Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Merle Great Dane: Facts, Origin & History (with Pictures)

Great Dane by the beach

The Great Dane is easily one of the most recognizable dogs around. While most people know this breed from their size alone, they are also quite calm, affectionate, and intelligent. The merle Great Dane is a color variation of the original breed that features a light gray coat with darker gray splotches of color. While this color isn’t considered rare, it is unique and beautiful. Let’s learn more about merle Great Danes and how these gentle giants became part of our lives.


The Earliest Records of Merle Great Danes in History

Merle great dane dog
Image Credit: DragoNika, Shutterstock

History shows the beginnings of the Great Dane were in the 14th century. However, you will find ancient Egyptian carvings that look eerily similar to this dog breed. Historical records show this breed was created in Great Britain and Germany to help control wild boar populations.

To create a dog breed that was strong and fast enough to deal with the issue, breeders combined the speed of the Greyhound and the power of the English Mastiff. Many believe breeders may have also incorporated the Irish Wolfhound into the mix. Whether the Irish Wolfhound was part of the mix or not, the resulting dog breed fit the purpose intended. The Great Dane was powerful, fast, and tough enough to take on the wild boars in the area without falling victim to them.

The merle Great Dane is one of the seven Great Dane colorations. During the early years of the breed’s existence, this variation was spotted. Nowadays, the merle Great Dane is a common variation. However, history does show us that the Great Dane, and all its color variations, were brought here to the United States in the 1800s.

How Merle Great Danes Gained Popularity

While the Great Dane was instantly popular in the 1600s due to their abilities to take down wild boar, the Merle coloration was also a beloved choice. The German noblemen, however, had a particular love for these powerful dogs. This is when the shift from powerful hunting dog to beloved pet began to take place. They were considered great companions and guardians for people in the areas. Germans, with their love of the breed, started the first clubs to recognize the Great Dane, even though the name given by them was actually, Deutsche Dogge.

Formal Recognition of Merle Great Danes

The Deutsche Doggen Club was originally formed in 1880. This was done to show the German people’s love and respect for this dog breed. They even chose the Dane as the national dog of the country. The American Kennel Club officially recognized the Great Dane in 1887. However, the Merle Great Dane didn’t become recognized until 2019. The color variations now considered purebred Great Danes are merle, black, fawn, blue, brindle, mantle, and harlequin.

great dane looking back at some sound
Image Credit: velora, Shutterstock


Top 5 Unique Facts About Merle Great Danes

1. Parent Dogs Don’t Have to be Merle Colored to Produce Merle Pups.

It’s best not to breed two merle-colored Great Danes in hopes of producing puppies due to them being born with health issues. To produce a merle Great Dane, one parent having the coloration is enough. However, interestingly enough, merle Great Danes have been born to parents without the merle coloration. One of the best ways to produce a merle Great Dane pup is to breed two harlequin Great Danes.

2. There’s More Than One Color of Merle Great Dane.

If you’re interested in a merle Great Dane, you have color options to choose from. You’ll find solid merle, chocolate merle, blue merle, brindle merle, and even mantle merle. Keep in mind, it is difficult to tell which coloration you may have when your Great Dane is a puppy as their coats often change as they grow into adults.

3. Merle Great Danes Suffer from Sun Sensitivity.

Unfortunately, due to their coloration, the merle Great Dane is overly sensitive to the sun’s UV rays. This means they are more susceptible to skin cancer when outdoors for prolonged periods. For this reason, it is recommended that merle Great Danes live indoors.

4. Merle Great Danes Were Once Vicious Dogs.

Considering what they were bred for, it’s understandable that the original Great Danes, including the merles, were a vicious dog breed. This was needed to hunt the boar and avoid death out in the fields. Now, you’ll find that Great Danes of all colorations are seen as loving pets and confidants, not fighters or hunters.

5. The Merle Great Day Was Nearly Eliminated by Breeders.

In the early beginnings of the Great Dane breed, veterinarians and breeders thought the merle coloration was a link to health issues. It took some time before it was discovered that double-merle breeding was the issue. Now, the color variation is accepted and bred.

great dane male merle dog in the water shines
Image Credit: Spontaneolicious, Shutterstock

Does a Merle Great Dane Make a Good Pet?

The merle Great Dane, or any color variation for that matter, makes a loving companion and wonderful pet. These dogs are good with kids, are quite intelligent, and pick up on most things like housebreaking easily. What you do need to remember with a Great Dane is the size. These dogs make great companions but aren’t suitable for life in small places like apartments. You’ll need a home large enough to accommodate your merle Great Dane along with a good yard for them to play in.

Training is another important aspect of owning a merle Great Dane. Due to their large size, having your Dane well-trained can make life easier for you. When going on walks or out playing, they may get a little rough due to their size. With the right training, your merle Great Dane will understand boundaries and will be easier to control. Luckily, this dog breed is relatively calm and shouldn’t cause many issues other than dragging you around if they aren’t taught better.

Unfortunately, merle Great Danes, like all members of the breed, do suffer from medical issues that can affect their life span. As with most large dogs, it is best to take them to the veterinarian often and provide them with the best care possible. You’ll find that they make a wonderful companion for the years they spend as part of your family.



The merle Great Dane is a beautiful dog to behold. As part of the seven color variations of Great Danes, they have a long history and are best known for their size and power. If you have space in your home and a soft spot in your heart for gentle giants, then this dog breed is for you. A merle Great Dane will make a great addition to any family, even if they take up most of the space on the couch when it comes time to cuddle.

Featured Image Credit: everydoghasastory, Shutterstock

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets