In the mid-19th century two distinct strains of Pugs dominated the Pug breeding lines for several decades. Each of these strains was named after two rival breeders, the Willoughby and the Morrison.

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Pug Colors
(Coat Colors in Pugs)
by Catherine Marien © Puginformation.org

History of the Standard Pug Colors

In the Willoughbies, the black mask was not limited to the muzzle but could extend all over the head and have a less definite edge.


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Coat color in Pugs has long been a source of controversy, and much of this discussion stems from a misinterpretation of the original breed standard.

The original Pug standard mentioned silver(-), apricot-fawn and black as the accepted colors. For some unknown reason the fact that a hyphen was missing after the term 'silver' lead to the interpretation that silver, apricot and fawn were meant
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or the "Missing Hyphen"

Pug puppy with typical Willoughby mask
The black color was first seen in Europe in 1886, when the English Lady Annie Brassey first exhibited black pugs at the Maidstone Show in that year. It is believed that she brought back these black pugs from a trip to China, but it has never been clearly determined where exactly she obtained the first specimen. Her published journals of the trip of the "Sunbeam" (the yacht in which she toured around the world) contain no mention of a black pug. The first black pug champion was Ch. Duke Beira. The true origin of the black color remains unclear. More about Black Pugs.

Eventually the two types became interbred and the distinction faded and silver-fawn pugs have become extremely rare today. However, it is still common to speak of a Willoughby Pug, a cold fawn color, or a Morrison Pug, a golden apricot shade and many characteristics seen in today's pugs can still be traced back to one of these two lines.

The Morrison Pugs were golden fawn in color with a well-defined black mask on the muzzle and a trace on the back, a narrow black line extending from the occiput to the tail.

Like the mask, the trace was less clear in the Willoughby lines and was more like a large saddle mark. Note that a saddle mark is not the same as a smutty coat. The smutty coat looks like a dirty fawn where the black hairs are blended into the fawn coloration, often showing an irregular pattern, while the saddle mark is still like a trace, only much larger and in the form of a saddle. The base color of the Willoughby Pugs was a colder stone-fawn or silver-fawn color.

A further distinction between the two lines is that the fawn-colored hairs were sometimes tipped with black in the Willoughby pugs, while the Morrison fawn was always pure.

Pug puppy with typical Morrison mask
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Actually, an important judge in the Pug's history went as far as saying that the ground color was irrelevant, but "that the black markings that should accompany it are of considerable importance". In other words, it is not the color that makes the pug, but the markings. The only exception to that, of course, was the black pug. The difference is important, and may have lead to the misreading of some pug colors, or their exclusion alltogether (see: Rare pug coat colors).

Indeed, Trullinger, the famous Pug judge, breeder and exhibitor interpreted the original breed standard as follows: "By 'fawn' is meant almost any of the light yellowish shades, from almost a cream-white to a deep apricot-fawn and a grayish silver color." Pug literature of the first half of the 1900's mentioned 'silver-fawn' and 'apricot-fawn', which clearly made of silver and apricot just two different shades of the color fawn, not separate colors. Susan Graham Weall, an important Pug author of the 1960's describes silver-fawn as "a clear, cold fawn having the same difference between the two tones of colour as there is between moonlight and sunlight." Silver-fawn pugs are very rare and almost never seen in the show ring.

Silver-grey (or silver pugs) and blue pugs have been mentioned in pug literature, but are different from the silver-fawn ones. More about these other pug colors. Patchy colors have been mentioned as well. More about brindle pugs.

Fawn and black pug
as different colors and that (together with black) they were the only accepted ones. Some go as far as saying that a pug in a color "other than these four" is not pure-bred. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, only a hyphen was missing after the word 'silver' and thus the colors in the original standard should be read as 'silver-fawn' and 'apricot-fawn', i.e. two shades of the color fawn, instead as two separate color categories next to fawn. Pug experts of the early 1900's indeed confirm that different shades of the color fawn were accepted (not just silver-fawn or apricot-fawn, but also every shade in between these colors). It would thus be more correct to speak of two categories (instead of four): fawn and black, with all shades of fawn (from a creamy white to a reddish apricot) accepted within this category. The main difference between the two categories would then not be merely based on the color, but on the presence or absence of the distinctive mask and markings (ears, trace, moles).
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