Merle coat color is among the most unique patterns in the canine world. These spotted dogs with bright blue eyes are easy to differentiate from all other shades!
As such, a merle Pitbull is a rather beautiful sight, as it combines these gorgeous yet misunderstood dogs with one of the most attractive coat colors.
Pitbulls are known as colorful dogs. Name a coat color – you can probably find a Pittie that sports it! However, merle Pitbulls are not such a common sight, which is another reason why people might be surprised when they find out these doggies exist.
If one-of-a-kind canines are your cup of tea – you’re in the right place!
Merle Pitbulls are unique in more than one way. To help you understand what makes these pups so special, I have compiled a list of all the things you might want to know about them.
Without further ado, I present to you the stars of this article – merle Pitbulls.
What Is A Merle Pitbull?
Photo from: @merle_pitbull_j
Before I can explain merle Pitbulls, there is one thing I need to define, and that is what is a Pitbull dog.
Pitbull is an umbrella term used to describe five dog breeds:
• American Pit Bull Terrier.
• American Bulldog.
• American Bully.
• American Staffordshire Terrier.
• Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
None of these five types of Pitbulls has been recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) due to their bad reputation – even though some are rather old breeds that have been here for decades.
However, most Pitbull breeds are recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC) and the American Bully Kennel Club (ABKC).
In general, when talking about Pitbulls, I’ll have the American Pit Bull Terrier in mind – unless stated otherwise.
Pitbulls are medium-sized dogs with a solid build. Despite its name, the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) originates from Great Britain and is a descendant of the English Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
It has an average height of 17 to 19 inches at the shoulders, and it can weigh up to 85 pounds.
These dogs have a fairly bad reputation as they were used as fighting dogs. They would participate in dog fights in the pits – hence their names.
Another reason behind their name is that they were used in bull baiting. Fortunately, both cruel sports have since been forbidden, and these dogs are mostly used as family dogs in the last few decades – even though you can still hear about illegal dogfighting activities within certain gangs.
A merle Pitbull is a Pittie that has splotches of three colors on its coat. Usually, it’ll have a certain base color, white markings, and splotches of red or black color. However, as you’ll see in a bit, this can vary.
Merle Coat Colors
Photo from: @mr.calvillo_21
Merle is a pattern that affects the existing base coat color. As Pitbulls can come in many colors, this also means there are many merle shades that these dogs can come in – although most will be placed into two categories: blue merle and red merle.
In general, the shade of merle has a name based on the base coat color – or rather, the main color that is on the dog’s body.
As merle dogs have splotches of three shades on themselves (for example, white, blue, and black), they are usually named based on the medium color in that range.
In other words, you won’t have a white merle or a black merle, but instead a blue merle.
Here are the merle colors these dogs can come in:
Blue Merle Pitbull
Blue merle Pitbulls are the most common type of merle Pitbulls. They are the result of a merle gene working on black coat color.
These dogs will have splotches of black color on a blue base coat and white markings. The blue shade can vary from light, silvery colors, all the way to much darker, deep grey shades.
Red Merle Pitbull
Red merles are similar to blue merles when it comes to pattern distribution. However, their colors will vary from cream to liver.
Red merles are liver dogs that also have a merle gene. This means they have double dilution, making them much rarer compared to blue merles.
Other than the shade of the coat, these dogs will look the same way as standard blue merles. This includes the possible occurrences of blue eyes or heterochromia.
Tri-Color Merle Pitbull
In general, all merle dogs are tri-colored. Merle indicates that there are three different shades on a dog.
However, tri-merle Pitbulls do exist, although they are extremely rare.
These dogs don’t have three, but rather four colors on their coat. Next to the standard three merle colors, they usually have irregular tan markings on their coat.
They occur when dogs with genetics for tri-color patterns also inherit the merle gene. As the merle gene doesn’t affect the tan color the same way it affects black, the tan colorations will remain untouched, while the rest of the dog’s coat will get a merle color pattern.
Merle Vs Other Coat Patterns
Some people might confuse merle with other coat patterns. However, merle is quite easy to differentiate from all other combinations.
For example, you can have brindle Pitbulls. Brindle dogs have a base coat and stripes of a darker color. White markings are also common.
If we don’t consider the genetics between the two patterns (something I’ll talk about in a bit), the difference can be seen by looking at the patterns.
Brindle has uniform patterning and it’s usually equal throughout the dog’s body. Some dogs might have brindle patches, but the stripes will stay in more or less equal shape.
On the other hand, merle dogs don’t have stripes, but splotches.
Parti markings occur when a dog has a white base coat and patterns in another color. These patterns are fairly large, and, unlike in merle Pitbulls, there isn’t a third color present.
Tri-color dogs can sometimes also be confused with merles. However, the two colors present on the dog won’t belong to the same color group.
A tri-color dog cannot have both the blue and black coat colors present at the same time. Instead, he’ll usually have black, tan, and white, or blue, tan, and white, and so on.
Sable pattern isn’t commonly confused with merles, but some people might not understand the difference. Sable Pitbulls have two-colored hairs. The individual hair strands will have a base coat color and black tips. White markings are common.
Merle Pitbull Genetics
Photo from: @biggy_merle
Just like every other physical characteristic, the Pitbull coat color is caused by genetics. The same goes for merle coat color.
Merle is caused by a specific merle gene. This is a dilution gene – a gene that doesn’t work on its own but instead dilutes the base coat color, which is usually red or black.
Dilution genes are what cause some rare coat colors, such as blue, liver, or lilac. They will dilute every bit of base pigment, so the dog with a dilution gene won’t have a single strand of black hair or black pigment.
Merle gene, however, works a bit differently. It won’t dilute the entire dog’s coat. Instead, it will dilute it in splotches, causing different shades.
On some parts of the body, it will dilute the entire pigment, causing white coat color. On others, it will create a diluted color, such as blue. Also, it will love splotches of the base coat color, which is why the dog will also have black or red spots.
It will also dilute the dog’s eye color in the same way. As such, merle dogs can have different colored eyes (heterochromia) where one eye is dark and another one is blue, partially colored eyes, or even entirely blue eyes.
Not just that, but the merle gene is dominant. I’ll explain.
The dog will inherit a pair of genes with specific characteristics (alleles) from both of its parents.
Some genes are dominant, which means it’s enough for the dog to inherit the said gene from only one parent and it will express itself on the coat.
Others are recessive, and they need to be inherited from both parents. Otherwise, they’ll stay hidden.
The dog should inherit only one merle gene to express the beautiful merle color pattern. This means that it’s enough to have one merle parent.
This makes it rather different from most other dilution genes, as these are recessive and need to be inherited from both parents.
Is Merle A Common Coat Color?
Photo from: @biggy_merle
Merle isn’t a commonly seen color in Pitbulls. It isn’t the rarest one, but it certainly isn’t a usual sight.
This is because not many breeders will dare to intentionally breed merle Pitbulls, and I’ll explain the reasons behind this in a bit.
Also, merle isn’t naturally found in many dog breeds, and it isn’t within the breed standard of many breeds. Of course, Pitbulls don’t have an official breed standard, as they are not recognized by the AKC.
However, even the UKC, which recognizes Pitbulls as a breed, doesn’t accept the merle coat color. In fact, this is the only color combination not allowed with the UKC!
Many other kennel clubs, such as the ABKC, will recognize merle, but this isn’t worth much when the larger kennel clubs prohibit a certain color from being spread.
This isn’t to say that merle is rare in all dogs. It can be found in many dog breeds, such as:
• Australian Shepherd.
• Border Collie.
• Catahoula Leopard Dog.
• Great Danes.
• Old English Sheepdog.
• Shetland Sheepdog.
• Cardigan Welsh Corgi.
The Problem With Merle Coat Color
Photo from: @kontrolkennel
Not only is the merle pattern one of the most beautiful colors you can get in Pitbulls – it is also the most dangerous one.
Merle dilutes much more than just pigment. It will also mess with the receptors in the dog’s ears and eyes, and it can weaken the dog’s heart and bones.
When a dog has one merle gene, this isn’t a big issue. Most merle Pitbulls will be just as healthy as dogs of any other color.
The problem arises when a dog inherits two copies of the merle gene. Such dogs are known as double merles.
Double merles won’t have a pattern merle Pitbulls are known for. Instead, the entirety of the pigment will be removed, and the dog’s coat will be white (although a few dots of color are possible).
These dogs will also have blue eyes or heterochromia, as well as pink or butterfly noses.
While double merle dogs can be strikingly beautiful, they are more prone to having numerous health problems. This might include:
• Vision problems and blindness.
• Heart defects.
• Bone defects.
In general, double merle Pitbulls are more prone to numerous health issues compared to non-merle dogs – they are 50% to 75% more likely to be deaf or blind.
Because of this, the intentional breeding of merle dogs is pretty much frowned upon.
As only double merles are known to experience these issues, this can make people think that it’s enough to prevent the breeding of two merle dogs. However, this isn’t that simple. There is one thing that causes problems, and that is the existence of cryptic merles.
Pitbulls that are cryptic merles are also known as ghost merles or phantom merles. They display very little of the merle pattern or even none of it. This can make even the biggest dog experts confuse them with non-merles.
Cryptic merles are very rare. However, they do exist, and they increase the risk of creating double merles. You can never be entirely certain that a dog you want to breed your merle Pitbull with isn’t a cryptic merle.
To prevent this from happening, most reputable breeders will stay away from breeding merle dogs altogether.
Merle Pitbull Lifespan
Photo from: @merle_pitbull_j
Standard Pitbulls will be with you for a while. While they are prone to some health conditions, they have a fairly long lifespan. Most will live to be up to 15 years old!
A regular merle pattern won’t affect the Pitbull’s lifespan. These are healthy dogs that won’t have many health issues, other than those not caused by the coat color.
However, lethal whites, as some dog lovers would call double merles, are a whole different story.
Sure, vision and hearing loss won’t, in theory, make the dog’s lifespan shorter. It might ruin their quality of life a bit, but dogs don’t look at disabilities the same way we do.
Even a blind and deaf dog can live a long, happy life not aware that there is something wrong with him.
The problem lies with other health problems merle Pitbulls might have. Cardiac issues and bone problems are not a joke, and they can cause the early death of your four-legged best friend.
There are some indications that the merle gene can even cause immuno-deficiency and many autoimmune disorders.
While it’s challenging to tell how long will a dog that is a double merle live, he’ll certainly have some health problems that will follow him throughout his life.
If you happen to have a double merle dog, don’t despair. With proper care and regular vet check-ups, they can still live a quality life. They will simply require some additional maintenance.
Merle Pitbull Puppies For Sale
Merle coat color is not naturally found in Pitbulls. This is mostly due to the breeding ban on merle Pitbulls.
The existing merle Pitbulls are usually accidental, and they are the result of a cryptic merle dog passing his genes to the offspring.
To get the merle gene into the Pitbull bloodline, most people will crossbreed them with some other canine with a merle gene. They’ll usually use Catahoula Leopard dogs for this.
As such, you cannot find purebred merle Pitbull puppies for sale, no matter what the breeder might tell you.
Not only do most merle Pitbulls have some other dog’s genetics, but they can no longer be registered with the ABKC or other kennel clubs. Merle Pitbulls are considered a bad thing by the canine society.
This means you should be wary of listings that have merle Pitbulls for sale. If the breeder sells the entire litters of merle Pitties, try seeing if they are registered with the American Dog Breeders Association.
How Much Is A Merle Pitbull?
Despite the dangers associated with the merle coat color, these are expensive dogs. This is not just due to their beauty, but also because they are very rare.
In general, Pitbulls are not overly expensive dogs. The biggest issue with Pitbulls is that they require licenses and permits in most states, so there can be certain issues if you want to acquire them.
However, the same cannot be said for gorgeous merle Pitbulls. These dogs can have triple the price of standard Pitties, or even higher. In fact, some beautiful merle patterns can be sold for as high as $10,000, or even more!
This is another reason why there aren’t many merle Pitbull owners out there. Not everyone has the funds to buy these luxurious dogs.
Despite their high price tag, these pups can be very popular. Most breeders reported selling out their litters rather quickly, and the waiting lists can be long.
Where To Find Merle Pitbulls?
I won’t give you the exact names of the kennels that sell merle Pitbulls. Instead, I will point you in the direction of the American Dog Breeders Association. All reputable breeders will be on their lists. Some of them might sell merle Pitbulls.
No matter if you’re looking for American Pit Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Terriers, or XXL Bullies, I would recommend that you always buy from reputable breeders – especially when dealing with something as tricky as a merle gene.
Reputable breeders will make sure the parents are of good health and free of any health concerns that might worsen the merle Pitbulls delicate health.
Also, these breeders will make sure the dogs have gone through some initial socialization and dog training. This means you’ll get a friendly dog free of behavioral defects.
Don’t buy these dogs from breeders who sell their dogs on Craigslist and similar websites. These are usually backyard breeders who don’t conduct health tests on their dogs. You might end up with a very sick dog.
Also, don’t buy from pet stores or puppy mills. These locations aren’t the best place for buying any type of dog, let alone a merle Pitbull that might have some health concerns.
You might look into your local animal shelter and see if they have any dogs placed for adoption.
There are many abandoned dogs each day. Sadly, a big number of them are purebred Pitbulls. People buy these dogs for all the wrong reasons, then abandon them when they realize they cannot control them.
Adopting a dog is not just a morally right thing to do, but it is also the most humane one. For an affordable adoption fee, you’ll provide a new home for a dog who needs it.
Just keep in mind that adopted dogs have often been abused or neglected. This might mean they require some additional socialization or care.
Does Merle Coat Influence The Dog’s Temperament?
One of the things that worry most aspiring Pitbull owners is their future dog’s temperament.
Pitbulls have a bad reputation, but I’d argue that it isn’t entirely justified. Sure, they might be less social than some other breeds, but this aggression will usually be expressed toward other animals and not humans.
In fact, most Pitties are very human-friendly and they’ll love their owners very much. This is something a merle coat doesn’t change.
There are no indications that the coat color will have any effect on the dog’s temperament. The coat color will only influence the pup’s appearance and our opinion of it.
The only problem that might occur happens if the double merle Pitbull experiences some painful health condition. When a dog is sick, he might lash out in pain or from fear.
However, the same can happen with dogs of any breed when they are sick. Even the friendliest Labrador Retriever might yap at you if they are in pain, as well as the tough-looking Bully breeds!
So, what are merle Pitbulls like? Here are some main temperamental characteristics of these gorgeous pups:
They Are Active
Merle Pitbulls are active and athletic dogs that require a significant amount of daily exercise. These dogs are not fit for apartments. A Pittie will require lots of space they can run around.
If your merle Pitbull doesn’t get the amount of exercise he needs, he might become destructive, and this isn’t something you’d want – especially when talking about such a strong breed.
A bored merle Pitbull with excess energy might take it out on your couch, clothes, mattress, even walls!
They Are Loyal
Believe it or not, merle Pitbulls are among the most loyal dogs out there. They will love all their family members, and they’ll want to be a part of every aspect of your life.
In fact, Pitbulls are known to have rescued many people from dangerous situations and they can be used as rescue dogs with proper training.
Merle Pitbulls seem to be especially affectionate, as most of them were bred to be family pets and to stay away from the fighting pits.
Just keep in mind that a merle Pitbull might be prone to separation anxiety. This can make them destructive or very loud whenever their owners are not around for a semi-long period of time.
They Love Kids
For some people, there is nothing scarier than seeing an aggressive Pitbull spending time with a baby. However, these prejudices couldn’t be further from the truth.
Merle Pitbulls love kids!
In fact, Pitbulls were used as nanny dogs for decades before they were once again brought into the fighting pits.
They are kind and patient, yet playful enough to keep up with a kid’s energy.
Of course, I would advise you to never leave your Pitbull with your child unattended, but this isn’t necessarily because a merle Pittie could suddenly become aggressive.
Pitbulls are strong dogs that might cause harm to a small child during rough play. Not just that, but they might knock a child over while they are running around.
Also, make sure to teach your kid how to behave around dogs. A child shouldn’t pull on the dog’s ears and tail or shout at the dog.
If children can respect a merle Pitbulls seldom desire for privacy, they can form a lifelong friendship that can be beautiful to observe.
They Are Determined
One of the reasons why the Pitbull breed is feared is due to their determination – and the merle Pitbull is no different.
Once a merle Pittie sets his mind upon something, he’ll complete this task. When you combine this with the dog’s powerful jaws and overall strength, you’ll get a dog that you don’t want to mess around with.
However, this can help with dog training. A merle Pitbull will want to please his owners, and once he starts training he’ll want to learn all tricks and behaviors to the last detail.
As long as you know how to use the dog’s strong will to your own advantage, you will have no problems with pointing him in the right direction and making him the best dog he can possibly be.
They Require Extensive Socialization
While merle Pitties are friendly toward humans, they can be territorial toward other animals. They don’t have a strong prey drive, but they’ll want to be the main dogs everywhere they go, and this can lead to fights for dominance.
The dog’s history is the main cause behind such unfriendliness toward other pets. Pitbulls were used to fight other dogs in the arena, and not even merle dogs are free of this heritage.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that Pitbulls have to be the only dogs in the household. If you socialize them from an early age, they can learn to be friendly toward everyone.
However, they will require more monitoring than most other dog breeds.
Merle Pitbull Grooming
Photo from: @biggy_merle
Merle Pitbulls don’t require any different grooming than Pitbulls of any other color. However, you might want to take extra care to make sure these dogs don’t shed excessively.
Merle Pitbulls have a coat that comes in three shades. This means that there is no way to keep the hairs hidden once they fall out!
For example, if you were to have a black Pitbull, you could buy black upholstery or wear primarily black clothes that the dog hairs won’t be visible on.
However, when you have a dog that comes in multiple shades, things become trickier. His hairs will likely be visible no matter what type of furniture you have – unless you have furniture that comes in three colors!
So, what can you do to prevent excessive shedding? Here are a few tips and tricks:
How To Prevent Shedding In Merle Pitbulls
Pitbulls are considered moderate shedders. They don’t shed as much as some other dog breeds, but you’ll still have to do some daily cleaning.
This also means they are not hypoallergenic nor suitable for people suffering from dog allergies.
If you’re someone who loves to keep your clothes clean, here are some things you can do:
• Brush your merle Pitbull as often as possible using a suitable brush. Two to three times a week would be the best. This will help you get rid of loose hairs before they fly everywhere.
• Bathe him occasionally. A moderate amount of bathing will remove some dead hairs and keep your pooch clean. However, if you go overboard, you can irritate his sensitive skin, causing hair loss. Most of the time, it’s enough to bathe your merle Pittie every three months.
• Feed him the right dog food. The dog’s appearance is the reflection of the food he eats. If you feed your merle Piittie high-quality dog food, he’s more likely to have a shiny coat that isn’t prone to fallout.
• Give him supplements. Your merle Pitbull will benefit from a fatty-acid supplement. Look for omega-3 and omega-6 acids. Some can be found in fish oil.
• Use upholstery covers. It is a nuisance to constantly have to clean your furniture and car seats. To reduce the time you’ll spend cleaning, get upholstery covers. This way, you can simply take them off and put them in a washing machine.
• Vacuum daily. If you don’t have problems with dog allergies, you might not have to vacuum each day, but this should still be a part of your regular cleaning routine.
How To Know If A Merle Pitbull Is The Right Dog For You?
Photo from: @khlodollaz
After reading all of this you might wonder if the merle Pitbull is the right dog for you.
No matter the coat color, being a Pitbull owner requires some dedication and skill. Not only is getting a dog a lifelong commitment, but things get a bit more complicated when you want to get a risky option.
First off, Pitbulls are known as a breed that you’ll need to work with. While not aggressive on their own, for the reasons I’ve mentioned, you’ll have to dedicate lots of time and effort to make sure your Pittie is on his best behavior.
Many states have very strict regulations about keeping dangerous dog breeds. This includes Pitbulls. Not only will you be able to get a permit for your dog, but in many states, your dog won’t have the right to make a mistake when it comes to behavior.
If your merle Pitbull shows the slightest sign of aggression, even in self-defense, some state laws will state that the said dog needs to be euthanized.
Not just that, but some states will euthanize a dog that belongs to a dangerous breed upon the report and a witness!
This is why it’s important to be prepared to make sure your pooch is properly trained.
At the same time, merle Pitbulls might require some additional vet check-ups. While they’re generally healthy, you’ll still want to double-check.
Finally, as they aren’t recognized by kennel clubs, there are higher chances of getting a dog of unknown origin. Make sure you know who you’re buying your dog from.
Make The Best Decision For Yourself
Merle Pitbulls can make amazing family pets. They are friendly toward children and toward all family members. Most will even do great with strangers, as long as you’ve socialized them properly.
If you already have a dog, get the youngest Pitbull puppy possible (but don’t buy a dog younger than eight weeks!) to make sure you can socialize him properly. Merle Pitbulls might be as happy about the canine company as you might think.
Other than that, merle Pitbulls are amazing dogs that are much more affectionate than their reputation states. However, you need to consider your own possibilities and whether you can deal with the responsibility.
When you buy a dangerous breed, such as Pitties, you will be the one responsible for removing the stigma from these amazing dogs. If you don’t show your pooch in the best light, you are further making lives harder for these doggies.
Weigh the pros and cons and see if you can handle the additional socialization and veterinary bills.
If you can – then go for it!
No matter the coat color, Pitbulls are amazing companions and you won’t regret choosing a merle Pitbull for your best friend.