate at all. They have two copies of the chocolate gene but their coat color looks a shade of red or apricot.
When a chocolate silvers, it’s usually a different hue than with the other colors. It’s more of a silvery taupe.
A note about Dilutes. A dilute Mi-Ki is one whose coat color is light. Contrary to what is sometimes said, dilute isn’t a reference to the nose or eye color. For example, a rich chocolate Mi-Ki with amber eyes and brown leathers isn’t a dilute even though it’s eyes and leather colors are light. All chocolates and blues have self colored eyes and leathers. A dilute chocolate has a light chocolate coat color. A dilute red has a light red coat color and so on. The “dilution” gene, also called “blue” or MPLH, is what causes black pigment to fade.
Blue is another rare color in our breed and is also a recessive trait. Blue puppies are born with blue coats and will either stay blue or the blue will turn a beautiful fawn color, sometimes called blue fawn. A blue will have blue or charcoal eye rims, nose leathers, lips and paw pads. Eye color will not be dark brown, but will be amber, green or blue.
Often, a gray or silver Mi-Ki adult that is not truly a blue will be called a blue. These dogs will have black leathers rather than the blue’s telltale blue or charcoal leathers. Generally, these adults are born black or brindle, not blue, and then silver or gray as they mature. Sometimes, the silver or gray will even have a blue hue to it. But, as the saying goes, “If it isn’t blue at birth, it isn’t blue”.
Black & Tan
Black and tan or tri color is a recessive trait. Black and tans and tri colors are not common but are not as rare as chocolate or blue.
Black and tans are solid black with tan points above their eyebrows, on their cheeks and legs and under their tails.
Many will stay black and tan as adults. They can also lighten or silver with different variations. Sometimes, the black will stay black and the tan points will lighten or silver. Conversely, sometimes the tan points will stay tan or lighten and the black will have silvering.
Many people think a tri color is a Mi-Ki with any three colors. That’s simply not accurate. A true tri color is a black and tan with the parti color marking pattern. So, a tri color is really a black and tan parti. It’s a black and tan with white markings. The tri color will have white legs and a white tummy so it won’t have the tan legs like the black and tan. It will have the tan eyebrows and cheeks.
The tri color can keep it’s birth colors or it can change in the same ways a black and tan can change. The only difference is that the white markings will likely stay white although on rare occasion white markings will silver.
Color variety is one attribute that makes our breed unique. Learning about colors and having puppies with the more rare colors can be a lot of fun and very gratifying.
If you are interested in adopting a Mi-Ki puppy of a particular color, I encourage you to work with a reputable breeder that is striving to improve conformation, temperament and overall health and not simply producing puppies in the latest fad color.
At a minimum, be sure your breeder understands inbreeding coefficients (COI’s) and implements practices to keep COI’s low, does all recommended health testing (OFA heart, OFA eyes, OFA patellas and basic blood panel) on their breeding adults, does DNA VIP parentage verification and registers all of their puppies and adults with a Mi-Ki only registry.