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What is a Tri-Colored American Bully?

Common breeding considerations for the American bully include structure, temperament, and conformation. As such, something of little importance such as coat color is easy to forget.

The American bully exhibits different coat colors and color patterns. In fact, if there is one thing that is most representative of this dog breed is the variety and disparity of coat colors. 

However, the most unique color pattern by far is the tricolor pattern. A tri-colored American Bully is one that has three colors on their coat instead of the usual one or two coat colors.

The tricolor pattern features three clear and separate – one base color, tan and white. The base color can be any of the range of American Bully coat colors including black, lilac, blue and chocolate. 

It is worth noting that the base color may be affected by intensity or dilution genes, or other patterns such as piebald or merle. The intensity gene determines the amount of red pigment production.

This explains why tan points are redder on some American bullies than others. The dilute gene causes the tan point to fade. 

The tan and white may also consist of other patterns. Tricolored American Bullies have various names including Black Tri, Chocolate Tri, Blue Tri, and Lilac Tri.

american bully tri color chart

The patterns can be creeping tan, trindle, ghost tan, tri merle, ticked tri or piebald tri. Tricolor American Bullies are actually quite rare and have become increasingly popular among dog owners. 

Why is the Tricolor American Bully Rare? 


Tricolored bullies are uncommon for one main reason. Many breeders avoided breeding tricolored dogs for a number of generations due to the misconception that they are mixed breeds. This led many people to view them as undesirable. 

Breeders try to avoid producing mix breed bullies. This caution is understandable since potential buyers value purebred bullies with distinguished pedigrees among other traits.

In addition, many breeders emphasize game qualities rather than the coat color of the original bully sires, the American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire terrier. 

As a result, the American bully gene pool seldom produces tricolor bullies, even when breeders attempt to purposefully breed them. Note that there are no health concerns associated with this coat color pattern and bearing it is not detrimental to the health of the American Bully. 

What Causes the Tricolor Coat Pattern? 

american bully black tri color

In order to understand what causes the tricolor coat pattern in American bullies, you must first understand the factors that determine dog coat colors in general. There are two pigment types that give dogs their coat color. Pigments are what give each hair strand its color. 

All dog coat patterns and colors are caused by two pigments (black and red), which are both forms of melanin. Each pigment has a default color that can be modified by various genes. American bullies have both black and red pigments. 

A mix of these pigments is caused by genetic factors and results in tan points. How these two pigments interact in the dog coat is largely controlled by the Agouti (A) gene series locus.

The traditional tan points and tricolor coat patterns in American bullies is caused by the Tan Point allele (at). The tan point gene is one of four genes found in the Agouti locus of the American pit bull terrier. The others include: 

  • A – Results in a solid black pigmentation that is the dominant color. The most common variations are black, blue and chocolate 
  • Ay – Causes a dominant yellow color. Red and buckskin bullies have this type of Agouti locus alleles. 

The tan point genetic trait is recessive and therefore requires two copies (at/at) for the tricolor coat pattern to express itself. One copy is inherited from the dam and the other from the sire. 

The recessive nature of the tan point allele means that it can remain hidden for many generations until two copies are inherited. An American Bully can carry the gene without actually expressing tan points.

When a tan point pattern pops up in the gene pool, it is not a new color mutation that appears from nowhere. Rather, it is the manifestation of a gene that has been present in the entire American pit bull terrier bloodline. 

The tan point gene doesn’t actually result in a back and tan dog. The gene doesn’t cause any color but a pattern of solid color with “light-colored points”.

These points occur in specific places in the American bully (usually 13) such as the face, chest, legs and under the tails, but the distribution and actual size can vary. 

The exact color that the tan point gene produces depends on the color genes that are present at other loci. For example, if the pigmentation is black, the result is black and tan, but if the pigmentation is blue then the pattern will produce a blue and tan. 

An entirely different set of genes causes white markings. They appear the same on a tan point bully as they would on single or bicolor bullies. Some tricolor bullies can be spotted, whereby the spots are two different colors.

This depends on whether the spots are present over the areas where there is a tan point pattern. 

In some cases, a black bully may have incomplete dominance of the dominant black allele. The bully may express both dominant black and tan point, but the tan points will appear faded. This is known as a ghost tan. 

Where Does the Tricolor Gene in the American Bully Come From? 

chocolate tri color american bully

Since the inception of the breed, the tan point gene has been present in American bullies and American pit bull terriers. In some of the early American pit bull terrier lines, this gene came from breeding bulldogs and smooth fox terriers in the early 19th Century. 

It is thought that the smooth fox terrier inherited the tan point gene from black and tan terriers of the century before. The gene then carried forward from the American pit bull terrier to the American bully as well as the American Staffordshire terrier. 

Aspects of Tricolor American Bully Offspring 


It is important to know some aspects regarding the offspring of tricolor American bullies. The first is that two American bullies that are not tricolored can produce tricolor puppies.

Since the tan point gene is a recessive trait, the parents don’t have to express the tricolor coat pattern to give birth to a tricolor puppy. However, both parents must carry the tan point gene. 

In addition, two American bullies that are tricolored will not always produce tricolored offspring.

While the offspring will definitely have two copies of the recessive tan point allele, other factors will determine if the tan points will be visible (the traditional tan points must be visible for the dog to be considered tricolor). 

For instance, if a puppy has one or more copies of the Dominant Black (K) gene, is Recessive Red or solid white, the tan points will not be visible. The pup would not be considered tricolored even though it carries the tan point gene. 

The Unique Case of the Champagne Tri Bully 


The “champagne tri” bully is a controversial topic among bully owners. This is because technically, a champagne bully cannot also be tricolor. Champagne bullies have a Recessive Red (e/e) allele with dilution (d/d). This genotype causes coat colors ranging from pale yellow, cream to pearl. 

Recessive red hides patterns that would be expressed from the Agouti gene series locus. For this reason, tan points cannot be expressed and thus a champagne bully can’t be tricolor, even if it has two copies of the tan point allele.

What many people refer to as the champagne tri is actually the lilac tri (the tan points aren’t hidden by the chocolate gene). 

Breeding Tricolor American Bullies 


Breeders will carefully pair or match two tricolor American Bullies to produce the desired tricolor coat pattern in the offspring. You can also breed a tricolor bully if one parent is tricolored and the other is a carrier of the recessive gene.

Due to its recessive nature, the gene can remain hidden in the gene pool for several generations and may pop up unexpectedly even when a breeder is not intentionally trying to produce a tricolored bully. 

Nonetheless, while breeding for the tricolor coat pattern, your primary concerns as a breeder should be health, temperament, and conformation. You should only consider coat color and pattern after these key concerns.

This is particularly recommended for merle tricolor bullies as some minor health problems may be exhibited in such cases. 

Are Tricolor Bullies Different From Other Bullies? 

american bully extreme tricolor

The sole difference between tricolored and single/bicolor American bullies is physical in nature. Tricolor coat patterns are present in all classes of the dog breed. There is no difference in personality and temperament. 

Your typical American Bully is still that friendly, gentle and peaceful companion regardless of the coat color and pattern. In the end, you determine the choice of owning a tricolor or normal bully depending on your aesthetic taste. 

Overall, a tri-colored American bully is a beautiful, tolerant and ideal companion for you and your family. Caring for these types of American bullies is just the same as for the single and bicolored ones.

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