Our little Bracken is an example of a golden sable. Golden sables don't have the black tips on their hair generally and have a much more 'ginger' colour than a shaded sable. Sables can have a minimal amount of white or the classic pattern (known as the Irish pattern) of white collar, chest, legs and tip of tail. Sables can only be mated to other sables or tricolours. If sables are mated to merles then it is possible to get sable merle puppies which are not eligible for registration in the UK.
Brooke is an example of a shaded sable. These are also known as tri-factored sables as they carry the tri-colour gene and can produce tri puppies if mated to another dog that carries the tri gene. In my experience of shaded sables, they often get darker as they get older - it is a very striking colour. Again, the shaded sables can have varying amounts of white, Brooke has minimal white markings. Something that is in common with different shades of sables is that they have a dark patch of hair at the top of their tail and a 'saddle' of lighter hair just behind their shoulders. Its easier to see on Brooke than on Bracken.
This is Shelridge Saturn owned by Lian Knight. He is a great example of a mahogany sable. Notice how dark he is over his back with the lighter patch behind his shoulders. The head on picture shows how shaded sables have a darker 'mask' on their faces.
Brodie is an example of a tricolour. A tricolor is basically black, with tan points over the eyes, on the cheeks, and sometimes on the legs. Tricolors also have varying amounts of the traditional white markings on the face, collar, and tail tip. Brodie has a lot of white markings compared to many tricolours. Tricolours can be mated to both sables and blue merles - very multi-purpose!!
Rommy (Sanscott Ski Blue-owned by Jenni Hilliard) is a great example of a blue merle. The coat is diluted in places by the merle gene and appears silvery blue with varying darker patches and has tan points like a tricolour. Blue merles vary from very pale with little black to predominately black with little evidence of merling. Like all the sheltie colours there will be varying degrees of white.
These are basically tricolour and blue merle but without the tan markings. Bi-blue is merle with no tan and bi-black is black and white. Bi-colours are more unusual as both of the parents must carry the recessive bi-colour gene. Black and tan (no white) is a recognised colour as well but it died out almost a century ago and is unlikely to appear again. Thanks to Lian Knight for her photo of bi-black Sen (Ebonny Jewel Divoky sen) and Sen's bi-blue dad Eskimo Bi Z Denveru.
White factor is what controls the amount of white and it can be hard to tell whether a dog is white factored. The most common indication is white markings on the hind legs that run all the way up the dogs stifles. This can be seen in the photos below left of Brackens Dad. It is also said that if a dog has white from its chin uninterrupted to its front toes then it may be white factored. If two white factored dogs are bred together then there is a 25% chance of getting colour headed white (CHW) puppies. These are considered mismarks in the UK and cannot be shown. Below right is a colour headed white, they can have varying amounts of colour versus white. This example is a shaded sable colour headed white.
If two merles are mated together then there is a proportion of the litter which will end up with two copies of the merle gene (hence double merle) unfortunately these puppies are often deaf and visually impaired. For this reason merle to merle matings are not advisable and the KC will not register puppies from merle-merle matings. Double merle dogs are white all over.
The term ticking refers to small flecks or spots of colour in the otherwise white areas on the Sheltie. The colour of the ticking is the same as the base coat colour so a sable will have sable ticking. A tricolor will have black ticking around its neck, and black or tan ticking on its face and legs, the color depending on the location of the ticking. Brodie and Brooke both have ticking on their front and hind legs - I like to refer to it as naughty spots though! These photos don't show it that well so I will try and get some better ones, click on them to make them bigger. Brooke has light sable ticking on all of her legs and Brodie has two black patches on his right front leg and lots of lighter tan patches on his back legs. Please excuse Bracken falling asleep!!