What Is a Calico Dog?

What Is a Calico Dog

When we think of calico, most people’s first thoughts are on calico cats. These are often pretty cats composed of a few different colors in patterns throughout their body. However, did you know there are also calico dogs?

While the wording isn’t as common, there are dogs out there that have calico coloration. However, there is a different name that is used for dogs. While cats are often called calico, dogs go by the term tricolor.

Calico Dogs: What Are They?

You may have never heard of a calico dog until recently, and for good reason. While calico is a term that is often used to describe cats, it isn’t used much for dogs.

The term calico actually originally came from textiles and fabric that came from India. When the fabric hit America, the definition was then used to describe animals, including dogs, cats, horses, and dogs.

However, over time, the name stuck more on cats while tricolor replaced the term for most other animals.

So what is calico coloring? A calico animal is often described as having three distinct colors in their fur. For cats, it is often black, white, and orange. These cats are often females.

Since there are no calico dogs, what color is closest? Well, since calico is made up of three colors, we can assume that the closest comparison is the tricolor fur in dogs.

Though it is very rarely called calico, the definition is the same. However, in dogs, the three most common colors are white, brown, and black.

It is important to note that calico is solely a type of fur. Calico does not refer to a dog breed or breeds, but solely what color fur a dog can have.

What Are The Color Patterns Dogs Can Have?

Dogs can have many different color patters. There is calico or tricolored, but that isn’t even close to the only option. Since dogs are used quite often for shows, there are many specific definitions and requirements for a dog to be defined as having one color or the other.

Bernese Mountain Dog Breed
Bernese Mountain Dog Breed

Certain dog breeds are more inclined to have specific coloration than others, such as Golden Retrievers generally being a solid coloring or a Australian Shepherd having a merle coloration.

Coat Types Description
Ticking Ticking is when there are flecks of spots on a dog’s fur that look similar to fleas. The dog’s fur has to be milky white to be considered ticking.
Brindled Brindled fur is stripes, reminiscent of a tiger’s fur. They usually have darker stripes on lighter fur, but can occasionally be the opposite.
Merle Merle fur has multiple shades of one color, such as brown, tan, and light brown or white.
Tricolor These are the ones most often referred to as calico dogs. They have three colors.
Bicolor There are two colors on the dog. However, these colors are even or very close to evenly distributed.
Parti-Color Parti means particular. This means that there is only one primary color. Then there will be large patches of another color. The colors are not evenly distributed.
Solid Color As the name suggests, these are dogs that only have one color. There are no patterns or markings.
Table of Coat Colors and Patterns for Calico Dogs

Do Tricolored/Calico Dogs Have Health Issues?

It’s no secret that a dog’s fur coloration often correlate with various health problems. For example, pure white dogs are often deaf. Now, we know that this is due to the gene that makes fur white and the fur that affects hearing come from the same stem cell source.

Another common health issue related to coloring is eye problems. Deafness and eye issues are often common in dogs with merle coloration. While merle itself isn’t a problem, there is a rare coloring known as double-merle where the chances of serious eye conditions increase greatly.

Deafness is often the most linked gene. That means that certain colorings of dogs tend to have a higher chance of deafness. Thankfully, dogs with tricolored fur tend to not have that association.

Basset Hound Dog Breed
Basset Hound Dog Breed

This means that you don’t usually have to worry about tricolored dogs getting specific health issues. There are many different dog breeds that are tricolored or have a possibility of getting tricolored fur, but there is no common health problem linking them altogether that can be associated with the fur.

Top 10 Dog Breeds With Calico Coloring

Since calico is considered the same as tricolor in dogs, you simply have to look for dogs that have the tricolor pattern. These dogs usually have a mix of brown, black, and white, though the shades can be different.

It is a very common dog breed, and is found with various dogs throughout the world. But here we will provide you with the ten most popular dog breeds that have calico coloring.

  1. Beagle – Not only are these very famous and well-loved dogs, they are one of the most recognizable tricolored breeds out there. These dogs are scent-hounds that tend to wander when they get focused on their prey. Beagles are officially recognized as having 11 different coat patterns, with six of those being tricolor varieties.
  2. Bernese Mountain Dog – Bernese Mountain Dogs are growing in popularity around the world. They have a dense coat and enjoy colder weather. They are very gentle and great options for families with children.
  3. Basset Hound – There hasn’t been a more mellow and gentle dog than a Basset Hound. They are a little stubborn and get focused on scents, so they are difficult to train, but they enjoy treats and cuddling on the couch.
  4. Pit Bull – Pit Bulls, being a variety of breeds, and even mixes of breeds, can understandably come in many different colors. One of those color options is tricolor, or calico. They are strong dogs that need a lot of training and exercise, but are very sweet and loving.
  5. Pomeranian – Pomeranians are Spitz-type dogs with a fuzzy, mini teddy-bear appearance. They need a lot of attention and love from their owners but they have a bold personality. Due to their small size, they are usually best in homes with only mature family members.
  6. Entlebucher Mountain Dog – Entlebuchers are herding dogs. They usually have a black body, a white chest, and brown markings, with distinctive eyebrows often appearing in brown on their face. Now, they are mostly used for dog shows, and aren’t well-known, but they are hardworking, loyal, and have short coats for less shedding.
  7. Pembroke Welsh Corgi – There are two types of Corgis out there, but the Pembroke Welsh Corgi is the one with distinctive tricolor patterns. They can be differentiated from the Cardigan Welsh Corgi by their missing tail and coloration. These dogs enjoy herding and despite their short stature have great agility.
  8. Basenji – Basenjis are some incredibly expressive dogs, that almost behave more like cats than dogs. Due to their cat-like personality, calling their fur calico-colored seems fitting. They aren’t great for new dog owners as they can be stubborn and loud.
  9. Chihuahua – Despite their small size, Chihuahuas have a large personality. They are loyal and loving lapdogs, but do still need proper training or they can become aggressive and stubborn. They are one of the oldest dog breeds out there.
  10. Collie – Collies are common tricolor dogs as well. They are easy to train because they love to please and get praise from their owners. They don’t respond to negative training though, and have a lot of fur which can be overwhelming for new dog owners.

Calico Dog Frequently Asked Questions

What Colors Can Tricolor/Calico Dogs Have?

The most common mix of colors for a calico dog are brown, black, and white. Another version has blue, black, and gray as well, though this is a much rarer combination.

Are Tricolor Dogs Rare?

For some breeds, tricolor fur can be rare, while others it is the most common option. Take Beagles for example. Most Beagles are tricolored. However, having a Tricolored Pit Bull is very rare.

How Do You Get a Tricolor Dog?

Again, this depends on the dog breed. For Beagles it is easy enough to get a calico coloring, as there are already so many Beagles out there with tricoloring. In Pit Bulls, tricoloring is rare because it is a recessive trait, so both parents must pass on the gene.


While calico is not a common term for dog breeds, there are dogs out there that could be classified as having calico fur. In the dog world, this fur type is often referred to as tricolor.

Some popular dogs that have tricolor fur, which is a mix of brown, white, and black fur on a dog, are Beagles, Collies, Bernese Mountain Dogs, and even Pomeranians. While none of these dogs only come in tricolor, they all have a possible tricolor fur type they can get.