Black German Shepherd 101 (All questions answered)

When you think of the German Shepherd, the bicolor black and tan variety comes to mind. But, German Shepherds can also spot a shiny pure black coat.

The black GSD is exactly what it sounds like, a German Shepherd with a pure black coat. These dogs are rare and costlier than their black and tan counterparts.  AKC recognizes the black German Shepherd as a purebred dog.

For a pup to be black, 2 copies of a black recessive gene should be present. Scroll on to learn more.

Black German Shepherd genetics

Two basic color pigments determine all colors on dogs. These are black Eumelanin and red or yellow phaeomelanin pigments. Color genes dictate pigment production and others change them to various colors and shades.

Black on German Shepherds is a result of a rare recessive gene on the Agouti or A-locus denoted as “a”.

The A-locus is a DNA region that regulates pigment switching and distribution. It is a region governed by the ASIP gene. The ASIP gene controls whether pigment-producing cells produce black or red/yellow pigment.

There 4 known or testable versions (alleles) of this gene on the A-locus;

  • Ay (Clear sable/fawn)– This is the most dominant gene variant. One copy of this gene will promote phaeomelanin production and cause the dog to appear yellow.
  • Aw (Agouti/Wolf sable)– Agouti is recessive over clear sable but dominant over tan points. This gene causes the hair shafts to alternate between black and red/yellow pigment.
  • At (Tan points)– Is recessive to wolf sable and fawn but dominant over recessive black. This gene results in black GSDs with tan points on the eyebrows, cheeks, chest, legs, and under the tail. 
  • a (Recessive black)– This allele is recessive over the others as it is the least dominant. Two copies of this gene promote black pigment production and block red/yellow pigment production. Recessive black is only found in a few breeds such as the German Shepherd, and Doberman Pinscher.

With 2 copies of the recessive black gene, the coat, skin nose, eye rims, lips, and paw pads will be pure black. The dog will also have dark brown eyes due to eumelanin presence in the iris.

A Dominant black gene found on the K-locus causes black on most breeds but is absent in the German Shepherd. GSDs are KyKy on the K-locus which allows the agouti locus to be visible. Dominant and recessive black are similar in color but with different genes.

Black German Shepherd Size

Black German Shepherds have similar traits to the typical GSD with exception of color. They are of the same build and size and there is no evidence suggesting that Black GSDs are bigger.

Expect this dog to weigh between 50 and 88 pounds and to stand 22 to 26 inches tall like any other.


In general, black German Shepherds are costlier than their popular black and tan counterparts. Their price ranges from $1000 to $3000 but costs depend on location, the breeder, pedigree, and so on.

Black German Shepherd names

  1. Ash
  2. Blackie
  3. Carbon
  4. Coal
  5. Hawk
  6. Onyx
  7. Oreo
  8. Panther
  9. Pearl
  10. Pepper
  11. Raven
  12. Shade
  13. Smoke
  14. Soot
  15. Steel
  16. Zeus


Why are Black German Shepherds rare?

While most breeds have black coats due to a dominant gene, this is not the case for the black GSD.

For a German Shepherd to be black, two copies of a recessive black gene from each parent should be present. One copy of recessive black is masked by other dominant genes, lowering the chances of black GSD pups. Thus, black GSDs are quite rare.

You can get black puppies from non-black parents that carry a hidden copy of the recessive black gene.

Do black German Shepherds change color?

True Black German Shepherds are born black and remain black throughout their life. But, tan point Shepherds also appear black after birth and develop tan points afterward.

What is the lifespan of a black German Shepherd?

Black coats and genes are not associated with any health complications in GSDs. As such, the black German Shepherd has a 9 to 13 years lifespan like any other variation.

There you go, WOOF!