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Boston Terrier Colors Explained

  • August 9, 2020
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Boston Terrier Colors Explained
  • Boston Terriers come in brindle, seal or black in color and with white markings. These are the colors that are recognized by the Boston Terrier Club of America.
    • A seal colored Boston Terrier looks dark almost black but in direct sunlight their coat will have a red cast.  A seal colored Boston Terrier is not a red, brown, liver, or chocolate colored dog.
    • Brindle is black striping on a red/brown background which can range in shades from lighter to darker rich shades of reds and browns. A “reverse” of black striping on a lighter background, would be the appearance of light striping on a mostly dark background.
  • Boston Terriers also come in red, fawn, blue, brown, lilac, cream, and champagne. These colors are disqualified by the Boston Terrier Club of America.

Who is the Boston Terrier Club of America and Why Do They Get To Say What Colors Are Allowed?

All dog breeds have a parent club. The parent club establishes the guidelines which breeders are supposed to conform to.  The parent club is the sole steward of the standard  —the official breed description used as a blueprint by breeders and judges alike.

The breed standard is the blueprint for the breed.

The parent club is the one that submits their standards to the AKC.  The AKC is considered as the final arbiter of dog breeds and breed standards.

The parent club: The Boston Terrier Club of America registered the breed with the AKC and it was officially recognized in 1893.

They were the 48th breed to be registered by AKC and the only dog breed that originated in America.

You can download the official breed standard through the AKC.

Photos of Boston Terrier Puppies That Are Brindle, Seal, or Black in Color

These puppies belong to Hooligan’s Boston Terriers and are shared with her permission.

Boston Terrier Colors Explained
Boston Terrier Colors Explained
Boston Terrier Colors Explained
Boston Terrier Colors Explained
Boston Terrier Colors Explained
Boston Terrier Colors Explained
Boston Terrier Colors Explained

What Does It Mean To Be a Disqualified Color?

It means it is not allowed in the breed standard.

In the beginning breeders were mixing different dogs mainly the English White Terrier, the English Bulldog and even the French Bulldog. And colors were allowed.

But once the breed standard was established, reputable breeders are not supposed breed any disqualified colors.

Nor are they supposed to mix in other breeds to get the color gene.

Photos of Cream, Blue, Red, Lavender, Lilac, and Merle Boston Terrier Puppies

Here are some sample photos that are listed on an online marketplace at the time this article was written.

I personally advise against buying your puppy online.

Don’t buy your puppy like you would an Amazon purchase. The purchase decision you make with a click of a mouse, should be for things not pets.

The first puppy is listed as a seal but that is not a seal color.  That’s a dilute colored Boston Terrier puppy.  Also sometimes called a lilac or Isabella.

The “Lavender” colored puppy is a new color “name” that someone got creative with.

The second to the last puppy was listed as a lilac.

The last puppy is a merle.

Boston Terrier Colors Explained

Are the Red, Fawn, Blue, Brown, Lilac, Cream, and Champagne Boston Terrier Puppies Less Healthy?

Merle puppies have more issues.  I’ll go into that later on in the article.

And just because the Boston Terrier puppy you are looking at is a non standard color it doesn’t automatically mean it’s less healthy.  It just means that the breeder isn’t following the parent club’s established standard.

When breeders of disqualified colors don’t test or don’t disclose what was mixed into the bloodline to get the color … then you are buying a puppy that is mostly a Boston Terrier whose health issues you can research but you are also buying an unknown breed whose health issues you have zero information on.

As such you’re gambling when you buy a puppy that is a non standard color.

Responsbile breeders:

  • Test their dogs (JHC, BAER, CAER, Patella, plus cardiac, spine and trachea tests)
  • Disclose any health issues in the bloodline
  • Breed for temperament as well as for health
  • Have a welcome back program
  • Follow the breed standard as established by the parent club
  • Stay connected with the puppy buyers for lif

Boston Terrier Colors Explained

But My Red, Fawn, Blue, Brown, Lilac, Cream, and Champagne Boston Terrier Puppies are AKC Registered

This is where it gets a little confusing for those that are unfamiliar with how the AKC and the parent club enforces the breed standard.

Remember, the parent club is the one that agrees to the breed standard.  It’s part of the club’s governing documents.  And members agree to follow this breed standard.

The club submitted the breed standard to the AKC.  The AKC recognized the breed in 1893.

The AKC sanctions all of the competitions.  The judges follow the standards submitted by each parent club.

AKC is also a registry for dogs.

Any breeder can fill out a form and register their puppy.  It’s a declaration saying “this puppy is a Boston Terrier”.

But AKC does not police the standards of dogs.  It works on an honor system.

It assumes that the person who submitted the form is complying with the parent club’s breed standard.

You can register a dog without being a member of the parent club.  Which also means you don’t comply or hold up the club’s standards for the breed.

The only time the AKC would get involved in evaluating the dog is when the dog enters the show ring at an AKC sanctioned show.

The takeaway for the pet parent buyer to know is just because a Boston Terrier puppy is registered doesn’t mean that your puppy is a purebred puppy.

But My Red, Fawn, Blue, Brown, Lilac, Cream, and Champagne Boston Terrier Puppies Passed the DNA Test and Came Back Boston Terriers

DNA testing only goes back three generations. So it doesn’t pick up any other breed that were cross bred into that bloodline prior to three generations to get the color.

Are the Red, Fawn, Blue, Brown, Lilac, Cream, and Champagne Boston Terrier Puppies a Throwback to the Original Boston Terriers?

They are only called that by breeders that breed disqualified colors.

As mentioned previously, for a short period of time, colors were allowed in the Boston Terrier breed because they were still developing the breed.

The club eventually settled on brindle, seal or black in color and evenly marked with white marking.

The club submitted the breed standard to the AKC and the breed was established.

Today breeders making claims that they are “preserving” the “original” colors are not abiding by the breed standard and the more correct way to articulate it is that they are breeding disqualified colors or colors that are not in the blueprint for the breed.

Vincent Perry in 1928 wrote in his book that the disqualified colors were so rare that they could be termed “extinct” in the breed.

The early breeding books hardly mention colors being present in the breed and the majority of the discussion was centered around how to eliminate them because they were undesirable.

If a color does show up in a show line, it can usually be traced back to a colored or unknown line further back so it’s not actually coming from the show lines themselves.

And you won’t see disqualified colors in a reputable breeding program because the truth is these colors were screened out from the breed’s standards for over 100 years.

The Red, Fawn, Blue, Brown, Lilac, Cream, and Champagne Boston Terrier Puppies Don’t Randomly Show Up in Show Lines

Some color breeders will mislead you and say – these colors will show up in show lines which is far from the truth.

You have to ask: Which “show” because there are several “shows”.

Color genes do not randomly pop out of the blue in the purebred Boston Terrier bloodlines for those that show in the AKC sanctioned shows.

There is another registry called the Continental Kennel Club.  The CKC is an international registry with club members and dogs registered in all 50 states and 30 foreign countries.

Established just recently in 1991, its rules and registration are more lenient and standards more relaxed; there is no strict need to subscribe to the exact same breed standards.

The CKC does not follow the AKC’s rules so you will see colored Boston Terriers in those that show in the CKC.

The parent club (who holds the breed standard) isn’t registered with the CKC.

Also the CKC allows mixed breeds.  From their website:  Does CKC register mixed breed dogs, and If so, why?

Yes, while 98% of the registry is made up of purebred dog registrations, CKC does offer its registration services to owners of mixed-breed dogs. Owning a mixed-breed dog is very common today, and CKC wants to be helpful to those dog owners as well.

Non standard, disqualified colored Bostons cannot participate in any AKC sanctioned dog show.

But they can in a CKC show because the CKC doesn’t adhere to the parent club’s breed standards.

Are the Red, Fawn, Blue, Brown, Lilac, Cream, and Champagne Boston Terrier Puppies Rare?

No because they were intentionally bred that way.  This is purely a marketing ploy to make the colored puppies seem more desirable and to justify a higher price.

You should NOT pay more for a red, fawn, blue, brown, lilac and champagne Boston Terrier puppy.

What About Merle Boston Terriers?

It’s a genetic impossibility to have a purebred Boston Terrier that is merle.

Merle is natural in the following breeds:

The merle allele only occurs in a small selection of dog breeds. These include:
Australian Shepherd
Catahoula Leopard Dog
Norwegian Dunker
Border Collie
Hungarian Mudi
Cardigan Welsh Corgi
Collie (Rough and Smooth)
Shetland Sheepdog
Dachshund (known as dapple)
Beauceron (known as harlequin)
Pyrenean Shepherd
Great Dane

It has also recently been bred into other breeds, including the Chihuahua, American Staffordshire Terrier, American Cocker Spaniel and Pomeranian.

In discussions with a well respected breeder, Jani Martin she shared the information regarding this color below.

Merle is unlike any other disqualified colors because it needs one parent to be merle in order to produce merle. It is NOT recessive.

So the ONLY way to create a merle Boston is to use another breed. It may be mostly Boston a few generations later but at one point, another breed was used to get the color to begin with.

For people who don’t care about a dog being purebred, this is not a big deal. However when they are sold as purebred, it is a lie.

Some say after 5 generations, they are again “purebred” but that is still not true. If 100 years did not wash out all of the ability for reds to occasionally crop up in a standard litter, 5 generations certainly did not wash away all of the genetics of another breed.

This is why AKC won’t register them. They are always through CKC or ACA or some registry that allows mixed breeding to be registered as purebred.

Here is where it becomes HARMFUL.

Merle is a dangerous color to breed. Merle to merle often produces serious health complications such as sightless shrunken eyes and deafness.

A simple solution would be not to breed merle to merle and the problem is solved. Right? No. There are things called “cryptic merles” where you cannot see the pattern on their coat in dogs that are red, fawn, cream, etc.

With “cryptic merles” you may be accidentally breeding to a merle and not be aware of it because it’s hidden. So now we’re playing Russian Roulette with genetics…. not good.

Other issues associated with the merle gene are skeletal issues, reproductive problems and cardiac abnormalities. Merles with only one merle parent can still have a higher incidence of health issues than non-merle dogs.

DEAFNESS IN SINGLE MERLE BREEDINGS IS 36.8%!!! In merle to merle it’s 54.6!

The Boston Terrier already has deafness and eye issues… why would we introduce a gene that can cause MORE?

So the concern for the breed is real. Someone may be buying a red Boston when actually it’s a cryptic merle with a mixed background.

AKC registration is on the honor system in most respects so avoiding the pattern itself and getting AKC registration does not always solve the problem with cryptic merles or with dishonest breeders.

“Paper hanging” is nothing new in the world of breeding. You have to be even more careful with the type of breeder you choose with the addition of this color pattern.

So purposely adding in the gene to a breed that did not have it before is harmful.

And though we love to see a unique color pattern and compliment people on their puppies, what sadly happens is when 400 people say how great a new color is and ask where they can buy one, it creates MORE market for producing them.

People see dollar signs and sometimes don’t know what they’re doing and a few blind/deaf/shrunken eyed unhealthy litters later, they learn. All at the expense of the dogs and at the expense of the breed. And often adding heartache to the owners.

THIS is why others strive to educate on what merle is every time one shows up. It’s important to NICELY, but CLEARLY express why merle breeding is harmful and why we should not be gushing over them, begging to buy one every time one is posted.

If I Have a Colored Boston Terrier – Is my Dog Still a Boston Terrier?

Yes but it likely also has some other breed still in it’s bloodline. Other tell tale signs will be the size of the dog will be larger, the head shape might look more like a pit bull or if they used a smaller dog from a different breed, a chihuahua.

A breeder that follows the blueprint, or the breed standard will never breed a disqualified color. Breeders have been following the standard for over a hundred years.

Once you understand the breed standard and what Boston Terriers are supposed to look like then you will have a discerning eye and be able to tell the difference.

Breeders that participate in AKC sanctioned shows typically showcase their Bostons in an online publication which you can view here: 

But I Really Like the Red,Fawn, Blue, Brown, Lilac, Cream, and Champagne Boston. I Like And Prefer The Way They Look

Anyone can have an affinity to a particular color.

There is nothing wrong in buying a non-standard color.

Some breeders even prefer the disqualified colors because they like the way they look.

And if you’re considering to buy a puppy that is any of the colors not in the standard then be aware that the puppy you are purchasing may grow up to be a dog that doesn’t look like what a Boston Terrier should look like.

Also, think twice before you pay a premium on the basis of color alone because that doesn’t mean your puppy will be a healthy puppy or a well bred puppy.

My advice to any puppy owner is to gather all of the data and then make a well informed, responsible decision.  If you must get a puppy of the non standard, disqualified color then do your due diligence and find a breeder that has colored puppies that are health tested.

Talk to them, get to know them in person.  I would refrain from buying a puppy from any online marketplace.

What’s the Most Important Thing When Buying A Boston Terrier Puppy?

You want a well bred, healthy puppy that will live with you and share a life with you for the life of that dog.

You want peace of mind that the breeder knows the puppy’s bloodline.

You want to know that the puppy and its parents have passed the tests that are recommended by the parent club.

You want assurance that the breeder has been truthful about their breeding program and not tried to embellish in order to charge you more money than has merit.

You want a puppy that has a good temperament.

If you’re in love with the Boston Terrier breed, then you should know what the breed standards mean so that you can buy responsibly and not be taken advantage of.

If you want to learn more about how to buy a puppy read:





Breed standards exist for a reason. Breeders who follow the breed standard are the protectors and the stewards of the breed.

If we didn’t have a reputable breeder following the breed standard what we will have several generations later is someone’s “interpretation” of what they think a Boston Terrier looks like.

It doesn’t mean that the red, fawn, blue, lilac, cream, and champagne Bostons are not good dogs. It just means there are more unknown factors in the blood line than just the color.

And it doesn’t mean that those that breed them are doing so nefariously. Some do it intentionally because they love those colors.

We know several Bostons of non standard colors and they are cute dogs with fantastic dog parents.

Whatever your decision is to buy it’s yours.  The key take away is to make a well informed decision and buy as responsibly as you can when you add a puppy to your home.


Did you like this article?  Here are more about Boston Terriers

Why Are Boston Terriers so Gassy?

How To Get Ready For a Boston Terrier Puppy

Are Boston Terriers Born With Tails?

Should I Get A Second Boston Terrier?

Boston Terrier Lifespans


Hannah Zulueta and her two dogs Maggie and Orbit

Hello, my name is Hannah and I dance with my dogs.

I am a Boston Terrier Breed Advocate.  I started this blog because there isn’t enough space to tell our story on our Instagram.

My mission is to bring Boston Terrier dog parents the best, most accurate information to help your dogs live happier, healthier lives.

I have two Boston Terriers of my own. Maggie is my socially awkward heart dog while Orbit is my shadow and soul dog.

You won’t read about cats here, but you will get a fairly large dosage of articles dedicated to this wonderful breed to help you learn more about them or provide practical tips as you raise your own. Read more about us.

Boston Terrier Colors Explained

By, August 9, 2020
  • 3
  • Jamie
    November 14, 2020

    Wow, lots of great info! I have a question regarding the improper face mask (like on the puppy, Fynn posted in the article) where the white blaze between the eyes extends over and past an eye. I see many pups with this marking and I’m curious if it’s a genetic trait or it’s just an unavoidable mishap (bad luck)? I saw a litter that had many pups with this marking but neither parent had it. Does that mean somewhere in the pedigree, a relative has this marking? Or that doesn’t matter? Or, if you breed with an animal with this marking are you increasing your chances of creating more animals with markings such as this? Thanks for any insight! 🙂

    • Maggie Loves Orbit
      December 27, 2020

      I’m not a breeder (yet). I plan to breed in about 5 to 10 years. I am still studying the breed. That said – the club has “standards” that breeders should follow and markings are passed on so any markings a puppy has will be inherited from their parents or from generations prior. Thank you for stopping by .

  • James L Hines
    December 17, 2020

    I have a friend who is a Dawg House star* named Dexter the Boston Terrier the love 💗 and the joy of seeing ,,is so sweet and loving.💙⭐🌟 good idea to have a Boston Terrier.Ain’t it ! Yep!

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