For other uses, see Brindle (disambiguation).
A Great Dane with the brindle color pattern.

Brindle is a coat coloring pattern in animals, particularly dogs, cattle, guinea pigs, and, rarely, horses. It is sometimes described as "tiger-striped", although the brindle pattern is more subtle than that of a tiger's coat. The streaks of color are irregular and usually darker than the base color of the coat, although very dark markings can be seen on a coat that is only slightly lighter.


Brindle Akita Inu, Brindle coloration is less distinct on longer-haired dogs

The brindle pattern may also take the place of tan in tricolor coats of some dog breeds (such as Basenjis). This coloration looks very similar to tricolor, and can be distinguished only at close range. Dogs of this color are often described as "trindle". It can also occur in combination with merle in the points, or as a brindle merle, in breeds such as the Cardigan Welsh Corgi, although the latter is not acceptable in the show ring. The "dark" markings are black or the dilutions gray (called blue) or brown (sometimes called red). It is not uncommon for a brindled Cairn Terrier to become progressively more black or silver as it ages.

Guinea pigs

Brindle is an old variety in guinea pigs. They are difficult to breed to perfection, as the black and red hairs should intermingle evenly all over. Brindle guinea pigs' fur type is Abyssinian (rosetted).


A brindle chestnut
Brindle horse with dark bay base coat

Brindle coloring in horses is extremely rare and may be either caused by or somehow linked to chimerism, resulting in an animal with two sets of DNA, with the brindle pattern being an expression of two different sets of equine coat color genes in one horse. In some horses the pattern seems to be inherited, indicating that one or more genes are responsible. There is no evidence that there is an actual gene in the equine species that causes the brindle pattern. If there is a gene for brindling in equine, it has not yet been isolated.[1]

Brindle coloring consists of irregular stripes extending vertically over the horse's body and horizontally around the legs. Brindle horses can also have a dorsal stripe. It usually does not affect the head and legs as much as the body, with the heaviest concentrations of brindling being on the neck, shoulders and hindquarters. The coloring has been documented in the past. At the Zoological Museum of the Academy of Science in Leningrad, a Russian cab horse of brindle coloring from the early 19th century was mounted and put on display due to its rarity.[2]


The brindling pattern found in horses could be described as vertical stripes that are found along the neck, back, hindquarters, and upper legs. The horse's head is usually a solid color and is not affected by the striping. The brindling pattern has no effect on dark points on horses. Some brindle-colored horses are more eye-catching than others.

With this rare coat pattern there is a base coat that covers the entire body of the horse. This base coat color can be any color. Recorded examples have been bay, chestnut, palomino, and dun. Earliest documented cases were said to have red dun or grulla as a base coat. Over top of the base color is either a lighter or darker color, giving the appearance of stripes.

Other animals

Brindle coloring exists in cattle. For crested geckos, the term "brindle" is used to describe an extreme tiger morph, can be used in conjunction with any of the morph colors.

A brindled cow

Etymology and literature

The word brindle comes from brindled, originally brinded, from an old Scandinavian word. The opening of Act Four, Scene One of William Shakespeare's Macbeth is often thought to refer to a brindled cat, because it contains the word "brinded": "Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd." However, in this context, the word "brinded" means branded, as if with fire. The Elizabethan word for "brindled" is "streaked."[3]

See also


  1. Image of brindle horse (no free images currently available)
  2. Lusis, J.A. (1942). "Striping Patterns in Domestic Horses". Genetica. 23: 31–62. doi:10.1007/bf01763802. In one of the exhibition rooms of the Museum of the Zoological Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. in Leningrad there is a stuffed adult domestic horse with stripes. [... It] was purchased – while the horse was still alive – from its owner, a Leningrad cabman, and delivered by the latter to the Museum after the horse's death. Judging by the stuffed object, it was a large horse of the trotter type. [... The striping] closely resembles the striping found in many breeds of cattle and in dogs and known as the "brindling pattern". in the Brindle Horses site
  3. Kenneth Muir, The Arden Shakespeare: Macbeth, 1962, p.108
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