merle pitbull

Merle Pitbulls: A Guide to Their Unique Features and Debates

The Merle Pitbull, celebrated for its unique, dappled coat, is as controversial as it is captivating. While many are drawn to its striking appearance, the ethics and health implications of breeding for this specific coat pattern spark ongoing debates. This article explores the complexities surrounding the Merle Pitbull, from ethical dilemmas to tips for prospective owners.

The Basics of the Merle Gene


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Genetic Mechanics

The merle gene operates by partially diluting the pigment in the dog’s coat, leading to patches of lighter color interspersed with the original color. This genetic code is actually a dominant one, meaning only one parent needs to carry the gene for a chance to pass it on to the puppies.

Variety of Patterns

The impact of the merle gene on a dog’s coat is like a genetic kaleidoscope; no two merle patterns are precisely the same. The gene can affect all coat colors, leading to a myriad of possible combinations, like blue merle, red merle, or even tricolor merle.

Health Implications

The merle gene doesn’t just influence aesthetics; it also has a serious impact on a dog’s health. Research has established links between the merle gene and a range of potential health issues, including deafness and vision problems. These issues arise because the gene affects the development of melanocytes, the cells responsible for pigmentation, not just in the coat but also in the inner ear and eyes.

Characteristics of Merle Pitbulls


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Physical Features

  • Coat Colors and Patterns: Merle Pitbulls can display a wide variety of coat colors, ranging from the more common blue merle to rarer varieties like chocolate or red merle. Each color variant has its own specific pattern of lighter and darker shades, making each Merle Pitbull truly unique.
  • Eye Colors: The merle gene can also influence eye color, leading to captivating combinations. It’s not uncommon to find a Merle Pitbull with one blue eye and one brown eye, known as heterochromia, or even with eyes that are two different colors within the same eye.

Temperament and Behavior

  • Similar to Standard Pitbulls: Despite their unique appearance, the temperament of Merle Pitbulls is generally consistent with that of standard Pitbulls. They are usually loyal, energetic, and affectionate, making them good family pets when properly socialized.
  • Exercise Needs: Like all Pitbulls, the Merle variety is energetic and requires regular physical and mental stimulation. Neglecting their exercise needs can lead to behavioral problems, so it’s crucial for potential owners to be prepared for an active lifestyle.

Merle Pattern in Other Dog Breeds

1. Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherd

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  • Coat Variations: The merle pattern is highly sought-after in Australian Shepherds and is considered a breed standard. Both blue and red merle patterns are accepted. The blue merle is a dilution of the black gene, while red merle dilutes the liver gene.
  • Health Concerns: While generally robust, the Australian Shepherd is not immune to the typical health concerns that come with the merle gene, such as deafness and eye issues. Regular vet check-ups are recommended.
  • Breed Guidelines: The breed community and official standards recommend against breeding two merle Australian Shepherds to avoid double merles with their associated health risks.

2. Collie


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  • Coat Variations: Blue merle Collies are particularly popular, but this breed also features the pattern in sable and tricolor varieties. The long-haired Rough Collie and the short-haired Smooth Collie both can have merle patterns.
  • Health Concerns: Collies with the merle gene are at increased risk for Collie Eye Anomaly, a congenital condition that can lead to vision problems or blindness.
  • Breed Guidelines: Collie breed standards discourage breeding merle to merle due to the health risks, especially eye anomalies.

3. Dachshund


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  • Coat Variations: In Dachshunds, the merle pattern is often referred to as “dapple.” It can appear on a variety of coat colors and types, including smooth, longhaired, and wirehaired.
  • Health Concerns: Merle Dachshunds are prone to the same genetic health risks as other merle dogs, including hearing and vision issues. Breeding two dapples can lead to double dapples, which are at significant risk for eye defects and deafness.
  • Breed Guidelines: The Dachshund community generally advises against breeding two dappled dogs and some kennel clubs have specific rules against registering double dapples.

4. Great Dane

Great Dane

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  • Coat Variations: The merle pattern in Great Danes typically appears on a gray coat with patches of darker gray. It’s a popular but sometimes controversial coat variation.
  • Health Concerns: Like other breeds, merle Great Danes are more susceptible to vision and hearing problems. Because of their large size, any potential health issue can be even more pronounced.
  • Breed Guidelines: Merle-to-merle breeding is strongly discouraged in Great Danes. Some breed organizations only allow merle Great Danes to be bred with solid-colored mates to reduce the risk of health problems.

Breeding Concerns

Breeding Concerns

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1. Genetic Testing for Responsible Breeding

  • Importance: With the advent of advanced genetic tests, responsible breeders can now identify whether a Pitbull carries the merle gene even if it’s not visually apparent. This is crucial for avoiding unintentional breeding that may result in double merles.
  • Techniques: Techniques like DNA profiling are increasingly being used to ensure genetic diversity and minimize the chance of congenital issues.

2. Risks of ‘Double Merle’

  • Frequency of Health Issues: Studies have shown that double merles have a much higher frequency of health complications, with some estimates suggesting that over 25% of double merles suffer from some form of sensory impairment.
  • Ethical and Moral Dilemmas: Given the high chance of severe health issues, many argue that breeding two merle dogs together is unethical, verging on cruel.

3. Kennel Clubs and Regulations

  • Position of Kennel Clubs: Prominent kennel clubs like the American Kennel Club (AKC) often have guidelines against the registration of double merles, effectively discouraging their breeding.
  • Legal Consequences: Some states and countries have laws regulating the breeding of merle dogs, with penalties ranging from fines to revocation of breeding licenses for those found in violation.

4. Public Opinion and Social Implications

  • Public Awareness: The proliferation of social media has made it easier for advocates and critics alike to voice their opinions, drawing more public attention to the ethical considerations surrounding the breeding of Merle Pitbulls.
  • Backyard Breeding: Unfortunately, the merle pattern’s aesthetic appeal has led to an increase in unregulated, backyard breeding, often without consideration of the associated health risks. This poses an ongoing challenge for animal welfare agencies and responsible breeders.

Health Considerations

Health Considerations

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1. Common Health Concerns

  • Sensory Impairments: Due to the merle gene, Merle Pitbulls are at a higher risk for sensory impairments like deafness and vision issues, including cataracts and retinal problems.
  • Skin Conditions: The reduced pigmentation sometimes causes skin sensitivity, making Merle Pitbulls more susceptible to sunburn and other skin issues.

2. Preventive Measures

  • Veterinary Screenings: Experts recommend that Merle Pitbulls undergo regular ophthalmological and auditory screenings to catch potential issues early.
  • Skin Care: Protective clothing, sunscreens formulated for dogs, and other preventive measures can help manage skin sensitivity.

3. Life Expectancy and Quality of Life

  • Impact on Longevity: While the merle gene can lead to specific health concerns, it doesn’t inherently reduce a Merle Pitbull’s life expectancy. With proper care and regular medical check-ups, these dogs can live as long as non-merle Pitbulls.
  • Quality of Life: For Merle Pitbulls with sensory impairments, adaptations such as auditory signals or tactile cues can help them lead a comfortable and fulfilling life.

4. Veterinary Care and Expenses

  • Cost Factor: Owners should be aware that the potential for health issues means that Merle Pitbulls may require more frequent veterinary care, which can become expensive.
  • Insurance Considerations: Pet insurance companies sometimes categorize merle-patterned dogs as higher risk, which may affect premiums and coverage options.

Controversy and Debate


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1. Ethics of Appearance-Based Breeding

The alluring merle coat has led to a surge in its popularity, sometimes overshadowing the health risks tied to the merle gene. Critics point out that prioritizing appearance over health raises serious ethical concerns, as this practice can compromise the animal’s well-being.

2. Role of Regulating Bodies

Kennel clubs and animal welfare organizations play a significant part in defining breed standards. There’s ongoing debate about whether these bodies should take more stringent measures to discourage breeding based on aesthetics at the expense of health.

3. Social Media Impact

The appeal of the merle pattern is often amplified on social media platforms, leading to a surge in demand. While these images garner attention, they also often overshadow the serious health implications and ethical considerations of breeding Merle Pitbulls.

4. Risks of Unregulated Breeding

The demand for merle-coated Pitbulls has led to an increase in unregulated, informal breeding. Often, these breeders are uninformed about the risks of breeding merle to merle, leading to health-compromised litters and fueling ongoing controversy.

Tips for Prospective Owners

Prospective Owners

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1. Health Screenings are a Must

Before you commit to bringing a Merle Pitbull into your home, it’s essential to insist on comprehensive health screenings. Tests for common issues related to the merle gene, such as hearing and vision impairments, can provide a clearer picture of the dog’s overall health and what sort of specialized care might be needed.

2. Consult Reputable Breeders or Adoption Agencies

It’s crucial to consult breeders who have a track record of responsible breeding practices. These breeders should prioritize health over aesthetics and be transparent about their breeding methods and any health screenings performed. If adopting, look for rescue organizations that provide clear health histories and are candid about any known issues.

3. Be Prepared for Potential Health Costs

Given the known health risks associated with the merle gene, prospective Merle Pitbull owners should be financially prepared for potentially higher veterinary expenses. Budgeting for this and even exploring pet insurance options can mitigate financial stress down the line.

4. Education Is Key

Before committing to owning a Merle Pitbull, take the time to educate yourself fully on the breed’s specific needs, potential health issues, and any social stigmas or regulations you may encounter. A well-informed owner is better equipped to provide a fulfilling life for their pet while also contributing to more responsible pet ownership practices.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How does the cost of a Merle Pitbull compare to other Pitbull variants?

Merle Pitbulls are generally more expensive than other Pitbull variants due to their unique coat pattern and rarity. While a standard Pitbull may cost between $500 and $1,500, a Merle Pitbull can range from $1,000 to $5,000 or even more.

2. What factors influence the price of a Merle Pitbull?

Several factors influence the price, including the dog’s lineage, the reputation of the breeder, and geographic location. Additional factors can include health screenings and vaccinations that the breeder may provide.

3. Is it more expensive to insure a Merle Pitbull compared to other types of Pitbulls?

Due to the health risks associated with the merle gene, insurance costs for Merle Pitbulls may be higher than for standard Pitbulls. However, this can vary between insurance providers.

4. Why are Merle Pitbulls considered rare?

The merle gene is less common in Pitbulls compared to other breeds like Australian Shepherds or Collies. This rarity adds to their allure and often results in a higher price tag.

5. Do Merle Pitbulls cost more to care for in the long term?

Given the known health risks associated with the merle gene, such as potential hearing and vision issues, Merle Pitbull owners should be prepared for possibly higher veterinary expenses.

6. What is the resale value of a Merle Pitbull?

While resale value can vary, Merle Pitbulls often maintain a higher resale value due to their unique coat pattern and rarity. However, resale should be approached ethically, considering the dog’s well-being.


The Merle Pitbull is a unique and visually stunning canine that captivates many. However, potential owners must be aware of the controversies and health risks that come with this aesthetic splendor. Adopting or purchasing one should be a well-thought-out decision.

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AboutCorinne Switzer

Corinne is an avid reader and takes a keen interest in conspiracy theories. When not busy with her day job, she likes to indulge the writer in her and pens columns on a wide range of topics that cover everything from entertainment, healthy living to healthcare and more.