Although you may see the Chesapeake Bay retriever in many colors, there are actually only three basic colors for the Chesapeake. Any other colors you see are just variations of the three basic colors, which are deadgrass, sedge and browns.
Deadgrass is a color combination from yellow to tan without any reds in any of the shades of deadgrass. Sedge is a light colored dog with shades of red undertones. Strawberry blonde is a term often used to describe sedge. Browns are darker dogs that can be light brown or dark brown with red undertones in the coat. Liver used to be described as a color for the Chesapeake, but it has since been disqualified by the AKC.
The Chesapeake is usually a solid color although there may be some white markings on the chest, belly or feet. These are the only places where white is allowed on the Chessie. There is no black Chesapeake, however. Even if you see a solid color Chessie, it will most likely have some other varieties of the basic colors blended in the undertones.
Although many Chesapeake owners wonder which color came first with this dog, the first dogs registered in the AKC Stud Book were sedge. Some feel that owners were registering their dogs as sedge just to sell or register them because sedge was the most popular and best known color for this dog. Another factor was that the color of a dog often changes from when they are puppies to when they become adult dogs. For a while, there was so much controversy about sedge that the AKC almost dropped sedge as a color description.
Browns were the next color to be registered in the studbooks, although they were a variety of shades of brown such as sable, mink, dark brown, light brown and so on. In the early 1900s, deadgrass and tans started to become the trend. Today there are more brown Chesapeake than any other color because of the dominant/recessive genes in the colors.
The color of the Chesapeake has no bearing on the quality of the dog. It's more a matter of personal preference. Many hunters like the deadgrass color because it is similar to camouflage and great for hunting. The quality of the coat is more important than the color, although some believe that certain colors affect the texture of the coat. The coat should be crisp with a lot of undercoat. When the dog gets wet, he should only be slightly damp after he shakes. If he is still soaking wet, his coat is incorrect for this breed. This is one reason why many hunters don't want a mixture of colors as this also gives the dog a mixture of textures. The eye color may occasionally match the coat color, but usually it is yellow or tan.