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I have an 1 1/2 year old tri-color beagle. His back is black, but he is starting to have a lot of speckling of brown over most of it, which isn't anything alarming. However the hair isn't brown, it's black hair at the roots and then about half way out the hair changes from black to brown.

Is this normal? Genetic? Nutritional? It would be awesome if a mild change in diet kept them black.

- Vinnie
 

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I think that's pretty common. I'm not totally certain (I'm sure someone with more knowledge will stop by and clarify) but I think can happen as part of the creeping tan coloration in a lot of beagles. It's definitely not a problem. My mutt has some hairs with "stripes"-- that is, a single hair with white, then black, then white again. ;)
 

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Sounds like my Hamilton! Granted he's a mutt, so who knows what genetics are goin' on in there, but when I adopted him three months ago he was a black and tan little guy -- now much of the black on his head has gone to brown, and he's got a grey/white undertone to the black fur on his neck, and the hairs on his back are dark reddish brown topped with black. It's interesting, and I'm curious what he'll look like in another three months! I was assuming it was normal since he's healthy and happy.
 

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Eddee is also like this. Some hairs have four different colors and most of his hair is darker roots and blondish red tipped or all silver ... it is strange. He is a Schnauzer/Cairn ? mix. :)
 

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As others have said, it's perfectly normal coloration. Most dogs that end up with black on their backs but an entirely tan head (save for any white markings, sometimes a black mask, etc.) are born mostly black. The tan coloration fills in later. So perfectly normal and nothing to worry about. It's genetic, but it's just a color trait and nothing more. It won't cause any harm.

As an example in another breed (where it's technically discouraged, but not due to any association with health problems or anything)... The first puppy on this page: Clicky! looked like this by adulthood: Clicky!.
 

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Dogs coats can change by season, too, lightening or darkening depending on the time of year, though I don't know about beagles. All of Kabota's fur is white for the first inch, the longer fur is all spicy gold after that point, except for his ears, which have no white at all, and his fur has changed color significantly since I got him, but I don't know if that's time of year or better food/grooming on my part.
 
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