Liver Dalmatian: Everything Explained

Written by Nilani Thiyagarajah
Published: March 27, 2023
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When you think of Dalmatians, you may think of them as firehouse dogs or just think of the Disney movie starring 101 of them! However, as with any other dog breed, there is so much more to know about them than most people realize.

Every dog breed has its own unique traits. Even though all dogs are the descendants of wolves, the breeds have evolved in many different directions.

If you’ve ever heard of a liver Dalmatian, you may wonder what exactly it is. Is a liver Dalmatian the same as or closely related to a regular Dalmatian? Keep reading to learn more about the liver Dalmatian!

What Is a Liver Dalmatian?

A liver Dalmatian has a coat covered with chocolate brown spots instead of black ones. The two standard purebred Dalmatian colors are black and brown, meaning the liver Dalmatian is still considered the same breed as any other Dalmatian.

Other differences between liver Dalmatians and black-spotted Dalmatians are brown pigmented noses, instead of black. Their toenails are also white or brown, as opposed to white or black. They typically have eyes that are a little bit lighter than those of black-spotted Dalmatians, and these eyes are typically brown or blue.

Generally, Dalmatians are born white. They start to get their spots when they are about 10 days old. The spot patterns continue to develop until the dogs are 12 to 18 months old. Liver Dalmatians’ spots may change in color as they grow up. Some have brown patches at birth that are bigger than spots.

Dalmatians, whether their spots are black or brown, have the most distinctive coat pattern of any American Kennel Club breed. The spots are either black or liver, but never both on the same dog. They are typically smaller on the head, tail, and legs than on the rest of the body.

A liver dalmatian posing next to a black spotted dalmatian

Two Dalmatian dogs (liver-spotted and black-spotted) together show the difference in the spot colors and nose pigmentation.


What Causes the Liver Dalmatian Appearance?

The appearance of the liver Dalmatian is a result of a complex interaction between genes.

The Recessive Spot Color Gene

Liver Dalmatians are less common than black-spotted Dalmatians. This is because the brown spots are the result of a recessive gene. Each Dalmatian has two alleles (gene copies) that together determine what color the dog’s spots will be. The B allele is for black spots, and the b allele is for brown spots.

To determine the color of his or her spots, each puppy receives one gene copy from each parent. Because the b allele is recessive, the puppy needs to receive this gene from both parents in order to be a liver Dalmatian. A dog with a BB or Bb combination will have black spots, and a dog with bb will have brown spots.

The S Gene

All Dalmatians have the extreme white spotting gene as well. You may think that their base color is white, but this is actually not the case. The base color is typically black or brown (determined by the gene combination described above).

The extreme white spotting gene is responsible for huge white patches on the Dalmatian, and the gaps are actually patches of color. The S gene creates a continuum of whiteness. The S allele creates color all over, si creates a white trim and collar, sp is patches of color on white, and sw is extreme white coverage. Dalmatians have two sw alleles.

The T Gene

Dalmatians also have the ticking (T ) gene, which pokes holes through these huge white patches and reveals the base color. This results in little color flecks on the body, much smaller than spots.

The Roan Coat Pattern Mutation

In 2021, researchers discovered that every Dalmatian carries the roan coat pattern mutation. The roan pattern is a pattern that includes subtle spotting that includes dark and white hairs.

This pattern is also seen in the Spinone Italiano, English Cocker Spaniel, Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, German Wirehaired Pointer, German Shorthaired Pointer, and Australian Cattle Dog. Many of these dogs are closely related to the Dalmatian.

The spotting patterns on Dalmatians are the result of an interaction of all these genes, which occur at multiple locations on the chromosome.

Liver dalmatian laying on a couch

The nose of a liver dalmatian is brown, giving it a clear distinction from the black-spotted dalmatian.


There is no evidence that liver Dalmatians are more or less healthy than their black-spotted counterparts. Dalmatians, regardless of the color of their spots, live for an average of 12 to 13 years. However, Dalmatians of all colors are prone to certain health problems.

Dalmatians are more likely to be deaf than dogs of other breeds. One in nine Dalmatians exhibits a degree of hearing loss. Deafness is positively correlated with the presence of the gene for extreme white spotting and possibly the roan pattern mutation.

Dalmatians are also at higher risk of hyperuricosuria, which involves abnormally high levels of uric acid in the urine. This leads to kidney stones and bladder stones. This affected urine output is caused by a recessive mutation in a gene that is genetically linked to the Flecking gene, which is thought to interact with the T gene to produce larger flecks of color.

It is likely that breeders inadvertently selected this high uric acid output when developing this dog breed.

Dalmatian Temperaments

Both liver and black-spotted Dalmatians have the distinctive temperament of the breed. No significant differences in personality have been observed between the two differently-colored Dalmatians.

Dalmatians are hard-working dogs that people can easily train for several purposes. A long time ago, they would work as coach dogs. Essentially, they would walk alongside horse-drawn carriages, protecting them when they were not moving.

At this time, firefighters used Dalmatians as companion dogs when they would get to fires using horse-drawn carriages. Dalmatians were very compatible with horses. Their presence would be comforting as they would guide the horse to the fire.

Also, they have keen senses of smell, which would help guide the carriage toward the fire. To this day, Dalmatians are associated with firehouses and often serve as fire safety mascots.

Dalmatians have a lot of stamina. They typically need a minimum of two hours of exercise daily. They also need quite a bit of mental stimulation, which is why it is good to put them to work.

Dalmatians tend to bond very strongly with their immediate family members. They often do not like when their owners ignore them or leave them alone for long stretches of time. However, they are often suspicious and aloof around unfamiliar people. When properly socialized, a Dalmatian will not be aggressive toward strangers.

The photo featured at the top of this post is ©

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