Dogs and Other Animals with Black Fur Live Longer, New Study Says

old black lab paws

It’s a sad fact that dogs (and cats) with black fur are less likely to be adopted than those whose fur is lighter colored. There’s even a name for it: “Black Dog Syndrome.” The reasons vary from superstitions, to negative portrayals in the media, to poor lighting in animal shelters and photos.

But the results of a new study could help put an end to Black Dog Syndrome. It found that dogs and other animals with black fur live longer than lighter-colored ones.

The study, published in the Feb. 19 issue of the scientific journal PLOS Genetics, looked at “how the balance between natural selection and genetic drift shapes the evolution of appearance and form,” according to the author summary.

A team of researchers from the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Ala., identified the genetic mutations that produce black fur (melanism) in three closely related South American wild cats.

“Our results demonstrate that some ‘black cats’ are black not by chance, but by selection for a mutation that provides increased fitness,” the study’s author summary states.

It’s still unknown exactly how black fur increases an animal’s life span.

“Factors such as foliage, humidity, temperature and/or infectious agents are all possibilities, and could affect camouflage, resistance to heat or thermoregulation, or resistance to infections,” Dr. Gregory Barsh, one of the researchers, told Discovery News.

In a previous study, Dr. Barsh said it was discovered that “black wolves may have increased fitness in some environments due to a melanism mutation in a different gene from the ones studied here.”

He said some dogs may also enjoy the benefits of darker fur, “although breeding by humans now influences the process.”

Photo credit: OakleyOriginals