What are Merle dogs? 20 breeds and what you should know about them

What are Merle dogs? 20 breeds and what you should know about them

Merle dogs are breeds of dogs with mottled patches of colour in a solid or piebald coat. Many canine owners consider these dogs quite attractive because of their beautiful colouration. They are characterised mainly by their patched skin colour on their nose or paw pads and blue or possibly odd–coloured eyes. Here are Merle dog breeds and exciting facts about them.

Australian Shepherd (L), French Bulldog (C), Australian Koolie (R)
Australian Shepherd (L), French Bulldog (C), Australian Koolie (R). Photo: Maria Itina, Firn, Michele Domonkos (modified by author)
Source: Getty Images

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Merle dog breeds have distinctive coat patterns due to the presence of the “Merle” gene. Merle coats result from a mutated gene that produces less melanin in some parts of a dog’s skin and fur. These Merle dog breeds have many coat colours, including red, blue, chocolate, and fawn.

Merle dog breeds

Dogs are man’s best friend, and you might find a perfect companion in one of the many wonderful Merle dog breeds. Check them out below to discover what makes each dog breed stand out.

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BreedOrigin
Australian ShepherdUnited States
Border CollieUnited Kingdom (England and Scotland)
Dapple DachshundGermany
Shetland SheepdogScotland (Shetland Islands)
Cardigan Welsh CorgiWales
Great DaneGermany
DachshundGermany
ChihuahuaMexico
Lancashire HeelerEngland
Catahoula Leopard DogUnited States (Louisiana)
Pyrenean ShepherdFrance
Australian KoolieAustralia
Bergamasco ShepherdItaly
Rough CollieScotland
Smooth CollieScotland
French BulldogFrance
BeauceronFrance
PomeranianGermany
MudiHungary
American BullyUnited States

1. Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherd on a snow smiling in winter
Australian Shepherd's life expectancy ranges between 12 to 15 years. Photo: Maria Itina
Source: Getty Images
  • Origin: United States
  • Height: 18 – 23 inches (46 – 58 centimetres)
  • Weight: 35 – 70 pounds (16 – 32 kg)
  • Life expectancy: 12 – 15 years
  • Coat colours: Blue, red, black, all with or without white markings

Australian Shepherd Merle dogs originated from the United States in the late 1800s. These canines are trainable and enjoy bonding with their human family. They are active and love playing with kids and adults. Their life expectancy ranges between 12 to 15 years.

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2. Border Collie

Border Collie holding a tennis ball in her mouth
Border Collies originate from the United Kingdom. Photo: R A Kearton
Source: Getty Images
  • Origin: United Kingdom (England and Scotland)
  • Height: 18 – 22 inches (46 – 56 centimetres)
  • Weight: 30 – 55 pounds (14 – 25 kg)
  • Life expectancy: 12 – 15 years
  • Coat colours: Black and white, blue, red, and other colour combinations

Border Collies have white coats with darker patches on them. This canine stands about 18 to 22 inches (46 – 56 centimetres) tall and weighs 30 – 55 pounds (14 – 25 kg). Border Collies breed excels at dog sports, including herding, nose work, agility, obedience, tracking, and dock diving.

3. Dapple Dachshund

Dapple Dachshund looking at the camera
Dapple Dachshund weighs between 16 to 32 pounds (7 to 14 kg). Photo: Sharleen Chao
Source: Getty Images
  • Origin: Germany
  • Height: 8 – 9 inches (20 – 23 centimetres)
  • Weight: 16 – 32 pounds (7 – 14 kg)
  • Life expectancy: 12 – 16 years
  • Coat colours: Red, cream, black and tan, chocolate and tan, blue and tan

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Dapple Dachshund is also nicknamed “sausage dog,” “wiener dog,” “dotson,” and “doxie.” These canines have a long history as working dogs, bred to hunt and catch prey underground. Their life span ranges between 12 to 16 years.

4. Shetland Sheepdog

Shetland Sheepdog laying in snowy forest
Shetland Sheepdogs are intelligent and easy to train. Photo: Oleksandra Kruspe
Source: Getty Images
  • Origin: Scotland (Shetland Islands)
  • Height: 13 – 16 inches (33 – 41 centimetres)
  • Weight: 15 – 25 pounds (7 – 11 kg)
  • Life expectancy: 12 – 14 years
  • Coat colours: Blue, sable, black, all with white and tan markings

Shetland Sheepdogs are one of the most biddable canines you can have. They are intelligent, easy to train and succeed in almost everything they try. These canines are used as medical alert, service and therapy dogs. They originate from the Shetland Islands in Scotland, where they got their name.

5. Cardigan Welsh Corgi

A young Cardigan Welsh Corgi walking on the grass
Cardigan Welsh Corgi originated from Wales. Photo: F8grapher
Source: Getty Images
  • Origin: Wales
  • Height: 10.5 – 12.5 inches (27 – 32 centimetres)
  • Weight: 25 – 38 pounds (11 – 17 kg)
  • Life expectancy: 12 – 15 years
  • Coat colours: Blue Merle, brindle, black and white, red, sable

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The Cardigan Welsh Corgi breeds are naturally attentive, making them excellent watchdogs. Their height ranges between 10.5 to 12.5 inches (27 – 32 centimetres). These canines’ coat colours may be blue Merle, brindle, black and white, red, or sable. They originate from Wales and have a lifespan of 12 to 15 years.

6. Great Dane

Great Dane standing in deciduous walnut orchard
Great Danes have blue, black, fawn, brindle, harlequin, mantle, or merle coat colours. Photo: Barbara Rich
Source: Getty Images
  • Origin: Germany
  • Height: 28 – 34 inches (71 – 86 centimetres)
  • Weight: 110 – 175 pounds (50 – 79 kg)
  • Life expectancy: 7 – 10 years
  • Coat colours: Blue, black, fawn, brindle, harlequin, mantle, Merle

The Great Dane is a friendly giant known for its imposing size. Their height ranges from 28 to 34 inches (71 – 86 centimetres) and can weigh between 110 to 175 pounds (50 – 79 kg). Coat colours include blue, black, fawn, brindle, harlequin, mantle, and Merle.

7. Dachshund

Red merle Dachshund
Dachshunds are excellent hunters and companions. Photo: GlobalP
Source: Getty Images
  • Origin: Germany
  • Height: 8 – 9 inches (20 – 23 centimetres)
  • Weight: 16 – 32 pounds (7 – 14 kg)
  • Life expectancy: 12 – 16 years
  • Coat colours: Red, cream, black and tan, chocolate and tan, blue and tan

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Dachshunds are excellent hunters and companions. They stand 8 to 9 inches (20 – 23 centimetres) tall and weigh between 16 to 32 pounds (7 – 14 kg). These dogs originate from Germany and do not tend to shed much.

8. Chihuahua

A happy Chihuahua
Chihuahua weigh up to 6 pounds (2.7 kg). Photo: Stephanie_grafvocat
Source: Getty Images
  • Origin: Mexico
  • Height: 5 – 8 inches (13 – 20 centimetres)
  • Weight: Up to 6 pounds (2.7 kg)
  • Life expectancy: 14 – 16 years
  • Coat colours: Any colour or combination, including Merle

Chihuahuas are small and confident canines originating from Mexico. They are 5 to 8 inches (13 – 20 centimetres) tall and weigh up to 6 pounds (2.7 kg). Only 2% of Chihuahuas are Merle, making them highly sought–after.

9. Lancashire Heeler

Lancashire Heeler smiling
Lancashire Heeler Merle breeds originated from England. Photo: Jo Rutherford/500px
Source: Getty Images
  • Origin: England
  • Height: 10 – 12 inches (25 – 30 centimetres)
  • Weight: 6 – 13 pounds (3 – 6 kg)
  • Life expectancy: 12 – 15 years
  • Coat colours: Black and tan, liver and tan, or merle

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The Lancashire Heeler is a small yet versatile herding breed known for its intelligence and cheerful disposition. They stand between 10 to 12 inches (25 – 30 centimetres) tall and weigh 6 to 13 pounds (3-6 kg). These canines have a lifespan of 12 to 15 years.

10. Catahoula Leopard Dog

Catahoula Leopard Dog posing outdoors
Catahoula Leopard Dogs are used for hunting and herding. Photo: Eudyptula
Source: Getty Images
  • Origin: United States (Louisiana)
  • Height: 22 – 24 inches (56 – 61 centimetres)
  • Weight: 50 – 95 pounds (23 – 43 kg)
  • Life expectancy: 10 – 14 years
  • Coat colours: Blue Merle, red Merle, brindle, black, yellow, and white patches

The Catahoula Leopard Dogs are versatile and energetic canines for hunting and herding. They are known for being severe while working and playful at home. Are Catahoulas aggressive towards other dogs? The majority of Catahoula males can display aggression towards other male dogs.

11. Pyrenean Shepherd

Pyrenean Shepherd standing outdoors
Pyrenean Shepherd's coat can be fawn, Merle, brindle, grey, or black. Photo: @catanddogpawsworld on Facebook (modified by author)
Source: UGC
  • Origin: France
  • Height: 15 – 21 inches (38 – 53 centimetres)
  • Weight: 15 – 32 pounds (7 – 14.5 kg)
  • Life expectancy: 15 – 17 years
  • Coat colours: Fawn, Merle, brindle, black, grey, and various shades

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Pyrenean Shepherds are agile and intelligent, making them excellent herding dogs. They stand 15 to 21 inches (38 – 53 centimetres) tall and weigh between 15 to 30 pounds (7 – 14 kg). Their coat can be fawn, Merle, brindle, grey, or black.

12. Australian Koolie

Australian Koolie puppy
Australian Koolies have red or black Merle patterns on their coat. Photo: Michele Domonkos
Source: Getty Images
  • Origin: Australia
  • Height: 15 – 23 inches (38 – 58 centimetres)
  • Weight: 30 – 55 pounds (14 – 25 kg)
  • Life expectancy: 12 – 18 years
  • Coat colours: Blue Merle, red Merle, black, red, combinations with white and tan markings

Australian Koolie Merle dogs usually have red or black Merle patterns on their coat. These canines are known for their speed and stamina, herding sheep and driving cattle. Their life expectancy ranges between 12 to 18 years.

13. Bergamasco Shepherd

Bergamasco Shepherd
Bergamasco Shepherd's life expectancy ranges between 13 to 15 years. Photo: @argovallescrivia on Facebook (modified by author)
Source: UGC
  • Origin: Italy
  • Height: 22 – 24 inches (56 – 61 centimetres)
  • Weight: 57 – 84 pounds (26 – 38 kg)
  • Life expectancy: 13 – 15 years
  • Coat colours: Black, grey, Merle, any shade of grey

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Bergamasco Shepherds are naturally inclined to guard and herd. They are known for their distinctive matted coats. These animals stand 22 to 24 inches (56 – 61 centimetres) tall and weigh between 57 to 84 pounds (26 – 38 kg). Their coat colours include shades of grey, Merle, and black.

14. Rough Collie

Rough Collie sitting outdoors
Rough Collies originate from Scotland and have a lifespan of 12 to 14 years. Photo: Eudyptula
Source: Getty Images
  • Origin: Scotland
  • Height: 22 – 26 inches (56 – 66 centimetres)
  • Weight: 50 – 75 pounds (23 – 34 kg)
  • Life expectancy: 12 – 14 years
  • Coat colours: Sable and white, tricolour, blue Merle, and white

The Rough Collie is known for being strong, responsive, fast, loyal and affectionate. They are a loyal and intelligent breed with a beautiful long coat flowing as they run. These animals can do well in the country or the city but need companionship and daily runs or long walks. Rough Collies originate in Scotland and can live for 12 to 14 years.

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15. Smooth Collie

Smooth Collie lying on a wooden floor
Smooth Collies are easily trainable and devoted to their owners. Photo: Sduben
Source: Getty Images
  • Origin: Scotland
  • Height: 22 – 26 inches (56 – 66 centimetres)
  • Weight: 40 – 70 pounds (18 – 32 kg)
  • Life expectancy: 12 – 14 years
  • Coat colours: Sable and white, tricolour, blue Merle, and white

Smooth Collies are similar to their rough–coated cousins but have a short, dense coat. They stand 22 to 26 inches (56 – 66 centimetres) tall and weigh between 40 to 70 pounds (18 – 32 kg). These canines are also easily trainable and devoted to their owners.

16. French Bulldog

A blue French Bulldog
French Bulldogs are small and muscular. Photo: Berber Colette / 500px
Source: Getty Images
  • Origin: France
  • Height: 11 – 12 inches (28 – 31 centimetres)
  • Weight: Under 28 pounds (13 kg)
  • Life expectancy: 10 – 12 years
  • Coat colours: Brindle, fawn, white, cream, and various combinations

French Bulldogs are among the Frenchie world's most distinct and unique-looking dogs. They are small, muscular, and known for their bat-like ears and affectionate nature. These cute animals have a light base coat with darker mottled patches all around their bodies. Their average lifespan typically ranges between 10 to 12 years.

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17. Beauceron

Beauceron in snow
Beauceron originated in France. Photo: Bgsmith
Source: Getty Images
  • Origin: France
  • Height: 24 – 27.5 inches (61 – 70 centimetres)
  • Weight: 70 – 110 pounds (32 – 50 kg)
  • Life expectancy: 10 – 12 years
  • Coat colours: Black and tan, harlequin (blue Merle with tan markings)

The Beauceron is a large breed, averaging between 24 – 27.5 inches (61 – 70 centimetres) in height. This breed is most distinguished by its long tail and double dewclaws. Their coat colours include black and tan and harlequin (blue Merle with tan).

18. Pomeranian

Pomeranian breed
Pomeranians have fluffy coats and bold personalities. Photo: @happydaypoms on Instagram (modified by author)
Source: UGC
  • Origin: Germany
  • Height: 6 – 7 inches (15 – 18 centimetres)
  • Weight: 3 – 7 pounds (1.4 – 3.2 kg)
  • Life expectancy: 12 – 16 years
  • Coat colours: Any colour or pattern, including Merle

Pomeranians are small and lively canines known for their fluffy coats and bold personalities. They stand 6 to 7 inches (15 – 18 centimetres) tall and weigh between 3 to 7 pounds (1.4 – 3.2 kg). Pomeranians originate from Germany and Poland and have 12 to 16 years of lifespan.

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19. Mudi

Mudi Merle breed
Mudi breeds are medium-sized dogs according to their height and weight. Photo: @WDogsInTheWorld on X (Twitter) (modified by author)
Source: UGC
  • Origin: Hungary
  • Height: 15 – 19 inches (38 – 48 centimetres)
  • Weight: 18 – 29 pounds (8 – 13 kg)
  • Life expectancy: 12 – 14 years
  • Coat colours: Black, white, fawn, brown, grey, Merle

Mudis are one of the few breeds that can have a Merle pattern on their coat. These canines are medium-sized dogs according to their height and weight. Their coat is dense and glossy and typically has a colour variation of black, white, fawn, brown, grey, or Merle.

20. American Bully

American Bully dog
American Bully breed is originally from the United States. Photo: Anita Kot
Source: Getty Images
  • Origin: United States
  • Height: 13 – 21 inches (33 – 53 centimetres)
  • Weight: 70 – 120 pounds (32 – 54 kg)
  • Life expectancy: 10 – 12 years
  • Coat colours: Any colour or pattern, including Merle

The American Bully is a muscular and confident breed known for its loyalty and affectionate nature. Due to their strength and potential aggression, these breeds are increasingly facing bans and restrictions. Their coat colours include a wide variety, including Merle.

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Are Merle dogs inbred?

Merle dogs are not inherently inbred. However, the Merle gene has specific genetic considerations that can impact breeding practices.

Do Merle dogs have health problems?

If a Merle dog inherits two copies of the Merle gene (MM), known as "double Merles," there is an increased risk of some health issues, including deafness, vision issues, and skin sensitivity.

What causes a dog to be a Merle?

The Merle coat pattern is caused by a specific genetic mutation in the PMEL (premelanosome protein) gene. This mutation affects the distribution and pigmentation of the dog's coat, resulting in a mottled or patchy appearance.

Why are Merle dogs more expensive?

Merle dog breeds might cost up to $3,000. Many dog lovers are willing to pay more to get Merle dogs because the Merle pattern is relatively rare.

Why can't two Merles breed?

It can result in puppies with two copies of the Merle gene (MM). These "double Merle" dogs are at high risk for serious health issues, including deafness, blindness, and other eye defects.

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These Merle dog breeds are highly sought after by dog lovers because of their distinctive and beautiful coat patterns. In addition to their striking appearances, these dog breeds possess strong working instincts, intelligence, and loyal temperaments, making them perfect companions.

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