Blue eyes in dogs are a rare physical trait that make for a very striking appearance.
When’s the last time you saw a dog with blue eyes? Considering the fact that only 5 percent of all dogs are born with baby blues, we’d wager it’s been a minute!
“Blue eyes can mean a number of things,” says Laura Robinson, DVM and medical advisor at Pawp. “Sometimes, it’s a genetic variant that causes blue eyes, like in huskies, while there is another gene that causes blue eyes in dogs who are ‘piebald’ or in dogs that are mostly white.”
She adds that there’s yet another gene that causes the blue eyes associated with merle-colored dogs. (Merle refers to a genetic pattern in a dog’s coat and on their skin that creates spotted patches of pigmentation. It’s common in Australian shepherds.) “When a dog inherits two copies of the merle gene, that is when problems arise,” she says. “These ‘double-merle’ pups are often completely white, born blind and deaf, and may have abnormally small eyes or abnormal irises. For these reasons, it’s widely considered bad practice to breed two merle carriers.”
Dr. Link Welborn, the North American Chief Veterinary (NACV) Officer at Covetrusadds that albinism is another reason dogs have blue eyes. While dogs with blue eyes may be more sensitive to light than dogs with green eyes or brown eyes, Dr. Robinson says that unless they are a “double-merle” carrier, these pups can almost always see just fine. However, you should be concerned if your dog exhibits signs of poor vision, or if they had dark eyes that turned pale, cloudy, or blue-ish. “Sometimes as dogs age, their eyes can appear to turn a ‘blue-ish color,’ which can be indicative of eye health problems such as cataracts or glaucoma, which may affect the dog’s vision quality,” says Dr. Robinson. “If you notice this in your dog, call your vet.” Find out if dogs can see color.
Now that you’re up to speed on why there are dogs with blue eyes, let’s get to know 12 of the most popular dog breeds that are known to have this rare physical feature.
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1. Siberian husky
Known for their thick coats, high energy, and endurance, the Siberian Husky is one of the most popular dog breeds with blue eyes. They’re pack dogs, meaning they embrace hanging out with other pups. They also need lots of space to run and burn off their energy, so a large yard is a must. Their appearance is quite striking not just because of their blue eyes, but because of their starkly contrasted white, gray, and black coats.
2. English setter
The English Setter is a merry, medium-sized pup that tops out at 80 pounds for males and 55 pounds for females and has a unique, speckled coat pattern. Though their eyes are typically brown, they can sometimes have blue eyes, notes Dr. Welborn. Along with Dalmatians, English Cocker Spaniels, and Bull Terriers, this breed is more likely to be deaf if it has blue eyes, Dr. Welborn says.
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The Weimaraner is a medium-sized pooch with a sleek, silvery-gray coat that often has a small white spot on its chest. Its eyes are pale in color, too—usually amber or a steel-like blue-gray hue. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recommends having this sporting dog’s eyes evaluated, along with their hips and thyroid.
Known for its white coat with black spots and hanging out with firemen, the Dalmatian is a medium- to large-sized dog with a muscular build and athletic disposition. Because of their energy, these graceful trotting dogs are perfect companions for avid outdoors enthusiasts, and their loyalty makes them superb watchdogs, too. Dalmatians have either brown or blue eyes, though blue is rarer.
5. Border Collie
This lovable and smart herding pup has a small to medium build and a longer, weather-resistant double coat. While brown eyes are most common in this breed, there are some Border Collie dogs with blue eyes. They may also have what’s called heterochromia (Latin for “different colors”). “Congenital heterochromia irides with one solid blue eye is a normal eye color variation and these dogs have normal vision,” says Dr. Welborn. “However, congenital heterochromia iridis (yes, only one letter difference between the two terms) refers to the same iris having different areas of pigmentation. For example, brown and blue areas in the same eye.”
German for “badger hound,” the Dachshund is a is a small and spunky German breed that has some serious hunting skills (hence its name). Today, they’re endearingly referred to as “wiener dogs” because of their resemblance to a hot dog: a long torso with four short legs. Dachshunds can have either long or short hair, and they typically have chocolate brown eyes. In very rare cases, they can have blue eyes if they possess the merle or dappled gene. Check out these other short-legged dogs that pack a major dose of cuteness.
7. Cardigan Welsh Corgi
The Cardigan Welsh Corgi has a similar build to the Dachshund with its long torso and short legs, though this herding breed is slightly larger at 25 to 38 pounds. It comes in several coat colors, including red and blue merle, and has a long and fluffy tail. According to the AKC’s Official Standard of the Cardigan Welsh Corgi, “Blue eyes (including partially blue eyes), or one dark and one blue eye permissible in blue merles, and in any other coat color than blue merle are a disqualification.” Just try not grinning ear to ear looking at these 26 cute corgi pictures.
8. Australian shepherd
An adorable member of the herding group, this pup is an especially popular merle dog breed with green eyes, blue eyes, brown eyes, or heterochromia. Their coat is medium-length and somewhat coarse, and they have a bobbed tail and an agile, muscular build. All of this makes for a truly striking appearance and it’s what makes them such natural herders across many climates.
9. Great Dane
The majestic and noble-looking Great Dane has a lean, svelte build and iconic oversized pointy ears. Its coat is a caramel color except for its face, which is black, and they are quite large at between 140 and 175 pounds. Things get a little interesting when it comes to their eyes. There are many Great Dane puppies with blue eyes, but their eye color typically shifts to amber or brown as they grow older. In rare cases, their eyes may remain blue. Speaking of puppies, check out these 50 cutest dog breeds as puppies.
10. Labrador retriever
Labrador retrievers consistently top out as one of the most popular dog breeds—and for good reason. They have an inherently sweet and loyal disposition, are easy to train, and are known for being one of the smartest dog breeds. This breed comes in three primary colors: golden, chocolate, and black. As is the case with many pups on this list, they more commonly have brown or amber eyes. Sometimes—often when mixed with other breeds—there may be chocolate or black dogs with blue eyes in this family of pups.
11. Bull terrier
You’ll known a bull terrier when you see one! It’s a distinguished and unusual-looking pup with a broad and rounded snout, pointy ears, and a muscular, medium-sized white body. Its triangular eyes are often dark brown, but in very rare cases you may see this white dog with blue eyes. This is more common in the case of a bull terrier being cross-bred with a merle dog.
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12. German shepherd
This large dog breed has a regal and sophisticated air and is also known for being wicked smart. That’s one reason why they are an excellent breed for K-9 units, and why they have a reputation for being loyal guard dogs. Their athletic builds and courageous attitude also help on that front! While it is quite rare for German shepherds to have blue eyes, it can sometimes occur due to genetic variation.
- Laura Robinson, DVM and medical advisor at Pawp
- Link Welborn, DVM, the North American Chief Veterinary (NACV) Officer at Covetrus