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Merle Dogs: 14 Dog Breeds That Can Have a Merle Coat

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A merle or dapple dog is a dog that inherits one copy of the merle gene from one of its parents. The merle gene results in mottled patches of color and can affect all coat colors. The two types of colored patches that usually appear in merle coats include liver and black. A liver dog with the merle gene is called a red merle while a black dog with the merle gene is called a blue merle.

Merle dogs can have blue eyes, brown eyes, and two different colored eyes, aka heterochromia. Dogs with merle coats are super cute, but do you know which breeds merle naturally occurs in? I’ve got them all listed below, along with double-merle dogs and the potential health issues associated with them.

1. Australian Shepherd

A blue merle tricolor Australian Shepherd

The merle gene is more common in Australian Shepherds than in other breeds. Purebred Aussies come in four acceptable colors including, red merle, blue merle, red, and black. The most popular color combination in purebred Aussies is blue merle tricolor.

Blue merle tricolor Australian Shepherds usually have copper-colored eye patches, cheeks, and legs. The Aussie in the above picture, for example, is a blue merle tricolor. Merle Australian Shepherds are generally healthy dogs but can be prone to eye conditions.

2. Miniature American Shepherd

a red merle Miniature American Shepherd

You could call the Miniature American Shepherd a small version of Australian Shepherds. The breed was created in the U.S. by breeding small-sized Aussies. Like its ancestors, the Miniature American Shepherd's colors include red merle, black tricolor, red tricolor, and blue merle. The dog in the above picture is a red merle Miniature American Shepherd.

3. Carea Leonés

A merle Carea Leonés

Known in English as the Leonese Sheepdog, the Carea Leonés is a European herding dog with the merle gene. They have a smooth, short, or moderate length and slightly wavy coat. Their coat colors range from black to dark liver or merle with white and or tan trim. Legend has it that Carea Leonés are among Australian Shepherds' ancestors.

4. Border Collie

A blue merle Border Collie

Border Collies can have a merle coat, but the merle gene is less common in them. Merle Border Collies are gorgeous dogs and are also impossible to tell from merle Aussies. The dog in this picture is a blue merle Border Collie.

5. Koolie

A merle Koolie

The Koolie is an Australian breed of herding dog bred from imported British working dogs. They come in different colors including black, red merle, blue merle, tri merle, black merle, chocolate, and red. Koolies are often seen with merle coats.

6. Cardigan Welsh Corgi

A blue merle Cardigan Welsh Corgi
Source: Reddit

Merle does occur in Cardigan Welsh Corgis but does not in Pembrokes. Cardigan's coat offers different looks, from red to the popular blue-merle pattern. Unlike their Pembroke counterparts, Cardigans have long tails, which is the quickest way to tell them apart.

7. Pyrenean Shepherd

A black merle Pyrenean Shepherd

The Pyrenean Shepherd is a French breed of herding dog believed to be among Australian Shepherds' forebears. Their size ranges from small to medium and they can be white, black, merle, fawn, brindle, blue merle, and grey. These dogs are generally healthy with a life expectancy of 15 to 17 years.

8. Sheltie

A blue merle Sheltie

The Shetland Sheepdog, aka the Sheltie, is a small, double-coated Scottish herding dog. Shelties' general appearance is that of miniature Rough Collies. They have a long coat, which offers different looks including blue merle.

9. Rough Collie

A blue merle Rough Collie

The Rough Collie is a medium to large-sized herding dog known for its intelligence, friendliness, and loyalty. It is a long-coated dog breed and can be white, blue merle, sable merle, sable & white, and sable. Originally bred and used for herding sheep in Scotland, Rough Collies have evolved into show dogs and lovable companions.

10. Smooth Collie

A blue merle Smooth Collie
Source: Toonian Smooth Collie

Unlike the Rough Collie, whose coat is longer and heavier, the Smooth Collie is just as described: A Collie with short hair. In other words, Smooth Collies are a short-coated version of the Rough Collie. They come in the same colors as their long-haired counterparts, meaning Smooth Collies can be blue merle and sable merle as well.

11. Catahoula Leopard Dog

A merle Catahoula Leopard Dog

The Catahoula Leopard Dog is one of the few all-American dog breeds. It is a working dog that originated in the state of Louisiana, precisely in Catahoula Parish. Catahoulas have a single smooth short or coarse medium coat, which looks almost painted. Their coat offers different looks, including blue merle, red merle, brindle, and solid colors.

12. American Leopard Hound

A merle American Leopard Hound

Like the Catahoula, the American Leopard Hound is an all-American dog breed. It was bred to be a hunting dog and is known to be loyal, affectionate, devoted, eager, fast, and instinctive. American Leopard Hounds have a short coat and can be merle, brindle, black & tan, and yellow.

13. Bergamasco Shepherd

A merle Bergamasco Shepherd

The Bergamasco Shepherd is an Italian herding dog breed with dreadlocks. These dogs' dreadlocks reach down to the floor by the time they are around six years old. Their thick coat that forms natural dreadlocks can be any shade of grey/black or fawn, with or without the merle pattern. The exact color in Bergamasco Shepherds with heavy coats can be hard to pinpoint.

14. Mudi

A black merle Mudi sitting outdoors

The Mudi is a Hungarian breed of herding dog in which the merle gene naturally occurs. They have a medium coat length and a curly coat type and can be born with short or natural bobtails. Mudis come in many different colors including, blue merle, black merle, ash, fawn, brown, and black.

Double Merle Dogs

A double merle dog is the result of breeding together two dogs with the merle gene. Most double merles are born deaf, blind, or both as a result of having two copies of the merle gene. In addition, double merles are mostly white and commonly have butterfly or Dudley noses. Breeders, sometimes, euthanize all-white puppies from litters of dogs that are not supposed to be white. Life can be somewhat hard for blind and deaf dogs, as owning them requires extra care. Consequently, the intentional breeding of double-merle dogs is generally discouraged and deemed unethical. 

Take these photos of white Australian Shepherds for example.

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