The Truth About Black Golden Retrievers (According To Science) – Golden Hearts

The Truth About Black Golden Retrievers (According To Science)

Want to know the truth about black golden retrievers?

Yes, they may be adorable…

And yes, they may be sweet…

But they’re not actually golden retrievers.

It’s impossible for a purebred golden retriever to be black because their golden color is a result of two recessive alleles.

If you see a “black golden retriever” on the street or the internet, it’s most likely a different breed, like a flat-coated retriever, or some sort of lab or golden retriever mix.

In this post, we’re going to dive into:

  • Why black golden retrievers can’t exist
  • Which dogs look like black golden retrievers
  • How golden retrievers compare to flat-coated retrievers
  • What shades golden retrievers actually come in
  • A quick warning about black golden retrievers
  • And much more

Let’s do this!

The Science Behind Why Black Golden Retrievers Don’t Exist

Ready to get nerdy?

According to, the MC1R gene, or the E-Locus, controls the production of pigment in melanocytes, which controls the color of skin or fur.

The dominant allele, “E”, allows a dog to produce black pigment, eumelanin.

The recessive allele, “e”, turns all the eumelanin to phaeomelanin, which means that the coat will be yellow or red in color.

Since all goldens have the recessive “e/e” genotype, it’s impossible for a purebred golden to pass on the dominant “E” allele, so they will always be some shade of gold or red, and will never be black.

There are four other genes that dictate the color of the coat, but dogs that are e/e will always be yellow.

What About Genetic Mutations?

Yes, genetic mutations do happen occasionally, but a mutation in golden retrievers will manifest itself as a patch of black fur or “birthmark”, and not a pure black coat.

The picture above is of Peter Fox, a golden retriever with a pigment somatic mutation, and his mother, Babsy.

What Dogs Could Look Like Black Golden Retrievers

flat coated golden retriever

Yes, the picture above looks A LOT like a black golden retriever, but in fact, it’s a flat-coated retriever.

Golden retrievers were originally a mix of a wavy coated retriever and a Tweed water spaniel, so other retrievers and spaniels could also appear very similar.

Here are some dogs that may look like black golden retrievers:

  • Flat-coated retrievers
  • Black lab and golden retriever mix
  • Another combination of labrador or golden retriever mixes
  • Golden retriever and black German shepherd mix
  • Newfoundland
  • Hovawart

Golden Retriever vs. Flat-Coated Retriever

The purebred dog that probably looks the most like a golden retriever is a flat-coated retriever.

In addition to their looks, they share many behavioral qualities, as well.

Here are some similarities and differences between the two breeds (thanks to Dogtime and the AKC for info about the flat-coated retriever):

Similarities between golden retrievers and flat-coated retrievers:

  • Both have feathering in their legs and tails
  • Both were originally bred as hunting dogs
  • Both have puppy-ish attitudes for a long time (although flat-coated retrievers may act like puppies even longer than goldens)
  • Both are energetic breeds that require lots of exercise
  • Both are loving and happy dogs
  • Both have a tendency to chew and jump

Differences between golden retrievers flat-coated retrievers:

  • Golden retrievers are golden in color, compared to flat-coated retrievers that are black or liver in color
  • Goldens are usually wonderful with kids, but flat-coated retrievers may be a little too exuberant for them
  • Flat-coated retrievers may be slightly taller and leaner than goldens
  • Golden retrievers are usually slightly more calm than flat-coated retrievers

What Shades Do Golden Retrievers Come In?

Image source: The Golden Retriever Breed
Standard Illustrated, by Wendy Andrews

Now although golden retrievers don’t come in black, they do come in several shades of gold, including:

This color is dependent on the parents, although goldens of different shades can be born in the same litter.

The AKC breed standard for golden retrievers says this about their color: “Rich, lustrous golden of various shades.”

Note that they say nothing about black there.

A Quick Warning About “Black Golden Retrievers”

If a breeder claims to breed black golden retrievers, they may just trying to make extra money selling, “rare golden retrievers.”

A similar problem may exist with “English Cream Golden Retrievers,” but the difference is that English Cream Golden Retrievers are still golden retrievers just with a fancy name and light coloring.

Black golden retrievers don’t exist so anybody telling or selling you otherwise may have ulterior (monetary) motives and you’d want to be careful about trusting them.

Whenever you’re evaluating any breeder who’s breeding pet dogs, their two main goals should always be temperament and health, with color or appearance secondary.


black and gold golden retrievers

When it comes to golden retrievers, they only exist in some shade of gold, so a “black golden retriever” is likely a flat-coated retriever or some mix of golden retriever with a black lab, or some other black breed.

Have any questions about black golden retrievers?

Let me know in the comments below!

And if you know someone who needs to hear the truth about “black golden retrievers,” or wants one, please share this with them!

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11 thoughts on “The Truth About Black Golden Retrievers (According To Science)”

  1. Hi. I have a question. Have you ever heard of a golden retriever getting mystinia Travis. I may have misspelled the word. Also do you know of any vet school that might be doing research on this particular disease. Thanks.

  2. Hi jake and Oliver. I would like to thank you for creating this information friendly article on black golden retrievers. I have read many articles on black golden retriever before yours and there were many articles misguiding people in believing that pure breed black golden retriever does exist. This is a great article buddy.

  3. Hi there,

    Thank you for this breakdown. I have a Great Pyrenees/Golden Retriever that came out, well, mostly black with stark white tufts of hair.

    The issue I’m having, is that this sometimes really upsets Purebred owners on either side who claim my dog is not a Pyr (or a Golden Retriever). He was sold as a Golden Pyrenees, but is also described as a Black and White Pyrenees which some claim do not exist while others insist they do.

    Any insight you have on how genetics would work in this case, I’d love to hear it.

    • I have a golden retriever x Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever which looks like exactly like a roller just black and white, where do you think this could have came into it? The litter he came from had 8 black pups and 2 red/golden pups.

  4. Hi Jake, i am Marie from France, don’t ask me how i arrived on your website, i am just fond of genetics in animals and love to discover new species/breeds. anyway, this being said (i should stop because i start speaking about animals…)
    I thni you should check the Hovawart breed and add it to your list of dogs looking like black Golden Retriever.
    Hovawart are quite rare which is awesome because they are not massively bred like the famous top 5. And sorry i’ll spoil your discovery: they are gorgeous.
    Enjoy 🙂

  5. “I love big mutts and I can not lie, Sir Mix A Lot.” I have a 50% Golden Retriever , 30% Shep and 20% Border Collie. He looks just like a purebred black golden, I know not possible. I have seen him next to a flat-coated retriever, and the flat coated looks more like a ” black setter” than a Golden. I would love to send you a picture of my dog. 100lbs and loves to swim, loves kids and balls. Yes, I am pushing the mutts!


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