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Australian Cattle Dog Roan Coat

Roaning – Embark’s Newest Discovery

April 12, 2021

Your dog is one-of-a-kind. But have you ever wondered what makes them that way? At Embark, we make it our business to know your pup down to their DNA. Our scientists recently unlocked a secret to understanding dogs’ roan coat patterns — and they couldn’t have done it without the help of everyday dog owners who wanted to make a difference.

A new discovery: Roan

Recently, Embark scientists worked in collaboration with its citizen scientist customers to make the unique genetic discovery that the patterned coat known as “roaning” is strongly associated with a genomic region on chromosome 38 and likely regulated by the usherin gene (USH2A). 

This type of subtly spotted coat, found in dogs and horses, can act as nature’s camouflage. Roaning can make dogs more difficult to see in fields or forests, a trait that is particularly desirable in certain hunting dogs. Roaning is common in certain breeds, including German Shorthaired Pointers, Australian Cattle Dogs, and English Cocker Spaniels.

Embark scientists studied the genotype and physical appearance of nearly 1,000 dogs. One of those dogs, Bogey the Australian Cattle Dog, became the key to unlocking this genetic discovery because of his atypical non-roan coat trait. Bogey’s owner chose to include Bogey’s genotype in Embark research and also provided Embark with a photo, which is part of what made this novel discovery possible.

The dog owners who participated in this study became part of a larger trend towards crowd-sourced scientific discovery. Similar work from other “citizens scientists” have already contributed to significant discoveries in astronomy and ornithology.

A clue to the Dalmatian’s spots

The results of this study may also shed light on the genetic origin of the Dalmatian’s unique spots. Up until now, the spots on Dalmatians have been considered different and distinct from roaning (both genetically and visually). However, all Dalmatians in the Embark study carried the duplication associated with roaning. This suggests that Dalmatians and dogs with roaning may share a common ancestry (although more research is needed in this area).

Roan testing only at Embark

Embark is the only dog DNA test on the market that provides a genetic test for roaning. In addition to roaning, Embark tests for over 350 breeds and over 200 health risks. A market leader in canine genetics, Embark also offer the world’s only canine DNA relative finder. 

Interested in decoding your dog? Check out the Breed + Health DNA Kit. 

Learn more about Embark’s roaning discovery or check out the study in its entirety in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One.

Already used an Embark DNA Kit to test your dog? Please be sure to take our surveys under the Research tab in your dog’s Embark profile so you can help us contribute to new scientific discoveries!

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