Erick Conard's Lucky Hit Ranch: Anatolian Shepherd Page

The Genetic Difference Between
Anatolians and Kangals

Shadow - Kangal or Anatolian?
Shadow - Kangal or Anatolian?

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I was asked, "What's the genetic difference between a 'Kangal,' a fawn Anatolian with a black mask, maskless Anatolians, and those Anatolians whose bodies are grey, red, pinto, or white in color. The short answer is -- there isn't much difference at all ... basically only a variation in the less well understood color modifiers for the "A" Locus and, on Anatolians with white spots (pintos), the presence of the spotting gene at the "S" Locus.

"Dun" or Fawn with a black mask

Lucky Hit Shadow Kasif (Case) at 11 months
The Anatolians that are dun (fawn) with a black mask carry the "Ay," or sable, gene at the "A" Locus (Agouti Locus). Genes at the "A" Locus code for a signaling protein, the Agouti Protein (AP). AP's job is to counteract the effects of the Melanocyte Stimulating Hormone (MSH) (which tells the melanocytes to produce black) on the MC1-R receptors located on melanocytes. The signaling protein (AP) stops eumelanin (black pigment) production, which would otherwise be present.

Phaeomelanin is apparently the "default" pigment. In other words, without other gene directed enzymatic and regulatory activity, a dog's coat will become some shade of yellow. Since the AP stopped eumelanin production (black), the "default" yellow-red phaeomelanin pigment is produced. Pigment modifying factors can result in yellow phaeomelanin shades anywhere from light cream to dark red color variants. Other Ay (sable) modifiers can add from a small amount of black tipping on the longer coarser hairs to a great deal of black sable covering much of the dog's coat. Using the wide range of variation possible for "Ay" alleles, an Anatolians coat can vary from pale beige to gray, dun, yellow, or even what appears to be white at first glance.

In the "Kangal," it appears that breeders are attempting to narrow the potential variety of the Ay (sable) gene by selecting only for the "dun" color modifiers you mentioned and by eliminating the spotting gene. Basically, it seems to me that Kangals are being selected for a color range that is narrower than is allowed in the Anatolian Shepherd. I believe that these dogs, both the so called "Kangal" and the Anatolian Shepherd, have been historically bred for their superior guardian ability rather than for color. To me, giving a subgroup of dogs a breed designation as a result of narrowing the color genetics in a working guardian landrace seems purely artificial. I believe that giving breed designation to Anatolians without a black mask would be just as scientifically incorrect as giving breed designation to Anatolians without white and calling them Kangals.

. Ay - The Sable allele produces fawn with variable amounts of black.

Zara with her friend
In Anatolians, the almost universally found allele of the "A" series is the sable allele, Ay. The Ay allele produces fawn colored dogs and, depending on other genetic color factors, can result in a dog anywhere in a color range from a pale biscuit through shades of yellow to a rich red. The Ay allele also directs the production of some black hairs, which are sometimes identified as "sailing." These Ay produced black hairs are generally denser on the dog's dorsal surface and absent or very sparse on the dogs ventral surface. The Ay allele also permits the expression of a gene for black mask and ears and a gene for brindle. (The locations of the mask and the brindle genes are uncertain at this time and several possible locations have been explored.)

The expression of the Ay (sable) allele results in a fawn colored dog (from phaeomelanin (yellow-red) color pigment since eumelanin (black) was inhibited). Fawn (or sable) dogs have amounts of black colored hair in their coats that can vary greatly from very few black hairs to much of the hair in the coat being black. Black hair on a sable dog can range from the individual hair being solid black to the individual hair being black only at the tip of the hair. Also, in sable dogs, both black and yellow pigment is found in the same hair. Even if it appears a dog's coat is without black, a sable (Ay) dog's whiskers (the stiff vibrissae) growing from pigmented skin are black.

Effect of the "S" Locus... the Spotting Gene

Lucky Hit Shadow Beau at six months
Some genes affect the migratory pathways of the neural crest cells which ultimately form melanocytes (the cells that produce pigment). Both Spotting (S) and Merle (M) are produced by genes that affect the migratory pathways of melanocytes. The Spotting gene ("S" Locus), which is found in Anatolians, affects the amount and location of unpigmented (white) areas on the dog. The following allelic assignments are made in descending order of dominance.

. S - Self ; Produces complete pigmentation. This is the normal, no-spotting gene and is dominant.

. si - Irish spotting (sometimes called Dutch marking in Anatolian Shepherds); Irish spotting creates a white collar and blaze with some white on the belly, legs and chest. This allele may be additive as it is thought that dogs homozygous for Irish spotting have irregular white patches on their bodies, with the number and size of these patches being extremely variable.

Lucky Hit's Shadow Hawk as a pup
. sp - Piebald spotting; codes for colored patches on a white background. The piebald allele results in well defined areas of colored and white hair.

. sw - Extreme White Piebald; creates a few small colored spots on a white background. It also may produce all white animals in some breeds.

Robison created a scale to help clarify the type of spotting a dog has. This scale shows a color gradient ranging from solid to almost pure white. Therefore, rather than four specific alleles which code for four different outcomes, it is possible that the expression of the spotting gene may instead be controlled by additive modifiers.

I have completed a more comprehensive explanation of dog coat color genetics with an emphasis on the Anatolian Shepherd which is included in my web site at

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