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17 Merle Dog Breeds (With Pictures)

Nicole Cosgrove

Merle is a genetic characteristic that expresses itself through the coat, eye, and paw color changes. Merles aren’t different from standard dogs, only that they are more beautiful and, sadly, prone to health issues such as deafness and blindness.

The most defining characteristic of a merle dog is a mottled coat of black, tan, or white colors. Odd or blue-colored eyes also define these breeds. We have two main categories depending on the coat colors-red merle and blue merle.

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Here are 17 breeds that exhibit the merle characteristics.

1. Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherd
Image Credit: Petra Heike Laicher, Pixabay

Australian Shepherds start this list because they are commonly linked with the merle genes. These dogs are defined by icy blue eyes and liver or black coat variations. Be careful when buying an Australian Shepherd puppy. Some uncouth breeders have resorted to crossing two merle-coated parents to produce “more merle” puppies in the litter. Crossing two male genes cause one in every four puppies to develop blindness or deafness.


2. Border Collie

Male Blue Merle Border Collie
Image Credit: ForeverNaturalPhotography, Shutterstock

Border Collies are first-class labor canines. Interestingly, Collies are the rarest naturally-bred merle breed and are characterized by black and white splotches. Border Collies have a smooth or rough coat. Adults weigh 30-55 pounds and are 20 inches tall on average.


3. Smooth Collie

As their name suggests, Smooth Collies have a shorter coat, so you don’t have to worry about grooming. If you need a playful buddy, a Smooth Collie will fit the bill. However, you will have to control their energy with lots of exercises or face their naughty side. Expect them to have blue or brown eyes or one blue eye and one brown eye.


4. Dachshund

Merle Dachshund
Image Credit: Lindasay , Pixabay

The Dachshund is a very German dog. Interestingly, sausage dogs are some of the most popular pooches in the US. But how did a small dog capture the hearts of so many people? The answer lies in their big personalities. They are brave, vigilant, and smart, making for excellent watchdogs.


5. Great Dane

The Great Dane is a giant of a dog that carries itself with the grace of a god; no wonder it is often called the “Apollo of dogs.” These canines have been roaming the earth for centuries and have worked their way up from boar hunters to priced family dogs treasured for their courage, friendliness, and dependability.

While Great Danes are indeed gentle giants, they can be aggressive and protective when need be. Unwelcome guests will have a powerful foe to contend with. They are great for families with children and will want to make everyone happy. You can get this giant pure breed in three color patterns: merle, harlequin, dilute, and cryptic merle.


 6. Cardigan Welsh Corgi

Cardigan Welsh Corgi and Pembroke Welsh Corgi belong to the same family as Welsh Corgi, the oldest dog native to the British Isles. Cardigans are extremely loyal and have long been used as shepherd dogs. An average cardigan can weigh anywhere between 11-15kg and can be as tall as 13 inches. If you love companionship, say no more because a Cardigan Welsh Corgi will offer that for an average of 14 years.


7. Shetland Sheepdog

Merle Shetland Sheepdog
Image Credit: JackieLou DL, Pixabay

Blue merle Shelties can be considered tri-color Shelties who have had their color altered. The long coat looks blue-grey in appearance due to the presence of black hairs. Color modification genes give these beautiful canines their characteristic coat appearance and one or two blue eyes occasionally.

It is not advisable to cross two blue Shetland merles since they can be born deaf and dumb or either.


8. Chihuahua

A merle Chihuahua is quite irresistible to dog breeders and enthusiasts due to its rare color pattern. Merle Chihuahuas generally have a mottled coat with blue or black spots. You can also get chocolate patterned Chihuahuas. Chihuahuas are popular dogs because they are loving, charming, and are very bold. But they can also be spirited and cheeky.


9. Koolie

Australian Koolies are descendants of the hard-working Koolie dogs imported into Australia from Britain hundreds of years ago. Merle lovers can get Koolies in two color variations—red and blue merle. It is not uncommon for Koolie merles to have an eye and nose color that resembles their coats.

This scrappy breed will give good service as a working dog since they can take up any task due to their high intelligence. Keep the Koolie busy, or they can be very destructive.


10. Pit Bull Merle

Pit Bull merles resemble the ordinary Pit Bull, only that they have dark splotches of color over the light primary coat. Other characteristics include blue eyes or odd-colored eyes, although sometimes they have one blue and one brown eye. You can also expect a flat skull with a beautifully shaped muzzle, perky ears, and a short tail that thickens at the base.


11. Beauceron Merle

This French dog is sold out to the idea of work. With a background in police work, they are natural guard dogs who are not very kind to strangers. You have to train them early if you want to place them in social situations.

Beaucerons are guardians of the weak, the small, and the defenseless. Take care that they don’t own you instead of the other way round!


12. Merle Pomeranian

The merle Pomeranian is a small dog with diluted blue fur. The merle gene that modifies the coat color may also alter the eye, nose, pads, and eye rim colors. These little canines have balls because they will challenge bigger dogs. They can be perky at times, but they are mostly sweet.


13. Catahoula Leopard Dog

Merle Catahoula Leopard
Image Credit: Eudyptula, Shutterstock

A Catahoula Leopard Dog owes its leopard-like coat to the merle gene. Expect them to be protective of their families and alert their owners whenever they notice something unusual. These medium-sized dogs come in a variety of colors and have a short coat which makes grooming easy. They make excellent jogging partners.


14. Pyrenean Shepherd

This breed is characterized by a rough or smooth face, almond-shaped eyes, and a slightly long and well-supported body.

Pyrenean Shepherds are medium-sized dogs with slightly rounded ribs and a triangular head. Apart from showing affection, they can be very expressive, enthusiastic, and energetic.


15. Old English Sheepdog

This dog may sound archaic but don’t fall for it. Its history does not extend further than 19th century England where it was bred as a herding dog owing to its large size, agility, and intelligence. But its dashing looks, playful nature, and big heart endeared them to the elite.

Despite being a large breed, this gorgeous canine is affectionate and gentle.


16. Hungarian Mudi

Merle Hungarian Mudi
Image Credit: Joe Barti, Shutterstock

The Hungarian Mudi can get your herding job done like a pro because that’s what it has been doing in Eastern Europe for many years. This is a medium-sized dog with blue splotches showing against a background of a dark coat. They are not officially recognized by AKC as a pure breed and can only participate as a Miscellaneous Class participant.


17. Cockapoo

Merle Cockapoo
Image Credit: David Reed, Pixabay

This adorable pooch is a crossbreed between the Poodle and the Cocker Spaniel. Many enthusiasts think that this dog is everything a dog owner would ever want in a dog. Unfortunately, Cockapoos are not officially recognized by the AKC. This hybrid is very playful, affectionate, and enjoys the company of kids.

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Final Thoughts

Merle poochies are strikingly beautiful, winning the hearts of many people. Interestingly, no one merle resembles another. Despite their dashing looks, they are prone to health problems such as deafness, blindness, or both. Buying a pup from a certified breeder could save you some of these risks.


Featured Image: vcudnik, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.