The Four Varieties
Tans come in four varieties (colors): black, blue, chocolate and lilac, which are pictured in alphabetical order below. Per the ARBA Standard of Perfection Tans are shown at ARBA sanctioned shows from lightest to darkest (lilac, blue, chocolate and then black). Genetically speaking, lilac is the dilute of chocolate and blue is the dilute of black.
One perk of breeding Tans is that all four varieties can be bred together without a concern for getting unregognized color. However, most breeders do breed within the unofficial color groups, i.e. chocolate-chocolate, chocolate-lilac, lilac-lilac, black-black, black-blue or blue-blue.
[Photo credit (L-R): Kelly Flynn, Emma Persoon, Kelly Flynn & Bethany Heavilin]
The names of the varieties are an accurate indication of the desired color for each. Blacks should be a uniform black carried deep down the hair shaft with lots of luster. Chocolates should be a rich deep chocolate color with a dove grey under color.
While chocolates and blacks seem to stand out for most people, some confusion is common in trying to determine if a dilute is lilac or blue. In comparing the lilac and the blue, the most important difference is that the lilac is a dove grey color with a pink tint or cast. By contrast, a blue simply should be an even dark blue color.
It can be really easy to over think color. Just remember: the name says it all. Blacks look black. Chocolates look chocolate. Blues really do look blue. And lilacs also look like the color we call lilac. If you keep this in mind your first guess is probably right!