The French Bulldog is arguably one of the cutest purebred dog breeds on the planet today.
They are cute in any color and they are in demand no matter what their coat color. But in recent years, many aspiring owners have had a special interest in owning a Frenchie with a rare coat color like lilac.
Lilac does sound quite exotic, but what exactly does this look like on a French Bulldog? In this article, learn about this unusual coat color and what canine genetics need to be present in the parent dogs to produce the lilac French Bulldog.
Lilac French Bulldog
The Lilac French Bulldog is an extremely rare coat color with complicated genetics behind it. Sometimes the lilac color is also called isabella. However, neither of these terms does an adequate job of describing what the lilac coat color actually looks like.
The color lilac in French Bulldogs could most accurately be described as a cross between grey and brown, as Frenchie World French Bulldogs breeder explains.
These dogs also tend to have light color skin and eyes that are blue, grey, or amber.
See a Lilac French Bulldog
This YouTube video made by an experienced French Bulldog breeder helps you visualize the difference between the lilac color and other similar colors, including platinum and blue.
If you have your heart set on a true lilac French Bulldog, this is exactly why it is so important to work with an experienced Frenchie breeder that knows their canine coat color genetics inside and out.
French Bulldog puppies tend to start out with a slightly different coat color than what they will develop as adults. The coat will either lighten or darken, although often not by much.
But even a little color change can make a big difference when it comes to so-called dilute shades like lilac.
Only an experienced breeder that thoroughly studies and understands the genes in their breed line will be able to accurately identify which puppies will have which coat colors when fully grown.
Canine Coat Color Genetics in a Lilac French Bulldog
Whenever a dog with a certain coat color is said to be "rare," what this basically means is that this coat color is difficult to breed for.
In the case of the lilac coat color, the difficulty lies in bringing together two sets of nearly identical coat color genes in the parent dogs:
- Homozygous for the liver.
- Homozygous for dilute.
The term "homozygous" basically translates to mean that a puppy has to inherit that specific gene from both parents in order for it to express, or show up, in the puppy.
In the case of a lilac French Bulldog puppy, it means that both the mother and father dog must contribute to the liver gene and the dilute gene.
However, as Tato's Frenchies breeder explains, a lilac French Bulldog may also inherit a color pattern such as brindle.
When this occurs, the coat color genetics get even more complicated. And the final adult coat coloration may look different because of the influence of the coat color pattern, such as tan or fawn.
The coat is called lilac because the base color has the distinctive purple-type hue of the B-locus genes (for blue) and the D-locus genes (for chocolate which is a type of brown).
Mastering the Basics of Canine Coat Color Genes
As Embark Veterinary explains, there are two basic over-riding coat color pigments that all dogs can have.
These two pigments are eumelanin and phaeomelanin.
Eumelanin is the basic pigment that produces the black spectrum. At the solid end, you get your basic true black or brown. At the dilute end, you get blue (diluted black) or isabella (diluted brown).
It is isabella that can become the signature rare lilac color that is so popular for French Bulldogs right now.
As VCA Animal Hospitals explains, phaeomelanin is the red pigment.
In terms of its role in producing a lilac French Bulldog, phaeomelanin can be particularly relevant when there is a secondary color pattern.
Decoding the Lilac Genome in French Bulldogs
As the New Elite Bullbreed Kennel Club outlines, it takes a very specific genetic cross to produce a healthy lilac French Bulldog.
The reason for this is because breeding with dilute genes can also lead to health issues if the breeder is not extremely careful and knowledgeable.
This is why these so-called "rare" colors often cost so much. If you find a lilac French Bulldog at what appears to be a bargain price, you may end up spending a lot more money later on trying to fix serious health problems in your puppy.
The basic genome that is required to produce the lilac coat color (without any secondary pattern or marking) in French Bulldogs is bb/dd, or chocolate and blue.
So what you have in the "bb" is the black dilute chocolate gene that is coming from both French Bulldog parents.
And what you have in the "dd" is the black dilute blue gene that is coming from both French Bulldog parents.
The color range of the lilac coat color
However, just because a French Bulldog puppy may inherit a basic bb/dd genome from the parent dogs does not mean that all lilac coats will look the same.
Canine genetics is a lot more complicated than that!
The color of the lilac coat can range from a very pale or "clear" coat all the way up to an intensely deep purple lilac. The base color is always going to be some combination of grey-brown.
Health Problems When Working With Dilute Genes
Color dilution alopecia is a skin condition that can cause hair loss in dogs that carry a dilute color gene. This issue is sufficiently common that it is sometimes also called "blue dog syndrome."
As UVK French Bulldogs breeder explains, the dilute gene is nothing to mess around with.
When the dilute gene, or MLPH, is defective, this is when color dilution alopecia will show up.
Since there is no pre-screening test to determine if a dog will inherit color dilution alopecia, the only way to reduce risk is to test for the presence of the dilute gene itself and avoid breeding dogs that carry this gene.
However, sometimes knowledgeable breeders can be successful in breeding dogs with dilute colors that do not go on to develop blue dog syndrome.
Symptoms of color dilute alopecia typically start to show up in affected French Bulldogs at around the age of two years. Generally speaking, French Bulldog females should not be bred before this age anyway, which can reduce the risk.
However, puppy mills and so-called backyard breeders may not take this precaution and this is one of the main ways that blue dog syndrome gets passed on generation after generation.
When a breeder is careful and waits a longer period of time before initiating breeding, this is when the risk of passing on color dilution alopecia is greatly reduced. However, the risk is not completely removed.
Even if a French Bulldog adult does not ever develop symptoms of color dilution alopecia, they could still be carriers of the defective MLPH gene.
If a carrier dog were to be bred to another carrier dog, this could result in puppies that grow up to develop color dilution alopecia.
This is where it is so vital to work with an experienced, responsible breeder with a solid reputation in dog breeding.
Only this type of breeder will know their breed line so well they will be able to select only parent dogs that have the necessary genetics to produce dilute coat colors without passing along serious diseases like color dilution alopecia.
The other key to remember is that, typically, even the most health-focused and responsible breeder will only give an initial guarantee of health up to the age of one to two years.
Since color dilution alopecia does not typically start to show up until a dog is two years or older, this would be the equivalent of finding out your dog has serious, expensive, lifelong health problems right about the time your warranty runs out.
Color dilution alopecia, or CDA, cannot be cured. It does not ever get better on its own. The condition causes hair loss in patches starting with hair breakage.
Often secondary skin infections break out when hair follicles get plugged up with dead skin cells and hair fragments.
This can be very uncomfortable for a French Bulldog and there are no treatments that can do anything but control the discomfort of some symptoms as it occurs.
Should You Choose a Lilac French Bulldog?
Rather than putting all the focus of this question on the coat color of your puppy, it is better to focus on the reputation of the breeder.
A health-focused breeder will ensure all Frenchie puppies are healthy and sound.
As a freelance pet writer and blogger, Shannon is passionate about crafting knowledge-based, science-supported articles that foster healthy bonds of love and respect between people and animals. But her first and very most important job is as a dog auntie and cockatiel, tortoise, and box turtle mama.