Lately I’m seeing more and more Liver Bull Terriers showing up on social media and when they do you can always predict there to be many people intrigued by the color and many others who are completely disgusted to see any color which isn’t within the breed standard. During these conversations, I see so many opinions as well as information that just isn’t true in regard to the “Liver” gene that I thought I’d write a detailed explanation on the subject from the knowledge and experience I have within Liver Bull Terriers.
What is a Liver Bull Terrier? The phrase “Liver” refers to the gene that extracts Black color and pigmentation (eumelanin) from the dog. Liver is not an actual color, which many think it is. A pure white Bull Terrier can have the liver gene. The fur coat is not the only thing that changes within the appearance of a Liver Bull Terrier. If it were, we would never be able to tell a white Bull Terrier was liver. Due to the gene causing it to extract black pigmentation it will produce a red or maroon colored pigmentation on the nose where it would normally be black. The gene will also lighten the color of the eyes to a yellowish green (amber) color. Colored Bull Terriers with the Liver gene are easy to detect because on a brindle or tri color it lightens their entire coat. A Red Bull Terrier has little change in regard to their coat except it may be noted that their color is slightly lighter with a more orange look to it. Any smut markings will change to a dark orange or light maroon appearance. The most desirable color for the “Designer” breeders are the Tri-colored and Black Brindles because it converts the black fur color to a brownish color thus the nick name “Chocolate Bull Terrier.” I could go into specifics in regard to DNA and genes but for this article I prefer to describe the Liver Bull Terriers in the simplest form possible.
Does the Bull Terrier Breed Standard recognize the Liver Gene within the Standards? No, it does not. The breed standard clearly depicts the eyes to be “well-sunken and as dark as possible.” With this said, no liver Bull Terrier regardless what color fur they have will fall into the correct aspect of breed standard with amber colored eyes. Additionally, the breed standard depicts the nose to be “black.” Any dog born with the liver gene will never have a black nose as the gene omits this color and pigmentation. Both nose color and eye color would be faults according to the Standard of the Breed so even if the Bull Terrier was white it would still have genetic faults that contradict the Standard. The Bull Terrier breed has 22 color variations within the breed and none of them include a brown or chocolate color so any Tri-colored or Black Brindle Liver Bull Terrier wouldn’t even have a proper color choices to register.
Do other breeds recognize the Liver gene? Yes, actually there are several breeds that do but they have actually called them by specific names and make no mention of them having the “Liver” gene. A good example would be a Chocolate Lab. In truth, a Chocolate Lab is simply a Black Lab born with the liver gene thus changing the fur coat, lightening the eye color, and giving it the maroon colored nose.
A few other examples of Liver Breeds accepted within their Breed Standards are; Red Doberman Pinschers, Dalmatians (Liver Spotted), Field Spaniel, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, German Spitz, English Pointer, English Springer Spaniel, Spanish Water Dog, Cocker Spaniel, Australian Shepherd, Bloodhound, Lancashire Heeler, Dachshund, and Red Nose Pit Bull Terrier. There are several others but this gives you an example of how populated the Liver Gene is within other breeds. Some people might ask, “Why won’t the Bull Terrier breed allow Liver Bull Terriers within the Standards?” Unlike other breeds like the Labrador where they have only a few colors with their standard (Yellow, Black, and Chocolate) the Bull Terrier breed has 22 color combinations so adding dozens of more combinations when introducing the Liver Gene would complicate things a lot more without even considering the changes within the proper nose and eye color. Breed Standards define the breed and when there is too much of a disparity within the breed it takes away from the uniqueness of the breed itself.
Are Liver Bull Terrier healthy as any other Bull Terrier? Despite what many people fail to realize is that the gene is a genetic makeup of their DNA and has nothing to do with a negative flaw within their health. If the Liver Gene proved to have certain negative aspects that affect their well-being you can surely bet you’d hear about it from the plethora of other breeds that support the Liver gene within their Standards. Saying that a Liver Bull Terrier is any less healthy than another Bull Terrier without the Liver Gene is like saying a Black Lab is healthier than Chocolate Lab even is they are siblings. This is far from true. The health of any puppy is indicative of the health and qualities of the sire and dam.
Can you register a Liver Bull Terrier? Absolutely. AKC and many other canine registries worldwide have no concept that a Bull Terrier litter produced by two registered dogs produced a Liver Bull Terrier so registrations papers will be issued without question. The breeder of a colored Bull Terrier with the liver gene would obviously be left with no other choice than to register a liver puppy as if he or she was the proper color per the standards. There would be no mention of the Liver gene or specific color on the puppy’s registration paper. It would only be verified through physical appearance of the dog itself.
Can a Liver Bull Terrier show up within any Bloodline? Yes, it can. The liver gene comes from the breeding of a sire and dam that both possess the liver allele. In the DNA of the sire and dam if both possess the Bb within their genes then they have the capabilities to produce a Liver Bull Terrier with the bb gene. Many breeders, especially those that do not study the DNA of their breeding stock, have no idea whether their Bull Terrier has the capabilities of producing a liver until it is mated with a Bull Terrier that possesses the same shared component of the genes Bb. As a breeder myself,
Are Liver Bull Terriers considered Bad? Now this is a question that can be answered differently by every Bull Terrier advocate and it’s the reason why we see so much controversy over them on social media. There’s nothing physically wrong with a Bull Terrier born with the liver gene but it’s obvious that they do not emulate the breed standards due to their faults. With this said, this would only make them fall short in competition in conformation events where they judge each dog based on how close they emulate the breed standards. Provided a Liver Bull Terrier actually came from a reputable breeder that had all the other qualities that define the Bull Terrier standard the dog may be a contender at a show despite its faults within the eyes and nose. The breed standard actually says “Any color other than white, or any color with white markings” which means the fur color can’t be faulted. However, the nose color and the eye color can. These aren’t disqualifying features like it would be if the eyes were Blue but the nose and eye color would discredit the dog and obviously cost it points at a show. History shows that there has been success on the show ring with Bull Terriers that were liver. A good example is “Nuance Nonconformance” (Anna Nicole) who was the winner of the 2008 Eva Weatherill Brood Bitch Trophy. Anna had a decent run in the show circuit but her Liver gene prevented her from going the distance. However, Anna was bred to a Champion sired named Silmaril Scarlet Knight which produced a puppy named “Nuance Nonsense” who was the 2008 Silverwood trophy winner. She also produced a Silverwood Reserve colored bitch. The success of the two sisters landed Anna the BTCA’s 2008 Eva Weatherill Brood Bitch Trophy. This history clearly shows that no Liver Bull Terrier should be discredited based on the gene itself especially when the particular Bull Terrier may have so many other attributes that emulate the breed standard.
So why are there so many people within the Bull Terrier community that condemn Liver Bull Terriers? The sad truth is that is that most Liver Bull Terriers come from breeders that have many other things that jeopardize the qualities of the breed itself besides the Liver gene and many of these breeders have no intention to conform to the breed standards. Even worse is the mere fact that, like any breed type, there is always “Designer Breeders” who realize it’s much harder gaining a positive reputation through the development of puppies which emulate all spectrum of the breed standards than it is to simply concentrate on the color of the puppies they produce. Sadly, there will always be some that see no wrong with completely ignoring the standards of the breed in order to produce a color or certain look that captures the eye of people who have absolutely no concern about the integrity of the breed. Those with little or no knowledge on proper breeding ethics will see a Liver Bull Terrier or maybe even a Merle Bull Terrier with Blue eyes and think of it as some kind of rarity, unique, or special type of production. Factually this is far from being true. Yes, they are rare but the reason they are rare is because responsible breeders and reputable breeders do NOT try and produce qualities which fault the breed standard. Instead they aim their focus on breeding to emulate the qualities depicted within the standards. The mere fact that there are breeders who are deliberately trying to breed against these standards is shameful and should not be praised by any measure. “Designer” breeders focus on one concept only – color. This is a VERY easy thing to accomplish simply by breeding one faulted color to another. Focused attention on faulted colors in order to attract naive individuals allows these breeders to neglect the array of other qualities within the breed that define the proper look, structure, and conformation that responsible breeders strive for. Please understand, taking calculated decisions on proper breeding in order to produce a Bull Terrier that truly emulates the standard in all aspects is a difficult challenge for any breeder. The reason why people Show their Bull Terriers is to have them judged on how close they come to achieving this goal. Designer breeders completely ignore these qualities and although they realize what they are producing won’t even meet minimum qualities to enter into a competitive conformation show they seem to fool people into thinking their faulted puppies warrant higher price tags. Regardless if you have intent of showing or not, the simple truth is that deliberately breeding outside the standard compromises the future integrity of the breed that “some” of us respect and try their best to maintain with pride and passion.
Lately I am seeing more and more Liver Bull Terriers produced and there’s no question there are breeders deliberately doing it for the purpose of achieving a higher price for their puppies because they are capable of fooling people into thinking they are some kind of rare gem that is difficult to reproduce. What’s truly upsetting is that some of these designer breeders are posting their puppies for prices as high as $6,000 when there is absolutely nothing that would warrant a price anywhere close to that. These are the same breeders that do not Health Test their breeding stock, do not provide a 2 year health guarantee against genetic disorders, have no reputable bloodlines within the pedigree of their dogs, no not show their dogs, and have no care what so ever about the integrity of the breed standards and the future welfare of the breed. It’s for these reason many Bull Terrier advocates cringe at the sight of more and more Liver Bull Terriers being produced.
Conclusion – I have nothing against Liver Bull Terriers and even the best of the best breeders could produce one. However, the objective would never be to deliberately produce them as they contradict the Breed Standards that we all respect. I love ALL Bull Terriers regardless if they are show quality or not but I feel breeders should be doing their due diligence in preserving the integrity of the breed we all love and cherish. To base the qualities of any dog by the color is ignorant. I have no problem complimenting the quality of a Liver Bull Terrier “IF” it’s of sound qualities within all the other attributes of the Breed Standard. Those that own one of this nature should be proud of their Bull Terrier just like anyone else that owns a Bull Terrier. However, if you sought after a Liver Bull Terrier from a designer breeder that plagues the future integrity of the breed by practicing poor breeding ethics you were only bamboozled into purchasing a poorly bred Bull Terrier with no reputable merit and this type of caliber of puppy would most definitely question the actual health and genetics of the dog since those qualities were far from the mind of the breeder.