View Full Version : Question about merles
Brita Great Danes
12-10-2002, 03:36 PM
Ok, call me stupid, but what is the difference between a merle and a blue merle or isn't there any? What are the health problems with merles that are different from harlequins? If they are the same other than color why hasn't the AKC recognized them yet? Just wondering. I prefer black, but I like the merle coloring that I have seen. Don't get me wrong, I would never breed a merle, but they are kind of pretty.
12-10-2002, 03:45 PM
Just want to say that my hubby and I both love merles, merlequins, merle mantles or any other combo with merle in it. ~ We don't know why, 'cept maybe cause we're both turning grey too ;)
12-10-2002, 03:52 PM
This link might give you a bit of info
Rachel C. in California
B.A.R.F. fed since Dec 2000
Our Danes: Roku (6yrs), Star (3yrs), Baron (4yrs), Eagle & Phoenix (1.5yr)
12-10-2002, 06:26 PM
>Ok, call me stupid, but what is the difference between a
>merle and a blue merle or isn't there any? What are the
>health problems with merles that are different from
>harlequins? If they are the same other than color why
>hasn't the AKC recognized them yet?
Merle is merle is merle. There's only one real word for it--it's a pattern that causes blotches of the base color with a salt-and-pepper mixture of the color over the rest of the dog. However, different breeds have adopted different names for it in order to make their own identification easier.
In Australian shepherds, they call merle with black patches "blue merle" to separate it from "red merle," which is merle over a liver background.
In Collies, it is also called blue merle, because they have a sable merle, which is merle over a sable background.
In Danes, we already have a blue, and our blue is a genuine black-dilute blue, so if we called it blue merle it would imply that the dog is a blue with merle overlay (which does exist), rather than a black with a merle overlay. So we just call it merle.
Some say there are health problems associated with merle breedings that are not associated with harl breedings. I have never found any data that supports that assertion, and there's not been any regulated test breeding of merle to merle and comparison of harl to harl, so I think at this point the best answer is no, there are no more health problems with merles than with harls. But the people who wrote the standard didn't want merles accepted, so they aren't. It's pretty much as simple as that--we have to play by the rules. It's a little like asking, "Why can't we show a Dane shorter than 28"?" It doesn't have any affect on health, but there are certain rules about what makes a show Dane and what doesn't.
The AKC does recognize merle Danes, as does the breed club. You can register and even breed a merle without any problem with the breed club or the AKC. You just can't show one.
I should add that in one or two countries in Europe they are "experimenting" with having merle be an accepted color for show and breeding. We'll see what comes of it--if nothing else, it might be a great outlet to export all those gorgeous merles that can't be shown in the US.
Much Ado Danes
Like Jo said, there IS a blue merle, which is defined as a blue with merle overlay. I believe mam's Palomino is a true blue merle, with blue patches and no black ones. They are pretty uncommon to my knowledge. Palomino has some skin problems, not unusual in blue-bred danes.
Many merle owners mistakely call their danes blue merle, because the base coat has a bluish hue to it. This is about as accurate as a merle owner with a dog who has a brownish base coat calling the dog a chocolate merle. True choco-merles have no black, only chocolate colored specks/splotches. Merle comes in many shades, hues, varieties and patterns. It's a gorgeous color scheme!!
12-11-2002, 08:53 AM
>Like Jo said, there IS a blue merle, which is defined as a
>blue with merle overlay. I believe mam's Palomino is a true
>blue merle, with blue patches and no black ones. They are
>pretty uncommon to my knowledge. Palomino has some skin
>problems, not unusual in blue-bred danes.
Everything right except the skin problems! There's no higher incidence of skin problems in blue Danes than in any other color. Blues are healthy and identical to the other colors in practically every way (though my non-scientific observation is that we do tend to have bigger litters). Palomino has a specific, immune-mediated disorder that has nothing to do with her hair color.
The myth that blue dogs have more skin problems comes from a genetic disorder associated with blue and other dilute Dobermans and sometimes Dachshunds. This is called color dilution alopecia and causes the loss of much or all of the diluted hair. But it seems, thankfully, to be confined to a few breeds and there's no reason to think that a blue Dane, Bearded Collie, or any other breed that has blue is going to be any less healthy than his or her dark brethren.
Joanna Kimball (and her shiny, thick-coated blues :-)
Much Ado Danes
OK Jo, I guess I have just been hearing a lot about blues with skin issues/allergies, involving several different breeds and even species. Glad to learn it's just hearsay!
"Ok, call me stupid, but what is the difference between a merle and a blue merle or isn't there any"
These are breeder terms and vary by breed.
Traditionally Dane people call their merles just merles, but the merles we have WOULD be considered blue merles by most other breeds where merles exist. This is simply as these others breeds have merles of various shades, so refer to them by various color names. In Danes mostly we have merles who are black-grey-white so we have no normal need to call them anything but merles. Merle anyway is a pattern gene. Most any pattern gene can come in various colors. There is another sort of merle all merle-bearing breeds share and this is the white merle. Just to make it confusing<G>only Dane people do not use this general term either and call their white merles "White Danes" (which they often are not really--not really white). And then we have piebald merles and so-called merlikins and the various "porcelaines" which have a merling pattern not based on black pigment (like "blue" merle, our normal merle, is). Merle variant is the only potentially lethal color gene in all of dogs. Most breeds ban it for that simple reason. Many others do not allow merle to merle breedings for that reason. It's just simpler to do without it and its inherent problems.
"What are the health problems with merles that are different from harlequins?"
Depends on the kind of merle under discussion. It's well documented that nearly all "white merles" are deaf and many (somethign like 50% in Danes it would appear) have eye problems as well. Merlikins and porcelianes and various other predominately white Danes, esp. those lacking dense black pigment, do tend to have a higher rate of these sorts of sensory problems (deafness, blindness, eye defects) as well as there are numerous breeder reports of a high rate of skin problems as well. But your "normal" merle who is no more than about 30% white is expected to be a normal dog as there is then enough pigment to avoid the pigment-related problems associated with merling and the merle gene. It is the case that Harlequins CAN be much more white than merles can and be expected to be healthy. This is true in any breed, not just Danes. For all other breeds with merles don't have Harls, if they have merles who are not mostly a dark grey with dense black pigment, there are expected to be problems. We have Harlequins with up to 70% white (or more) who are expected to be perfectly healthy. So this alone is a significant factor and difference between the two variation as the danger is in increasing white, and somehow, Harlequin CAN be much more white than merles and be healthy & whole.
"If they are the same other than color why hasn't the AKC recognized them yet?"
Well they aren't the same as outlined above & elsewhere. But the AKC will register any color of Dane. You can in fact register a purple and green Dane 12" tall who has three legs & no eyes if both parents are registered Danes (& let you breed it--they are not a policing agency, but a registry). That's all the AKC checks--do both parents have an AKC number for that breed. Merles are recognised by the AKC and in fact it's a standard color to check on the registrations. It's also a color recognised by the parent club for the breed wordwide and actually there is more than one paragraph in the standard (see the GDCA website!) that talks about merles. So I am unsure where you are getting this information?
But maybe what you mean to ask is why merle is a disqualifying defect under the Great Dane Standard? Because tradition has always had it so is all anyone can now say as the reasons are mostly lost in the mists of time. Maybe it's as simple as "why don't Golden Retrievers come in brown and blacK?", but personally I doubt that having read a lot of the early literature on the problems with breeding spotted dogs and having been a Harlequin breeder for a few years & having dealt most my life with the breeding of spotted horses and spotted dogs. When you are dealing with a potentially lethal gene you decide not to ban from your breed, but rather to keep and use, then you have to limit the damage that gene can do. This ALL breeds with merling do. So assumably in Danes this was not simply some bit of silliness, but the response of conscientious breeders who began this breed outlining what was best for the breed they were trying to craft, & they found merle breeding in general didn't work for the breed. Why exactly we don't know, but please G-D we don't have to keep reinventing this wheel to prove a point. And merles are not necessary for breeding good Harlequins anyway. And they (merles) don't generally produce the traditional or desirable colors in the breed, so breeding them is like asking a fawn breeder about using a blue brindle piebald--when would THAT ever really be justified? Not often, that's for sure.
So on one level merles are just one of many, many possible disqualifying colors that Danes can produce but that we don't wish to increase in number. And on another level they are the only mismark in Danes that can maim and kill. So mostly there is no good reason to breed them. Naturally like all generalization and simplification there are exceptions to any good rule, but such rules are still mostly best kept to keep good order (and keep away tragedy in cases where lethals are involved). And anyway the majority of merles are bred from ignorance or a mystique that seems more rooted in a cut-rate system to make and sell spotted pups rather than from some high-calibre case of great need in some ultra-superior bloodline or some great heroic desire to better the breed. And NO standard EVER in Danes has ever accepted the merle as proper breeding stock--whatever people say or do on their own. That alone ought to give most people pause I would think. As, if you respect the breed, you respect the standard for it surely. regards,
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