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What is a Merle Great Dane | How to recognize | Merle coat variations

As with many dogs, Great Danes come in a variety of different colors! Fawn, Brindle, Black, Harlequin, Mantle, Blue, and Merle are the seven standard colors recognized by the Great Dane Club of America. These colors are considered show-acceptable. However, you can still register your Merle Great Dane as pure-breed with the American Kennel Club.

Merle Great Danes are beautiful animals. They are identified by their unique coat pattern. Merles usually have a lighter coat with darker grey spots or splotches all over.

Merle coats are common in more breeds than just Great Danes. It can also be seen in Australian Shepherds, Shetland Sheepdogs, Welsh Corgis, American Bullys, and many more!

Even with the distinctive coat pattern, there are also a variety of Merle coloring options. They can have a combination of grey, blue, white or black coats and markings.

Although, a grey color, in the base coat or spots, it is the standard marking of a Merle Great Dane.

  • Merle
  • Harlequin

Sometimes Merle Great Danes are confused with Harlequin Great Danes. Harlequins typically have a white base coat with black spots.

Merles, on the other hand, typically have a grey base coat. Merles are often produced from Harlequin litters.

How do Merle Great Danes Occur?

Merle Great Danes are often produced while breeding Harlequin Great Danes. They only genetic difference between the two is the gene that creates the grey coloring in Merles.

While breeding two Harlequin Great Danes, litters will typically have one or two Merle puppies. The same can be expected when breeding a Harlequin and a Mantle Great Dane. However, the latter is the preferred breeding method.

Having a Merle Great Dane is dependent on having the merle gene, which is responsible for the grey base coat. When a pup has two merle genes, they will likely be White Danes (more information about White Great Danes in our article here).

These types of dogs are more likely to experience health problems. This typically happens when two dogs with the merle-gene are breed, like two Harlequins.

Historically speaking, breeders at one point tried to eliminate the Merle coloring. They tried to do this by being selective in their breeding choices. However, this was not successful, as we still have Merle Great Danes today. Lucky us!

For a simple guide on how to best care for your Great Dane, please make sure to take a look at my book “The Great Dane Puppy Handbook“.

Are Merle Great Dane’s Rare?

Some breeders will try to sell Merle Great Danes at a more expensive price, claiming they are a rarer coloring. However, because you can typically find at least one in a litter, you should not necessarily be paying more for a Merle pup.

Merles can also sometimes be mistaken for Harlequins depending on their color variation.

However, some Merles may be rarer depending on their coloring. Merles with blue or even tan/brown coloring are slightly less common than those with the standard grey, white and black markings.

If you’re looking for a reputable breeder to work with, make sure to take a look at our list of Great Dane breeders here.

Variations of Merle Great Danes

As previously mentioned, Merle Great Danes do come in different color varieties. The grey base coat with irregular black spots and splotches seem to be the standard coloring.

They may have white patches on their chest and feet. While not an exhaustive list, other types of Merles are described below.

Merlequins may initially look like Harlequin Great Danes. They will likely have a white base coat, with irregular merle or grey spots and splotches. These are sometimes mistaken as Harlequins, depending on the color variation.

Brindle Merles have a more distinct pattern, as it is a combination of the traditional Brindle and Merle pattern. The Brindle pattern is marked by multi-colored stripes.

The stripes are usually a combination of black, brown, gray, and red. A Brindle Merle has a more muddled coat. You can see stripes and spots of all colors, depending on the specific dog.

Mantle Merles typically have a white base coat, similar to Mantle Great Danes. Mantle Great Danes have black spots. The Mantle Merles, on the other hand, will have silver or grey spots all over.

Blue Merles have a light grey base coat. However, the base coat can sometimes be described as silver as well. Their irregular spots and splotches are blue. Blue Merles may also have blue noses.

Fawn Merles tend to have tan or brown coloring with merle or grey spots all over. These are not to be confused with Fawn Harlequins, which have a white base coat with tan spots.

Chocolate Merles are similar to Fawn Merles as they have a tan/brown coat. However, they have chocolate or red irregular spots all over.

Finally, White Great Danes are produced when the dog has two merle-genes, one from each parent. They are typically all white with very few markings.

Their nose, ears, and area surrounding their eyes may have more red or pink undertones. This is the rarest coloring for a Great Dane.

Merle Great Dane Health Issues

As a larger breed, Great Danes are already at a higher risk for having health-related issues. Merle Great Danes are no exception. Thankfully, Merle Great Danes can be perfectly helpful.

Typical health issues for any Great Dane include heart disease, cancer, foot and pad issues, Wobbler’s Syndrome, hip dysplasia, and hypothyroidism. These are all typical health concerns in larger breeds.

The specific issues for Merle Great Danes come when two dogs carrying the merle-gene are bred and produce a litter. Blindness and deafness are two common health issues seen in Merle Great Danes.

They are also particularly seen in White Great Danes. These same issues are also seen in other breeds like Collies and Aussies.

Merle Great Dane Breeding Issues

Breeding Merle Great Danes is considered unethical by the Great Dane Club of America’s Breeder’s Code of Ethics and should not be done intentionally.

While they are beautiful dogs, breeding Merles can result in stillborn or sick puppies, blindness, and deafness. These puppies will also have a higher risk of having health issues later in life.

These health issues are typically seen in White Great Danes, the product of two Merles breeding. Deafness and blindness are common occurrences. They may also suffer from a condition where their eyes are physically smaller than they should be.

However, not all White Great Danes are automatically deaf and blind. Once they are old enough, they should be tested to confirm any issues.

Should you have a deaf and/or blind, this should not be cause for concern. With patience and a bit of training, you should have a well-behaved pup with a good quality of life.

And thankfully, the blindness and deafness are rarely passed on, should you choose to breed your White Great Dane. However, this is still strongly recommended against doing so.

Other issues may include aggressive behavior, skin disorders, and brain abnormalities. However, more research is needed to definitively conclude these are products of the double merle-gene.

Ultimately, if you have a Merle Great Dane, it is recommended to have them neutered or spayed. However, if you are interested in breeding and you are worried about your Great Dane having the merle-gene, there are now dog DNA tests available for purchase.

Not all commercial tests specifically look for the merle-gene, so be sure to research the product before purchasing.

We hope that you found this information helpful. Before you go, make sure to take a look at our favorite products for Great Danes!

Pro Tip: If you’re looking for a resource that guides you through everything from A-Z about raising a Great Dane then you should absolutely take a look at the Great Dane Puppy Handbook. It’s everything that a busy owner needs to feel calm and confident about raising their dog.

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  • Black Great Dane Guide
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