Despite their name, golden retrievers come in more colors than just gold.
From light cream to dark red, these beautiful dogs’ coats can be a range of colors.
And to make matters even more interesting, there are some physical and personality differences associated with different colors as well.
So in this post, you’ll learn:
- The 3 main colors golden retrievers come in
- How popular each type of color is
- The 2 types of golden retrievers (and what colors they primarily come in)
- What the breed standard says about different colors — and what the differences between American and UK standards are
- What colors golden retrievers don’t come in
- And much more
Let’s dive in!
Golden Retriever Colors
Golden retrievers come in three main colors:
- Cream or light gold
These are all shades of gold to some degree, and within these three main colors there are lots of different shades (as you can see in the picture above).
Each color is beautiful in it’s own way, but some colors are associated with different characteristics, so here’s a breakdown of each color:
Cream Golden Retrievers
Cream golden retrievers are the lightest golden retrievers.
When most people think of cream-colored golden retrievers, they think of English Cream golden retrievers.
These are stocky, blocky-headed goldens that are thought to be calmer and healthier than other goldens.
If you ask the Golden Retriever Club of America, they’ll tell you it’s baloney and all golden retrievers are all the same.
But if you look at the research, there is some data that suggests European golden retrievers actually are healthier than American golden retrievers.
According to this study by the University of Cambridge, 40% of European golden retrievers will die from cancer, while, according to this article on Mercola.com, 60% of golden retrievers in America will die from cancer.
Another interesting note about cream-colored golden retrievers is that show rings in America prefer darker goldens.
Here’s what the American Kennel Club breed standard says about color:
“Rich, lustrous golden of various shades… Predominant body color which is either extremely pale or extremely dark is undesirable.”
So if you’re looking to win dog shows in America, a cream-colored golden shouldn’t be your first choice.
However, if you live in the UK, it’s a different story (hint: this is why they’re called English Cream golden retrievers).
Here’s what the Kennel Club (UK) breed standard says about color:
“Any shade of gold or cream, neither red nor mahogany.”
So in America, they prefer dogs that are actually gold, while in England, they accept both gold and cream-colored dogs.
Gold Golden Retrievers
Air Bud, Comet from Full House…
This is what the classic gold golden retriever looks like.
And fun fact — Air Bud and Comet are actually played by the same dog, Buddy!
Like we just talked about in the previous section, the AKC prefers dogs that are actually gold in color.
For example, here’s Daniel, the golden retriever who won the Sporting Group at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (which is an American show) in 2020:
Image source: AKC
You can obviously see he’s a solid gold.
As far as physical characteristics and personality goes, gold golden retrievers can come in a variety of shapes and temperaments.
They can be stocky with long, thick coats, which is your typical show golden look, or slender and athletic, like field bred golden retrievers (more on this later).
And just like all golden retrievers, they’re sweet, loving, and loyal.
Red Golden Retrievers
Red golden retrievers are the darkest colored goldens.
Neither the AKC nor the KC are huge fans of red golden retrievers.
The AKC breed standard says: “Predominant body color which is… extremely dark is undesirable.”
The KC breed standard says: “Any shade of gold or cream, neither red nor mahogany.”
But that doesn’t mean they’re not beautiful, purebred goldens!
It’s just that they won’t be winning dog shows anytime soon.
Now one of the most interesting things about red golden retrievers is that many of them are field bred goldens, which leads us to…
The 2 Types Of Golden Retrievers
There are essentially two types of golden retrievers:
Unless you got your dog from a breeder who specializes in one of these types (or breeds English Cream golden retrievers) your golden is probably a mix of both.
But here are some characteristics of these two dogs:
Field Bred Golden Retrievers
These are dogs that were bred to hunt.
They’ve got tons of energy, high prey drive, and like to work.
They’re slender and athletic, and have shorter coats than other goldens.
And the most interesting thing, as it pertains to this article, is that many field golden retrievers are red.
If you do a quick Google search for “hunting golden retrievers”, you’ll find mostly red, or darker colored goldens.
But don’t let their hunting nature fool you!
These goldens still have that sweet, loving golden retriever personality we all love.
Show Golden Retrievers
Show golden retrievers are stockier than field golden retrievers with blocky heads and longer coats.
They also tend to be a little more calm and need less mental stimulation and exercise.
Also, since they’re bred to succeed in the show ring, they’re typically gold, like Daniel the Westminster Sporting Group Champion pictured above.
And, of course, they’re great family dogs who love people.
Read this article for more about different types of golden retrievers.
How Popular Each Type Of Golden Retriever Color Is
Some breeders will claim that their dogs are a rare color, and therefore more valuable.
But how common are each of these three colors?
We did a survey asking 600 golden retriever owners what color golden they have and here’s what they said:
As you can see, gold is the most popular by far, followed by light gold or cream, then red.
- 51.6% of golden retriever owners have gold golden retrievers
- 31.5% of golden retriever owners have light gold or cream golden retrievers
- 16.8% of golden retriever owners have red golden retrievers
You can see the other fun facts we found in the 2021 Golden Retriever Owners Report here.
What Colors Golden Retrievers DON’T Come In
You know that golden retrievers come in some form of gold, from light cream to red…
But what colors do people think they come in, but actually don’t?
White and black.
Yes, English golden retrievers can be super light-colored, but technically they’re not pure white, like samoyeds or bichons.
But that’s really just semantics..
The big misconception here is black golden retrievers.
If you see a black golden retriever, it’s not a purebred golden retriever.
It’s probably a mixed breed or a flat-coated retriever, like the one pictured below.
Looks just like a golden, right?!
Brace for yourself for science mumbo jumbo now…
It’s genetically impossible for a purebred golden retriever to have a black coat because, according to AnimalGenetics.us, the MC1R gene, or the E-Locus, controls the production of pigment in melanocytes, (this controls the color of skin or fur).
The dominant allele, “E”, allows a dog to produce black pigment, eumelanin, while the recessive allele, “e”, turns all the eumelanin to phaeomelanin, which means that the coat will be yellow or red in color.
All goldens have the recessive “e/e” genotype, so it’s impossible for a purebred golden to pass on the dominant “E” allele.
Because of this, they will always be some shade of gold or red, and will never have a black coat.
If you just glossed over all that science, just remember this: purebred golden retrievers can’t have black coats!
How Do You Know What Color Your Golden Retriever Will Be?
If you’re getting a golden retriever puppy, you probably want to know what color they’ll turn out to be.
That’s easy — just look at the parents.
Your puppy will most likely be some blend of their parents.
Sure, two dark gold golden retrievers may produce some lighter-color puppies, but the chances of two red goldens producing a cream-colored golden are unlikely.
Does Color Matter?
Here’s the truth about color: if you’re thinking about what to look for in a puppy that you’re getting for a pet, color should be your last priority.
Your main priorities, as well as the breeder’s, should be getting a puppy that’s healthy with a good personality.
You can do that by ensuring the parents have their health clearances and meeting the parents beforehand to see if you like their personality.
Read more about finding a reputable golden retriever breeder here.
Golden retrievers come in three general colors:
There are lots of varieties and shades within those colors, but those are the main ones.
What color is your golden retriever?
Have any questions about golden retriever colors?
Let me know down in the comments!
P.S. Getting a golden retriever puppy? Check out the Golden Retriever Puppy Handbook!