It is important to know that pugs only come in two colours of Fawn or Black. However the Fawn is also broken down into 'Silver' and 'Apricot', both falling under the Breed Standard as set out by the Kennel Club. These are a shades of fawn.
The only correct colours as listed in the Pug Breed Standard are: silver, apricot, fawn or black. Each clearly defined, to make contrast complete between colour, trace (black line extending from occiput to tail) and mask. Markings clearly defined. Muzzle or mask, ears, moles on cheeks, thumb mark or diamond on forehead and trace as black as possible. All pugs genetically have a mask, even the blacks (the coat colour covers it).
Black means black, however in some instances where a black may have fawn in its ancestry, the coat may appear dark brown in places. This can also happen with age and, for some, with exposure to regular strong sunlight.
Fawn is a clear to slightly golden coat with black mask. 'Smuttiness' is when a fawn has a large amount of black hairs mingling with the fawn coat. This can give the impression of a grubby, sooty shading to the coat. It can vary from smaller areas such as the legs, chest and belly. To all-over smuttiness, making the pug look greyer in appearance.
Silver, a true silver (of which there are very few these days) is a cool, clear fawn which has been described as a 'Pug in moonlight'. It has no black hairs in the fawn coat, the fawn hairs are very, very light. A very 'cold' clear colour. They too have a jet black mask, as all fawns do.
Apricot is a lovely warm shade of fawn. Its tones are more reddish than the fawn or silver, again you don’t want excessive black hairs in the coat. Apricots go from a very 'warm' fawn through to a deep burnished copper. Apricots are not often seen but as far more common than a Silver. Apricot is usually carried in certain bloodlines, it rarely 'crops up' in most Fawn litters.
Pug colour genetics
Here is a layman’s guide to pug genetics. (For simplicity, I am grouping Silvers and Apricots under the term 'Fawn') Remember, ALL pugs genetically have a mask.
Fawn pugs ONLY produce fawn pups when put to another fawn. To get black pups you ALWAYS need at least one black parent.
Black is dominant over Fawn, ALWAYS.
Blacks can produce Fawns IF one of two scenarios happen.
• Either, pups have one Black parent (who carries the fawn gene, known as a Recessive Black) and one Fawn parent.
• Two Recessive Black parents BOTH carrying the fawn gene, can produce fawns.
However if you have a Dominant Black pug (no fawn genes carried at all) this will ONLY produce Black pups, even when mated with a Fawn. The Black puppies from a Dominant Black to Fawn mating will all be Recessive Blacks, as they now carry the fawn gene.
If that makes sense, I hope it did!
CNR - 'Colour Not Recognised' Pugs
In the last ten years or so the 'rare' coloured examples of pugs have crept in. These are not true pugs, they have been produced by introducing colours from other breeds. Crossbreeding! Those crossbred pups where bred back to pugs to retain the new colour and to make them more pug-like. Some foreign registries allowed them to be registered, issuing them with paperwork which in turn were allowed to be registered by the UK Kennel Club.
Ask any long-term (and by this I mean 60yrs+ of families breeding pugs) pug breeders if they had ever seen any 'blue/merle/lilac/tan points/brindle/white/pink' or indeed anything other than black and fawn, in there time breeding and ALL will say "NO, NEVER".
These are not natural pug colours. They are not 'throwbacks' to a lost colour.
They have NEVER EXISTED!
These CNR 'rare' pugs are only ever bred by people for money. Often huge sums! They can never be shown, they do not adhere to what a genetically true pug is. Often they come with all sorts of health issues, conformational faults, hidden problems and often have short lifespans. Anyone buying these pups are lining the pockets of people who do not love the breed, they just love the money that breeding CNR's can bring.
So please, should you ever consider buying a CNR pup, please think again!
Only buy Breed Standard pugs, from health tested parents and from knowledgeable Pug breeders.
Ask any of the official Pug Dog Clubs in the UK for recommendations, they can suggest reputable breeders to approach.