Coat Color Genetics of Coyotes, Emphasizing DNA Studies

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This webpage was mounted on October 2, 2014 and last updated on March 25, 2023 by Sheila Schmutz.

A brief review of the genes controlling coyote coat colors. The photos of coyotes on this webpage were not the coyotoes actually DNA tested for the coat color they illustrate, contrary to my dog and cattle webpages. This is not ideal, but since I did not do all this research, it's the best I could do.

The photo shows a wild coyote emerging from the woods beyond our house in the country near Saskatoon on 1 March 2023. It illustrates the tawny coloration that is typical of most coyotes.

DNA Studies To Date

Coyotes have an extremely wide geographical range but do not seem to have as much coat color variation as the wolf or dog.


In a DNA study of the agouti signal protein gene (ASIP) in coyotes, wolves, and dogs we found that there was one base pair difference in exon 4 between the coyote and wolf. However, because this base pair change did not change the amino acid, it probably has not effect on the peptide or coat color. The dog has mutations in exon 4 that affect coat color and so these could be used to prove that there are coydogs, or coyote dog hybrids.

A study by Brockerville et al. (2013) found a polymorphism in coyotes in the 5' region of ASIP, and another in an intron near exon 2.

The photo at the right was taken in March 2018. It is a female coyote near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan that was quite pale.


A recent study of coyotes from Newfoundland and Labrador involved the MC1R gene. Some very pale, almost white coyotes had been observed. The authors found that the dog mutation Arg306ter, commonly known as the "e" allele was homozyougs in these coyotes. They concluded that this allele was the result of dog-coyote hybridization.

The photograph is a mounted specimen on display at the Salmonier Nature Park in Newfoundlnad, which the authors say is an example of such coyote. Photo by Michael Blackwood.

They also found additional polymorphisms, including some that changed amino acids, but none were associated with the very pale coat color. Two, F45L and G102A, have not been observed in dogs.

  • Brockerville RM, McGrath MJ, Pilgrim BL, Marshall HD. 2013. Sequence analysis of three pigmentation genes in the Newfoundland population of Canis latrans links the Golden Retriever MC1R variant to white coat color in coyotes. Mammalian Genome 24:134-141.
  • coyote MC1Rsequence in GenBank


    Brockerville et al. (2013) also studied the K locus in coyotes from Newfoundland. They found 3 polymorphisms in introns but no coding sequence changes. They particularly noted that the KB allele or 3 bp deletion of a glycine that causes black coat color in many breeds of dogs, and also in some black wolves, was not found. Since this is a dominant allele and none of the coyotes they studied were black, this would be expected.

    In 2018, we were sent two tiny pelt samples from two "black" coyotes submitted for tanning from western Canada. DNA was extracted from each. Both were heterozygous for the KB allele. This would fit with them having a black coloration. However, just as in wolves, the black is not affecting the entire coat or all the hairs, as would be the case in dogs.

    This set of photos was posted by "Primitive Outdoor Patriots" on their Facebook Page in January 2023. They do not know the actual source but suggest they found it on a predator page. I have altered the format to 4 rows instead of two so that the size is larger. The print below is still difficult to read, and blurs when enlarged. The top left says: SHIMA, ????, Ontario, and a long scientific subspecies name at the bottom. All the places are in North America, with the darkest from Florida.

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    for further information contact:

    Sheila M. Schmutz, Ph.D., Professor Emerita

    Department of Animal and Poultry Science

    College of Agriculture and Bioresources

    University of Saskatchewan

    Saskatoon, Canada S7N 5A8