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Blue Merle vs. Red Merle Australian Shepherd

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A Blue Merle vs. Red Merle Australian Shepherd

Commonly known as Aussies, Australian Shepherds are undeniably one of the best-looking dog breeds. They often appear on lists of the top cutest dog breeds partly due to their unique colorations and variable coat patterns. The most common coat colors among Australian Shepherds are:
  • Blue Merle: A black dog with the Merle gene
  • Red Merle: A red/liver dog with the Merle gene
Blue merle Aussies coats feature a marbling of gray/silver and black, often creating a “blue” effect, whereas red merles show a marbling of red and silver or buff. Merle Aussies look absolutely gorgeous and are consequently seen often in dog shows. For example, the gorgeous Australian Shepherd that won Best in Show at the 2024 Crufts dog show in England is a Blue Merle with copper and white trim.

Merle is a unique coat pattern in dogs that occurs due to variations in the PMEL gene. This gene causes the fur to have irregular splotches of color on a lighter background, like solid black on gray or solid brown on tan. Dogs with the merle pattern often have blue or partially blue eyes as well. The Merle gene is incompletely dominant, meaning a dog only needs to inherit one copy from either parent to have the Merle coat.

Blue Merle vs. Red Merle Aussies

A Blue Merle looking back at a Red Merle Australian Shepherd

As I mentioned before, Blue merle Australian Shepherds are black dogs with the Merle gene. This results in their coats having mixtures of grey, white, black, and tan or red, often creating a "blue" effect. Blue merle Aussies have black noses, lips, and eye rims. They usually have black or tan patches on the areas surrounding their ears and eyes. White patches, however, are uncommon in those areas. As puppies, some blue merle Aussies have butterfly noses. This means that the pups have patches of pink spots on their nose leather. In many cases, these spots fill in over time as a dog matures. 

On the other hand, some blue merle Aussies with butterfly noses may never develop a completely black nose. Speaking of butterfly noses, this phenomenon is much more common in red merle Australian Shepherds. Blue merle Aussies often have blue eyes or different-colored eyes, also known as heterochromia.

Like their blue counterparts, red merle Australian Shepherds have similar speckled coats, though with different coloring. Their multicolored coat usually includes mixtures of golden red, dark brown, and white. Unlike blue merles, they have red or brown noses and paw pads. Red merles, which are less common than blue merles, often have blue or different-colored eyes and similar markings,

Moreover, red is generally deemed the rarest color in Australian Shepherds. Nevertheless, one of the more common red-colored coats in the breed is the red merle.

Can a Blue Merle Be Bred To a Red Merle Aussie?

A red and blue merle Aussie at the beach

An offspring of two merle Australian Shepherds is called a double merle (MM) or homozygous merle. However, the American Kennel Club strongly advises against breeding a merle to a merle. As I mentioned earlier, an Aussie only needs to inherit one copy of the Merle gene from either parent to have the merle coat. If one copy of the merle gene can cause a lack of pigmentation in a merle Aussie, imagine what two copies will do. According to Wikipedia, double merle Aussies often have excessive light or white areas. 

In addition, they often have several health issues as a result of having two copies of the merle gene. Double merles can be deaf or blind, though not all are affected. Regardless, the breeding of two merles remains a very touchy subject. While some breeders put down mostly white Australian Shepherd puppies, others attempt to sneakily market them as "rare" white Aussies. Consequently, most double merles end up in shelters, as some pet owners are ill-prepared to take on a deaf or blind dog.

A Double Merle Aussie
A Double Merle Aussie. Source: Reddit

The double merle Australian Shepherd in the above picture is "completely deaf, as well as myopic," according to its owner, who posted the picture on Reddit a few years ago.

How Much Do Merle Aussies Cost?

Both red and blue merle Australian Shepherds are indeed incredibly good-looking, but how much do they cost? On average, a red or blue merle Aussie puppy will cost you somewhere between $1,200 and $3,000 from a reputable breeder. On the other hand, if you aren't ready to cough up thousands of dollars but still want a merle Aussie, check your local shelter or breed-specific rescue. Chances are you might walk home with a gorgeous red or blue merle Australian Shepherd that only costs $200.

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